Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Merchandise Keeps On Coming ...

Life here at Howeswho is anything but dull, and over the last few weeks, I seem to have been deluged with Doctor Who goodies of all persuasion.  Some I bought, some I have been sent by kind souls, but all are really appreciated!

I need therefore to do a little raving about them, as there is some darned good stuff out there that deserves to be promoted and talked up and hopefully then sought out and collected by all!

And so in no particular order:


Just received a selection of the new Vending Machine figures from Tarco ... and they are brilliant! Each comes in a round plastic container with a small sheet showing all the range that is available in this release.

There are 8 in the set, and these little figures are so detailed and cute that I can see them being snapped up by kids everywhere. There are three Daleks for those who want to build an army: a Red, a White and a Yellow, and each is constructed from a sturdy and weighty plastic. The arms and eyes are flexible, so you can bend them to be straight, and the paintwork is basic but effective given the size.  The little TARDIS is gorgeous! Yellow windows and even a tiny St John's Ambulance logo adorn it. For such a small model - only about 4cm high - it's really well done. The Cyberman is sturdy and stylistically represented, as is the Ood, complete with red eyes and white trainers!  And the Weeping Angel ... goodness! A terrifying sight, all snarling and arms ready to attack. There is even an 11th Doctor!

The figures have been based on the Doctor Who 'Worlds in Time' online computer game, and this accounts for their slightly stylised appearance. But as little collectibles at only £1 each, they are magnificent!  If I had any criticism at all, it would be that I want more Cybermen with different poses, and more Weeping Angels, again with different poses and faces ... and then add to this more and more monsters from the Classic and New series ... I don't ask much! Maybe a Dalek of each different design ... variant Doctors ... companions ...

Maybe if this release goes well, then Tarco will consider further figures and variants for future releases. After all, the more there are, the less likely you are to get doubles when you get them from the machines! They should be available all over the UK, from service stations to Toys R Us, Tesco and Sainsbury stores ... anywhere which has this sort of £1 collectible vending machine.


For the fiftieth anniversary, BBC Books has put together a selection of one novel each from each Doctor, and has released them in snazzy 'B' format paperback with, it has to be said, the most beautiful covers.

The choice of books is a little strange, and, I suspect, driven more by who the authors are than whether these the best examples of books in the range. It's basically a collection by the usual suspects - authors who have regularly contributed to the ranges of books and audios, or who have gone on to be 'names' in their own right.  I guess at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who writes the books as they will sell on the Doctor Who name alone, and so having another angle to sell on will help.

So from latest to earliest:

Doctor 11 is represented by a paperback of Dan Abnett's The Silent Stars Go By, which is the first paperback of this novel which appeared in hardback in 2011.
Doctor 10 is Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell, first published in 2008.
Doctor 9 is Only Human by Gareth Roberts, first published in 2005.
Doctor 8 is Earthworld by Jacqueline Rayner, first published in 2001.
Doctor 7 is Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch, first published in 1990, and the only one of this collection which is a novelisation of a television story. However Aaronovitch expanded the story so much, than many commented that this book formed the sort of template for the original novels from Virgin Publishing which followed.
Doctor 6 is Players by Terrance Dicks, first published in 1999.
Doctor 5 is Fear the Dark by Trevor Baxendale, first published in 2003.
Doctor 4 is Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris, first published in 2000.
Doctor 3 is Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss, first published in 2000.
Doctor 2 is Dreams of Empire by Justin Richards, first published in 1998.
Doctor 1 is Ten Little Aliens by Steve Cole, first published in 2002.

Everyone would have their own favourite list of novels to reprint, but I think it's a shame that the original and first novel, Doctor Who In An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks was not included, and that some of the others were novels which were deemed to be excellent reads, rather than some which seem to have been chosen just because of the author. All the books are good though - they wouldn't have been published in the first place if they weren't! And this is a superb entry into the many worlds of Doctor Who fiction for first time readers.

Of the covers, I like the designs immensely. It's a good example of what the BBC can do that no other licensee can - licensees have to follow brand guidelines, but the BBC themselves does not! Something that I have always felt to be a little bizarre to be honest. Favourites are the 4th Doctor one, Festival of Death - with a nice application of UV varnish in a skull effect on Baker's face, Players has a lovely image of the 6th Doctor, and Beautiful Chaos does a good job of capturing the 10th Doctor's manic movement, with more nicely placed UV varnish to bring the image to life.


