Sunday, 27 December 2009

More of those little ident clips...

Long before Tennant got power crazed and took over everything that is Who, the job of publicity was shared around a bit more. Even the bad guys got a chance.

The daleks (well, dalek influenced '2's) got a special ident for Doctor Who Night (13 Nov 1999), hosted by Tom Baker, and its popularity meant it went on to join the roster of regular idents. A variant on this ident, named Exterminate, has the sequence opening with the Dalek '2' shouting the familiar phrase.

I've gone for a longer intro version, complete with Tom Baker introducing the evenings shows and edits of all the ins and outs. One thing leads to another, as they say, so here's one of those shows, the comedy sketch with Mark Gatiss.

And another, 'How to build a TARDIS', of note for another couple of Delek idents at the beginning and end.

I couldn't find the other shows...

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Whomas

Framegrab from the BBC Xmas 'idents' (one of three done with Tennant and TARDIS).

Watch on YouTube...

Thats the first time I've embedded a video link! Easy. Now to take over the known universe...

You can see them all on the official BBC Who site here

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Doctor beats the Daleks, at last...

So far we´ve looked at the first Who related merchandise, all of which has been Dalek themed, from ´The Dalek Book´ and Cadet collectors cards, to the first novelisation, in which he at least got the headline over the Daleks. However two days after the publication of that first story, the Doctor appeared in his own comic strip, published in TV Comic magazine on the 14 November 1964, and without a Dalek in sight. So far, David Whitaker, series script-writer, had played a key role in writing supporting Who material, but here he is notably absent. The artwork was by Neville Main and later Bill Mevin.

Starting in the 10 part The Klepton Parasites, and joined at the beginning by his grandchildren John and Gillian, the Doctor embarks on a run of stories which would continue in the magazine through to the end of the second Doctors reign, including also Annual and Holiday specials.

Many stories were later reprinted by Marvel UK under the Classic Comics series launched in 1992.

The best place to start getting to know these stories online is the excellent Who website In the Comics, with story briefs and example artwork, and presented to us by Altered Vistas. I´ve also found the odd scanned story to download, but few and far between. Perhaps there´s scans of the Classic Comics out there somewhere.

[UPDATE SEPT 2010: For several months now a blog has been building up a great archive of the early comic strips, scanned from the reprinted and colourised 'Classic Comics', along with all out other Who comics strips. Check out Doctor Who Comic Fun, and show your appreciation!]

I should probably post up as list of the stories, but I think I´ll tackle them Doctor by Doctor rather than all in one go... sooner or later...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Another Dalek ´first´...

Published on 12 November 1964, just in time for the second arrival of the Daleks in the TV series ´The Dalek Invaision of Earth´, was the first ever Who book. A novelisation of their first appearance almost a year earlier, Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, was written by David Whitaker and published in hardback by Frederick Muller. The first edition of 20,000 copies, with pink dustjacket, soon sold out and was quickly reprinted in December (the second, and later third, editions have grey covers).

Twelve internal black and white illustrations were by Arnold Schwartzman (a detail from one was reused on the cover).

A paperback edition was issued on 4th October 1965 by May Fair Books Ltd, under the Armada Paperbacks imprint. This version did not use Schwartzman's artwork, instead having a colour cover and 6 line illustrations by Peter Archer. This was the first Doctor Who novel to be published in paperback.

On 2 May 1973 it was the first Who title published under the Target Books range, renaming it as ´Doctor Who and the Daleks´, although the full title was still given on the inside frontpage, and with the subtitle "Based on the popular BBC television serial". From 1977 onwards reprinted editions, now complete with the arched Who logo, dropped the full title completly. All of the Target editions included the 12 illustrations by Schwartzman.

The now classic cover illustration was by Chris Achilleos, who has acknowledged the influence of Ron Turner's artwork for The Dalek Chronicles comic published in TV Century 21 (more about that soon!), in particular the two Daleks were modelled from Issue 60 (The Rogue Planet, part 2) and the title graphic from Issue 76 (Legacy of Yesteryear) onwards.

In January 1992 it was republished by Virgin, retitled ´Doctor Who - The Daleks´ and released with a new cover by Bruce Pearson.

BBC Audio used the Achilleos artwork on the cover of their 2005 audio CD release as part of the ´Doctor Who: Travels in Time and Space´ collectors tin, with actor William Russell (Ian) reading the novelisation.

Probably one of the best Who related websites, On Target, has jacket details and cover examples, including a section on foreign editions, complete with scans of inside illustrations by varying artists. Definately a site to booknmark!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Smokin´ Who

Hot on the heals of ´The Dalek Book´, Dr. Who and the Daleks sweet cigarettes were produced by Cadet in mid 1964, with artwork heavily inspired by the Dalek Book, and each packet containing a free collectors picture card.

Produced back in the days when smoking was cool, confectionery known as ´sweet cigarettes´ were popular for kids who wanted to emulate their parents' addiction. In this politically correct era they are now marketed as ´candy sticks´...

The series of 50 cards were split in half into two stories, illustrated by different artists. The likeness (and character) of the Doctor is hard to match to the TV version, in the first story having white hair, and in the second dark, but neither looking much like Hartnell.

The first story features the Doctor and the Daleks visiting Marinus and the Voord, created by Terry Nation in the TV story ´The Keys of Marinus´. Notably the Daleks are in search of magic mushrooms to make them invincable... The second story features the Doctor on an equally bizarre rescue mission with the Daleks.

