02 July, 2015

Gallifrey Magazine

I was sorting through a box of assorted old items recently when I discovered eight copies of a thirty-year-old Doctor Who fanzine I produced in the mid-1980s when I was a teenager.

Doctor Who - Gallifrey Magazine ran for thirty monthly issues between June 1983 and December 1985. Each issue was A5, between 8 and 12 pages long and produced on a manual typewriter with Letraset, felt-tip pen, and photocopied pictures. My father ran off a handful of copies of each issue for me on a photocopier at his place of work and I distributed these free of charge to friends at school. At most, I perhaps had five or six readers. By the end I was only keeping it going for my own interest.

These recently rediscovered issues are the final eight from 1985, numbered #23 to #30. I produced these issues when I was aged 16 and 17, thirty years ago. They represent the earliest surviving examples of my creative output as a Doctor Who fan. I once owned a complete set of all thirty issues, but sold these to an Australian fanzine collector in 1988 when I was a poor student in need of funds. (I wonder if that collector still has them?) These last eight issues were duplicate copies that somehow survived when so much of what I did as a fan in the 1980s has long since been either purposefully or accidentally discarded.

It is both humbling and embarrassing to look back over these issues with so much distance. I'd like to think that my 17 year-old self would be absolutely thrilled if I knew what I’ve achieved in those intervening decades. So what do I make of his efforts...?

#23 - May 1985 

The cover is made up of shots from the Pertwee era title sequence (sourced from the Radio Times Twentieth Anniversary Special), and announces ‘Jon Pertwee is the Doctor!’. The focus was very much on the stories that were currently screening on television in New Zealand. A month before before this issue was published, TVNZ began screening a massive retrospective, beginning with The Mind Robber and The Krotons followed by every story from Spearhead from Space onwards. In the magazine I refer to these screenings as the ‘Repeat Season’ as I was unaware that this was the first time many of these stories, especially from Pertwee’s era, had been screened in New Zealand.

The issue includes a preview of Spearhead from Space, reviews of the Target novelisations The Highlanders (the latest release) and The Auton Invasion; a profile of writer Robert Holmes, an ‘Archives’ feature that was a short synopsis of The Invasion, and a quiz based entirely on the recently-screened The Mind Robber. The back cover had the tenth part of an ongoing 'Programme Guide' listing a brief synopsis of every story. This issue’s instalment covered The Androids of Tara to Meglos. I was clearly heavily influenced by Doctor Who Magazine; the Robert Holmes feature for example lifted sections from an interview that had only just appeared in issue #100.

#24 - June 1985

Judging by the ‘Second Birthday Special’ strap line, I was obviously proud of the fact that my little magazine had been going for two years, Perhaps I was inspired by Doctor Who Magazine’s recent 100th issue milestone. The trio pictured in the montage photograph, Troughton, Pertwee and Davison, were the three Doctors who had appeared on New Zealand television during the two years that the magazine had been around.

In the ‘From the Editor…’ column I talked about a page increase, from 10 to 12 pages. I asked for writers to contribute articles and/or reviews. No one among my small readership accepted this invitation, which must have been disheartening, and may have contributed to my later decision to cease production. I reported that the readership had increased since the series was back on television, and that the issue had taken ‘over two full days to research and write up’.

The issue’s contents included a book review of Frontios, just one of many recent television stories I had never seen but I absolutely adored the book, calling it a masterpiece and awarding it 10/10. I was much less kind to The Cave Monsters, harshly criticising it for not strictly the television serial and only awarding it 4/10. I previewed Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death. The first of these would have been halfway through by the beginning of June, so the preview was a little late. I apologised for this in the issue, explaining that ‘until the story appears in The Listener, I have no idea what the next one to be shown is’. The Ambassadors of Death preview opened with the hope that this would be the next story screened as I couldn’t know for sure. The ‘Archives’ featured The Seeds of Death. The idea with this feature was to cover the unseen Troughton stories from the same season as the two that had been recently screened. Those two stories, The Mind Robber and The Krotons, were both reviewed in this issue. It seems I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about either of them. I judged The Mind Robber as suffering from a reduced budget and an overly padded plot. I thought The Krotons was well written but was let down by both the visuals, and the performance of the Krotons and the Gonds. The back-page Programme Guide reached Black Orchid.

