The 1982 Doctor Who Annual (undated, published in 1981) has a split personality. It’s a Fourth Doctor annual, and it’s a Fifth Doctor annual. There are six stories and one comic strip, with all but the final two stories featuring the Fourth Doctor, Adric and K9. The final two stories feature the Fifth Doctor and Adric (no K9) but there is nothing really beyond the illustrations to suggest that it is the Fifth Doctor rather than the Fourth. The lack of Nyssa or Tegan would suggest that the stories were all written for the Fourth Doctor and Adric, with little information about Season 19 beyond publicity shots of Peter Davison. So the annual represents a strange snapshot of two different TARDIS teams that never existed on television. There were never any stories with Adric and K9 (minus Romana), and never any stories with the Fifth Doctor and Adric (minus Nyssa and Tegan). All in all, it’s a bit too much Adric for comfort.
There are also the usual dull articles about space-type stuff, although there is at least an attempt to include a feature that is about Doctor Who, Secrets of the Tardis. It doesn’t say much beyond the obvious though, and as such is devoid of “secrets”.
The first story is Inter-Galactic Cat, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. The Doctor pilots the Tardis to the year 2957, to see the 1000 year celebrations of the Space Age, but he ends up in the right time but the wrong place, on a deep space artificial satellite. When he finds the command centre it seems that he has arrived in a very sci-fi clichéd version of the future:
Along three walls a vast array of spinning tape spools, flashing lights and electronic signals pulsated.
Those were the days, when the future was made up of reels of tape and flashing lights. Adric, always prone to getting into trouble, wanders off and gets shrunk to sub-atomic size. The culprit is (big yawn) a computer gone rogue. You can tell it has gone rogue because it TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS:
I HAVE DEVELOPED A METHOD OF MINIATURISATION WHICH HAS LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES FOR HUMAN EXPANSION. I, GENESIS III, HAVE CREATED A WHOLE, LIVING PLANET ON A SINGLE ATOM OF CARBON.
Adric gets into trouble on the miniature planet, where the Green Army are fighting the Blue Army. Even worse, time is accelerated on a miniature level, so from the Doctor’s point of view “he was dead and buried centuries ago”. Fortunately he has a Tardis, which just leaves the problem of the crazy computer to sort out, using a logic problem that brings to mind Zoe in The Invasion.
The second story is Conundrum, where the Tardis receives a distress call and lands somewhere very unusual:
“Doctor?” Adric’s eyes turned from the screen to the Doctor in astonishment. The Doctor’s brain also took a moment to correlate the confusing picture he saw. It was the inside of the Tardis, another room somewhere else in the time machine. The features were too familiar to belong to anything else.
What follows we would now describe as wibbly wobbly timey wimey, with the Doctor meeting himself, after much wandering down corridors, but the idea is clearly hugely derivative of Logopolis. It’s a common problem with the annuals. The writers rarely seem to come up with much in the way of new ideas.
Planet of Paradise isn’t a planet of paradise any more. The Doctor, Adric and K9 find a city in ruins, and meet some survivors. Their society has been destroyed by robots, which are being controlled by a leader gone rogue, but there’s more to it than that…
Next up is a comic strip: Plague World. It’s full colour with nice bright artwork, a step up from the 70s annuals. The Doctor arrives on “a frontier colony from the Second Galactic Empire” called Publius, “a quite unique blend of the rustic and the technological.” The colony is in the grip of a plague brought by a “survivor from an ill-fated expedition”, which gives a corrupt leader the opportunity to summon some alien friends to the colony “for absorption”. She has an antidote, naturally.
The fourth short story, Just a Small Problem, is an attempt to do something different with that old annual cliché of a giant animal.
“That’s right, Adric, you’ve guessed it,” replied the Doctor calmly. “We are not in a cavern as such. We are in the belly of a large animal.”
They aren’t the only ones there either. There’s a Xiterian. Yes, annual authors still love the letter X. They quite like a V as well. In The Key of Vaga, our first Fifth Doctor story (according to the illustrations, at least), the Doctor and Adric arrive on another planet ravaged by war (another overdone idea in the annual range) and achieve little except a bit of sightseeing and a run-in with the aggressors. That’s another thing with the annual stories: if there’s a war then there’s always one clear aggressor and one innocent party.
Planet of Fear goes with giant creatures again, which astonishingly remains the go-to idea for the annual range, although it has been done over and over and over again.
What Adric saw was a huge pair of tapering antennae as they emerged from the gloom. As they came into focus in the diffused light Adric was able to identify the body of a huge centipede, its brown, shiny body glinting as it moved, snaking through the trees.
But at least there’s an interesting twist to this one. The centipede may be the size of “a seven-storey building”, but only Adric can see it. That boy’s going to be trouble for the Doctor, I’m telling you. RP