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Gary Russell Interview

By Jon Preddle

[Gary Russell]Although he was never involved in the production of the series, Gary Russell is well-known to many fans as a Doctor Who writer and editor.

As a child actor in the seventies Gary appeared in the children's television series The Phoenix and the Carpet and then in The Famous Five as Dick. Becoming involved in Doctor Who fandom he started his own fanzine, Shada, and also edited the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS) newsletter, Celestial Toyroom (CT) during the eighties. H also worked behind the scenes at the BBC, mainly in TV Press and Publicity. At the same time he was a regular writer and reviewer for Marvel's Doctor Who Magazine. A year after leaving the BBC Gary was appointed editor of the magazine and is now also editor of Doctor Who Classic Comics. Recently he made a brief return to acting by appearing in The Airzone Solution and in the 30 Years in the TARDIS documentary (he played an Auton, a Roboman, various Daleks, the Destroyer and a Haemovore, but only the Auton and one Dalek made it to screen [the others however did end up on the extended video release]. Most recently Gary has also written a New Adventures novel, Legacy, due to be published in April 1994.

Gary Russell was interviewed for TSV by Jon Preddle on Thursday 4 November 1993 at the Marvel offices in London. What follows are Gary's views and experiences regarding Doctor Who fandom, magazines and his Ice Warrior epic Legacy.

Childhood Memories

I was born before Doctor Who started, to give you some idea of the great age I am, but not that much before! My earliest memory of Doctor Who is, without ever knowing what I was watching, the regeneration sequence between Hartnell and Troughton which I remember very vividly as being three old aged pensioners, one of whom collapsed, and I thought fell on a table, two grouped around the other one. I am quite sure that if The Tenth Planet episode 4 turned up it would be nothing like I remembered. The memory does cheat.

I am aware of the fact that I must have watched Doctor Who very regularly from then onwards but I don't have any memories again until watching the end of the repeat of The Evil of the Daleks episode 7. It was definitely a hot sunny day. A friend and I were watching it and we ran outside and played Daleks before the episode had ended and by the time we came back in again it had finished! I was so excited about playing Daleks I missed it. Of course now I look back and think Arrghh!! A piece of culture and it's gone forever, and I chose to play in the bloody garden. But from then on, from The Dominators onwards, I certainly watched it every week.

DWAS and Celestial Toyroom

I got into Doctor Who fandom in 1979, which is bizarre because I'd given up on Doctor Who. In 1976 I went to a big science fiction festival held in Windsor where I met Brian Hayles (creator of the Ice Warriors) and I picked up a leaflet that was there for the newly formed DWAS. I took it home and never did anything with it. Then I did The Famous Five, and there was a picture of me in TV Times with a pile of Doctor Who books and as a result of that somebody wrote to me about Doctor Who. I thought, 'I'm not the only Doctor Who fan in the world!'

So I joined the DWAS and the programme was an absolute abortion as far as I was concerned because it was the Graham Williams era. The week I got my first CT, City of Death episode 4 went out and I thought I have joined the Doctor Who Appreciation Society to appreciate crap like this! But I stuck with it because I'm stupid and after about six months I said to myself, I'm going to help organise this society - it needs someone like me!

Instead I decided to start my own fanzine up which was called Shada. I did Shada and went to a couple of mailing-outs for CT and gave the impression, I think, that apart from doing Shada I'd quite like to edit CT.

The editor, Chris Dunk, left doing CT and Gordon Blows came on. Gordon wanted an assistant editor - someone to do the donkey work - and so I said, 'Yeah, I'll do that'. Gordon did CT for three issues and then one day the doorbell went, it was the postman with a big box. I opened it up and it had all of the CT stuff inside it and a little note from Gordon saying, politely, 'I have had enough, thank you very much, CT's all yours; make of it what you will'. So I then did CT and Shada at the same time.

I wanted to do a newsletter that reflected me. I think anything edited by someone with the intensity that a newsletter is, your personality rubs off on it. You're creating a newsletter that is going out to nearly two thousand people, once a month. Now, they're either going to get a very bland, four sheets of paper which says 'Doctor Who's in the studio, the next story's called...' or it comes through the letterbox and goes 'KA-POW!! Hi! This is CT. I'm Gary Russell, editor, and this is what's going on, and this is a nice big Society and let's all be friendly.' I wanted to really push that, and I wanted to make CT me, so that when it came through the door every month, people would say, 'Oh, Gary Russell edited this', and at the end of the four or six pages they had some inclination of what had gone into it and the kind of personality that was driving it, to make them, I thought, feel more welcome.

