You might find this hard to believe but there is a weird subset of Doctor Who fans who don’t read Doctor Who Magazine (DWM). It’s you isn’t it? (Wierdo.) The fact that I even had to spell out DWM rather than assume every Who fan knows exactly what it stands for is a source of complete and utter amazement to me. (But then so are those bouncy pink bubble traps in Time and the Rani, which shows what I know…)
If you are a non-DWM obsessive who doesn’t pour over every single word, even reviews of books you’ll never read and competitions you’ll never enter, then I pity you. Pity you. You’ve missed the once every four week (it’s not MONTHLY, silly) thrill of knock, ring, DWM through your door… And the grapple to snatch the mag from dog/toddler/jealous partner/therapist trying to deny you your fix…
So here are five whole things that won’t make complete sense to you unless you are a longstanding (before Doctor Who became ‘popular’, and ‘good’, and ‘watchable with relatives’) reader of the greatest unofficial TV tie-in periodical of them all…
1. Frobisher, the giant talking penguin companion
Now if you’ve never so much as glimpsed at mid-80s DWM comic strips, the idea of Frobisher must sound something like this…
You know in the Colin Baker era when everything was a bit crap and the companion either moaned a lot, or was Bonnie Langford? Well, in DWM, things were so much better!
That’s because the multi coloured arrogant incumbent Doctor was accompanied on his travels by a giant, flightless, aquatic wisecracking bird. No, it was brilliant! And having a penguin companion made the whole thing seem much more fun, adult, and credible than him travelling the universe with, um, Bonnie Langford.
What? No! Come back, I’ll dig out a copy of Voyager; it’s epic. And the penguin man even appears in a Rupert-the-Bear story. It’s so much better than Timelash… We can read it together, I’ll do my Frobisher voice. He has a New York accent. Not in the comics, but in the brilliant Big Finish audio, The Holy Terror… Come back! Come back! Let me tell you about the giant comic penguin, come back here right now! Oh, Whifferdill…
2. Caroline Munro’s, um, lady parts
For a period of about 37½ years (or so it seemed at the time) before and after Doctor Who was in hiatus (more of that later), the news pages of DWM seemed obsessed with a potential big-screen version of the show. Everyone including my uncle (hi Mick!) was proposed as the movie Doctor in DWM’s news pages. Candidates included Dudley Moore, Donald Sutherland, Snagglepuss, the Hofmeister Bear, Ray Reardon, Grotbags, the bloke who played the ‘secret lemonade drinker’ in the R. White’s Lemonade advert, Pee Wee Herman, Batfink, Cliff Thorburn, Roger Ramjet and his Eagles… The list goes on and on. Even Sylvester McCoy was in with a shot, apparently. I kid you not.
But they would always be companioned with a certain voluptuous lady called Caroline ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Bond girl’ Munroe. And DWM would invariably illustrate the non-news item with a steamy soft-porn pic of Ms Monroe with her Dalek bumps (almost) on show.
Which, for your average 11-year old Who geek (hi me) was akin to having a hardcore jazz mag in your possession. Never did I suspect I’d have to peruse the pages of Gallifrey Guardian trembling under my Transformers bedcovers by torchlight, for fear of parental discovery.
So all you have to do is whisper ‘Caroline Munro’ to DWM readers of a certain age (and orientation) for them to break out in hives and excuse themselves to take a cold shower chanting, ‘Barbara Wright, Barbara Wright, sensible cardigans, Barbara Wright…’
3. I do like Wednesdays
I love a good Wednesday. Do you? No!? Tell me why? ‘I don’t like Wednesdays.’ Tell me why? ‘I don’t like Wednesdays.’ Tell me why? ‘I don’t like Wednesdays. I want to shoo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down.’ Gosh, bit of an overreaction…
For DWM obsessives, Wednesdays can be the most special day of the week. Because the magazine is supposed to come out on Thursdays. But once in awhile – on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction – they happen to be kind. And DWM arrives a day early! (That was a misquote from Boom Town. You don’t like Boom Town? Rats!)
The sheer joy of a 24-hour-earlier-than-expected DWM arrival is a feeling that is unsurpassable. And it’s not like someone leaking a Doctor Who episode early, where you have to wrestle with your conscience whether to watch it. You’re allowed. No one will judge you. Apart from anyone who sees you do the ‘DWM-a-day-early’ dance. Then they will see you and judge you. I know because they saw me. And judged me.