Apparently there are two imprints of the cards, first by Cadet and then Goodies, which are much rarer. There are also two versions of the box, with different back panel illustrations - the common one being a space rocket (above), and the rarer version a ringed planet.

Unfortunately there was no special album produced to accompany the cards. although you could send off for a generic album.

There´s not much about these on the net, although I know I have found stuff before, I can´t find anything worth linking here at the moment. I do have a downloaded collection of the complete set, but again I can´t remember where I found it! It contains a banner page listing it as a "Receptacle Presentation", and a notes page from which much of the info presented here has been edited. If you search around you´ll certainly find the odd card scan (eg. ebay and other collectors sites), and card number 50 is show above.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Beginnings of Dalekmania!

As most of us know, the Daleks featured in the second ever Who story, ´The Mutants´ (or ´The Dead Planet´, or even ´The Daleks´!), in late 1963 and early 1964, and were an instant audience hit. Terry Nation knew he had something big on his hands, and controlled the branding, marketing and promotion of the Daleks in a manner to which even Davros would be proud.

´Dalekmania´, as it became known, was driven by the huge commercial promotion of Dalek merchandise that took place from the mid 1960s and which followed the huge commercial influence of ´Beatlemania´. There were other manias to follow (Batmania in 1966, Monkeemania in 1967) but Dalekmania was probably the first TV grown merchandise boom. It was not until late 1964, when ¨The Dalek Invasion of Earth¨ arrived, that the tills really started ringing. From clockwork Daleks to Dalek soap, the shops were full of wierd collectables, many of which remain the most highly sought after items for Who fans with more money than sense (purely a mathematical equation, no disrespect to Who collectors, of course!).

One of the very first items of Dalek merchandise, and indeed Who merchandise, was ´The Dalek Book´. Published by Souvenir Press (Panther Books) on the 30 June 1964 this 96 page hardback annual was the first time The Daleks appeared in comic strip form. The Dalek Book contained both colour and black & white comic strips and illustrated text stories and told the story of the Dalek invasion of our solar system and their ultimate, and apparent, defeat. It also featured a new photostory with Susan and the Daleks using images from the first Who Dalek story. There´s no Doctor in any of these these stories.

The book was said to be "Based on the Dalek Chronicles discovered and translated by Terry Nation" and was co-written by TV Who script editor David Whittaker and Dalek creator and writer Terry Nation. The illustrations were by Richard Jennings (including the cover artwork), John Woods and A.B. Cornwell. [Jennings was also the first artist chosen to illustrate the regular weekly Dalek strip on the back cover of the new comic TV Century 21 which started in January 1965.]

The book showed the Daleks in flight over 40 years before they would gain the ability on TV - a major improvement in Dalek technology which BBC special effects (and budgets) couldn´t match at the time. Although in the comics they flew by means of ´transolar discs´, flying platforms which allowed the Daleks to fly through space, the imagery of a flying Dalek armada clearly inspired similar scenes in the New Who story ´Doomsday´.

The story was recently used as the vague basis for the backstory of the Dalek Empire audio series produced by Big Finish.

If you are lucky enough to find The Dalek Book you can expect to pay over 50 quid for it in good condition. If, like me, you´re still waiting to win the lottery, then settle for the downloadable scans which you can find here (along with most of the Dalek annuals from the 60s and 70s).


Invasion of the Daleks - comic strip
Red for Danger - text story with illustrations
The Oil Well - comic strip
The Message of Mystery - photo story
The Secret of the Mountain - text story with illustrations
City of the Daleks - comic strip
The Humanoids - comic strip
The Small Defender - text story with illustrations
Monsters of Gurnian - comic strip
Break-through! - text story with illustrations
Battle for the Moon - comic strip


The Dalek Planetarium
The Dalekode
Anatomy of a Dalek
Dodge the Dalek
Dalek War Machines
Dalography of Skaro
The Dalek Dictionary

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Those Radio Times (Part 1) : Classic Who covers

The Radio Times is a weekly TV listing magazine published by the BBC in the UK. Over the years it has included many articles on Who, and most notably, many covers (no other TV programme has had nearly so many). The Who covers are very collectable, and cover many years of the programme.

The beginning of the TV series was marked only with a cover tag "DR WHO - a new Saturday-afternoon television series of adventures in time and space" (Radio Times 23rd - 30th November 1963). The first Who cover publicised the now lost classic ´Marco Polo´ (RT, 22-28 February 1963).

This was followed by the first Dalek cover promoting ´The Dalek Invasion of Earth´ (Radio Times 21st - 28th November 1964) , with the slightly misleading cover tag: "DR. WHO and the Daleks Saturday TV". A feature depicts the invaders trundling across Westminster Bridge in a classic photoshoot, and mistakenly refers to them as 'robots' throughout. The last first Doctor cover promoted ´The Web Planet´ (RT 13-19 February 1964).

Patrick Troughton´s arrival as the Doctor was marked with another Dalek cover, promoting his first story, ´Power of the Daleks´ (RT 5 - 11 November 1966). Patrick was interviewed the following month for the launch of ´The Highlanders´ (RT 15th - 21st December 1966).

1967 marked the first Cyberman cover, (RT 2-8 September 1967), supporting the ´Tomb of the Cybermen´ story and featuring the cover blurb: "DR. WHO and his companions face their old enemies, the Cybermen. Saturday BBC 1 see page 3". "My instincts tell me that terrible danger awaits us," the Doctor writes in his diary for the story preview. [A copy sold for over £100 on ebay in April 2010].

