Next Time, I Shall Not Be So Lenient!

Alex Wilcock writes a lot of words about Doctor Who. He’s followed DWM’s Time Team since 1999, and is now revealing everything he’s ever sent to them. Very gradually.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

…And It’s About Time Team

Welcome to my new blog! If you’re familiar with my main blog, Love and Liberty, I’ll continue to post an eclectic selection of in-depth Doctor Who reviews there, but this one will have a different style and a more linear nature. You’ve probably picked up on the clues already, but way back in June 1999, Doctor Who Magazine started an exciting project. They picked four fans, Richard Bignell, Clayton Hickman, Jac Rayner and Peter Ware, and sat them down in front of a telly to watch Doctor Who. The whole lot. Well, all right, eight episodes at a time and one batch a month, but still with the original tag line ‘Four viewers. 696 episodes. 297 hours. No escape.’ They called them the Time Team, and, loving an intelligent or innuendo-stacked review of Doctor Who, they immediately became my favourite thing in DWM.

Seven years later, they’re still going, with the odd break in publication and now sticking to complete stories rather than breaking them to stick with a fixed number of episodes per month. The tagline is now ‘Four fans. 723 episodes. No escape!’ and I suspect it’ll be 724 by the next issue, now that The Runaway Bride has been officially announced on TV (isn’t it great that the amount of Doctor Who on TV is back to growing all the time?). They’ve gone from 1963 Doctor Who stories to the close of 1981 so far, while Clay has become editor of DWM and Jac has done lots of terribly important things in non-telly Doctor Who fiction. It’s still vividly illustrated by Adrian Salmon, and though it’s gone from one page to three and changed from being wittily compiled by Gary Gillatt to being wittily compiled by Michael Pritchard, it’s still just as readable. If you don’t buy it, you should.

I suspect the expansions mean the Time Team has become rather popular with readers, which it deserves to. It’s hugely entertaining for me, but initially it seemed a very minor part of Doctor Who Magazine. It didn’t even get a mention on the cover of its first issue, which was DWM 279:

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though, perhaps unsurprisingly, until I checked just now the issue I was thinking of as their first was DWM 280, which looks like this:

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DWM issue 279 was much more interested at the time in plugging the first story from new Doctor Who audio drama licensees Big Finish, with a free CD (visible above) of interviews from the stars. BBC7 have, incidentally, just started broadcasting a season of their stories this evening. The other key feature that month was We're gonna be bigger than Star Wars! which looked at ways Doctor Who might be brought back to TV for a modern audience. The writers giving their ideas on this were the suspiciously familiar Paul Cornell, Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Lance Parkin and Gareth Roberts. I wonder what poor Lance has done not just not to get a new series story to write, but to be given the thankless task of making the BBC’s Eighth Doctor books make some kind of sense in the last one of the range? Anyway, if you can get hold of that issue, it’s worth a read, not least to find Russell’s ideas for bringing the show back. “Well, it would have to be made on film,” he said, and probably with the Doctor trapped on Earth to save money. “I don’t think you’d put a 50-minute film series on during Saturday teatime,” he suggested with almost as much prescience as Steve’s “The core elements are a Police Box, a frock coat and cliffhangers.” On the other hand, who can disagree that “The key ingredient is death,” and Russell closed with “God help anyone in charge of bringing it back – what a responsibility!” But I digress.

The main change in the Time Team format actually came rather early. After starting in DWM 279 with An Unearthly Child, DWM 284 introduced a sidebar of viewers’ comments in ‘And You Said’ with Hidden Danger, the third episode of The Sensorites. I finally got my finger out in Autumn 2000 and managed to get my first comment published for William Hartnell’s last story starring as the Doctor, The Tenth Planet, in issue 297. I’ve put in ideas for most of the stories they’ve tackled since, and had something picked for most of those I’ve attempted. As a result, I’ve been one of the two or three people who’ve had their comments printed the most often (though sadly they stopped using the acerbic remarks of one Rob Shearman after he became a Doctor Who writer, even on the telly). If you’d like to have a go yourself and would like some tips, I outlined most of the ways I try to get published a couple of months ago on my other blog when giving tips on applying the same methods to press releases. Best of luck with your comments, as long as they still pick mine from time to time!

Initially, I’d come up with dozens of ideas on a story, then just send in what I thought were the best six or so. It’s ages since I’ve been along to the Fitzroy Tavern, but on one visit a few years ago I introduced myself to Clay; he told me to send in the bundle instead. Frequently someone will have come up with almost exactly the same idea as one of mine and get it printed instead, while when I do get a comment printed, it’s rarely the one I’d have chosen myself. Since then, the number of soundbites (scriptbites?) I’ve shot off in their general direction has grown to ludicrous proportions (they probably just read one in three), and I’ve taken to copying them to a small number of friends. One of them is Stephen, the biggest encourager in my life after after my beloved Richard – who writes the odd Who review himself at his fluffy elephant’s blog – and last month he told me I should stick them all up on a blog. After a little persuading (well, only a little, I’m not shy of publicising my opinions), here it is…

And You Said… (1)

Blogger Alex Wilcock said…

PS: For most of the graphic ‘quotes’ from DWM I’ll scan them in myself, but I had cover pictures for these DWMs of just the right sort of size already on my hard disk. I’m sure I must have saved them from someone’s website at some point, but I’ve no idea which. If you happen to recognise the colour balance and biteage, let me know and I’ll say thank you.

9:31 pm, August 27, 2006  

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