Sunday, July 31, 2016

Transdimensional TARDIS Visit at Cardiff

Sometimes the world tilts in just the right way, and you find yourself enjoying something which is exclusive and amazing and which just ticks one of those bucket items on the long list of aspirational things to do ... Such it was on a recent trip to Cardiff, where we had the opportunity to visit the actual working TARDIS set from Doctor Who, the one that the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, actually uses for his travels in Space and Time!

This was due to Ed Russell, Brand Manager for Doctor Who, who generously offered to show us around the set while the main Doctor Who team was off filming in Spain. He arranged for the lights to be put on especially for us, and we had no restrictions or limitations placed on us (except for a 'no video' rule, which of course we complied with). I'm told that there is a TARDIS tour that you can pay for as an 'add on' to a visit to the Doctor Who Experience, but this is only when they are not recording the show, and on these visits, the console and upper level is roped off ...

The entrance to the TARDIS ...
My first impression of the set was that it was massive. It rests in its own studio at Roath Lock, and takes up most of it! You enter through the actual external TARDIS doors, which is a lovely touch, and inside, it's like a bubble of Time Lord Technology.

I actually love this control room. It feels functional and right in a way that the Eccleston/Tennant/Smith ones didn't ... and I was very impressed that the console is indeed fully functional, with switches and levers and buttons that mostly make lights light up and things move. There's a gorgeous illuminated cog arrangement on one panel which is a work of art, and another has the interface to the TARDIS' telepathic circuits: a Zygon-like latex/silicon panel of bumps and grooves into which you can plunge your fingers.

On the upper level there are bookcases full of books, tables piled with magazines and other things, blackboards covered with arcane scribblings ... skulls, ornaments ... all manner of exotic ephemera. It's lovely! You can walk around the whole room, with staircases down to the main console area, and there are also blocked off exits to the rest of the TARDIS as well ...  We were told that sections of the upper area can be removed to allow cameras in, but it works brilliantly as an enclosed space as well.

Under the main area there's the lower floor, which again has tables covered with bits of junk and equipment, there's a hatstand, chairs ... and the under-console area, which again is fully practical in that each section lifts up allowing access to the tubes and pipes and whatever else they want to put down there. I was so impressed at the thought which has gone into making the whole set as practical and tactile as possible, so that pretty much any future requirement can be incorporated depending on what the scripts demand. Very clever. This also helps to ground the TARDIS as a real object, a solid and practical space where the Doctor and companions can live and travel and which feels like home.

Under the console ... just doing a little rewiring ...
This is of course the whole point and indeed ethos of the TARDIS from the early years of the show, and it's great to see that reflected again here. At no point does this feel like a set!  You are actually in the TARDIS, and it's all lit up! Magnificent!

Outside the set, there are the usual boxes of unidentified stuff, and even a Dalek sits forlornly there too ... whether waiting for use in future episodes, or the sole remnant of a Dalek attack on the TARDIS we don't know ... it's cool to see it there though!

There is also another set under construction in the same studio, but this is for the next season and thus is top secret ... Apparently it's supposed to tie in and match with something on location, but as we don't know what that is either, it's all a bit bewildering ... I'm sure it will come clear when the episodes are transmitted ...

We landed safely!
We ended our visit feeling uplifted and privileged that we got to visit the Doctor's TARDIS ... we may not have travelled in time and space, but in our minds we battled Daleks and Cybermen and Zygons as the Doctor rushed around the control room in a haze of blue velvet and scots accent ... Magnificent!

Here's a selection of pics from the visit ...
Sam checks out the books

A lone Dalek outside the TARDIS set

We enter the TARDIS for the first time ...

The top part of the console.

Blackboards and arcane scribblings

The amazing central console

Another view

Trying to get us home ...

External view of one of the exits from the
Console Room ... this would lead to the
rest of the ship ...

Beautiful section of the ship

Sam checks in with the Doctor ...

We all need some help!

Sam under the console!

The amazing cog and gear panel on the console

Sam is in da Ship!

Making sure the Doctor got his sums right ...

Another view of the console room. The external door is in the

Sam links into the telepathic circuits ...