4. The Wilderness Years
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves
Thanks Bob, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Now if you are a non-DWM reader, and for you Doctor Who is a TV show that you watch when it’s on TV, then the 16 years between Survival Part 3 and Rose (give or take a TV Movie night) are just the years when you watched other things on TV. You had to suffer through series like This Life, Twin Peaks, The X Files, Jonathan Creek, The Sopranos, ER, and, what do you mean you didn’t really notice Doctor Who was off air…?
But for us DWM devotees, it was a constant source of frustration, fear and expectation. We lived in a Wyndhamesque post-apocalyptic world where everyone was blind. Blind! And, while man-eating plants stalked the British isles, we were hauled up on the Isle of Wight surviving on tins of pork luncheon meat and corn beef.
All we had to occupy us was the accumulated 26-year history of TV Doctor Who appearing on an acclaimed series of VHS, DVDs and CDs, a successful and challenging collection of spin-off novels taking the Doctor Who mythos into exciting, uncharted territory, and four of the TV Doctors reprising their roles and sounding better than ever with stunning scripts and soundscapes from Big Finish, a genuinely funny Comic Relief special, BBCi animated adventures, Scream of the Shalka, Doctor Who Night on BBC2… It was hell, I tell you. Hell!
But at least we had DWM to keep the flame and our hopes alive with bold claims of the good Doctor’s return to TV. Like David Burton, a celebrity from Redhill in Surrey, who was so certain he was the next TV Time Lord that he put stickers on his car announcing it. Thank you DWM, you are our only hope…
5. The Slaves Of Kane, The Theme From Abslom Daak – Dalek Killer
One of the most startling and attractive things about the Doctor is that he’s an anti hero. He’s likely to use his charm, wit, intelligence, and determination to defeat his enemies (or use a big bomb if the 45-mins are about to run out). When faced with the fearsome Daleks, the good Doctor is more likely to size up to them with a jelly baby or a jammy dodger than his fists or a firearm.
So it may come as a little bit of a surprise (if you are not a DWM-obsessive) that one of the most popular recurring comic characters in the magazine is a muscle-bound mass murderer armed with a powered-up chainsaw aiming to cut the Kaleds meanies into bits. So far, so strange.
Stranger still was the decision in 1990 by a group of fans and musicians to record a theme song for the aforementioned criminal psychopath comic character. And it wasn’t the days of Trock (Time Lord Rock, for people over 17) like now when anyone with a laptop can – but not necessarily should – produce and record their own Doctor Who-inspired music. So the masterminds involved had to go to an actual professional studio and pay real money to record it. The record features Who theme arranger Dominic Glynn and Nick Briggs modulating his ring to produce the Dalek voices (give up, Nick, it’ll never lead to anything…) and was included as a flexi disc (a record etched on a flimsy plastic bag, essentially) on the cover of DWM 167.
I was 16 years old at the time. And I played it. Endlessly. My parents must have thought I was a loon. While everyone else I knew was grooving to the big hits of the day – Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer and Hangin’ Tough by New Kids On The Block – I was listening to Slaves of Kane’ Theme from Absolom Daak. The flexi giveaway actually persuaded me to buy the EP with extended tracks and remixes.
But, let’s think about this. While all the ‘cool kids’ I knew were listening to the crap pop hits of the day, I was getting down to a 12 inch independent record by people no one had heard of, based on a character created by the legendary 2000AD writer, Steve Moore. Who’s the cool kid now?
So, if any girl had been remotely interested in me at that time, I would have taken them back to my pad, sat them on my Transformers bedcovers, and they could stare at my Barbara Wright cardy poster while listening to this totally obscure record. So long as it wasn’t a special Wednesday. In which case, hop it sister: I’ve got a TV tie-in magazine to devour.
So that’s it. I plan to update this list so it’s my usual 10 things but I’ll have to wait another 500 issues for more material. So, expect a follow-up article in the year 2055 when, after 22 tortuous wilderness years, hope is restored when Absolom Daak is resurrected using DNA from a flexi-disk ready to defend the Divided Kingdom of Great Britain from the forces of Emperor Trump III and his hordes of mutants from The United States of America and Europe. For all our sakes, let’s hope it’s a special Wednesday….