I've yet to have any member of the DWAS ever come up to me and say, 'Your CT's were shite and I hated every egotistical moment of it'. However, what I did have was an entire DWAS Executive coming up to me saying, 'Your CT's are shite, and you're crap, and you shouldn't be editing this magazine, and you're totally atrocious'. I used to say, 'I don't care'. Then after about six months or so CT would start coming out, and I'd be thinking, 'I didn't do that bit, I didn't do that, I wrote such and such there'. I began to realise that after I'd done it and it was being taken to the printers it was being intercepted along the way by a couple of people in the Exec who were rewriting it to take out a lot of the crappiness of my style.

I was up in Edinburgh at the second DWASocial in September 1981, and we had an Exec meeting because we did stupid things like that - 'Hey, let's go to a convention for a week and have a wow time and have an Exec meeting in the Saturday evening!' I just turned around at that point and said, 'Look, I'll tell you now, I'm doing this for another year and a bit and I'm finishing in December 1982. I'm not happy, but I want to carry on with it because I enjoy it, but I don't like what you're doing with it', and they all went, 'Oh, yeah fine, OK'. So I stuck at it for another year and a bit and lived up to my promise.

Writing for Doctor Who Magazine

While I was doing CT I was in regular contact with Alan MacKenzie, who was editor of Doctor Who Monthly as it was then called. We got on very well because we were both very interested in comics. I was working at the BBC and I got a letter from Alan saying, 'You might have heard that Richard Landen's no longer working for the magazine, I need a new sort of feature writer for it, you seem to be an incredibly literate sensible person, do you fancy coming along and talking about it?' Now, of course, written between the lines it's, 'I am in deep shit! Aah... aah... Gary Russell, yes let's write to him'. It was just crucial desperation.

I'd given up editing CT at that point but I was still doing Shada so I was doing the Monthly and Shada at the same time. The agreement was I would take over doing what Richard Landen and Jeremy Bentham before him had done, which was a twenty-eight page magazine. The only thing I wouldn't do was the letters page and the comic strip. Issue 84 was a Dalek special, which was an emergency fill-in because Alan had nothing to stick in it. Alan needed stuff for issue 85, and I said 'All right, when by?', and he said, 'Well, it's due on sale in two weeks, so I need issue 85 by Monday and issue 86 by Friday to get me back on schedule.' So I knocked out 50 pages. I got Stephen James Walker to write something and I got Marc Platt to write something and Gary Hopkins, I think, to write something, just to help pad it out. I was just churning out all the boring stuff like Gallifrey Guardian and things like that. I did that for a year and Richard Marson was doing the interviews. For very political reasons I eventually ended up just doing the book reviews and Gallifrey Guardian. Richard did everything else. I did Matrix Data Bank as well. After a while I ditched those and Richard took those over as well so I was left purely, by about 1985/86, doing just the review stuff and a couple of odd features and interviews now and again which suited me more.

When Alan left I was very disappointed - because I got on very well with Alan MacKenzie - I still think he's probably the best editor of DWM ever - he was certainly brilliant to work with. Then Cefn Ridout came in, who again I got on very well with. He disappeared very quickly, for reasons not of his making. And then Sheila Cranna came in, and I got on with Sheila as a person, but we didn't see eye to eye on Doctor Who in any shape or form and so I began to really lessen off. I did about three things in 1988, and then John Freeman took over.