Now this is a strange beast. It's penned by my old friend from the USA Paul Salamoff and collects the content of several individual editions into one book. The basic idea is to do a graphic novel depicting the lives of all the actors to play the Doctor.

We open with William Hartnell, then look at Tom Baker ... then Paul McGann (I guess you don't have to be chronological with these things). Matt Smith is next, and then finally Peter Cushing makes an appearance.  So ... I said it was strange ... we miss out Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant ... maybe the idea is to do follow-up books if this one is successful.

The art is not bad, and the book sort of presents a potted biography of each of the actors, with illustrations reflecting the text. It's only £4.79 from Amazon and as it's an independently produced project, worth supporting if you like the Graphic Novel form.


I raved about the previous book in this series - The UNIT Sourcebook - earlier on this Blog. This volume is also tying into the role playing game, and is as beautifully produced and absorbing as the first.

This volume is all about the Doctor and the TARDIS and is sort of 'everything you need to know to be a Companion' tome. It's full colour throughout and in hardback and 238 pages long!  A magnificent beast of a book.

There are lovely photos throughout, and if you are at all interested in the fictional side of Doctor Who then this is a must! It's published by Cubicle 7 in the USA and has an rrp of $39.99 ... but it really is a lovely, lovely book!

I wish we could get more books of this quality produced, and moreover I'd really like to write one!


New from Eaglemoss is a Doctor Who version of those collectible figurine sets. It's not cheap - £6.99 per issue, plus an additional £1 per issue if you want an exclusive set of Dalek figures on top. But the quality of the initial releases is very good, and bodes well for the future.

Issue 1 (at a bargain price of £2.99) comes with a figure of the 11th Doctor, which is passable in accuracy. He looks like Matt Smith well enough, but at the small size - about 4 inches/10 cm tall - it's hard to get totally perfect likenesses. Issue 2 is Davros, but here the figurine is perfect. A really lovely little model of the Daleks' creator from the story 'Journey's End'.  Issue 3 comes with a CyberController from 'The Age of Steel', and again this is a very nice figure, though to my eye he's bigger than the 11th Doctor than he should be ... but then I wonder if the figures will be in scale with each other - there's nothing to say or suggest that they will be.

The magazine which comes with each is a lightweight affair. There's 4 pages or so on the figurine, and photos of the character it is of (which has the unfortunate effect of highlighting where the sculpt is not perfect in each case); then more pages on the character's history from the show, a year by year timeline fills two more pages, showing events in Who history and real-life history side by side, then random piece on other elements of Doctor Who, and a piece on someone associated with Who, but not necessarily anything to do with the figurine ...

There's no writer credits, so I have no idea who has penned it, but it's passable and wholly in line with the somewhat bland and generic approach which BBC Worldwide take with regards to these magazines (vis a vis Doctor Who Adventures, Battles in Time and Monster Invasion, and probably the DVD magazine too, though I'm not so familiar with that).

For details head to


I love incidental music, and Doctor Who is no exception. I go crazy for it!  And now Silva Screen are releasing some new soundtracks, kicking off with Roger Limb's evocative score for 'The Caves of Androzani'.

I liked this at the time as it stands out from the rest of the Radiophonic Workshop's fare for Doctor Who in the eighties as being an impressive score, underpinning the action, and giving just the right amount of atmosphere to the story.  I love the rattlesnake noises for the villain of the piece, and the drumbeats and doom-laden air it brings perfectly matches the visuals.

Many of the eighties Doctor Who stories are lumbered with a score which today sounds dated, but 'Androzani' fares well and the score still sounds fresh today.

Coming next are all the sound effects from the Patrick Troughton story 'The Krotons', so not really incidental music at all. But in the sixties, the Radiophonic Workshop would lay down a soundscape for the stories, and 'The Krotons' is one of the best examples of their work.  I can't wait!


I love audio-WHO, and I came to this new series of adventures with anticipation. The idea is simple: one story per Doctor, released one a month up until November ... the first three are now out (in fact I think the fourth is probably available too as it's April) and I listened to them all on some recent long journeys.