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Reprint Conundrum: Target Doctor Who Novelisations

I was tagged in a Facebook post today (On the Doctor Who Collectors Group) about reprints of the Target Doctor Who novelisations as some collectors were getting very confused about the reprints, how you could identify them and so on. And as it's a far more complex subject than you might imagine, and as Facebook is very transient, I thought it was worth putting some thoughts and explanations on the Blog so that they can be referred to going forward, maintained and updated with new information, and generally remain accessible to anyone who wants to know.

Throughout this piece I will refer to the Toybox site.  This is an online resource for Doctor Who collectors which attempts to catalogue every item of Doctor Who merchandise ever released ... and of course this includes the Target Books. But also, for the Targets, we also tried to document every reprint we knew about or could find. It's not complete, but it's a pretty good starter for ten and also has cover images showing variances and so on ... so it's a good place to go.

Okay. First things first. These are books, and books have an identifying number called an ISBN. This stands for International Standard Book Number, and is (or should be) a way to uniquely identify a given book. The rules say that every book should have a unique ISBN. If you change the book's format (ie it's physical size) or it's Cover Image, or it's content (significantly rather than minor corrections), or it's language, or it's publisher, or it's title then you should give it a new ISBN. The 'rules' can be found here if you're interested ...

In practice, however, this doesn't happen, and you get all manner of things going on. But as a general rule of thumb, the ISBN for the Target books follows this pattern.  So the first editions will each have their own ISBN. and that ISBN remains constant until they change the cover art ... most of the time.

If we look at the Book Covers now, and obviously each book has it's own cover. The first 12 books have the 'Block' Doctor Who logo. Which looks like this:

They they changed it to the 'curved' logo like this ('The Giant Robot' was the first title to use this logo but that has Tom Baker's face over the 'O' so is not really representative):
Before moving on to the 'neon' logo:

Then the McCoy Logo:

And finally, to a totally different cover design for the last couple of books:

First editions (and we're talking first edition paperbacks here. Most of the Target books had hardback editions as well, some of which were published prior to the paperback editions, some of which were published at the same time as the paperback editions, but NONE of the hardbacks were badged as 'Target') will have specific colours for the logos and text, and these changed for reprint editions. So on the Toybox site, you will see that we try to highlight what is different or specific about which edition of the book.  Some reprints changed the logo style as well, and also the artwork changed for a reprint ... but not always.

But be careful when checking cover colours and spine/back cover colours as they can fade and change to different colours with extended exposure to sunlight.

So usually you can initially spot what might be a first edition from the cover, the logo, and the colourings ... but there can be some other changes too ... You see that first edition cover of 'The Daleks' above? Well the tagline under the Author Name 'Based on the popular BBC television series' ... that line is missing off some of the reprints.

There's also part of the ISBN number printed on the first edition spine of the first three titles only, and this is missing off some of the reprints ... so you have to be observant and diligent to be able to spot a first edition.

The other good identifier on the books is the cover price.  The books started at 25p each, but then rose in price, pretty much each year. So the price will give an indication as to which year the book originated from. And bearing in mind the confusion over the insides (see later) this is very helpful indeed.

Moving to the insides of the book, and the first thing to note is that these books were all produced back in the days when the covers and the insides were printed separately, and then brought together when the books were bound. What this means is that sometimes the publisher found themselves with stacks of covers, and no books to put in them ... or sometimes it was the other way round, they had lots of what are called 'book blocks' and no covers to wrap around them.

So what they would do, was to reprint either the covers or the insides so they could bind the books and get them out to shops.  BUT when they did this, they sometimes made changes to the insides or the covers ... so you can have a first edition cover, with a second edition book block inside it ... or a first edition book block with a reprint edition cover around it.

Another aspect of this is rejacketing, where older copies of the book would have their jackets removed ('stripped off') and a new jacket put in their place. This happened when there were large numbers of stocks of a book in the publishers warehouse, and the publisher wanted to perhaps increase the jacket price on them, or to change the jacket for a new illustration or branding, thus refreshing the stock and allowing it to be sold ...

This makes it VERY hard to try and definitively pin down what edition is what ... there are so many changes!

Another point to note is that when covers were reprinted, they sometimes didn't go back to the original plates and artwork, and instead used a previous cover to reprint from. This means that some subsequent reprint covers are 'zoomed in' and lack detail. Also the colours can be harsher ... all these things are because they just took an earlier cover and used that as the basis for the new reprint.

