29 January, 2008

TSV 54

TSV 54, originally published in March 1998, was the second half of a double issue paired with TSV 53. These two issues were delivered together in the same envelope, but for the online reissue I elected to space them one month apart (TSV 53 was reissued in December last year).

The online issues of TSV are stripped clean of various ephemeral content including news, adverts and letters columns, but the online version of TSV 54 belies the fact that this content was also absent from the print edition. With TSV 53 including all of these regular features - as well as book and magazine reviews - this freed up TSV 54 to deliver solid, cover-to-cover content that has, in my view, largely stood the test of time. Select the Print Version view for any other online issue in the TSV Archive and you'll see that there are always several items in the contents listing that do not have links. That's not the case with TSV 54: absolutely everything listed there is available online.

In place of the usual editorial was a piece of writing by long-time TSV reader Gillian Hart. Gillian delightfully tells of her thwarted attempts to get her friends to appreciate Doctor Who (I suspect she'd find this much easier to achieve these days!). Gillian didn't intend for this as a 'guest editorial' piece; it was an unsolicited contribution that I thought was particularly suited to open the issue.

A glance at the contents - which has just 12 items listed (artwork excepted) - might indicate that TSV 54 was a slim supplement, but in fact this issue ran to a full 88 pages (which was the standard length for TSV at that time), and it is simply that three rather substantial pieces between them occupy the majority of the pages.

The star attraction of the issue is undoubtedly Andrew Pixley's By Any Other Name. This article tackles the thorny and contentious subject of the Hartnell era story titles with the thoroughness and attention to detail that has deservedly brought Andrew widespread respect and recognition. Andrew readily concedes that there can never be complete consensus on the titles of the Hartnell stories as even the BBC's own documentation is sometimes inconsistent and contradictory, but his article looks at all of the possible appellations and considers the relative merits of their claim to veracity.

The article came about as a result of various international phone conversations between Andrew and myself. As I mentioned in my TSV 53 commentary, Andrew was a recent TSV convert, and his enthusiasm for the fanzine motivated him to want to write for it. The first article (which appears in TSV 53) was A Question of Answers. This took a look at some of the trickiest questions about Doctor Who and inevitably touched on the Hartnell story titles. It was clear to me that Andrew had a lot more to say on this topic so I encouraged him to expand on this for a separate piece in the following issue. Andrew is an amazingly fast writer and delivered this piece very soon after our discussion. It was this speedy delivery, coupled with my desire to print this brilliant but very long article as soon as practical, that led to the creation of the double issue.

I'm especially grateful to Andrew for taking the time to deliver a comprehensive follow-up to his original article. The newly-added afterword written especially for the online reissue appears at the end of the original piece and covers anything to do with the Hartnell story titles that has occurred over the last decade. It's a testament to Andrew's thoroughness that this footnote alone is longer than many regular TSV articles.

Andrew's article presented a challenge for me when I was designing the issue back in early 1998. At this time I was still getting to grips with desktop publishing using Microsoft’s Publisher application. (I'd only designed one issue on Publisher prior to tackling the TSV 53/54 double). Andrew had incorporated numerous diversions and sidetracks into his piece, and I had to work out how to design separate text boxes for these that could sit alongside the main body of the article. Andrew was delighted with what I managed to achieve, and consequently text box-outs became a regular design feature in TSV.

TSV 54 features another well-known leading Doctor Who researcher, David J. Howe. I'd first started corresponding with David about five years earlier when he, Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers were still publishing The Frame (a rather wonderful glossy colour fanzine). David subscribed to TSV and I'd subsequently written some pieces for the seven volume Handbook series co-authored by David, Mark and Steve. With the Handbooks about to come to a natural closure with the publication of the Seventh Doctor volume, I felt this was the best time to ask David about his Doctor Who book projects past, present and future. Telos, the book publishing company for which David and Steve are now perhaps best known, wasn't even on the horizon at this point.

The interview with David was conducted via email - it wasn't until a few months later that I met David for the first time when I visited him at his South London home and got to see his attic office with its enviable treasure trove of Doctor Who collectables and research materials.

