In line with the other Sixties annuals, the fifth features a good quantity of illustrations, many of which are in full colour. The quality of the artwork is variable, and is generally far superior in the two comic strips, The Vampire Plants and The Robot King, both of which manage to capture the likenesses of Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury extremely well. Elsewhere, the illustrations are less successful, and the Jamie and Zoe of most of the annual bear no real resemblance to their television counterparts. There are basic mistakes like an inaccurately shaped TARDIS, and the Doctor is often seen wearing his stovepipe hat, a feature only of his earliest television adventures.
The short stories are written to the usual reasonable standard, obviously aimed at children, but quite entertaining despite occasionally seeming rather patronising. The Dragons of Kekokro is a dinosaur story with a twist that gets the annual off to a good start, despite Dr. Who still speaking very much in the manner of his first incarnation (referring to Jamie and Zoe as ‘my children’, for example).
“I told you, child,” said the doctor loftily. “Those are dinosaurs, my dear, the dominant living species of this era of the Earth’s history. This will be the Jurassic Age, I should think, millions of years in the past of our own planet. Most interesting, most interesting indeed.”
Which Doctor does that remind you of? “Loftily” isn’t a very Troughton adjective. The problem continues throughout the annual, and it sometimes seems that nobody working on the annuals had ever bothered to watch the show since 1965. Certainly the author of The Mystery of the Marie Celeste never watched The Chase.
“To think we’ve solved two mysteries, Doctor,” said Jamie. “The mystery of the Marie Celeste and the reality of the sea-serpent.”
“And not a soul in the whole wide world would believe a word we said,” grinned the doctor.
The Singing Crystals is an interesting one, in that it foreshadows some of the things Doctor Who will eventually do on television, with something normal being made monstrous, and a creepy entity recorded on a reel to reel tape machine, and compromising the safety of the Tardis.
Grip of Ice is a run-of-the-mill aliens with “ray guns” and robots story, which plays on the Second Doctor era theme of cold locations (as does The Singing Crystals), but the robot of Man Friday is much more entertaining, unintentionally hilarious with its single, huge leg. The depictions of aliens throughout the annual seems to be shooting for casual racism, with Cosmos in Grip of Ice described as a humanoid with “several deviations”, including “slant eyes”, and the creatures in Man Friday “ugly and misshapen and black, as would befit creatures from the bowels of the earth”. Luckily, the latter is subverted when it turns out that all they want is peace.
Slave of Shran features the obligatory giant insects, this time cockroaches, and Run the Gauntlet sees the Tardis land on a jungle world.
“If you think I’m going out for a picnic in those woods, you’re mistaken!” grunted Jamie.
Jamie does a lot of “grunting” throughout the annual. In fact, the writers’ default interpretation of his character is grumpy Scotsman. Their default interpretation of Zoe is the woman one. You know, that gender that does the sewing:
I borrowed some of your thread, Zoe, and unwound it as I came in search of you. I got the idea from an old Greek legend I read at school.
The final story in the annual, A Thousand & One Doors, reveals that we are living in the “Five Hundred and Third Universe” and there are doors between the universes. Ours has been sealed off because of all that nasty poisonous stuff called “oxygen”. The annual concludes with the description of a “fantastic horror in the torn spacesuit, its very organs burning as the oxygen got at them.” Just in time for the child of 1969 to go off and enjoy their tea. Those were the days. RP