Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm feeling particularly sad and lonely at the moment, so I'm going to console myself by writing a virtually useless review.

1) The Doctor Who Annual 1966. The text is written by David Whitaker, Doctor Who's first script editor (credited as story editor) and a writer of the series from the beginning up until Jon Pertwee's first season. Whitaker really is the one of the founding fathers of Doctor Who and probably was the first to give it any sort of coherent vision. He was also very, very far out there in some of his writing: the best path to putting it in any sort of context is the virtually ingenious article about him in About Time 2.

The artist was Walter Howarth. I'm not a comics person, but even I understand he's something of a legend in British comics. Certainly his work in this book deserves the highest praise, if for nothing else the colour effect he manages with four colour ink.

This counts as one of the first print versions of the Doctor's adventures. One of the few earlier ones was also written by Whitaker: his version of the events of The Daleks. If you haven't read then... well, you've missed out on one hell of a trip.

At this point, continuity isn't even a consideration. If anything, it's a hindrance. As it probably should be. This volume has (what might be) the Doctor's first encounter with the folk of Vortis and the Sensorites and return brushes with the folk on Vortis and with the Voord from The Keys of Marinus.

But the Doctor here keeps a great deal of his secrets. He might be from Earth (sometimes it's his home, sometimes it's not). Sometimes the TARDIS (err, the Tardis) works perfectly; sometimes it's quite untrustable after a run-in with the Daleks (ho ho -- I'm not even touching the dating od that!).

What we have then is a collection that reflects some of the earliest ideas of the Doctor: always a scientist and traveller. And -- just as Syndney Newman always wanted -- the Doctor survives on a dependence on basic scientific ideas. Although knowledge of more advanced ideas might just be a hindrance...

All in all, the stories are simple (though longer than they ever will be again in the Annuals) but not simply written. They're engaging, and clearly written by someone who not only cares about how the Doctor is presented and developed but by someone who cares that his readers develop something themselves.

But he's not quite the same Doctor we recognize -- or is he? He's happy to drop people off deep in their own past ("Peril in Mechanistria") and to hell with the web of time, and he's happy to maim one of the Voord and let them die at the hands of an angry mob ("Fishmen of Kandalinga"). Be it come to that, he' s happy to let the Menopt(e)ra kill off the last of the Atlanteans ("The Lost Ones").

In the end, as someone viewing these stories from 42 years later, it's hard to say these stories are of /the/ Doctor as much as they are stories of /a/ Doctor. And that makes it all the more fascinating. I love the sort of fluidity it implies, and as long as it's based on a sort of respect for the character, I can go with it. I mean, I didn't throw fits over Richard E. Grant's 9th Doctor, either, even though I loved Chris Ecclestone.

Too bad the next annual wasn't a Whitaker creation!

No comments: