14 June 2017

NEW SERIES Fan Scene #1 Tardis zine 1975

A new series of occasional posts looking at early Doctor Who fan publications.

`Tardis` fanzine Issues 1 and 2 (1975)

As is quite well known amongst Doctor Who fans `Tardis` was the official fanzine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS) from its foundation in May 1976. However it’s less well known that the zine had already been going for a year before this and indeed it was the original `Tardis` that actually brought some of the fans who would form the DWAS together which is rather appropriate. The person who actually started the zine though was Andrew Johnson a lifelong fan of the series from Essex who already edited another zine and started `Tardis` because he realised that there was a lot to say about the series.

Declaring itself “the Doctor Who phenomenon newsletter” Issue one was a Hartnell Special selling for the sum of 5p and published in June 1975. While Andrew Johnson’s enthusiasm cannot be faulted, it’s fair to describe his approach as fairly basic even by mid 1970s standards. Working chronologically he starts with William Hartnell but in attempting to tell the story of the first Doctor and his era, he seems to have very little detail and even less interpretation seemingly relying what he remembered from thirteen years earlier. There’s a standard bio of the actor, a list of all the first Doctor stories, information which Johnson may well have simply lifted from `The Making of Doctor Who` book. The scattershot approach means that by page 5 he’s already talking about the Rivals of Doctor Who, in this instance it’s The Six Million Dollar Man. I’m not sure of the value of such an item considering his reasons for publishing Tardis were because of the large amount to say about Doctor Who. He doesn’t like Steve Austin’s show btw, saying “it’ll get nowhere”.  Perhaps this was the conclusion he was going to come to about every `Rival` show?

Potentially more interesting is a review of the Seven Keys to Doomsday play, a rarity even today. This was staged in late 1974 at the Adelphi Theatre in London though the review is perfunctory; after a brief plot summary he tells us that Trevor Martin “played the Doctor well” and the production of the show was “quite nice.” It’s at this point that I wonder how old Andrew Johnson was. Even by 70s standards the writing is fairly juvenile getting by on a mixture of enthusiasm and good / bad opinions. There’s an interview with Terry Nation though nothing to say whether Johnson conducted it or had simply taken it from elsewhere. Johnson also illustrates the zine in an individual style that looks as if it was drawn with pencils. While visually interesting it doesn’t really quite represent the series as it was then. Its interesting too that at the time he was producing this the first Tom Baker season was being broadcast- surely reviews of these stories might have been more appropriate?

Nonetheless `Tardis `was hugely popular at a time when there wasn’t a lot of Doctor Who fan material about. In issue 2, Johnson says he was “snowed under” by letters after the first but his editorial contains something of an early bombshell. After just 2 issues he is quitting. He doesn’t give much of a specific reason, just that he’s busy “with one thing and another” but reading between the lines it looks as if he took on something that was rather bigger than he imagined plus he doesn’t seem to like the 70s series as much as the 60s ones. And there it seems Andrew Johnson’s brief but significant contribution to Doctor Who fandom stops. He left the zine occasionally contributing but more or less disappeared from fandom. It was not the end for `Tardis` however, as it was announced that Gordon Blows was taking over as editor from issue 3. 

Sporting possibly the worst cover I’ve ever seen on any fanzine (and I’ve seen an enormous number of fanzines) issue 2 is, unsurprisingly, a Patrick Troughton special.  The bio is a bit more detailed as Johnson seems to recall the era more clearly, indeed he states the second Doctor is his favourite which perhaps explains why the current seasons were being mostly ignored.  In fact Johnson does mention the then current autumn 1975 season in passing expressing the view that `Pyramids of Mars is “extraordinarily good” but then adding “I’ve been quite dissatisfied with many stories lately though….” Mmm.

A hint of better things to come though is a Malcolm Hulke interview conducted by incoming editor Gordon Blows. It’s a strong interview in which Hulke declares `The Faceless Ones` to be the favourite story of those he’d thus far penned and revealed he had not been asked to write any further stories after `The Dinosaur Invasion`. Another fan name that crops up is Jan Vincent-Rudzki who would go on to be one of the founders of the DWAS. Here, he pens a lengthy detailed piece on the Tardis itself. You can already see the seeds of a great zine being sown here as this is followed by a piece on the Trilogic Game and then what would become the fulcrum of Whozines during the rest of the 70s and the 80s- the letters page. It’s called Trans Dimensional Mailbag, a moniker that would be kept for some years. Here Johnson finally engages with matters replying to each comment. Yep, this `Tardis` had now taken off!
Malcolm Hulke interview from issue 2 -

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