Saturday, 22 November 2008

In the beginning...

The purpose of this journal is to take fans of Doctor Who young and old on a journey through his forgotten history - his comic strip adventures throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

It's hard to believe it now, but back then our favourite Time Lord was not the merchandise cash cow that he is now.

There were no Doctor Who action figures, books were limited to a smattering of titles and there was "The Doctor Who Annual" to look forward to at Christmas and that was pretty much it. Britian's biggest TV folk hero for almost two decades didn't even have his own magazine.

But, if you knew where to look during those commercially naiive times, you could enjoy exciting adventures in Time and Space every week, hidden in the pages of children's comics such as 'TV Comic', 'TV Century 21' and 'Countdown featuring TV Action'.

Drawn by some of Britains' finest comic artists, these strips told stories much bigger and bolder than any episode of the television series could at the time. Some were juvenile, some were just plain silly, but many were intelligent, thrilling and engaging continuations of the Doctor Who story... oh, and his nemesis the Daleks.

The Daleks, between 1964 and 1966 were a law unto themselves. Britain was in the grip of Dalek mania, so while the Doctor's adventures could be followed in "TV Comic" from issue number 674 onwards, the "Dalek Chronicles" - a strip telling the history of the Daleks from their creation all the way up to planning their televised invasion of Earth - graced the back page of "TV Century 21" for 104 consecutive installments. Quite an achievement, when you consider the magazine was primarily a vehicle for Gerry Anderson's ever increasing stable of puppet based sci-fi fantasy shows.

Only when the Dalek Chronicles came to an end did the good Doctor get to battle his number one foe in comic strip form. In January 1967, TV Comic issue 788 saw the metal mutants take on the 2nd Doctor and his companions John and Gillian. It would be the first of many encounters between the Doctor and arch enemies between the pages of TV Comic (and later "Countdown" comic for a couple of years in the early 70s)

In 1979, at the height of Tom Baker's tenure, Marvel launched Doctor Who Weekly and the Doctor's adventures in TV Comic finally came to an end. The tail end of the 70s, spurred on by the commercial success of Star Wars saw Doctor Who merchandising finally come into it's own. The Target range of books began expanding rapidly, closely followed by the Denys Fisher range of Dolls. Up until then, only the Daleks had been seen as a viable force to be used in marketing.

For me, as someone who spent their childhood waiting all week for two precious pages of TV Comic, these stories are a forgotten golden age of Doctor Who. From 1979 onwards the Doctor's 2 dimensional adventures went world wide and all those stories are easily available today, often republished over and over again both in the UK and the US. But the TV Comic and Countdown strips have been seen by a much smaller audience - a few have been republished by Marvel, but on the whole there are around 15 years of adventures that have become lost in the mists of time... until now that is.

So, what I intend to do, approximately once a fortnight, is share an installment of those forgotten adventures with you all. I won't be posting them in any particular order, just whatever takes my fancy - but I will post all the episodes of each story I feature, in order. I will also mainly focus on the Doctor's skirmishes with the Daleks for now, as those were the stories that we all looked forward to the most, when we opened that weeks' TV Comic to help pass the rainy play times trapped in our classrooms across 1960s and 70s Britain...

So, sit back and let us begin, with an adventure from arguably the Doctor's most popular incarnation from the classic series, Tom Baker's Doctor number 4. Part One of TV Comic's Return of the Daleks from 1975...

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