Editing Doctor Who Magazine

I got on very well with John and so he started asking me to do a lot more stuff. When I went freelance from the Beeb in 1989 and decided to make a career as a writer, he was really good to me. Then one day, after I'd been out for about a year and freelancing was not great - I was earning enough to pay the mortgage and to live on but I wasn't earning enough to enjoy myself - John just rang up out of the blue one Monday morning and said, 'There's been lots of changes here - I'm not editing Doctor Who Magazine anymore. I'm going to be in overall charge of it, but I'm not doing the day to day editing, do you want to come in and do it?' I kind of went, 'Um, yes - when?' thinking he'd say about three weeks, and he said, 'What you doing Thursday? I've got to sort this out with Paul Neary and we'll call you back tomorrow and confirm it,' which they dutifully did and I went in on Thursday morning, walked into this building, bumped into Paul Neary and he said, 'I'll take you up to your office.' John was there. He said, 'There's one thing I haven't told you - I'm going to America on Sunday for two weeks so you've got to do issue 183'. My jaw hit the floor! I have spent ten minutes in the building and I am suddenly editing an entire issue of DWM. John had done the ground work in the sense that all the articles were there, they were all commissioned and most of them were in, apart from the comic strip, but I hadn't edited anything like this in my life before, and I had two weeks to find my feet basically. It's the best training you can have - to be dropped in it like that. With the undeniably brilliant help of Peri Godbold, the designer, we put issue 183 together, and John came back looking very pleased.

I really hadn't any great ideas. The only thing I really wanted to do that I thought the magazine lacked was a sense of regularity; I wanted the comic strip to always be on those pages, the Archives I wanted to have every issue and they'd always be the centre, Gallifrey Guardian would always be there, the letters page was there, Off the Shelf would always be there, so any time you picked up the magazine you knew where to go to find your favourite bits. Now that was something that John had never done and I was very keen to do and so I did. That was my big contribution.

The Archives were placed in the centre pages to give it that kind of pullout look and I just think they should be there every month, so we made sure they were. I dropped Nostalgia; that was the only thing I've ever done that I think was a very unpopular move - a lot of people like Nostalgia. Six pages of padding, you know. I used to write it and make up half the quotes because nobody would ever actually genuinely write in with their memories of something. With Day of the Daleks I think three people wrote genuine letters, the rest were all pseudonyms because people did not contribute to Nostalgia. I resisted the temptation to ever bring it back and it will come back over my dead body.

Apart from that I boosted the comic strip up to eight pages. I've done millions of little things - I think if you look at DWM 206, and you look at DWM 182 there is a world of difference between the two but it's been very gradual. I think with DWM 200 I kind of went, 'Yeah, that's my magazine'. That is exactly what I wanted and I think therefore I am happier with anything from 200 onwards than I was before.

John did not physically edit anything after 183 and he only did half that because he was in America but he is still credited as editor per se up until 185 and then I took over with 186. He was senior editor of more than just DWM. He overlooked the whole of what we kind of call the 'Boy's Own' titles which was DWM, Spider-Man and Overkill. John left at the beginning of this year [1993].

Marcus Hearn came in at Christmas 1992 saying he wanted to get some work experience which we don't do at Marvel, we never do that because it leads to so many problems. But I said, 'I'm either going to have a nervous breakdown or we get him in over Christmas for three weeks. He doesn't want paying.' So he worked for us over Christmas. The chance came for me to have an assistant. Apart from editing for Marvel I was also acting as another editor's assistant on American stuff so I needed someone to back me up. So they said. 'Get Marcus in,' so we did and it's been brilliant. Marcus is a trained journalist. I can't punctuate to save my life (actually, I can't spell!) but Marcus can spot double-parenthesis from ten thousand yards. He is capable of shaping it properly to make it readable which I never can do because I can't write English to be read - I can only write English to be spoken!

Doctor Who Classic Comics

When Nigel Robinson was working at WH Allen as the editor of Target Books he looked into the possibility of doing graphic novels, of collecting all the old stuff together but he couldn't get the rights. I think Jeremy Bentham or I must have mentioned that to John Freeman. I remember John saying 'Maybe we'll try and do it at Marvel.' The then-management at Marvel weren't interested in spending the money necessary to buy the rights so the idea died. Then about a month or two before I came in John had obviously mentioned it again to Vincent Conran, our Managing Director and Paul Neary, our Editorial Director, and they quite liked the idea. We went into negotiations; we bought up all the stuff from Polystyle Thames Valley, which was everything from TV Comic right through, including Countdown and TV Action. We actually own the rights to those - they don't. John did a dummy issue, put it through; got it approved. I redid a dummy for myself which was slightly different. John said 'OK', and it became my baby from that point onwards. I was really pleased with it and I still am. It doesn't sell very well; I wish it would sell more.


