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


Jamas Enright said...

Hmm... my cover looks purplier than your bright blue. (And the one on the NZWDFC site looks inbetween.)

Go figure...

Paul Scoones said...

The cover was printed on a pale blue card. For some reason that shows up as purple on the TSV site. I tweaked the colour balance in Photoshop before loading the image on my blog. It's closer to the print version, but still not quite a match.