The third major piece in this issue was a Fifth Doctor and Turlough comic strip called Whispers, created by Stephen and Robert Boswell. The strip had sat in my in-tray for about a year before its publication, and Nick Withers (who knew the Boswell brothers) was still co-editing TSV when it arrived. The reason for the long delay in publishing the strip was a combination of creative and scheduling problems...

Peter Adamson was at the time responsible for overseeing the creation and development of the TSV comic strips. This wasn't an area in which I had much expertise, so I was happy to hand complete responsibility for this area of TSV over to Peter who is a very talented comic strip writer and artist. Peter coordinated the comic strip writers and artists and scheduled the strips for each issue. Typically he would edit or at least sign off the strips at script stage and also make modifications where required to the finished artwork and lettering before delivering the finished comic strip pages to me.

Whispers was however developed entirely independently of this process. The first I was aware of this comic strip’s existence was when all 14 pages were delivered to me by the Boswells sometime around late 1996 or early 1997. Naturally, I sent a copy of the strip to Peter for his input. Peter felt that the strip needed some work and outlined some changes for tightening the narrative, including resequencing the opening pages to create a pre-credits teaser.

The Boswell brothers were unhappy with these proposed modifications, and made it clear that their strip should be published in its original form. After much thought I ultimately decided to honour the Boswells' wishes and publish the strip sans modifications.

This wasn't the only reason for the long delay in publication, however. Almost all TSV issues at this time featured a comic strip story, and these were usually planned many months in advance, so Whispers had to wait for an available 'slot'. A comic strip story was scheduled for TSV 54, but with the decision to publish the issue much earlier than originally planned, the strip could not be finished in time, and Whispers which was still in my in-tray, ready and awaiting publication, filled the gap.

Elsewhere in the issue, TSV presented the second in a series of additions to the Discontinuity Guide (the first had been the TV Movie in issue 49). This instalment, which covered the 1985 BBC radio play Slipback, was the first guide entry to be co-authored by Peter Adamson, Alden Bates, Jon Preddle and was the beginning of big things for this triumvirate, who created guide entries for many more stories, initially covering the BBC’s radio play output and then tackling the Big Finish Doctor Who range from 1999 onwards. The guide additions all too soon outgrew the pages of TSV and found a new home online, as The DiscContinuity Guide. The website guide attracted much attention and praise from international Doctor Who fandom and there were for a while also plans for the guide to appear in a professionally published book. The book failed to eventuate however, and the guide rather sadly was subsequently neglected, receiving its most recent update three years ago.

The Slipback guide entry and another article, Confessions of a Melaphile (in which Alden Bates comes out as a proud Melanie Bush fan), have both been available online for some years, pre-dating the creation of the TSV online archive. Now, at long last, online readers of TSV can discover the rest of the issue in which these two items originally appeared!

TSV 54 was reviewed in Doctor Who Magazine issue 267:

This particular issue of the ever-reliable
Time-Space Visualiser is more suited to the factophiles among us. With its 18-page interview with author / researcher / biographer David J Howe and a light-hearted 25-page essay on 'correct' Doctor Who story titles by DWM's arch fact-snuffler Andrew Pixley, this may at first glance seem a little too dry for the more frivolous of fans, but these articles hold their length surprisingly well. They are, I'm pleased to say, balanced by lighter items, including Discontinuity Guide-style notes for radio play Slipback, a celebration of Melanie Bush and the surreal comic strip The Karkus is Lost in Boradland!

Read TSV 54 here.

Fellow TSV 54 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

24 January, 2008

"There's a little black spot on the sun today..."

I've admired The Police since I first got into music as an impressionable teenager back in 1983. Not the best timing, perhaps, as this was the same year that The Police released their last studio album, the brilliant Synchronicity (I diligently collected their entire back catalogue, but their last album has always remained my firm favourite).

The Police played at Western Springs on 29 February 1984. I really wanted to go, but didn't have the money for a ticket. I rather jealously heard all about it from my school friends, and consoled myself with the thought that they'd tour again and I'd see them next time. The Police broke up (or perhaps, rather more accurately, failed to get back together) soon afterwards, crushing this hope.

Twenty-four years later, I finally got to see The Police play Western Springs, in the company of around 60,000 others, last Saturday, 19 January.