Another lanmark cover, this time the first in colour, portrays Troughton´s doctor (RT 20-26 January 1968) marked the ´Enemey of the Wolrd´ story, with the cover headline "Monstrous world of Doctor Who - RT talks to the BBC wardrobe and effects people".

From 1970 to 1973, Each of Jon Pertwee's seasons as the Third Doctor were heralded by a Radio Times cover (RT 1-7 January 1970, 2-8 January 1971 (below), 1-7 January 1972 - the highly collectable Frank Bellamy ´Day of the Daleks´ cover - and 30 December - 7 January 1973, with the 10th anniversary story ´The Three Doctors´).

Pertwee´s final cover (RT 15th - 22nd December 1973 - "Who´s your friend") marked an appearance on Parkinson, with a feature looking at the Doctor's popular appeal, together with his appearance on the Five Doctors cover, he achieved six covers.

For ten years, Who was without a RT cover - the show under Tom Baker was deamed so popular that it didn´t need promoting!

The next cover celebrated the 20th Anniversary adventure The Five Doctors (RT 19-25 November 1983), illustrated by Andrew Skilleter. This particular issue was hit by a printers strike that meant a reduced number of copies were available and indeed some regions received no issue.

Another 10 year gap was followed by the 30th Anniversary of Doctor Who, marked by ´Dimensions in Time´ in association with the BBC's annual Children in Need appeal (RT 20-26 November 1993).

Three years later, Paul McGann got his cover promoting the TV Movie (RT 25-31 May 1996). This issue, began a regular page sci-fi feature that included ongoing comic strip adventures for the Eigth Doctor in anticipation of a new relaunch for Doctor Who. The page was later abandoned and the comic strip had its run ended early.

Even after the cancellation of the classic series, a Doctor Who Night, with over three hours of programming presented by Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, provided the excuse for another Dalek cover (RT 13-19 November 1999), featuring a specially commisioned Dalek portrait, shot by Lord Snowdon, which was originally used as a postage stamp design. A readers' offer included a full set of high quality postcards each depicting Radio Times Doctor Who covers to date.

In 2003 a set of four different covers were released to celebrate the series 40th Anniversary (RT 22 – 28 November 2003). Finally Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy all has their own individual Who covers, although on a shared issue, which joined together to form a single image. Tom even got himself a new redesigned costume, for obvious reasons. A 16 Page centre pull-out celebrated the series, containing features and competitions - win a (replica) dalek and also original illustration artwork by Mark Thomas from the 20th-anniversary RT special (I wonder where this is now!).

There have also been two RT special anniversary issues, marking the 10th and 20th anniversaries of the series. The 10th anniversary RT Who special was reprinted and available to order as part of the 40th anniversary issues above. I´ll cover these in a future post.

Radio Times website has a gallery and details of Who covers here. For those of you who want to see inside the RT issues covering Who, visit the Cuttings Archive here, which appears to have the most comprehensive online library of Who related scans, as well as a ´covers´ section here (this site is a mine of information and well worth exploring).

A three page Doctor Who Magazine article, ´Those Radio Times´ appeared in issue 161 (June 1990), highlighting the coverage of Who inside the RT.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Happy Birthday Who

And so it was, on the 23rd November 1963, a TV legend was born. When you look at Who now, 46 years later, it, like its current Doctor, has turned into a bit of monster. There´s the classic TV series, the New TV Series, online animated webcasts, radio audio adventures, the odd movie or two, and merchandise of such a bewildering variety it would take a lifetime´s work to get your head round it.

On occassions like these, we should toast those who have been involved in making the show what it is, and none more so than those people involved in those early days of black and white TV.

So, if you haven´t found it already, take a look at the BBC Archive and their ´Genesis of Doctor Who´ collection here. There´s a wealth of information and documentation on the pre-production development of the show, including scans of original documents complete with handwritten notes and comments by the lead players in creating the programme.

If the above scan is hard to read, you can find the text here.

Elsewhere, on the BBC Classic Series website (here) you can find detailed notes on the first pilot episode, the first story, An Unearthly Child, and together with all the subsequent stories. They also have some rather obscure original documents online. And a photo gallerey here.

If you look on thr right sites you can even find a pdf copy of the original script to download, for example from here

Or, of course, you can read the Target novelisation (again you can find pdf´s of these to download) if you don´t already own a copy.

We´re also lucky enough to be able to watch the first story, as the Beeb didn´t wipe the mastertapes like they did with so many later Hartnell and Troughton stories. Perhaps they were so far back in the cupboard they didn´t get to them! One wonders why the first story hasn´t been put up on YouTube or MSN for everyone to enjoy (everyone in the UK that is!), as its already been released for some time on DVD as part the ´The Beginning´ box set. Perhaps they´ll save it until the 50th anniversary.

And the Doctor´s first words in the first episode of the first story?

"What are you doing here?"

Scans shown here are from the Cuttings Archive.

Early Radio Times - Hartnell

I´ve been looking back at the early Radio Times issues, and the Cutting Archive has what looks like a complete library of scans for the first Doctor. Every episode has a programme listing (obviously, its the point of the magazine, but they are all on the site to see!), containing cast and crew information, if not much else.

However every new story has a small photo and article introducing it, and at the end of almost every story there´s a teaser for the following week - usually a photo and one line caption. The photos are black and white, often of the Doctor (from the same publicity shoot!), but as the show established itself photos specific to the story were used more often, and I don´t think they´ve been used much since - I wonder if the beeb still has all these tucked away somewhere in its collection. And there´s also a couple of cool Dalek illustrations, which I think are worth showing.

