Ian Ber­ri­man re­calls his salad days with Doc­tor Who Weekly.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Ian Ber­ri­man, Re­views Editor Ian Ber­ri­man still hasn’t mas­tered Mr Bel­lamy’s float­ing liquorice trick.

There’s only one mag­a­zine I own a com­plete run of: Doc­tor Who Weekly, all 43 is­sues lov­ingly as­sem­bled via eBay for con­sid­er­ably more than the 12p cover price. A quick sniff of their brown­ing pages is all it takes to trans­port me back to child­hood. Launched by Dez Skinn, the ge­nius be­hind House Of Ham­mer and the orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion of Star­burst, Doc­tor Who Weekly first hit newsagents in Oc­to­ber 1979. It wasn’t per­fect. Reprint­ing old Marvel adap­ta­tions of HG Wells sto­ries was a bit of a swizz, and I could have done with­out the reg­u­lar page of “fas­ci­nat­ing facts” like how long it takes to boil an os­trich egg. But in three ar­eas it was a tri­umph.

Firstly, the lead strip, cre­ated by the likes of Dave Gib­bons, Pat Mills and John Wag­ner. It had a sense of scale un­achiev­able on TV, with say, fu­tur­is­tic tanks rolling through English vil­lages or gi­ant mon­sters at­tack­ing Daleks. Yet it was grounded too. I par­tic­u­larly love “The Star Beast”. Kick­ing off in the fic­tional Black­cas­tle, it introduces Who’s first black, fe­male com­pan­ion – Sharon, a Grange Hill-like school­girl – and is set in a worka­day north­ern in­dus­trial town re­al­ity. In one scene the Doc­tor es­capes by hop­ping on a dou­ble-decker bus! Just as good were the Doc­tor-free, mon­ster-fo­cused backup strips. A play­ground for char­ac­ters like Ab­slom Daak – a bestub­bled, ban­dolier-be­decked bruiser who sliced Daleks in half with his “chainsword” – they in­hab­ited a fas­ci­nat­ingly darker, bleaker uni­verse. An im­age of an evilly leer­ing Au­ton, half its face melted off, is scorched into my psy­che. That par­tic­u­lar strip was penned by a chap called Alan Moore. But per­haps most ex­cit­ing was the fea­ture con­tent, over­seen by Doc­tor Who Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety maven Jeremy Ben­tham. Here, for the first time, you could read syn­opses of black-and-white TV ad­ven­tures like “The Sen­sorites” – which I be­lieved I’d never have the slight­est chance of see­ing, and were there­fore steeped in awe-in­spir­ing mys­tery. Af­ter is­sue 43, the Weekly emerged from its chrysalis as a Monthly. That later evolved again into Doc­tor Who Mag­a­zine, which this month cel­e­brates its 500th edi­tion. It’s a re­mark­able achieve­ment, and we take our hat off to all the ed­i­tors, de­sign­ers and writ­ers who’ve kept the flame burn­ing through the decades.

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