Hunters of Earth kicks off the story, and author Nigel Robinson does a sterling job of trying to capture the mood of 1963 England in an adventure set before the Doctor and Susan kidnap two teachers and head off for their television adventures.

I explored this territory myself when we published the original Doctor Who novellas, first with Kim Newman's Time and Relative and then with Tara Samms' Frayed, and unfortunately I feel that we did it better. Part of the problem here is Carole Ann Ford's reading. She is really not very good, and the Doctor especially, comes over as just wrong. The plot is interesting - involving an alien invasion using radio waves - but it is very telegraphed, and some of the characters come over a little too much as ciphers to be wholly successful. I usually love Nigel's work, so for me this is a rare mis-step, and perhaps the brief was too challenging to be wholly achieved by anyone!

The second Doctor adventure, Shadow of Death is brilliant, however. Simon Guerrier delivers a cracking script which is straight out of late sixties Who, and Frazer Hines reads it so well, that you forget you're listening to an audio adventure, and start to wish and believe that this was the script for an actual missing adventure. Hines also reads the Doctor in the Doctor's voice, and he has become feted for this impression - and it's so good that again you forget you're listening to a reading, and become engrossed in the plot.  I loved this to pieces!

The third Doctor yarn is unfortunately not very good. The script is by Andrew Smith, and it contains an awful lot of 'tell' rather than 'show'. Richard Franklin reads, and the script has obviously been written with this actor in mind as it is very much a 'Mike Yates Adventure', which is fine, and obviously Franklin can bring life to that, but his third Doctor is somewhat stilted. In contrast, his Brigadier is brilliant!  Let's have an adventure where the second Doctor (Hines) battles alongside the Brigadier (Franklin)!  In some places, I would have sworn that it was the much-missed Nick Courtney speaking on the CD!  Plotwise it's a bit of a mess - something about alien stones in stone circles draining the power from the Earth by aliens displaced from their own world. It doesn't really ring true as a third Doctor adventure, and perhaps would be better suited to the comic strips.

Overall, I'm holding final judgement on this series to see how it develops. There is an overall story arc emerging which is intriguing (and handled best by Guerrier in the second Doctor tale) and it bodes well for the series as a whole.


It might have missed your attention, but this year is the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, and to celebrate, the Royal Mail have brought out a new set of stamps featuring all eleven Doctors and various monsters.

I'm pleased they relaxed the rules which said that no living person could appear on a UK stamp, as this would have made this endeavour quite tricky!  But nevertheless, we have the stamps, and a whole panoply of postcards and stampsheets and covers and booklets to go with them!  They are all quite expensive, and you'd be spending a pretty penny if you got all the variants of everything that were available.  I decided to get the postcard set, a little booklet containing all the different stamps, the two first day covers, and a stamp book with six of the stamps in.

Postcard Set: I like this as they show the stamps nice and large, and are just a good collectible. There are 16 cards in total, one for each stamp.

Booklet: This is quite small, and the text is written by Gary Russell. It contains examples of all the stamps released: One for each Doctor (1st); TARDIS (1st); and four monster stamps: Dalek, Ood, Angel, Cyberman (2nd).

First Day Covers: Two available. One with the first 8 Doctors on, and a second with the last 3. The imagery is different on each, and each comes with a different card inlay (again by Gary Russell) talking about the eras concerned.  I liked that the covers have a cut-out TARDIS shape on, and the inlay card has a TARDIS printed on which then shows through the hole. They come with a Cyberman First Day stamp from Cardiff.

Prestige Stamp Book: a cute little stamp book of 6 stamps: 11th Doctor, 1st Doctor and 4 TARDISes.

All these things and more are available from


You may remember the 10th Anniversary Special which the Radio Times produced back in 1973 ... well this is a brilliant pastiche from the people behind The Wonderful Book of Doctor Who 1965 which riffs on the first 8 years of the show since 2005.

The cover is a recreation of the original Radio Times special with toys, and the internal content follows the design of that original magazine perfectly, but with texts which cover and generally take the mickey out of the new series.

I loved the sense of humour throughout - and especially the content for the 2011 series, which is written as one whole stream of consciousness story involving Silents and Hitler and Puppets and whatever - a brilliant and telling summation of all that was wrong with that year's Who.

If you can get it, do so. But copies sell very, very fast. Check for details.

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