The above illustration, from RT cover date 19 December 1964, accompanied ´The Dalek Invaision of Earth´. No artist is credited.

What I hadn´t realised before is that the RT issues varied from region to region, and only some issues have the photos and story intros, so if you are looking to collect these check your research first before you go buying. Generally speaking it looks that as BBC2 spread across the country (it was introduced region by region) it squeezed out the additional Who content. So in many cases the Who bits are only in the Scottish or Northern Ireland issues...

This one (credited ´CWB´) is from RT cover date 29 October 1966, and accompanied the last episode of ´The Tenth Planet´. It actually looks like the same illustration as above, but just inversed and duplicated, but it shows how Patrick Troughton´s arrival relied on heavy promotion by the already popular Daleks... he´s not even mentioned!

I should also highlight the nice graphic which accompanied ´The War Machines´, but which I´m not putting here... I´ll leave that for you to discover!

Scans shown here are from the Cuttings Archive.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Time for tea?

In 1976 TyPhoo Tea ran one of the best Who promotional offers ever, featuring the work of the great Chris Achilleos on the boxes, 12 photographic collectors cards, and a supporting hardback annual style album called ´The Amazing World of Doctor Who´, with an outstanding cover, again produced by Achilleos. Apparently there´s a wallchart to go with this, although I have yet to find a photo of this. Just a shame the cards are photographs rather than original artwork, but hey, you can´t have everything (not that us power crazed megalomanics listen to such sweeping statements).

You can still pick up the cards for a reasonable price on ebay and the like, and the album is also occasionally found. However the promotional boxes themselves are probably the most sought after and few and far between, after all, who keeps old tea boxes?!

I used a picture of the album on my post about Chris´s work (here), and should again plug Chris´s website where you can order limited edition prints of the cover artwork, and a great Tom Baker portrait, again used in the promotion. You can visit his website here.

Unfortuantely we were a PG Tips family (probably my fault as I was also an addicted collector of the free collectors cards which appeared in these, so my poor mum probably had no choice but to buy PG!) and I have never had the disposable income to buy the stuff second hand since. But as soon as I win that lottery...

When I originally posted this I had lost the source of these images, which I have now rediscovered. Who collector Mike Hall has an excellent site called Dalek-mania which contains a wealth of information on all things Dalek and beyond, including original props. He has marked these images as his own copyright, which we respect, but wonder if the artist and manufacturer (and designer!) also have copyright claims. As the images are in the public domain, and refer to a once publicially available item, we think it´s OK to reproduce them here in this context. However, please respect this copyright if you copy these images for your own use by at least crediting Mike and his site.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Who online?

A few days back I noticed that the Beeb had done a deal with YouTube to officially stream stories from the classic series. This, I thought was a step in the right direction. But alas, my excitement at finding the stories below was short lived... the all to familiar message "This video is not available in your country due to copyright restrictions" flashed up on my screen. Now I´m used to this on the BBC Who website, where I can´t watch any embedded clips, and hence have to wait for YouTube reposts and the like. But this time I´d allowed myself to hope YouTube had negotiated worldwide distribution.

The first wave of stories on YouTube are

The Edge of Destruction,
The Krotons
Carnival of Monsters
Planet of the Spiders
The Masque of Mandragora
The Twin Dilemma

Strange that there are two Pertwee stories and no Davison, or McCoy, and why why why would anyone want to watch the Twin Dilemma I do not know, but suit yourselves!

And so it was I nearly overlooked that MSN Video had done a similar deal. Now I normally avoid Microsoft when given the choice, but thought it worth a quick look to see which stories thay had, with no expectation of actually being able to watch them. But what a surprise to find I could... only now I´ve gone back to the site I can´t... "video cannot be played from your current location". T y p i c a l . I again put this down to the technological conspiracy against me.

The Web Planet
Tomb of the Cybermen
Planet of the Spiders
The Talons of Weng Chieng
The Caves of Androzani

And the promise of new episodes every Tuesday and Friday! Watch them here.

I´m so pissed I can´t view these, especially when I thought for a bit that I could! Now I am going to have to keep checking this site in case I manage to get it working again!

Lists, and lists of lists

Way back when Peter Davison was the Doctor, and a young innocent Who fan was beginning a never ending obsession, it was hard to get your hands on Who. Doctor Who Monthly was the only source of information for many. There were no constant repeats, no internet, no videos and no audio stories, so no way of seeing or knowling old stories unless you where mates with a film collector.

When Jean-Marc L'Officier´s ´Programme Guide´ books came out, in 1981, it was a big leap forward for us Whovians who needed to know every detail of our addiction. But for me it still wasn´t enough, and I used to find myself making list after list, of stories, directors, writers, companions, monsters, books and mechandise (which I would illustrate with little sketches), indexing my DWM collection and generally keeping myself out of trouble. If something, or someone, appeared in Who more than once, then it was worth a list. I even tried to put every Who story in order of its date setting, which must have taken me ages.

Now we have access to so much material on the net and in books (some bright spark even published his list of lists, which I bought twice), we don´t know where to look first. And I´m still making lists - although they are a bit more advanced than my pencil and paper lists of old.

This blog is a tribute to making lists, and lists of lists, but now with links, photos and pics to help find whatever it was you were looking for but forgot when you got distracted by reading this.

I´ve a bit of an addiction with lists, and nowdays I find myself making lists of all sorts of things, even developing databases of useless information in my bid to give organisation and order to the chaos. I guess (in fact I know) it must reflect some mental disposition, but frankly I´m better off not knowing which one, as I might have to start making a lists of those as well.