#25 - July 1985

The Pertwee-fest continued with cover-promoted previews of Inferno and Terror of the Autons. I presumed (correctly as it turns out) that these would be the next two stories screened. The cover photo is from The Ambassadors of Death, the then-current television story, although there was nothing about this particular serial in the issue. The magazine's masthead got a revamp, with the lettering of the word ‘Gallifrey’ traced from an article heading in Doctor Who Magazine, and a screengrab of Pertwee’s face from the opening titles (previously used on #23) was introduced in the top right cover, where it would remain for the rest of the magazine’s run. This was to denote the current Doctor’s era on television.

In the ‘From the Editor…’ column I discussed the magazine’s future, observing that I thought it ‘extremely unlikely we will reach issue 100’, but that it would ‘definitely be going until the end of this year. After that, no definite plans have been made’. It would appear from this comment that I was already thinking about winding up the magazine.

The issue features a Target Books news column, using information from Doctor Who Magazine. I reviewed the new novelisation of Planet of Fire, praising it as ‘fantastic’ and awarding it 10/10. ‘This Month’ was a new regular feature, listing key events that happened in the current month through the series’ history. I think the source of most of my information for this was the Peter Haining book The Key to Time. ‘Saga of the Silurians’ was an attempt to explain the continuity links between Doctor Who and the Silurians and Warriors of the Deep. ‘Archives’ covered The Space Pirates, and the television reviews section looked at the first two Pertwee serials. I described Spearhead from Space as a ‘classic’ and described the Autons as ‘effective and far more believable killing machines’ (compared to the clockwork soldiers and the Krotons of the two previous Troughton stories). I thought Doctor Who and the Silurians wasn’t quite as good, but liked that it was effective in eliciting sympathy for the Old Silurian. An ‘Advance TV Preview’ listing noted the episodes due to screen on each Friday evening for the remainder of 1985. This must have been an educated guess as I had no access to advance television schedules, but turns out in hindsight to have been exactly right. The back-page Programme Guide reached Warriors of the Deep.

#26 - August 1985

The Terror of the Autons photo on the cover came from the book The Adventures of K9 and Other Mechanical Creatures – you can even spot the page join on the left.

The issue features previews of The Mind of Evil and The Claws of Axos. By now I was confident enough of the upcoming television schedule to provide advance airdates for these stories. ‘Collecting Target Books’ was a guide to starting your own collection, and I noted that it had taken me over five years to complete my own set of the first 93 books. One thing that comes through in all of these issues is that I regarded the Target novelisations as almost equal in status to the television episodes. I addressed this in the ‘From the Editor…’ column, explaining that while the series was ‘this magazine’s first priority', the 'mammoth number of books available' came 'a close second.' I rated the latest novelisation, The Caves of Androzani 8/10, noting that it was ‘a little overshadowed by the extraordinarily good Frontios and Planet of Fire. I also reviewed the novelisations of Terror of the Autons and The Claws of Axos, rating them 9/10 and 8/10 respectively.

‘The Doctor’s Celery’ was an article inspired by the information provided on the subject in The Caves of Androzani novelisation. The first in a new series of articles covered the behind-the-scenes details on the production of Jon Pertwee’s first season. ‘Archives’ covered the final Troughton story, The War Games, and the back-page Programme Guide reached its thirteenth and final instalment, concluding with Revelation of the Daleks, which was at the time the most-recently produced story. What I find particularly striking about this list of twelve stories (that begins with The Awakening), is that at the time I wrote it I had not seen any of them. Now I look at it and not only are they all familiar to me, but I've also worked on the DVDs of six of these titles.

#27 - September 1985

A photograph from The Claws of Axos appears on the cover. Inside, are previews of Colony in Space and The Daemons, and ‘A Special Advance TV Preview of Upcoming Stories’ with details of the next fifteen stories (Day of the Daleks to Planet of the Spiders), including airdates for each calculated on the expectation that the series would continue to screen at the rate of two episodes every Friday. In hindsight I can see that I was correct but only up to the end of January 1985 when the schedule changed. Ah well. This advance preview was purportedly ‘due to popular demand’. I think one of my classmates at school who read the magazine must have asked for such a listing. I noted at the end of this preview that I wasn’t sure what would happen once all the Pertwee stories had screened, but hoped that the series would continue with old stories before catching up and carrying on with previously unscreened stories, which was indeed what happened.