We've found John Cura's telesnaps (off-screen photos) from every single story from The Savages right through until The Wheel in Space - with the exception of The Enemy of the World episode 4 - that's the only one we don't have. Originally we thought we'd put them only in Classic Comics because that would boost the sales and then my little brain said it might actually stop a few people buying Doctor Who Magazine. We're not going to do them chronologically because I thought I'd go for the 'biggies', so episode 1 of Fury from the Deep is in Classic Comics 15, episode 2 is in DWM 208, episode 3 is in Classic Comics 16 and so on because I like being a little bastard like that! We think Cura stopped taking them with The Mind Robber so unfortunately there's nothing from The Space Pirates or The Invasion. That's our big thing for the beginning of next year. I hope that it's going to make issues sell more. I think that's the best find since The Tomb of the Cybermen!

Selling the Magazine

It's a very limited market. I think a lot of the reasons that something like Classic Comics isn't probably selling as well as DWM is that Doctor Who fans are not wealthy people. You've got two magazines next year, you're going to have two novels (New and Missing Adventure), and you've got two videos every month plus anything else that comes out special. You're talking 60 quid out of a pocket every month. Not everyone has that.

However we're in quite a good position because the videos and the books are always available once they're released. Magazines disappear every month so the people that want to keep up with it will stick with them. This is why I have resisted another price-rise hike. I want to keep it as little as possible because of the competition. Peter Darvill-Evans of Virgin is of the same mind that I am that the cheaper you make something the more chance you've got of selling it.

The New Adventures

We've got a very good relationship, Peter and I. We work quite hand in hand on a lot of things. It's kind of peculiar because when I came and John set up the comic strip to feature Ace, John had this loose theory of mixing with the New Adventures. I wanted to bring Benny into it as well. Peter said no problem. We drew up from Peter's descriptions what Benny looked like and we also designed the Doctor's new costume and Ace's costume. They've both been adopted by Virgin so it's a nice sort of symbiotic relationship. We can, if we want to, be completely separate but I felt like tying in.

I went for the job of Target books editor a long time ago, before it was actually the New Adventures. I think now that if I had got it and been told to set up the New Adventures, which I would loved to have done, it would never have occurred to me to use fans. I would have said, 'Paul Cornell? Do me a favour! No way! I want Glyn Jones, I want Bill Emms and people who really know Doctor Who to write these books.' I think that probably would have been a very big mistake. I think Peter did the right thing by getting Paul to be the first fan novelist. If nothing else - I mean it's a brilliant book, Revelation's just fantastic - it proved to the rest of us that it could be done; yes, we could write novels. Andrew Cartmel wrote one. Marc Platt wrote one. Ben Aaronovitch has written one, Terrance Dicks has written two; every other writer, out of thirty or so books, is a fan. That's a knockout isn't it! It has its Pit-falls! But then again, you rely on professionals and you get Transit so, swings and roundabouts. Sorry, Ben!


As it will say in the introduction to the book, it actually goes back to that same festival in Windsor where I met Brian Hayles, which was like 'Wow, you invented the Ice Warriors, my god! You're wonderful.' I was about 12 or 13 - something like that. I must have known he was going to be there because I had my copy of Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon and I got him to sign it. I said 'So, when are the Ice Warriors coming back?' as one does when you're 13 years old. He went 'Ahh, well, you know, Tom Baker's the Doctor now. I don't think his Doctor meets Ice Warriors.' and I went 'Ohhh, what about Peladon?' He said 'Well same thing really. I don't think I'll be doing any more Doctor Who.' I said 'Well what do you think would have happened next in Peladon?' He turned to me - and I've seen this happen so many other times now that I realise it's obviously a very good writer's trick when confronted with an annoying little 13 year old boy, but at the time I thought he was God for doing this - he just said 'Well what would you do if you were writing it?' So I told him what I would do and he went 'That's a very good idea (yawn).' I thought at the time he meant it. And I have to confess that what happens at the climax of the story is exactly what I outlined to him in 1976.

I want to make absolutely clear that it was always called Legacy. I wrote the storyline for Peter Darvill-Evans in July 1991 and it was called Legacy and it has been Legacy ever since. It has never been called Terror of Peladon as DWB insisted. That was mainly because at the time I didn't want people to know that Peladon was in it. I had this great ambition that no one would ever know it was about Peladon until it hit the shops. Bit stupid, really, but there you go. I didn't care about people knowing it was about Ice Warriors - I'm obsessed with Ice Warriors! Then Terror of Peladon appears in DWB. Thanks guys!