Perhaps I´ll make a list here sooner or later...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Escapist Control Freak

Meglos, a classic megalomanic (or is it the Doctor? Or a cactus? Pure genius that - in how many shows do you get a cactus trying to take over the universe?!)

I´ve chosen my online blog moniker as it reflects my personality. Just as Magnus, the War Chief, is a megalomanic control freak, so am I. Just as he´s a delusional escapist, so am I. Well, just a bit anyway - despite the apparent contradiction.

I guess this is why Who holds appeal for me. It is pure and simple escapism from everyday life, from the reality we are all constrained by. It´s a chance to fantasize, to daydream of other worlds and civilizations, to hope for something better and give meaning to the meaningless.

I also guess that this desire to escape comes from, or hand-in-hand with, the desire to control. Now I´m not saying that I´d like to control everything and everyone, but it certainly drives me up the wall when I see things being done wrong, or badly, and I want to make it better, just like the Doctor. So perhaps, given the chance, I´d have a go.

For me it´s a search for "Quality", that metaphysical concept core to Robert M. Pirsig's ´Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry into Values´. The classic megalomanic´s desire to control the world, or conquor the universe, is not led by a desire to be evil, to dominate or to opress in itself (although I admit it can be easily percieved as such), but instead to make things better, to manage the unmanagable mass of independent actions and beings which seam to be so random and haphazard in their direction, and to unify them towards a percieved value or greater goal. It is when societies have their backs against the wall that individuals like these are at their most potent and powerful - in the fight to unify and survive. But it can also come out of a desire to improve and evolve.

The Master, here played by Roger Delgado, and the ultimate control freak - although not necessarily very successful at it given the number of chances he´s had and the fact he has a time machine...

For me, it is an essential part of human nature. Without these driving forces I doubt we would have progressed to the lofty levels of civilization which we so value today. Nor would we be in the mess we are in. It is what makes us fight for values that we uphold, to draw lines and say no, this is not the way to go. Turn left, not right...

However total control is totally impossible, and that´s where the desire to escape begins to manifest itself. If you can´t control, then hell, escape - it´s the only option, especially if you´re a control freak. Run away into your delusional world of fantasy and embrace your megalomanic side. It´s healthy. Well, more healthy than drinking yourself drunk or taking drugs. They don´t help at all, and I talk from personal experience.

So praise to Who and its multiplicity of megalomanics... we love them all, and secretly, deep down, despite our love for the Doctor and the values he upholds, we´re all as mad and crazed as any of the megalo´s portrayed in Who. Well, I know I am anyway.

All this is, I think, especially relevant to the current story arch in Who. The 10th Doctor, in his omnipotent rise in power and control, is slowly becoming as mad and bad as the forces which he fights. Bring it on, for we all know a good baddie never dies, but always escapes to fight another day. And lets be honset, the Doctor is the biggest megalomanic of them all. Well, at the moment anyway.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Art of Who (Part 1) : Chris Achilleos

Growing up with the Target novelisations of the original ´classic´ Who meant that one artist was synonymous with early Doctor Who stories - the one and only Chris Achilleos. Highly styilized, and yet increadibly accurate, often with a pointilist style black and white portrait of the Doctor, Chris´s covers jumped off book shelves and were almost as exciting as reading the books themselves.

Between 1973 and 1977 Chris illustrated the covers of 28 of the first Target books, some of which included back cover illustrations, and a few also included black and white illustrations inside the books as well. Some of these covers were replaced on later reprints and editions (criminally in my view - no disrespect to the subsequent artists).

He also illustrated covers for some special non-fiction books, most noteably the ´Doctor Who Book of Monsters´ and ´The Amazing World of Doctor Who´, both of which feature great colour portraits of Tom Baker with an assortment of monster enemies. The latter title was an annual-style title produced as part of a 1976 TyPhoo Tea promotion, and special boxes also featured his art - now highly sought after by crazed collectors of all things Who. I certainly wish I had an example (I´ll stick up some pics when I get the chance).

You can see all of Chris´s covers, including some special limited editions (for example a 20th Anniversary Five Doctors commorative print and other one-off paintings), on his website. Chris is now a well established fantasy artist, having published several solo books and becoming rather well known for his fantasy female figures. And very nice they are too.

Sadly, some of Chris´s original works where apparently stolen some years back, including Day of the Daleks, the Tenth Planet and The Cybermen. As a result Chris can´t offer prints of these images for sale, which is a great shame not only for him, but also us.

I´ve copied the main illustration on this post from his site, and I sincerely hope he doesn´t mind (I´m writing to him to request his permission for its use in this context, but acknowledge his copyright in the meantime). What I didn´t realize until I first browsed his site is that Chris sells high quality prints of his work. He has even done new commissions, including a special ´Tomb of the Cybermen´ cover and a couple of New Series prints.

Sometime back in the 1980´s (I think - I´ll update this when I get more time!) a portfolio of six of his covers was released, of which I am a proud owner, and I did manage to pick up a signed print of his tribute to the New Series with a 9th Doctor and Rose illustration, complete with Autons and Dalek.

If you can´t afford to get yourself a print from Chris yourself (but it must surely be worth saving up the pennies), or if you´re not loaded enough to commission your own personal painting, then it´s well worth hunting down early editions of these books just for the covers. They can still be found secondhand at reasonable prices, and must surely be a good investment. Check out ebay or (a secondhand book site which donates to The Woodland Trust).

