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Doctor Who Magazine Review

By Jon Preddle

DWM 279 (30 June 1999) Free CD, The Next Generation, The Time Team 1, Stage-Plays, Daphne Ashbrook, John Wiles obituary, The Caves of Androzani Archive, Blood Heat, The Road to Hell 2

DWM 280 (28 July 1999) A Bit Like Doctor Who, Doctor Who on the Internet, The Time Team 2, George Gallaccio, The Dalek Invasion of Earth Archive, The Scarlet Empress, The Crusade episodes 2 & 4 telesnaps, The Road to Hell 3

DWM 281 (25 August 1999) Information-Dumping, Annuals and Non-Fiction books, The Time Team 3, Sarah Hellings, The Tomb of the Cybermen Archive, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma, The Road to Hell 4

DWM 279 is the first ‘new look’ issue for several years. Like the Fifth Doctor talking about his new body, no doubt we'll get used to it in time. From a content standpoint, nothing has changed - all the usual features and articles are there. It is just the layout and design that has been revised. Despite reassurances a couple of years ago that the logo wouldn't be changed, the McGann one has now been adopted. I suspect this has been brought about in order to tie the magazine in with the BBC's own merchandise output. But unlike the old diamond logo I don't think it particularly lends itself to other colour combinations, so I think we're now stuck with ‘metallic blue’...

CD SURPRISE

DWM 279 comes with a free gift; a CD containing interviews and excerpts from the upcoming Big Finish audio dramas. When listening to Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and the various production members speak it becomes readily apparent just how much is lost when an interview is transcribed into text. Although it's not likely to happen, DWM should release more interviews this way!

It's pleasing to hear from Gary Russell, Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery talking so enthusiastically about the project. It's good to see that someone who cares about Who taking the effort to do something positive for a change. On a connected note, I recommend that you check out Big Finish's web site, and read the interview with Briggs.

The first of these new audio plays should be available by the time this issue of TSV is published. On the basis of what is revealed on the CD, I have to admit I'm rather looking forward to hearing these new stories. Oh, and don't switch the CD off after the final interview - there's a little something extra ‘hidden’ there at the end that you should listen out for...

With the new look comes new regular features, including a Discontinuity Guide-style analysis of individual Virgin and BBC novels, and The Time Team. At the target rate they have been set (of viewing only 8 episodes at a time), it will take the Time Team about six and a half years - some 87 issues - to review all 696 episodes of Doctor Who. I guess this is a good sign; DWM obviously hopes to still be around in 2006 otherwise they wouldn't have committed themselves to doing this if they didn't intend to see it through to the end!

The guide to the novels is a neat idea, though I pity the poor bugger who had to read Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma again! I've recently finished reading the last of my back-log of Virgin books, and can't for the life of me remember what half the books were even about. This series of guides should help (but I suspect that the fan-produced book I, Who will cover pretty much the same territory).

Another new feature is the Doctor Who Cryptic Crossword. Being someone who finds the Cryptic Crossword in the NZ Herald rather easy to solve, I have managed to complete the DWM ones in less than 20 minutes. However from comments posted to rec.arts.drwho, there are many readers who find it a struggle, which is probably the idea! Debuting in #281 is The Final Test, another enjoyable new quiz. This one consists of five sets of seemingly unrelated character names or story titles. The test is to find what the common links are. After several email conferences with Paul Scoones we managed to crack all six puzzles - but it wasn't easy, I can tell you. We're both keenly looking forward to the next one....

The last of the final new regular features is written by ‘The Watcher’ which intends to crack open many of the popular myths about Doctor Who; in the first he/she proposes that the Doctor's real name is in fact Doctor Who...

That's enough of the new stuff. What about the other things up for grabs?

The usually-reliable Andrew Pixley makes a rare error in the archive for The Dalek Invasion of Earth, in that he states the serial first screened in New Zealand in 1991. Its first broadcast was actually in 1988, as part of the Silver Jubilee anniversary week. I'll let him off for that though, as due to his painstaking research, I now know exactly what was going on in the Doctor Who production offices the day I was born! His informative archive on The Tomb of the Cybermen is illustrated with some neat behind the scenes photos, many of which I'm sure I haven't seen before.

DWM 280 features the set of recently recovered telesnaps for the missing second and fourth episodes of The Crusade (although I understand that due to space restrictions 15 of the 'snaps were omitted). I noticed that the third 'snap on the seventh column of The Knight of Jaffa is clearly the basis for Henry Fox's illustration on page 76 of David Whitaker's novelisation of the story. I wonder if Fox has any more telesnaps. Is he still alive? If so why hasn't DWM been in touch, eh?!

And for those of you with Internet access, issue 280 also has an overview of some of the more weird Doctor Who-related web sites. ‘The Doctor and Mr T’ site has to be seen to be believed. Thanks DWM for pointing out this little gem!

I'm enjoying immensely Steve Lyons and Chris Howarth's on-going look at those other ‘canonical’ aspects of Doctor Who. In part four (DWM 281) they tackle comic strips, annuals, as well as those tacky non-fiction books that Target churned out in the late 1970s. Glancing at my bookshelf I can see I've got all of those - but I can't think whatever could have possessed me...

The main feature articles are finally getting further and further away from the standard Monsters, Villains and Companions type thing that I've been so critical about before. The lead in 279 is a set of mini-interviews with those high-profile New and Missing Adventures authors who are now working in some capacity within the TV industry, who give their views on what they would do if given the opportunity of producing Doctor Who for the small screen. Judging from the mixed comments in the subsequent issues' letters-pages it would appear that a few readers think some of these authors don't know what they're talking about! Oh, and I love the little Doctor Who Lego men illustrating the feature. If Lego can do them for Star Wars, why not a series of Lego Who figures as well, hmmm?

DWM 281 examines that highly irritating but very necessary aspect of television exposition: the info-dump, as well as high-lighting some of the more unusual methods of story-telling that has been utilised in Doctor Who over the years. My only gripe with this article is the lack of screen-grabs to illustrate the specific points being raised, although the news-reader captions are rather clever - even though as a non-Brit I have no idea who the anchor-persons are!

Space PirateSpace Pirate

The pictures above are by Adrian Salmon, and were sent to TSV by DWM comic strip writer Scott Gray. Scott explains that the characters are “a couple of villains from an upcoming comic strip we're doing for DWM 284-286. The story will probably be called ‘The Treasure of Tyronikus’ or some such silliness. [The eventual title chosen was The Company of Thieves.] It's a pirates-in-space tale that's a tad more lighthearted than some of the stories seen lately. These illustrations probably won't see print anywhere else - a TSV exclusive!” [One of the two illustrations was printed years later on page 219 of The Glorious Dead graphic novel].

Jon's Note:
DWM 279 is something of a significant issue: it's June 2008, and the Time Team is still going strong nine years later (a slight format change means they now cover only one story at a time), and have reached the Colin Baker era.

But more importantly, if you've got this issue, DWM's ‘We're going to be bigger than Star Wars!’ is definitely worth reading now, considering most of the people interviewed - Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Steven Moffat and someone called Russell T Davies - have all written for the new series! And how ironic is Davies' closing comment, “God help anyone in charge of bringing it back - what a responsibility!” Amen to that!

This item appeared in TSV 58 (September 1999).