‘The Six Doctors’ was a new serialised feature looking at the characters of each of the Doctors. I'm embarrassed to admit that this wasn’t my own work but an edited rehash of a feature by Richard Marson from Doctor Who Magazine. Oh dear. At least I credited Marson at the end of each instalment. Marco Polo was the latest book received, and I wasn’t impressed, judging by my review. I thought the story was ‘boring’ and that the novelisation bore ‘little resemblance’ to the television version. I’ve no idea what I based this judgement on. The Doomsday Weapon was also criticised for straying too far from its source, but I praised the novelisation of The Daemons.

Turning to the television stories, I was clearly impressed with The Ambassadors of Death, describing it in my review as ‘nothing short of a masterpiece’. Inferno and Terror of the Autons also received effusively positive reviews. What's curious about my review of the latter story is that I wrote the following about Roger Delgado’s Master: ‘his evil pitted against the Doctor’s good is the strongest memory I had of the Pertwee years of the series’. Although I have memories of watching the Pertwee era first time around, none of the Delgado Master stories screened in New Zealand prior to 1985 so I cannot possibly have seen them as a child. What was I thinking? Had I concocted a set of false recollections based on reading the books? I have no recollection of this.

#28 - October 1985

Not my most successful cover design, this features a photograph of Azal from The Daemons backed by black bands coloured in felt-tip pen. Inside was a preview of Day of the Daleks, and a summary of the rest of Season Nine (‘Story 3 features the return of the Master. Don’t ask how he escapes, because I want to keep that secret…’).

The latest book release was the reissue of The Doctor Who Monster Book. My review compared it to the original edition, but as I didn’t own a copy I must have lifted that information from Doctor Who Magazine’s assessment of the book. The novelisations of Day of the Daleks and The Curse of Peladon received brief but uniformly positive reviews.

‘The Six Doctors’ continued with a look at the Second Doctor. Three of the photographs used in this two-page spread were recycled for a similar-looking couple of pages for Troughton’s obituary in the first issue of Time Space Visualiser a couple of years later. The second part of a ‘Guide to the Pertwee Stories’ covered the production of Season Eight. The first of the television stories reviewed this issue was The Mind of Evil. I described this as ‘a high-tension action-packed drama’ but lamented the loss of the colour episodes. My family had recently acquired our first colour television, so after many years of having no choice but to watch Doctor Who in black and white, it was particularly irksome that many of the early Pertwee episodes were not in colour. The review of The Claws of Axos praises the location filming and the sets, but criticises some of the characters as ‘unconvincing’, singling out including Bill Filer and Mr Chinn. I can pinpoint exactly when this review was written, because it opens with the line, ‘Less than an hour ago, the final credits rolled for the last episode of this story’, which means that I must have written it on the evening of Friday 20 September.

#29 - November 1985

In a departure from the usual photo covers, this issue has a rather nice drawing of Jon Pertwee. I drew this by copying an illustration from The Key to Time book (the original by Vitaly Sabsay appears on page 89). The cover announced ‘Doctor Who is Twenty Two!’, and the issue celebrated the twenty-second anniversary of the series. Inside I wrote in the introduction: ‘Twenty two years is a long time. If you were just old enough to watch it when it started, you could have children of your own watching it today.’ Twenty-two years may indeed have seemed like a long time to a 17-year-old, but imagine how I feel reading them now. I typed those words thirty years ago.

An article titled ‘In the beginning...’ described how the series started, and a re-vamped ‘Archives’ feature set out to document the stories in order from An Unearthly Child onwards. The wording of the first synopsis appears to have been lifted directly from Jean-Marc Lofficier’s Programme Guide. The Curse of Peladon and The Sea Devils, which screened during November 1985, were previewed, and ‘The Six Doctors’ series continued with a look at the third Doctor, still shamelessly borrowing from Marson’s article. This wasn’t the only copying going on here. The review of the latest novelisation, The Awakening ends with the footnote ‘Taken from Doctor Who Magazine Review’. I’ve compared this with Gary Russell’s review (which appears in DWM #97) and although ‘my’ review is a lot shorter, much of the wording is copied more or less verbatim. I’ve no idea why I did this. Did the book fail to arrive in time, or was I incapable of forming my own opinion about its merits...?

