The other reason while I’ve been lax with this blog is that much of the nonsense that would’ve ended up here now ends up on twitter. A far more efficient way of getting things out of my system.
The big thing I have to plug right now is the 500th edition of Doctor Who Magazine. It comes in a special hardback envelope, containing two magazines, a poster, stickers and an art card. I’ve been reading the magazine since I was seven, and it has been a regular fixture of my life pretty much ever since. I’ve had so much delight from reading the magazine and so much fun in contributing to it over the years, I’ve learned so much, and it’s led to friendships with so many extraordinary, talented and lovely people. So it was a huge honour to be involved with the celebratory issue. Who would’ve thought when my mum found me a copy of issue 55 that 35 years later the magazine would still be going, and I’d be writing for it? Who would have thought that at the celebratory party on Saturday I would be eating a slice of Doctor Who cake with the cover of issue 55? It felt strangely significant.
So what are my bits in the magazine? Well, two features. The first is called The TARDIS Log, named after a memorably bewildering feature the magazine ran in the early 80s. It’s my personal guide to the history of the magazine from the point of view of a reader; there have been other articles in the past giving the magazine’s behind-the-scenes history, but I wanted to celebrate the magazine’s content, all the weird and wonderful articles, interviews, columns, letters, photographs and advertisements it has included over the years.
In researching the article, I spent a month or so earlier this year working through every single issue of DWM. Not reading every feature of each issue from cover to cover – that would take years and take a terrible toll on my sanity – but spending an hour each morning leafing through ten issues, looking out for things that were unusual, new, or which jogged a memory. And then to boil that down to a 10,000-word article and a list of highlights. It was a formidable but highly enjoyable task, taking an extended stroll down nostalgia avenue. I could easily have written far more; there were so many highlights, so many memorable moments, that when I started writing the article I found that I had written 7,000 words and only got as far as issue 200. So I had to be extremely strict and leave out loads of interesting stuff. Maybe I’ll post that first draft on this blog. Let me know if you want to read it. The shorter version in the magazine is vastly better, though!
So, yes, that’s my first article. People seem to have enjoyed it. I am a little critical in places but I hope it’s fair. And secondly, my other feature is a The Fact of Fiction on the 2013 story The Day of the Doctor. This was a tough one to do, mainly because, again, I found I had far too many things to say! It got so long that what was intended as a box-out on The Night of the Doctor was put in issue 499. But it is probably the Doctor Who story with the most ‘continuity references’, the most little details to point out, and it also has an interesting development, as Steven Moffat began writing it with the ninth, tenth and eleventh Doctors, getting about two-thirds of the way through before reworking it from the beginning with the ‘War Doctor’ alongside the tenth and eleventh Doctors. A lot of the information about the later, ‘War Doctor’ drafts had previously appeared in DWM’s The Year of the Doctor special, but I was determined to make sure I wasn’t just repeating facts, that there was plenty of new stuff. So there is information in The Fact of Fiction about the early drafts with the ninth Doctor that has never been revealed before, as well lots of additional material about deleted scenes.
Plus, one of the little challenges I set myself was to identify all the stuff in the UNIT Black Archive, and I think I managed it – with help from Matthew Ross, Tom Newsom and Saul Jefferies, who were supposed to be thanked in the magazine but left off so I’ll thank them here. I’m also annoyed with myself for getting the UNIT acronym wrong! Sometimes when you’re deep in the fact-zone, trying to keep track of half a dozen different drafts of the same script, you can’t see the wood for the trees.
That’s my excuse. And talking about it reminds me I really should write a blog about my The Fact of Fiction article in issue 499 on Warrriors’ Gate, as that was also quite an undertaking. People ask me how long these things take to write but they only take about a week; when I’m in the fact-zone, I lose all track of time and space, lost in the world of research.
But that’s not quite all of my bits. I was surprised and delighted to see one of my comic strip bits picked out as one of twenty highlights in the Let’s Do The Time Vworp Again feature. I regard my era on the comic strip as being forgotten, so it was a huge thrill for me to see Chiyoko in Scott Gray’s fantastic strip The Stockbridge Showdown – in particular, to see her drawn by John Ridgway, the artist responsible for the legendary Voyager storyline that had blown my mind back when I was thirteen. I also hooted with laughter to see the Anne Robinson Sontaran included in the stickers; this image had been used for the cover of an issue including my first-ever major article for the magazine, a decidedly desperate effort about how Doctor Who was like a game show. For my article to be commemorated with a sticker alongside Clive Swift and a red-eyed Fish Person was an enormous honour.
And finally; the second magazine in the special hardback envelope is a pictorial history of DWM, and if you turn to page 110 some of the images of Summer and Winter specials are scans of my own copies of those magazines, kept stored in plastic envelopes for just such an eventuality. This may seem like a trivial thing – it is, I know it is – but those magazines are the ones that I pored over as a ten-year-old, and now there they are, part of the pictorial history of DWM.
So, anyway, I’ve gone on long enough. Rush out and buy DWM issue 500, it’s the best issue ever. And for me, and for everybody involved, a labour of love.