The children who got this for Christmas 1968 must have been so excited. Look, there’s a YETI on the back cover! That Yeti in the Underground story this year was great! Quick, let’s look through and find the Yeti story!
Oh, there isn’t one.
OK, but WOW, there are CYBERMEN on the cover. Look, they’re bursting through the TARDIS doors! I really want to read about them doing that! Why’s the Doctor hugging Steven Taylor and why’s he wearing a kilt? And look, there’s the CYBER CONTROLLER from Tomb of the Cybermen on the back cover, so this must be a really exciting Cybermen adventure, or maybe there’s even two of them!
Oh, there aren’t any Cybermen in the annual either.
Seriously, it’s like the annual was edited by the Master, his evil laugh resonating around the offices of World Distributors while he makes his dastardly plans to ruin children’s Christmas.
But once the kiddiwinks had gotten over that disappointment (if they ever did – I think if I had been a child at the time I would still be angry about it now) what was actually in this annual for them to enjoy? First up is Lords of the Galaxy, in which Dr. Who, Jamie and Victoria encounter some reptilian kangaroos with weapons in their pouches. Dr. Who seems to have morphed back into William Hartnell, but gone a bit “street” at the same time.
“This, children,” said the Doctor heavily, “is where the action is. As one might say, it’s all happening here.”
After some shivering from Jamie and some screaming and fainting from Victoria, the Doctor tricks his way back into the Tardis and that’s that. Next up is a Space Quiz, which has nothing to do with Doctor Who, and then it’s time to Follow the Phantoms. Dr. Who has decided that he is not going to be “street” any more and is instead going to channel his earlier incarnation even more:
My boy, I have told you before how much I disapprove of those uncouth expressions you brought from Earth… I presume that by ‘on the blink’ you are implying that my detector is not functioning?
Facing a world enshrouded in a cloud, the Doctor has a trick up his sleeve. He has made a big Floater. Capitalizing on the ability of fiction to do what television couldn’t achieve in the 60s, the Floater is a jet-powered airship that pops out of a briefcase. When they touch down they find a city in a cloud, populated by giants that pass right through them like ghosts. Jamie is the hero of this story, in the sense that it’s his turn to get captured and escape. After some boring (and non Doctor Who) Star Facts, and then two more pages of the same boring filler About the Moon we are onto another story: Mastermind of Space. At this point the author(s) has obviously realised that there is nothing to be done with a short story other than have the Doctor captured and escape, due to the low word count, so tries a different approach by starting the story with the Doctor already captured. His captors are super-beings who can “create matter out of the mind-stuff of the void”, somehow utilising mental energy from their victims.
After some more filler (under the sea facts) we are on to a comic strip adventure: Freedom by Fire, in which Jamie and Victoria find some kindred spirits in the world of fashion. The Doctor is the only person in the whole comic strip not wearing a skirt. The story concerns a tribe being menaced by
Triffids plants called Kraals, until the Doctor brings them the secret of fire, engulfing the Kraals in flames, like the pacifist that he is.
Now, what have we here: The Celestial Toy-Shop. That sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it. But no, this is nothing to do with The Celestial Toymaker, although it does push the boundaries of Doctor Who in similarly bizarre directions. Anyone who thinks Doctor Who is not basically fantasy under the bonnet is at the very least out of step with 1960s annual writers, if nothing else:
Perhaps it’s a magic toy-shop. There’s room for magic in an infinite universe you know. I’m in the mood for magic. Let’s explore this place. It’s a place to play in, children.
Years before Doctor Who got timey-wimey, the Dr Who Annual went decidedly space-wacey here, with the Doctor and his companions inside a house full of giant toys and then the Doctor finding a dolls house replica of the house they are in, going inside that and then finding another dolls house, and going inside that, and… you get the idea. If you think that sounds weird, this story actually brings the Doctor to a point where he is “sobbing miserably”. It’s the highlight of the annual.
After some more filler facts, a board game (Journey from Hades, just in case you were clinging on to any thoughts that you were reading a sci-fi annual) and a quiz, all of which are resolutely nothing to do with Doctor Who, we’re onto another story: Valley of Dragons, in which the Doctor and the “children” encounter a Reptileanus Hesperides from the Ozilean Era, and have some fun flying around with contra-gravity belts, another case of “look, we can do things they can’t do on TV”.
Wanted to know all about our solar system? Wikipedia hasn’t been invented yet? The next three pages have all the answers. If you want your Dr Who Annual to be about Dr Who, then skip forward to Planet from Nowhere. It’s all very Erich von Daniken, although it predates the publication of the English language edition of Chariots of the Gods. There was clearly something in the air about Egypt and aliens at the time.
Next up is Happy as Queeg in which the Doctor gets brainwashed and thinks his name is Hegg. Not Fried Hegg or Boiled Hegg. Just Hegg. Then much confusion ensues about who or what Queeg actually is until the dreadful truth is revealed: he’s a big lump of porridge. Skipping swiftly past another two pages of spacey facts, it’s time for another comic strip: Atoms Infinite. “We’re not going to explore outer space, my boy,” says the strange First/Second Doctor hybrid, “we’re going to explore inner space.” And then he proceeds to shrink the TARDIS to “penetrate one of the strange universes that lie within every atom”. And boy, is it strange. Apparently inside atoms are disembodied heads inside bubbles of snot. Go figure.
Just in case you weren’t paying attention before, there’s Doctor Who’s Planet Quiz to make you feel inferior. No, it still has nothing to do with Doctor Who, but awaiting us on the next page is the World of Ice. The Second Doctor likes visiting those, so that sounds much more like Doctor Who business as usual. Victoria gets left in the Tardis on account of being a girl and all that, and when the Doctor and Jamie return they have been substituted for robot replicas. Also, Jamie has stopped wearing Steven Taylor’s face and is now being drawn by the artist with Ben Jackson’s. I’m not even going to glance at yet another bunch of space facts, and we’ll skip straight pass the crossword which is also about space and has been partially filled in by one of those annoying 60s kids who bizarrely lacked the foresight to keep their pencils away from our collectables.
Shrinking seems to be a theme of this annual, and the Doctor is back in the “sub-microscopic world” for The Microtron Men. As hard as I try, I can’t make any sense out of this story. Whatever the author was drinking at the time, I want some of it. At last whoever was putting together all the factual stuff reached the last page in his encyclopedia and instead threw in a page about cavemen, and then we’re back to Doctor Who for Death to Mufl. Faced with the difficulty fitting the Doctor and his companions into a short story the author simply has Jamie and Victoria have a nap in the Tardis while the Doctor goes out exploring. The spirit of the television series is actually summed up very nicely here:
Despite his countless journeys through Time and Space, Dr. Who found everything of absorbing interest.
The inspiration is obviously very early Hartnell, but the end result is very David Tennant, with a side dish of patronising. For the second time Alice in Wonderland gets a mention and the plot of the book gets riffed on to some extent, as if the author was deliberately trying to prove my pet theory about Doctor Who growing out of the tropes of children’s fantasy fiction, 50 years before this blog existed. And apart from a couple of pages of facts about the history of flight that’s it for this year’s annual. A lot to read, a lot of fun, a lot of space facts, but not a lot of Cybermen. RP