Politics on Peladon

It's very anti-colonial. I love empire-bashing! It was actually Andy Lane that pointed out that it's the Kenya situation, though to me it was just a general British Empire 'they go in and they muck it up' sort of thing. That's how I looked at the way the Federation, especially in The Monster of Peladon, had gone into Peladon and said. 'Thank you, we'll take over your planet and we'll gut it for you.' And the Pels went 'Use our miners, destroy our planet for us.'

I envisaged this time fifty years down the road. The Federation had gutted all the trisilicate out of Peladon and the Pels said, 'What can we do for you now?' and the Federation went. 'Not a lot really - bye!' The start of Legacy is basically Peladon with no industry, and the current King of Peladon, called Tarrol sitting there saying, 'The Federation came in and they mined the trisilicate and they educated us and they civilised us and none of our little flambeaux are really burning - it's all gas, and we've got electric things to do this, and we've got this to do that, what do we do with ourselves?' How does Peladon survive now with the Federation having come in, taking it under its wing? It's become part of the Federation, it's had the benefits of the Federation, but the Federation's also had the benefits of Peladon, and they're both at a stalemate. The Federation just thinks, 'Oh, it's just another one of our planets,' and Peladon itself is going 'Excuse me. What do I do?' and not getting any response from anyone.

Loving the Ice Warrior

The other thing I really wanted to explore in it was the Ice Warriors. I was so infuriated by Mission to Magnus. I read that and I thought. 'You could have put any alien race you wanted in there but you put Ice Warriors in and you had them behaving so out of character'. They should have been Sontarans. They just weren't Ice Warriors. So Legacy was my attempt to redress that balance. Now I'm not saying for one minute I'm a writer like Brian Hayles because I could never, ever in my lifetime get to be a fraction as good as that but I wanted to say to him I'm really sorry what was done to your creations, I've got a chance to do it better, and that's what I hope I've done. I wanted to get the majestic ness, the total beauty of this race of beings that have a socio-culture that is just brilliantly defined by Brian Hayles. It's all there and it's there in his novels as well. Legacy is a sequel to The Ice Warriors and The Curse of Peladon, and even The Monster of Peladon, the novels rather than the TV series, in the sense that I have taken aspects that were only in the novels such as Peladon having three moons, Alpha Centauri changing colour every time he goes through an emotional crisis, or whatever.

It was a brilliant serial but on telly it's three sets and a wobbly green monster. I love The Monster of Peladon. I remember at the time watching it wondering where the Ice Warriors were. But at the end of episode three: 'HSSSS!!!' I'm in seventh heaven! So it's redressing the balance.

I was very aware when I was writing that it's easy to turn the Ice Warriors into Klingons because of this one word: 'honour'. I can remember Adrian Rigelsford writing his Monsters book saying they were very like samurai. I actually don't agree with it entirely but there was definitely a hint of that very Japanese culture; the aristocracy side of it, the difference between that level of Ice Warrior and that level of Ice Warrior, there's no middle ground. I actually used quite a lot from Adrian's book. He had this thing in his book about the sacred sword and created these legends around it. Actually the sword is a very important part of this book. If you've seen the cover that is the sword that's in Adrian's book. I've actually adapted very slightly what he suggested about the fact that the Ice Warriors when they were little had to stick their hands into burning hot coals to pick the sword up and it fused their hands together. I've used that legend and actually had Bernice sitting down and thinking 'Is this actually true?'

The other thing I really wanted to do, I wanted to get the clothes off an Ice Warrior. I wanted to say here's an Ice Warrior without his helmet and everything on and I do that. At one point they take their gloves off, and they've got fingers and Benny goes, 'Ahh, it's a load of bollocks! They have got fingers after all!' because I just don't believe that anyone's really got hands like that, and they're so obviously gloves anyway.