Look at page 4 of a given book, and you will find the publishing information. This is supposed to tell you which edition it is, and sometimes publishers will print in it 'Second Edition' or 'Reprinted 1996, 1997 (twice), 1999' or whatever to show which this copy is.  Another way this is done is by printing a sequence of numbers like this '2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3'. That sequence would indicate a second edition as the '2' is the lowest number there ... Others might have '3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12' which would indicate a third edition as '3' is the lowest number there.

Here's an example of a First Edition Target:

You can see that it DOESN'T SAY it's a first edition.  Some books will however note this.

Here's the same page from a reprint edition:

You can see the FIRST PUBLISHED information, and that it also says SECOND IMPRESSION and REPRINTED IN ...  So this is possibly a second edition, or possibly a third edition (the information can be interpreted to mean that the Second Impression was then reprinted again ... making this a third impression).

However, sometimes they didn't update the information on this page when they reprinted, meaning that while the cover might have been different, with a different price, the insides remained the same.

Here's another example of a reprint interior:
Here you can see the four reprints are noted.

If you look on the Toybox site, you'll see that some of the books have loads and loads of reprints, while others have very few indeed, and some have none!  This is simply because as the range continued, the publishers learned how many to print, and if they got their sums right, then no reprint was ever needed. Especially too as they got to the end of the range, when they knew that they couldn't afford to end up with loads in stock ...  Again, the print runs, where known, are noted in the Toybox listings.

I think those are the main points ... to summarise:

Check the cover:

  • Is the logo correct
  • Is the colour correct
  • Is the cover image correct
  • Is the cover price correct
  • Is the ISBN correct

Check inside:

  • Does it indicate any reprint editions?
  • Is the ISBN the same as the cover?

If all these are confirmed, then congratulations, you probably have a first edition!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Review: The Trollenberg Terror (aka The Crawling Eye) 1958

We watch a lot of films here ... some of them come in for review, others are just for pleasure ... and with this one, I found it lurking on a new-ish TV Channel called Talking Pictures ... and I had to see it.

The last time I saw it was a long time ago - so long in fact that I couldn't really remember any of the details ... but gosh it's a good film. It's actually quite a surprise that this has never been remade ... one wonders what modern effects could manage which might surpass what is presented here.

Made in black and white in 1958, it stars Forrest Tucker as a UN Troubleshooter-type who is heading to Trollenberg to check up on a scientific viewing station there, led by Warren Mitchell with a great Germanic accent!  On the train are a couple of sisters, one of whom is psychic and who collapses, insisting that they get off at the stop.

They're all soon embroiled in a mystery on the mountain, where a strange mist or fog seems to move about of its own volition. It's radioactive too, and people who find themselves caught in the mists are then found with their heads torn off.

The film, from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster (who has more superb credits to his name than I have had hot dinners: just check out his credits on Wiki here), mixes together a lot of things which seem familiar. It's a little like a classic Doctor Who adventure in a way, and even has a gruesome prologue where a hapless climber is killed. The moving fog, and whole 'something in the fog' trope has been used of course in films like The Fog, The Mist and Silent Hill ... and the idea of radioactive aliens being behind it all is just classic 50's sci fi.

But boy are these aliens good. The film was called The Crawling Eye in America and for good reason, as that's just what these creatures look like. They are amazing. Their bodies are lit from within, and they have waving, seeking tentacles. A single eye is mounted on the front, and it moves about, seeking the victims out. It looks like a real human eye, and I suspect that the creatures were built around a human head, incorporating the eye into their design. They are amazing, original and very creepy.  They also make a sort of screeching and wailing sound as they approach which is also quite terrifying.  I wonder if anyone has any behind the scenes pictures of them?

The first time we see one of them is when a small child is cornered by one in the hotel. This is a very daft scene in many ways as previously no children were seen or even mentioned ... and suddenly there is one in danger! But the whole thing is so well done, that you can forgive a lapse like this and just go with the flow!

Overall it's quite a superb piece of filmmaking, with some brilliant effects to cap it all. Well worth a watch.

There's a trailer for the film here:

And the full film seems to be here: