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Discovering Who

Or How Not To Make Money From Doctor Who Merchandise

By Morgan Davie

My earliest definite Doctor Who recollection is borrowing a certain Target novelisation, The Giant Robot, from the local library, on account of the attention-grabbing cover.

I returned it three days later, having read as many pages.

Not an auspicious start to the life of a devotee of the Doctor. Now and then I must have watched the programme, because I have definite but very vague memories of snippets from such gems as The Mind Robber and Arc of Infinity. The intelligence test from The Krotons made an indelible imprint on my mind and appeared in much plagiarised form in a story a few years later. But I was hardly a regular watcher.

Eventually the library's Who collection became interesting. I suddenly found myself reading every one of them I could find - I recall cursing the fact that all the writers had different surnames, meaning the books were scattered all over the place, but there were usually a few under 'D' I hadn't read.

At about the same time, I started to watch the show regularly - but not that regularly. I was remarkably confused - I remember avoiding stories that I hadn't already read. And I remember not watching The Hand of Fear because, I reasoned, how scary could a fossil hand be?

In 1987-88 my vague fan status crystallized into truefan status. A tiny Doctor Who club at school which folded before I joined was one of the catalysts of this process. Amazingly, Doctor Who was deemed socially acceptable by a large majority of those in my school - when Destiny of the Daleks was screened, arguments raged in the classroom over the true nature of the Movellans, and what was going to happen next.

So it was that in 1989 I bought for the price of no dollars and no cents a genuine but rather battered War of the Daleks board game. Quite a valuable piece of merchandise, I know now. But not then.

In 1990, at my insistence, the tiny Doctor Who club from school was recreated. We had a cool idea - use the quiz books to create a Doctor Who trivial pursuit game! All we needed was a board and some counters. The counters from War of the Daleks looked pretty neat - but they had these ugly plastic bits on the bases. That wouldn't do at all.

So I got out a hammer and smashed the ugly bits off.

Not long after this, Matthew Eglinton (co-conspirator in the tiny Doctor Who club), found out about David Lawrence from Simon Quirke's TSVs. They began to communicate. I was astounded - there are other Doctor Who fans! Amazing! And they talked! Wow, I wonder what David is like... he must be about twenty or twenty-five. At least.

We went to DoctorCon'91. Rather a shock to find out that David was about my age. But I soon got over it and so I came to join the Wellington Chapter. I began to make a small name for myself in the Wellington Chapter Videos taking roles such as a Neanderthal, a mysterious person who appeared in one scene of Mindswap, and a rather feeble robotic Victoria.

About the same time I cut up the War of the Daleks box. I thought it would look nice on my wall (I can see people wincing as they read this). Later that year, I saw footage from the BSB Doctor Who weekend. Among what I saw, a mega fan displaying some of his most valued pieces of merchandise. Among said merchandise: War of the Daleks.

Arrgh.

I was still recovering from the shock when I realised how much money old DW annuals can fetch. I had one once. It had a blue cover. William Hartnell and the Zarbi were featured.

I had sold it in a garage sale a few years before.

The moral of the story: Don't a) cut up or b) sell anything. Ever. You never know how much money it could be worth.

I mean it. Nothing. Take it from me.

A final note: can anyone out there estimate how much money those two pieces of merchandise are worth?

This item appeared in TSV 30 (September 1992).

Index nodes: Discovering Who