Doctor Who and the Daleks (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Crusaders (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Zarbi (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (Cover and interior illustrations)
Doctor Who and the Dæmons (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Sea Devils (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Cybermen (Cover)
Doctor Who - The Three Doctors (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors (Cover)
Doctor Who - Revenge of the Cybermen (Cover)
Doctor Who - Genesis of the Daleks (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Web of Fear (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Space War (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Pyramids of mars (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos (Cover)
Doctor Who and the Ark in Space (Cover)


The Making of Doctor Who (Cover, Target Books edition)
The Doctor Who Monster Book (Cover)
The Second Doctor Who Monster Book (Cover)
The Amazing World of Doctor Who (Cover)
The Target Book (Cover)

Thanks Chris, your work is a great addition to the world of Who, and an inspiration to aspiring artists.

Life, the Whoniverse and not much else

Now some fans take their Who very seriously. They get upset when stories conflict with one another (continuity errors) and come up with all sorts of explanations of how this could happen (parrallel universes being the most popular). One example is the varying explanations for the destruction of Atlantis which have popped up in the series over the years.

This is particularly a problem when you start looking at "spin-off" stories in books, comics and audio stories, and try to weave them into one big whoniverse of continuity. Fans are also the first to pick plot holes in stories and ask questions that usually have the words "if", "then" and "but" in them. I have a little way of looking at things which helps me get over this and prevent my headaches getting worse.

For me, I prefer to accept the fact that Who is a TV series, written and produced by people. But I also like to pretend that Who is real, and therefore accept that what we see on TV (or read in book and comic versions, and hear in audio stories) is a translation of these events. Just as the Bible is not the word of God, written by him and sent down from above, but was instead written by various people at various times with different perspectives, the Who we watch and read is a translation, made by human hands. And as we know, one of the things humans do best is make mistakes and cock things up.

So sorry boys and girls, David Tennant is not the 10th Doctor, he´s just an actor portraying him, although admittedly a very good one. I like this way of looking at Who as it opens the door to oneday having different actors portraying the varying reincarnations of the Doctor without everyone getting their knickers in a twist. So we can have a whole new 6th Doctor if we want, perhaps even with a tasteful costume. Well, maybe (I said I was delusional!)

And when we have different explanations of the same event, or plot holes or generally anything which we feel is silly or not quite Who enough for our liking, we can just put it down to translation error. This is particularly handy when we have to explain away bad special effects and scientific errors (explosions and fire in space for example, or frequent problems with gravity).

For example the last episode, Waters of Mars, has caused some discussion in fan forums regarding contamination of the robot called Gadget and bringing back the water-bourne infection to Earth. For me this wasn´t an issue - there are many ways to get round that (please think of your own!). What was a bit more worrying to me were the burning flames on the surface or Mars (however I am reliably told that rocket fuel would do this), and as a dramatic tool I always like a big explosion, so I can ignore this without much problem.

What made me cringe most of all was the really silly scene when the Doctor and Adilade whiz down a corridor on Gadget, with flames trailing behind and leaving tracks along the way. WTF?! However you see the reason why our storytellers did this at the end, when Gadget goes zooming off over the surface of Mars, and is shown in long-shot as a dot of flame shooting off to his destination. Without the flames and fire we wouldn´t have seen him, and our producers and directors would have had to come up with some other way of illustrating this, probably not as quickly, costing more money and with an overall loss of dramatic effect. So I´ll sort of let them off - this time.

One image I cant get out of my mind however is from the last season finale, with an abducted planet Earth being towed across space by the TARDIS. Now that really did make me cringe. In fact, thinking about it, the finale of season 3 was just as bad, if not worse, for its cringe factor. It´s so bad I haven´t been able to watch it since... for me that season ends with Utopia!

Let´s hope the two part special which we eagerly await at the end of this year have a lower cringe factor...


Imagine if you had never seen or heard of Doctor Who. From a UK perspective it´s almost impossible to believe that there is anyone who has grown up in the country who hasn´t heard the words "dalek", "cybermen" or "TARDIS". It´s an essential part of modern British culture, part of our national identity. These words are now even in the Oxford English dictionary. As children we chased each other round the school playground shouting "exterminate", and as adults we sometimes wish we still could.

However step outside the UK, especialy into a non-English speaking country, and you are going to have a lot of explaining to do. So, where do you start when trying to explain Who?

Well, perhaps the easiest way is to begin is with New Series Who, which was rejuvinated in 2005 and has become, once again, a flagship program for the BBC. You can then, like the New Series itself, drop in a few hints of a glorious history, allude to past stories and even directly mention an event or two.

So, let us start with this "second coming". And where better to look first than the official BBC Doctor Who website. For me this website is not aswell designed as its first incarnation (see comment below). It was redisigned a couple of years ago, and whilst still being dedicated to New Series Who, I find it difficult to browse and explore, and there´s not that much actual content. However I forced myself to have a proper look the other day, and hidden amongst the clutter there are some interesting bits and pieces.

Until then, the most valuable element of the website from my perspective were the wallpaper photos it provides. Many of these are stills from the show itself, and therefore nothing new or special. However scattered amongst them are publicity shots, usually intended for pre-publicity media circulation. Their uniqueness makes them special, and I save the ones that catch my eye for my personal gallery collection. Because, as I shall describe below, you never know when a good thing might suddenly dissapear.

Browsing through the episode guide the other night I made a new discovery. There are more interesting things! Hidden away are small collections of design artwork, graphics and story board illustrations which I just hadn´t noticed before. I love this sort of stuff - the costume and concept designers work in progress, the raw creativity of design before the constraints of budget and reality kick in. Plus the artwork can be really cool.