The addition of Fergie as a support act generated additional buzz for the concert (and no doubt helped to sell many more tickets), but I'm not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas singer, and judging by the muted reactions of most of the audience, I was far from alone in this. Perhaps most tellingly, her medley of cover versions of various rock songs got a much bigger reaction from the crowd than most of her own material.

Fergie was preceded by the first support act, Fiction Plane, who were more impressive. We arrived just as they started playing, and I noticed a big cheer went up from the crowd when the lead singer said they'd just come up from Wellington. This is likely why there are now some misinformed posts online saying that Fiction Plane are a local act from the capital city whilst marvelling at how much the lead singer sounded like Sting. That's because Fiction Plane are actually a British band and the singer is Sting's son Joe Sumner - whom in a rather wonderful example of synchronicity (!) was born in 1977, the same year The Police first got together. A touch of nepotism at play there, perhaps, but Fiction Plane's performance proved they had nothing to apologise for.

The biggest surprise when The Police finally came on was Sting's appearance. I'd seen him perform live on DVD and in the flesh once before on his Mercury Falling tour (Auckland, 10 November 1996), but he now looks very much older, slightly plumper and more haggard. His torn tight white shirt and full grey beard certainly lent much verisimilitude to the opening lyric, "Just a castaway..."

Seeing Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers play together is quite simply electrifying. Sting alone is a strong stage presence but Summers' brilliant guitar playing and Copeland's incredible drumming actually seemed to be conspiring to drown out Sting's vocals and bass guitar at times, and you can quite believe the rumours that the three men like to play together, but don't actually like each other all that much. Copeland's legendary drumming style is perhaps best described as fast and hard. In addition to a large drum kit, Copeland also had a separate array of percussion instruments, and some songs (including King of Pain and Wrapped Around Your Finger), would see him dart between his kit and these instruments. Summers delivered some awesome guitar playing, with some songs reinterpreted with extended guitar parts showcasing his talent.

Although I enjoyed the opening number - Message in a Bottle - it was the second song, the brutal, soaring rendition of Synchroncity II (a personal favourite track that juxtaposes harsh urban truths with the mythic Loch Ness monster) that completely won me over. The large screens surrounding the stage that had remained dark through the first number at this point lit up with the primary colours from the iconic Synchronicity album cover.

I was less impressed with Invisible Sun, a broodingly powerful song about conflict in Northern Ireland that was somewhat bizarrely accompanied by photos of sad-looking third world children on the screens. If the message was that now that the troubles in Ireland are mostly resolved, the song should be now directed at other humanitarian issues, then it feel rather flat in my view, and took something away from the importance of the original message inherent in the lyrics.

The set list covered material from all five albums and included some of the lesser-known tracks like Hole in my Life, Voices inside my Head and When the World is Running Down... Of the 18 songs played, five each were from Outlandos d'Amour (half of the entire album!) and Zenyattà Mondatta, whereas Synchronicity had four, and Reggatta de Blanc and Ghost in the Machine were surprisingly under-represented with just two songs each. In total The Police played an impressive third of their 54 studio album tracks.

I would have loved them to play Spirits in the Material World, Tea in the Sahara, Demolition Man and Walking in Your Footsteps - but at least we got Don't Stand So Close To Me that had apparently been absent from the Wellington set list two nights earlier. Despite Sting's banter with Andy over what song the guitarist was going to spring on them next, other than the above omission the set lists for their two New Zealand shows were otherwise identical.

The crowd went wild for Roxanne, but our distance from the stage - we were perched halfway up the hill at the back of the stadium - meant that we missed out on the full effect of the sing-along audience participation. When Sting deliberately left the occasional gap in the lyrics we had to take it on faith that those close to the stage were singing along.

I loved the encores, which included another two personal favourites, King of Pain and Every Breath You Take, and I think I'd have been satisfied if it had ended there, but Andy's lone presence on stage, impatiently waiting for his band mates to return, signalled that there was something more to come. Sure enough, we were treated to a rocking version of Next to You to close out the night.

A brilliant live act that rewarded my exceptionally long wait!

Message in a Bottle
Synchronicity II
Walking on the Moon
Voices Inside My Head
When the World Is Running Down...
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Driven to Tears
Hole in my Life
Every Little Thing she does is Magic
Wrapped around your Finger
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Can't Stand Losing You
King of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take
Next to You