18 July 2016

The Doctor Who Holiday Special 1977

Our look at the three magazines produced by Polystyle Productions during the Seventies concludes  with the 1977 Special.
It would be more than three years before another Special but in the meantime Doctor Who fans had enjoyed two brilliant glossy poster magazines that abandoned comic strip stories and educational articles about space to print gorgeous colour photos and have pin ups of Styre and Vorus! Quite why then Polystyle returned in late 1977 with a Winter Special that did none of these things and didn’t even match the previous ones is a mystery. Anyway return they did on cheaper paper but now costing 35p. The cover photo is of the fourth Doctor and Leela in the sewers during `Talons of Weng Chiang`. This will turn out to be the visual highpoint unfortunately.

Inside `The Labyrinth` the Doctor finds himself on an alien planet where he has to battle a giant ape and this is followed by (yawn) another story this time in text form (by which I mean written not txt!) called `The Living Wax` in which the Doctor and Leela are in Victorian London where wax figures that are not Autons are coming to life. They are Linktons. “Doctor Who gasped” when he sees them and indeed is referred to as Doctor Who throughout. They’re from the planet Linktos of course “beings capable of transporting themselves through space.” There’s a cheeky visual slight of hand going on here as the story is illustrated by photos from `Talons of Weng Chiang`, which is set in the same milieu except for a shot from `Masque of Mandragora` of the Doctor with a lion’s head which turns up when we learn the Linktons’ chosen one resembles a lion.  There are also colour pin ups of the Doctor and Leela in between the two parts of the story.
How much more fiction can we take? The answer is clearly more because next up is another strip with the anonymous title `Invasion`.  The Daleks are doing the invading from an undersea spaceship in what is a generic if well illustrated story. Perhaps 1977’s fans were more easily pleased because after this comes the most obscure feature on some record breaking vehicle and the team who drove it. Honestly this is so dull I can’t read it. It bookends the traditional dice game which includes an amusing picture of the Daleks outside the TARDIS saying; “Come out, Doctor Who. This time there is no escape from the Daleks.”  Clearly this inspired a young Russell T Davies when decades later he came to write the climax of `Bad Wolf`!
 There’s another strip picture called `The Spoilers` concerning two planets, one peaceful the other warlike whose citizens shout “Death to them!” The Time Lords send the Doctor there as they are wont to do because they find the planet too boring I expect. You’ve probably spotted by now what is missing thus far and that’s an article about Space. Well, now here it is, all about the Space Shuttle which is actually quite interesting and must have been more so at the time.  A profile of Tom Baker follows which is written in a stilted manner as if it’s been translated from Norwegian.  After that its back to the Space Shuttle again. In fact there is more about this than about Doctor Who in this Special!
Finally- and frankly it’s a relief- the Special ends with the Doctor in Nazi occupied France in `Who is the Stranger`. Oddly this starts and ends as if it’s part of a larger ongoing saga reflecting that the strips in this Special are lifted from TV Comic or the Mighty TV Comic as it is now called. There were no more Specials from Polystyle after this and in less than two years Doctor Who Magazine came along. Huzzah!

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