Earlier I refered to a redesigning of the website which took place a couple of years back. The content was, I think, much the same and not much was lost in the rejuvination. But something did dissapear, and I´ve never found it since. If my damn notebook hadn´t blown up it wouldn´t bother me so much, but back on the earlier version of the website you could download a "time tunnel" screen saver, based on the background title sequence graphics. It was pretty basic, but I liked it. And now it has gone I want it back again!

Until then, this website will always be lacking for me, but it really is the best place to start an exploration of Doctor Who, and the news updates (if you can find them) offer the most reliable source of new who gossip without crossing over into blogland and the inevitable "spoilers". And there´s a few short stories as well, which it would be very nice if they packaged into a pdf or something which we could download...

A Letter to Auntie Beeb

Dear Auntie Beeb

Please forgive me for my recent confessions. I do love you dearly, and appreaciate all you have done for me over the years, from encouraging my appreciation in the natural world around me, especially through presenting the increadible library of work by the much admired Sir David Attenborough, to providing entertaining and thought provoking drama and science-fiction. Without your stories of Doctor Who and Blake´s 7 life would certainly be less colourful.

I hope you know I would not purposefully do anything to undermine your authority or lesson the respect within which you are viewed by so many. I hope you can understand my actions and the motivations I have had in undertaking them. I promise that I will be here to support you in every way possible in the future.

Having said this, you must also know that I will never be able to forgive you for the way you erased the great works of Messers Hartnell and Troughton in their portrayal of the Doctor. A sad loss to us all, one that I guess still wrangles with your financial accountants, and a classic example of short term gain and long term loss.

Love and best wishes

PS If you can send me lots of free stuff relating to Doctor Who I would be very grateful.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Slippery Slopes and Fine Lines

In my last post I admitted to downloading stuff using bit-torrents. It´s not something which I feel proud of - I would, of course, much rather buy the DVDs or original material, and keep the wheels of Doctor Who merchandising oiled with my money. But I guess I´m not the only one who is outside of the UK and just can´t wait to see my favourite TV show.

I sort of justify all this to myself in the following ways. I began downloading just music... I´d just started on my travels (several years ago!) when my hard-drive crashed, wiping out my CD collection which I had patently stored onto my notebook. It wasn´t just my music collection, but also my Doctor Who Audio Adventures (the narrated soundtracks of early 1st and 2nd Doctor stories) which I really enjoy listening to, again and again, especially when travelling. I´d bought all these, and as I own the original CDs, I see no harm in downloading copies to listen to whilst I am away and can´t access my collection.

In a similar vein, I own a lot of music albums on vynal and cassette... and having bought these and paid my royalties to the artists and companies involved, I again feel its fair play to download a digital version. I know it´s not really how the whole thing works, but hey, do I really have to buy all my favourite Pink Floyd albums again and again? I´m sure they won´t mind. There´s some I´ve already bought on vynal, cassette AND CD...

And then I started missing my Who video collection... so now and then I download the occassional DVD rip to watch on my notebook. I have every intention of buying the damn DVDs one day, for me, owning the proper thing, with the artwork and all, is part of the magic of being a collector. And I don´t have the spare disk space to store these, so I delete them after I´ve watched.

Books are another area... I love my Target novel collection, to the point where I would buy the new releases religously and dare not even read them in case I damaged the spines (my local library helped me out there). The one occassion I cracked was when I got the Five Doctors, a day or two before it was screened on TV, and I just had to read it. I ended up buying two copies. So again, I feel its fine to download PDF versions of these for personal reference.

There are some things I just won´t download... for example the Big Finish Who Audio Adventures. Big Finish need the sales in order to make more... and we dont want to undermine their efforts do we? Besides, they offer their stories to download on their website online (although I dont do this as I want to own the actual physical product). So much as I am tempted, I try to avoid these, and save them for a future day when I can buy the whole damn series. Ditto for the BBC New Series Audios.

But then there are things which I feel are fair game. As a collector, I´m interested in the history of Who, and there are many, many interesting things out there, which are no longer available commercially, and which I feel its fair game to download, and to keep seeding for others to share. Out of print books, such as the Virgin New Adventures, fall into this category. Many old collectables are also available, and for some of us, its probably the only way we will ever get to see the fine artwork and read the stories in the 1960s Dalek Annuals. There´s also archive production documents, costume design drawings and scripts to be found if you look hard enough.

So, after justifying my decent down the slippery slope of bit-torrent downloading and the ever decreasing fine line which I personally draw between what´s fair and what´s not, I´m going to let you into a little secret. There is an increadible site which offers UK TV shows and associated stuff, especially (but not exclusively) Doctor Who... it´s called TheBox and is well worth signing up for. They operate a download/upload ratio system to try and keep torrents alive, which I think is great, and it´s a really organised site. I just hope that one day this dodgy side of the internet gets legitimised somehow and I get to download guilt free. Besides, I have bigger things to worry about!

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Waters of Mars

I suppose I have to post something on the most recent Who episode, The Waters of Mars, so here it is. I´ll refrain from posting a summary of the story, or my views on it, as I´m sure you don´t really care.

Like most megalomanics, I´m an exile from my own people, so couldn´t watch it on the BBC... in fact I´ve only seen one "live" episode of the new Who (Doomsday part II). Instead I have to rely on downloading or viewing on the net. Obviously, when I reach my full potential as an all powerful megalo´ I´ll buy all the episodes on DVD (well, actually I intend to buy the BBC, but anyway), so until then I´m an illegal downloader.

