I was taken by surprise when I realised I’d missed the 36th anniversary last Friday of the death of Elvis Presley. I must have originally heard the news on the radio at fifteen. Our summer holiday was in remote Portobello Bay, near Leswalt in Galloway in 1977.
As you may know by now, two publications remind me of that holiday: a five-year-old paperback on the caravan bookshelf called The Lost Worlds of 2001 and Marvel’s second Conan Treasury, which I got in Stranraer (probably). I also associate that town with the TV Action weekly in the 1970s and thus, Doctor Who. In those days, the tv series didn’t materialise on screen until late autumn, but there was the occasional summer special in newsagents to plug the gap.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a copy of the 1991 Doctor Who Magazine Summer Special. That was the year that I visited London for the first time in nearly a decade, largely to see the MOMI Dr. Who exhibition. The highlight for me that July was the walk-in Dalek prop:
The contents of the summer special are almost comically fan-oriented: a comprehensive guide to location filming- all the gravel pits and quarries of the Home Counties! It also contains a short comic strip by DC’s Paul Cornell and Gary Frank. “Seaside Rendezvous” is named after the Queen track from ’75’s Night at the Opera.
It’s the cover that hooked me though. It’s by Lee Sullivan, one of my favourite Who artists. Ace is wearing Starfleet earrings and is being pursued by a Dalek, the Loch Ness Monster and the Weed Creature from Fury From The Deep. The Doctor is reading The Gallifrey Grauniad. Equally wittily, a tiny Ian, Barbara, Susan and Dr. Who are running from a crab to a tiny Tardis in an homage to Planet of the Giants.
The masthead is so redolent of the UK summer specials from DC Thomson or IPC that we knew from the 70s and 80s. But as Paul Weller said, now autumn’s breeze blows summer’s leaves through my life…
Just before we returned to work for the autumn term, I listened to another instalment in the Destiny of the Doctor audios. Smoke and Mirrors teams up the Fifth Doctor and his youthful trio of companions with escapologist Harry Houdini. This is an interesting idea and the haunted fairground settting is spooky but the answer to the story’s mysteries is concealed in the title. Janet Fielding gives a spirited reading ( no pun intended) of a toothless tale.
Fielding’s Tegan has brought a influx of energy into the usually sedate 5th Doctor adventures for Big Finish over the last couple of years. However, The Lady of Mercia is a plodding and charmless adventure.
Paul Magrs has brought a lush, fantastic and camp dimension to previous adventures of The Doctor. His first BBC book, The Scarlet Empress, remains one of my favourites since it immersed the 8th Doctor in an exotic Orientalist fantasy.
However, I haven’t warmed to very many of his audio scripts. In this one, the Tardis delivers its crew to an English University in the early 80s where a time travel experiment results in Tegan’s imposture as the warrior princess Aelfwynn in a war with the Danes.
BF did this before, last year and far better when Leela was befriended by Boudicca in Wrath of the Icenii. This is a tedious script, unfortunately saddled with an unconvincing adultery subplot among the academics. I wish Magrs had called it “Sisters of Mercia”, at least.
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