The Ice Lord himself is disrobed at one point, which had howls of amusement at Virgin at the line 'Bernice pulled at his helmet'. There's this great myth that came up which I'm sure Peter Darvill-Evans created himself - although I suspect I added to it. I seem to remember saying jokingly at one point. 'I think I'll have Bernice laying the Ice Warrior because Ace gets to shag everything that moves and I thought let's have Bernice having an Ice Warrior.' I think Peter took me very seriously at that point and every time I talked to him or. Rebecca it was, 'I can't wait for the sex scene', and I said. 'Well sorry, it's a reptile; he doesn't have any genitalia, they're all inside his body and they lay eggs, so it's totally impossible for them to have a sex scene, I'm not doing it.' Rebecca said, 'You are, you are, it'll be great fun!' And in the end I succumbed and I have a... not a sex scene, but there is an intimate moment between Bernice and the Ice Warrior, and it's got nothing to do with love!

Writing Legacy

Writing Legacy was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and I thought it was going to be the easiest. We'd gone through two or three permutations before Peter actually commissioned it. Instead of the 15,000 words they always asked for I had actually written 28,000. So I thought that was quite a good chunk of it and I sat down to continue writing. I got to 35,000 and I got a panic attack. I phoned Peter and said, 'What do I do - I've run out. I've got this much story left and I can't see it's going to make 50,000 words let alone between 75 and 90.'

He was so brilliant, that's why he's such a good editor. For an hour and a half he just talked to me, he didn't really talk much about the book, just about writing and plotting and things like that, and what did I think was wrong with it and all this sort of thing. At the end of it I remember sitting down and thinking, 'Hmm, I don't know what I've gained out of that except that it's calmed me down a bit'. But when I'd finished the book I did a final word count and it came out to 93,000 words and I thought, 'How the hell did I manage that?' I really don't know how I got to 93,000 and I still don't know how. I was expecting to finish at 75,000 dead. So that was a real bonus. That was an example of what a good editor Peter is and how difficult it is to sit down and just write a book.

I took a few weeks off to write the bulk of it. I got very protective about Legacy. In this country the group of us writers all swap their books and read each other's books, and they kept saying. 'Let us have a look at Legacy,' and I'd be going, 'No way,' because I was totally adamant that Legacy was either going to be crap or it was going to be good, and I don't know and I don't really care which it is, but either way it was going to be my book. The only person who would have any input into this book was going to be Rebecca or Peter. I did not want, no matter how well-intentioned it is, Andy Lane, Jim Mortimore, Craig Hinton, Justin Richards or anybody reading bits of Legacy so they could see what it's like and give me criticism. I wasn't prepared to do that.

So I had written the whole of that book almost without anyone reading it. Then, when Kate Orman and Paul Cornell came to stay for a couple of nights, they both were watching telly and I was saying, 'Well look, entertain yourselves I have to write this book.' They were aware of that, and I suddenly went into them and said, 'Can you come and read this because I don't know whether this works.' They read the end of Chapter Eight, and they just said, 'Yeah! That really works!' Kate said, 'What happens next?' It's the bit that the book cover is based on. They were the first people who had ever read any of my book, and I thought 'Yes, I'm glad I did that. I should have done that a lot earlier,' but it had to be Paul and Kate because I trusted their gut instincts. It was much better that they read it while I was sitting there showing it to them than giving it to them as soon as it had come out, and them saying, 'Yes, it's quite good, I've written you a list of suggestions here'. They both seemed to genuinely like it, but that's the only bit of the book that's been read by anyone.

Peter and Rebecca have read it and both like it. They're talking about me doing another one which is an unexpected and enormous pleasure. I want to do a Missing Adventure - Troughton, Ben, Polly and Jamie. I just want to write Ben and Polly and you can't do it in the Hartnell era. I found writing for McCoy I was writing for Troughton anyway. So I've put in a story idea which they said they liked provisionally and they want to see a slightly more detailed breakdown of it, so if you ever see a Missing Adventures called After Images on your shelves it should have the name Gary Russell attached to it. [Jon's note: After Images was never written; Gary instead wrote Invasion of the Cat-People.]

Fanzines and Fandom

Before I started working for DWM I was a bit exposed to fanzines and I bought everything that went. I think fanzines died in 1985 when Doctor Who fandom in this country became bitchy; very, very spiteful. I'm not even thinking about DWB because I don't think Gary (Leigh) started doing that until much later - it was a thing called Nimon, the next thing was called Tomb of Rassilon but there was a little cluster of A5 grot-zines in about 1985 which ties in with the point where I was kicked out of the DWAS anyway, and I was thinking, 'I'm not interested anymore'. Then in about 1990 there was a big resurgence and we had Purple Haze, Skaro started up again, and there was another wave of good British fanzines. I always read DWB but I've never bought a copy in my life. I love Gary dearly, we're very good friends, but we are miles apart when it comes to Doctor Who. We get on very well professionally. Gary and I know each other's limits and we know each other's views so we stay away from that and just get on socially.

The only fanzines that I would actually pay money for would be Skaro and TSV. Skaro I think is just bloody well written and beautifully edited, and it's worth the money for Brian Hudd's artwork which is just so gorgeous. I mean, God, this guy's a genius. He's the best artist in fandom really. Skaro's so intelligent - everything in it is mature, the only thing that lets it down a lot is their layout. Every single word you ever read in Skaro - the articles and the letters and Ness's poetry, it's just heaven.

I read TSV for much the same reason but also it looks like a real fanzine: early eighties, A5, card-cover, no flashy graphics, and no flashy colour; it's perfect. It is what a fanzine should be. It again has one of the best letters pages in any fanzine I have ever read. Everything in it is intelligent - the only thing that has ever made me think, 'Oh, come on, grow up,' was all the DoctorCon 3 cancellation stuff. It's quite fun because of course it's the only thing I read now where I don't know any of the people involved. So it's like it was for me in 1979/80 - I got to know so many people through the letters columns and then to meet them at a convention - you kind of go, 'Wow! You're such and such!' Fanzines create their own kind of celebrities through the letters columns and it's doing that through TSV. I can't wait to come out and put faces to people's names. I've always wanted to meet Paul (Scoones) and say, 'Christ, you are editing this bloody huge magazine every other month - how the hell do you do it?!' It is so good! It's really going to spoil the mystique a bit! I rather like creating images of famous people in fandom, through the letters columns. The letters columns are far more interesting than articles because it's like editing CT was for me, it's the person. The person comes through in a letter which doesn't always happen in an article. That's why I like TSV. It has for me what we used to have here ten years ago, and we lost because we became so jaded, cynical and bitchy and quite, quite pathetic.

Doctor Who fandom in this country, in about 1985/86, began to believe that Doctor Who owed them. I still think that TSV and Skaro believe that we owe Doctor Who - and that's how it should be. We are fans of that programme. That programme should not in any way take the slightest bit of notice of us. I don't think that anything we say in fanzines should be remotely considered by people making a TV series. As JNT will now tell you - they say, 'fans like that, let's do it again.' and when you've done it twice the fans go, 'Oh, boring!' You can't win. I'd hate to be JNT; he could never win whatever he did, and that's the problem when you listen to fans and you become friends with fans. Let fandom exist on its own, though don't ignore it - because that gets people's backs up. Graham Williams always said the thing that fans never understood is we're making a television programme for the general public, not for 1,000 people. I feel that fandom in Britain in the mid-eighties forgot that and said, 'Excuse me, you're making the programme for us', and nothing killed the programme quicker.


Left to Right: Warwick Gray, Gary Russell, Gareth Roberts and Kate Orman, at Panopticon 1993 (photo: Jon Preddle).

Fan Fiction and DWM Submissions

In the late eighties I started reading fan fiction because there was no new Doctor Who, and realised that the best stuff was coming out of New Zealand and Australia! Brief Encounters and commissions for comic strips - from New Zealand and Australia - were the only ones I was printing. I thought, this is where the skill is, where the intelligence is.

I do not accept comic strips. Anyone that sends me a submission for a comic strip is wasting their time because I don't even look at them now. I have enough people I can rely on to write comics strips; I don't need any more, and I'd rather go to people that I know and can talk to about it - which is perhaps very selfish, but then again somebody else, another editor, will come in and will completely abandon that so everybody bide their time. I don't need any more Brief Encounters; I have enough to see me up through to the 21st century, almost.