And boy, does it suck. It´s either a case of waiting hours to download the whole file through a bit-torrent, or watching on a YouTube type site... which resets every time the connection fails (Oh, yeah, I´m a wi-fi piggy-backer, so that happens a lot!).

On top of this, I have a love hate relationship with technology... there´s something about these damn machines that sense my frustaition and impatience. The more stressed I get, the more they decide to play with my mind and not do what I want them too. It´s a conspiracy of technology, and proof that artifical intelligence is already here (as with the goldfish, I believe man consistantly under-estimates the intelligence of non-human life forms!). So my viewing of Mars yesterday was a classic case of failed connections, reset downloads and having to watch the whole thing from the beginning about four times before I got to the end... which was the best bit, to be honest.

If only the Beeb would let us use iPlayer outside of the UK and watch on their official site then they would have better hits, viewing figures and happy whovians. But as we don´t pay their lovely license fee that´s just not allowed!

There are many, many sites and blogs following the new Who series, posting links to downloads and sites where you can view the show, but for my money (or lack of), I have to give a bow to "Life, Doctor Who & Combom", a great blog which posts everything and anything who related. So instead of repeating a whole load of stuff here, let me guide you there. But be warned, there´s also a fair number of "spoilers" in the form of new season info...

Hats off to you Combom, you´ve saved what´s left of my sanity over the last few months as we´ve waited for this latest episode!

Of Goldfish and Other Things

I have a very bad memory. It may be due to the delusional split personalities, or the drugs (both natural and perscribed, and which may, or may not, be a result of, or perhaps even the cause of, the delusional split personalities in the first place, but that´s a whole chicken and egg debate we´ll save for another day).

It´s often said that goldfish only have three second memories, but I recently read something which suggested they have better memories than previously suspected (story here). I have always subscribed to goldfish having quite good memories, as my pet goldfish used to always recognise me as the source of their food, as opposed to other members of my family. Or at least I thought they did.

Anyway... in order to assist my failing recollections, I´m going to use this blog to post things which to help me remember... so links to interesting bits and bobs on other people´s blogs etc, and assorted other stuff, more often than not with a Who element to it. I don´t intend to try and produce a blog which will give you useful information on anything in particular, but rather random ramblings through which, hopefully, we´ll all gain a small insight about something or other (most probably my deteriorating grip on reality).

Whilst on the subject of goldfish, I ought to make another confession. A few years back a picked up a second-hand fishtank and associated equipment, including a nice little water heating thing. So I decided to give a home to some fish and look after their every need. During a cold winter, I thought I´d help my little friends out by warming their water just a tad - I´m a caring sort of guy once you get past all the misunderstood megalomania. After setting up the heater and thermometer, I left my chums to enjoy their day. Now I knew this damn heater thing didn´t work properly. I just forgot (like I said, bad memory!). Several hours later I returned to find a strange bubbling noise comming from my fishtank. Yep, you´ve guessed it... I´d succeeded in boiling my little friends to death.

So I dedicate this post to my poor little friends, and tell this tale in the hope that none of you make the same mistake. We live and learn, unless of course we die in the process.

Follow me, I am your Leader

Well, like any true megalomanic, I´ve just become the first follower of my own blog!

(Evil laughter in background, fades...)

Out if interest (or more likely doubt driven from paranoia), I thought I´d best check wiki for a definition...

Megalomania is a term for behavior characterized by an obsession or preoccupation with wealth, power, genius, or omnipotence - often generally termed as delusions of grandeur or grandiose delusions.

Megalomania denotes an obsession with having and/or obtaining, grandiosity and extravagance (especially in the form of great fame and popularity, material wealth, social influence or political power, or more than one or even all of the aforesaid). It may be a symptom of manic or paranoid mental disorders.

I can certainly testify to the latter sentance of the above paragraph.

To blog or not to blog...

Not sure why I am doing this, I waste enough hours of my life on the net as it is! And if you are reading this then you probably do as well.

But having set up a Blogger account in order to follow a couple of other blogs, I find I have the power to create my own. What it will be about, if anything, remains to be seen. It may take me some time to organise a cool layout, and even longer to develop some content, but hell, why not hey. Everybody else does.

So, who am I? Well, I like a bit of mystery so might not say too much about that. Lets just see what comes out in the wash. But there are a few clues...

For those who know, my profile pic is not of my handsome self, although it does bear some similarities. No, its the War Chief from the classic BBC TV series Doctor Who. He appeared in Patrick Troughton´s last story, The War Games, and suppossedly died, but we all know baddies never die.

Add that together with the few blogs I already follow, and yes, you´ve guessed it, I´m a fan, or as we are called by some, a Whovian.

I can´t explain why I have developed such a relationship with a TV program which for much of my youth was a laughable and often embarrassing mess, but early memories of Tom Baker, maggots made of bubble-wrap and broken toilets (yep, in our house hinding behind the sofa was just not safe enough, so I used to hide in the downstairs toilet... until one day I broke it in such a rush to lock the door) made their impression on me before I could make a choice to save myself (and my pocket money). Followed by the rare and occassional BBC2 repeats - the Five Faces of Doctor Who is when I think I officially became a fan rather than just a viewer - and a mission to read all the Target books, and I´ve slowly become addicted. In those days before video if you missed an episode you thought you´d never see it... ever. I even used to record the soundtracks on cassette so I could listen to them again and again...

So, confession over, and now that I´ve come out of my TARDIS (or SIDRAT in my case), perhaps I´ll admit to a few more things... but all in good time...