The Comic Strip Companion plugs one of the few glaring gaps in Doctor Who scholarship: the comic stories produced between 1964 (when the first Hartnell strip ran) and 1979, when the new Doctor Who Weekly (now Doctor Who Magazine ) assumed the rights. As well as covering adventures for the first four Doctors, it also tackles the separate Dalek comics and the strips in the annuals produced by World Distributors.
Following an episode guide format, it lists all the relevant data for each story, providing a synopsis and notes on continuity, gaffes and the like, followed by Paul Scoones’s own critical assessment. Words like “illogical” and “preposterous” pop up regularly here early on, since the rather childish First and Second Doctor tales in TV Comic existed in a bizarre alternate reality where the Doctor meets mythical characters like Santa and The Pied Piper, and often uses magical means or violence to save the day. The Third Doctor adventures published in Countdown (latterly retitled TV Action ) are, to Scoones’s approval, far more mature and faithful to the series. Long-since out of print, these adventures now cost a pretty penny to collect, so it’s useful to have a guide that makes clear which are worth buying first on the grounds of being either particularly good, or especially bonkers (like the Second Doctor strip which features both skiing Cybermen and radio-controlled gulls…)
This could easily have been a fairly pointless hobby project, but impressively, it also draws on documentation from the BBC’s Written Archives (although sadly the paperwork has gone AWOL after 1970), lifting the lid on disputes about rights, unearthing storylines that were rejected by the Beeb, and comparing the synopses submitted to the published strips. Scoones has also tracked down and interviewed some of the writers and artists involved.
The amount of dry detail can sometimes get a mite too comprehensive, though (for example, do we really need to know, of a four-part adventure, that “the part numbers are missing off episodes one and four”?). And sadly the one thing that’s missing (barring a few plates of covers, printed postage-stamp size) is any sight of the comics themselves. Telos brought out a colourful, glossy large-format book on the Target novelisations a few years ago; one can’t help hoping that one day it’ll be possible to do something similar on these comics. Until then, this heavyweight but slightly forbidding volume will do.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
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