During the Seventies a number of one off Doctor Who magazines were released including three Specials which were produced by Polystyle Publications (yes, their logo features a parrot!) who were based in Edgeware Road in London and produced the magazine TV Action. Published in 1973, 1974 and 1977 it is fair to say these are not the best examples of Doctor Who publications in a decade that brought us the Radio Times Special, The Making of Doctor Who and two excellent poster magazines. Nonetheless they are an interesting snapshot of another era.
This is by far the best and the one that would be of most interest to fans, especially in the day. It cost 10p back then! The first thing that strikes you is the rare photograph on the cover which seems to have been specially shot during the making of `Frontier in Space`. It depicts the Doctor, Jo and The Master all looking at something to which the Doctor is pointing. Perhaps it was Barry Letts dancing a jig? It’s a fairly random picture for the cover except that it does feature the three principal cast members. Eschewing an official logo the bold red words Doctor Who are emblazoned across the top. However much of the rest of the mag uses the shorthand Dr Who.
Inside Jon Pertwee introduces the publication hoping we find it as exciting as he did. “If you’re a Dr Who fan,” he declares, “I’m sure you’ll be pleased with this little lot.” Then it’s straight into the first comic strip adventure `Fogbound` set in a seaside town called Tadcaster which is covered by a mysterious fog. No emergency comms here; the Doctor appears to be- Miss Marple like- at home in his cottage when he sees this on the tv news. Next minute he gets a postcard from Tadcaster which simply says `Wish you were here`, The Master. So obviously that old jackanapes thought ahead and posted the card two days earlier. Amusingly the Brigadier has not even heard about any of this till the Doctor tells him. You get the impression the story was written by someone with only a passing knowledge of the show. When the Doctor is dropped into Tadcaster he meets a blind local called Joe who says “It’s good to hear your voice again” as if he knows him. Anyhow The Master’s plan is to help the inhabitants of a fogbound planet called Sarkan colonise the earth and he’s foiled when the Doctor slams the Pier train into his lair! Presumably UNIT will get the bill for that. Whatever the idiosyncrasies of the story, visually the strip is quite a triumph managing to capture the fog and an interlude in a ghost train especially well.
After an unfunny page called Lunar Laughs we arrive at `A Thousand Years from Now`. One of the common assumptions about Doctor Who fans in the Seventies was that they were all interested in science fiction and space so here we have a feature based on predictions from the Ford Motor Company as to what vehicles will be like in the year 3000. There’s some good artwork but who will be around to ever check if these predictions come true? Two pins ups of The Doctor and The Master come next though I’m not sure either actor would have approved of the choice of photos, especially Jon Pertwee who is made to look much older than he was by unflattering lighting.
`The Enemies of Doctor Who` is a double page picture spread of photos of various monsters though Alpha Centauri might have had reason to complain about being described as an enemy. A couple of puzzles adorn the following two pages. Picture Probe asks that you re-arrange small bits of a photo of “someone you know well” in the right order on the adjacent grid. Only problem with this is that the cut up squares are miniscule and you’d have to be a dab hand with scissors and glue to actually manage the feat. Anyhow most kids would take one look at one of the eyes and know full well it was a certain Mr J Pertwee. Guess What asks us to guess what magnified photos are of, but boringly they are just things like marmalade (?!) rather than the Fish People.
A fantastic looking strip titled `Dalek Duel` is next up; this tells the story of a Dalek called Zeg who becomes indestructible and ends up fighting the Emperor in a desolate location. It feels a little as if the hitherto merciless metal meanies have become anthropomorphised though of course they were humanoid once. It’s a persuasive way of wringing some fiction out of a creature that is probably at its best being threatening and ruthless.
A Dr Who Dice Game takes up the centre pages though this could really be in any context as apart from the photos from the series it is a straightforward `go on to 117` style affair. Two pages summarising the history of the series turn up next and though standard fare for today’s fans was probably more informative back then. The potential power of music is the theme of a text story `Smash Hit` which mixes Stonehenge, a pop group called The Swifts and, but of course, The Master. The best bit for fans then and especially for us now is The TV World of Dr Who with lots of behind the scenes photos from the making of `Frontier in Space`. Rather cleverly laid out as a comic strip complete with captions these photos are a goldmine showing both filming and between the scenes shots.
Following a quiz and crossword, another couple of pin ups of Jo and the Brigadier (“a tough professional soldier”) we have a page long feature on the Daleks which actually doesn’t even tell viewers of 1973 anything they won’t know but amusingly concludes with the advice that if a Dalek arrives at your door “I’d get out of the back window pretty quickly if I were you.”
The last story is called `Secret of the Tower` as the Doctor and UNIT search for the greatest thief in the Universe in London’s Underground. Essentially a chase it is quite inventive and visually striking. There are incidentally no credits at all for either the artists or writers throughout the magazine. A spot the difference between two photos from `The Deamons` concludes the Special, this sort of thing being essential for Seventies publications.
All told it is a well put together package though not in the same league as the same year’s Radio Times Doctor Who Special. However as we’ll see next time it is much better than what was to follow from Polystyle.