By Jon Preddle
Neil Lambess of Whangarei has recently watched Underworld. Neil points out that the Minyans have the ability the regenerate, and some have done so a thousand times. Neil wants to know why Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times while the Minyans, who were given the power by the Time Lords in the first place, can regenerate endlessly.
In Underworld, we see Tala placed under a machine which changes her from an old hag into a young woman. She does not change form or personality, so it is not a true regeneration in the sense of a Time Lord, but more likely just a rejuvenation. There is nothing in the story to indicate that the ability is a natural one, so it would seem that the Minyans must use machines. In Mawdryn Undead the mutants stole a metamorphic symbiosis regenerator from Gallifrey. This device is used by Time Lords in cases of acute regenerative crisis. The machine used by the Minyans probably worked on the same principle.
The Minyans in Underworld did not desire to prolong their lives to such a great extent, but did so as a matter of necessity, in order to carry out their quest.
Stuart Brown wonders if the 'Missing Episodes' The Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil and Mission to Magnus are regarded as canonical.
As the recent Shada debate has demonstrated, the definition of canonicity is a matter of personal choice. To me, these three stories are not canonical. If we were to regard them as part of the Doctor Who universe, then we must also accept every other unmade story. There are hundreds of these, so it would be almost impossible to try and catalogue them all. I tried with The Forgotten Tales articles in TSV issues 21-29, and still keep finding new ones! In answer to your question, it's up to you if you want to count them or not.
Stuart also wants to know what the correct chronological order is for the 'Missing Episodes', and Slipback.
Slipback was first broadcast July-August 1985, and therefore comes first. At the time of cancellation, The Nightmare Fair was definitely due to go into production - The Ultimate Evil and Mission to Magnus had reached complete script stage and had directors assigned to them, so it is likely they would have followed. Beyond this, details are uncertain. Robert Holmes had prepared a storyline for a three-parter set in Singapore variously called Made in Singapore, Evil of the Autons or Return of the Autons, however the title which appears on BBC documentation is Yellow Fever and How to Cure It. The fifth story would probably have been one by Christopher H. Bidmead called In the Hollows of Time. The last story might have been an untitled submission by Bill Pritchard, or one called The Children of January by Michael Feeney Callan. While this is likely to have been the production order, the transmitted season might have differed slightly. The first three stories were novelised and published by Target in 1989/90, and an adaptation by Eric Saward of Robert Holmes's story is tentatively planned for publication in the near future. If you want to find out more about the aborted season, I highly recommend The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor.
Michael Dwyer from Tauranga observes that 'On practically every cover that Alister Pearson has ever painted for Doctor Who books and videos, he puts his initials, and on some he puts someone else's initials as well. Can you tell me what they mean, and what purpose they serve?'
They don't serve any purpose really. As for what they mean, they are apparently all initials of Pearson's friends and colleagues within Doctor Who fandom. Whilst many are unidentifiable, it is possible to make an educated guess in some cases.
In his early pieces, Pearson hid his initials within the illustration. Later he made his name more prominent, using either 'AP', 'AJP' or the signature 'Alister'. Originally the other initials too were hidden but these have also become more prominent.
The novelisation covers with hidden 'AP's are: The Smugglers (tombstone); Paradise Towers (graffiti); The War Machines (the Doctor's chain); The Nightmare Fair (part of the word 'GAP'); Mindwarp (rock wall); The Ultimate Evil (the TARDIS screen); The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (yellow kite); Ghost Light (part of the hieroglyphics); The Curse of Fenric (part of the logic diagram); The Ark reprint (part of the border). The Ultimate Foe and The Edge of Destruction hold the distinction of having no initials at all - not even 'AP'! Pearson's first book cover to feature initials other than his own was Paradise Towers.
Pearson's first video cover was An Unearthly Child, which features 'RT' on a rock to the left of the TARDIS. This is Richard Thomas, who originally suggested to Pearson that he write to BBC Video to do the video covers. All of Pearson's video covers bar The Curse of Fenric, The Masque of Mandragora, The War Games and The Krotons have other initials. The strange squiggle on The Dominators cover is not an initial; the symbol actually appears in the story, on the door of the lab. BBC Video took the initiative to airbrush out the initials on some of their covers. Originally, The Three Doctors had 'JVW' formed out of stars, Robot featured 'JB' (as seen on the cover of DWM 183), and The Masque of Mandragora had 'SW' (Steve Wickens).
Here's a list of all of the instances where Alister Pearson has used other people's initials in his cover paintings, and the owners of those initials where known (updated to 2006). Alister has contributed most of the information for this revised online version.
This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).