A new column called ‘Update’ set out to summarize what had gone on in the series since New Zealand television left off with Mawdryn Undead in November 1983. As I hadn’t seen these stories, the information provided about Terminus, Enlightenment and The King’s Demons would have undoubtedly have come from Doctor Who Magazine. This was accompanied by another new feature, ‘Photo of the Month’, featuring a photo of Peter Davison that had originally appeared in a 1983 issue of The Listener. Judging by my review, I wasn’t overly thrilled with Colony in Space, calling it ‘a less than totally successful story.’ I was clearly more impressed with The Daemons, writing that it ‘never suffered a dull moment’.

#30 - December 1985

The cover features a photo from Day of the Daleks overlaid with another from The Sea Devils, reflecting the coverage of the Ninth Season that was on screen at the time.

Significantly, there is no hint anywhere in this issue that it would be the last. My ‘Editor’s Note’ confidently claims that issue 31 is coming in January 1986. The issue was shorter than usual, just eight pages rather than the usual twelve. This was explained away with a vague reference to ‘publishing deadlines and other commitments’. In December 1985 I was finishing my Sixth Form year at school, so I expect that my studies were occupying much of my time and attention.

Despite the reduced page count I managed to include most of the regular features in the issue, including synopses for The Edge of Destruction and Marco Polo in ‘Archives’, and previews of The Sea Devils and The Mutants. ‘The Six Doctors’ covered the Fourth Doctor, and ‘Photo of the Month’ featured a photo of Tom Baker from a 1982 issue of The Listener. A new feature called ‘Databank’ documented fictional information about the Ice Warriors. ‘Update’ continued with coverage of The Five Doctors. As noted in the article, this was the one new story that I had seen, as it was played at a science fiction exhibition in Auckland that I’d attended the previous year. This item ended with a promise that coverage of the next season ‘starts next issue’.

And that was where it all ended.

Clearly I had plans to keep going with the magazine, but I do not recall if I even made a start on assembling issue 31. Why, after two and a half years of uninterrupted production, did Gallifrey abruptly come to an end?

I remained a devoted fan of the series after this point. I still watching the series every week on television and collected the books and Doctor Who Magazine. I think the so-called ‘cancellation crisis’ that led to the series’ suspension for eighteen months during 1985-86 perhaps knocked my confidence in the series. I remember believing for a while during 1985 that it wasn't coming back. I also found it hard to maintain interest in the new series, not having seen any of Colin Baker’s episodes. I only ‘knew’ his Doctor through reading the comic strips and the books.

Outside of Doctor Who, there was now a lot more going on in my life. 1986 was my final year of school. I was socialising a great deal more with friends and going out on evenings and weekends. None of these friends shared my interest in the series.

Although I had given up editing a Doctor Who fanzine, the thought of one day reviving it much have kept niggling away at the back of my mind. I recall thinking if I could just meet some fellow fans who shared my passion for the series, that maybe we could produce something together, perhaps even start up a club. At the end of 1986 I left school and in 1987 I started studying at the University of Auckland. I initially hoped to meet fans through the science fiction club on campus, but I was discouraged by the dismissive attitude I encountered at the one meeting I attended (perhaps I just caught them on a bad day?). One day in May 1987 I decided to put up a notice on the campus clubs notice board asking for any Doctor Who fans to get in contact. I received one response, a letter from a fellow first-year student called Paul Sinkovich. We met up and I discovered to my delight that Paul had off-air VHS copies of all of the new series episodes I’d never seen, and a large stack of UK fanzines. I showed him my copies of Gallifrey, and we decided to collaborate on a fanzine. I initially wanted to resurrect Gallifrey and continue on with issue 31, but Paul wisely persuaded me to create a new fanzine, which we called Time Space Visualiser. The first of 76 issues and numerous spin-off specials, published over more than twenty years, appeared in June 1987.

Once again, I was editing a Doctor Who fanzine.