But at the same time the Brief Encounters are a great way to spot good writers. I was chuffed that I used Kate Orman before Peter commissioned her. Peter said, 'I've just commissioned this book from Kate Orman', and I said, 'Huh, been there! Look in the new issue, we got her first!' Kate's writing is just brilliant. Glenn Langford (another Australian fan) is a brilliant writer. These people should be writing New Adventures, and I think a lot of the people in New Zealand should as well. I keep telling Warwick Gray to write one; he won't bloody do it! I can't understand why not; the guy's imagination is fantastic. He's one of the most gifted comic strip writers I have ever encountered in my life because he can take seven blank sheets of paper and very quickly give you something that needs no editing because he knows how to write comics. It's a very difficult medium to write for.

I think everyone should have a bash at writing a New Adventure because I do genuinely believe (and I'm not just saying this because I'm being interviewed by TSV!) Australia and New Zealand are turning out the best fan-fiction anywhere. There's nothing in this country that can touch it, certainly not now. Most of the fan-fiction we get in this country is totally anally retentive: 'Let's get as many mentions of The Smiths and Suede in as we possibly can and let's be really hip and trendy'. (There's a mention of Suede in Legacy - I hate them!). I'm reading the fan fiction in TSV and thinking this is real fan fiction, because these people are writing Doctor Who stories. They're not writing adult wank material, which is what British fan fiction has become.

The other thing you've got in New Zealand - which we used to have over here we have lost and I don't know why we lost it - you've got a sense of humour. TARDIS Tales is the greatest comic strip I've ever read in my life.

The Future of Doctor Who Magazine

I see no reason that the magazine cannot go on. Certainly as long as BBC Video keeps sticking videos out, which is in 1999 - by which time I shall be long gone. But we've got loads of Archives to do, plenty of videos to cover, loads of New Adventures to cover, loads of comic strips to write, I see no problem. Every week people say we must be running out of people to interview, and every week somebody else comes out of the woodwork. No-one has ever interviewed Roberta Tovey before. We've got a brilliant interview with her. There are a few other people coming up new, so there's no end actually. There are thirty years to cover and, up until the time when John Freeman took over as editor, DWM scraped the surface of everything. When John came it went a bit deeper. I think that Marcus and I have gone as deep as we can go with a professional magazine without becoming too fan-orientated for the general public. That's why I couldn't do what DWB does because if it didn't appeal to 5, 000 it wouldn't appeal to 30,000 and I've got to remember that; the majority over the minority.

Missing stories (the series of articles in DWM) are quite tricky. It's really defined by what a missing story is. If it's something which got to script stage - fair enough, but if it only went as far as a storyline - there's probably ten million of those, actually. I tend to think if a) it's a good story; b) we can get hold of it, and c) if it got to the stage where they had quite lengthy discussion at the production office about it then it's worth covering. If it's something that somebody, even if it was Eric Saward, just sent in on spec' then it's not really worth examining. But, it's a fun little incidental series. We're doing The Rose Mariners in 210 and 211, and then we're doing Hex, which is Peter Ling's, in 212 or 213, and then we've got the John Lloyd one, The Doomsday Contract, which Richard Bignell's working on at the moment, at some point next year. I think it will be an irregular regular series. They're only worth doing when they're worth doing rather than forcing them out like an Archive, plus that if you've got that and you've got an Archive and you're going to have the telepics that's an awful lot of backward research for one particular issue. You need a few light and frothy things.

I've got so much bloody comic strips... I mean, we've got Tim (Quinn) and Dicky (Howett), I've got Dicky on his own and we've got this new guy called Leighton Noyes who's done some very off-the-wall stuff which I'm a little unsure about. Marcus and everyone else who's looked at it has got down on bended knee and said, 'You've got to print this - it's so brilliant'. It's a bit Far Side-ish. I love The Far Side, but this is very obscure.'

After DWM?

It's funny because if I hadn't come to work at Marvel I was getting ready to do a new fanzine which was going to be called KKLAK! I think that's the greatest word in Doctor Who history for me. It's the greatest book cover in history, and just that one word says everything to me about why I love Doctor Who. I'll use the same logo as well. I mean, you know... KKLAK! Oh, it's a brilliant name for a fanzine. When I leave the Monthly I am going to do another fanzine and it's going to still be called KKLAK! Absolutely brilliant - and if anyone else ever uses it, I'm suing!' [Jon's note: sadly, Gary never did edit a new fanzine!]

Jon Preddle and the editors of TSV would like to thank Gary Russell for generously giving his time for this interview.


This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).