“Get back, Doctor!” One step closer and I trigger the bomb!”
That’s not a bad opening line for the first story in a Doctor Who annual, is it, but before we get to all that it’s worth mentioning that this is quite a different annual to all its predecessors. Gone are the boring encyclopedia-type “features” about astronauts etc, and instead there is some effort to engage with the past of Doctor Who, for the first time ever in the annual range. There is a description of all the previous Doctors, titled One Doctor – Five Men, which brings out all the clichés, including the inaccurate ones, so the First Doctor is “rather stern”, the Second Doctor “wore a very tall hat” and the Fifth Doctor “is still essentially human”. The author’s own opinions are in evidence, when he says that Tom Baker “really made the character his own”, as if the other actors didn’t as well. There is also a quiz about Doctor Who, which includes this puzzling teaser:
The second Doctor had two companions, a boy and a girl. Can you name them?
Why yes, I can. Ben and Polly.
No, wait. It must be Jamie and Zoe. The previous article about the Doctors focussed strongly on The War Games, and didn’t mention any other stories or monsters.
Jamie and Victoria
Oh well. Much better is an article about two costume designers on Doctor Who: Amy Roberts and Dee Robson, nicely illustrated with their designs. There are no comic strips this year, with the story count instead increased to seven, so let’s get on with looking at those.
“Get back, Doctor!” One step closer and I trigger the bomb!”
So that’s how the first story starts, The Oxaqua Incident, accompanied by a picture of the bomb clutcher:
Handsome chap, isn’t he. The Doctor has arrived on Oxaqua to find a conflict between the Basks and the Theigs over water rights.
Ghum’s eyes were perhaps his most distressing feature.
I would say the word “perhaps” is a little redundant in that sentence. The pointy heads are handy though, allowing Basks to burrow into the ground.
No laughing at the back. The second story is Winter on Mesique, and Mesique is one of those Doctor Who planets that have a whole-planet ecosystem (i.e. all of them).
“This is an unusally hard winter for Mesique,” he said, “I hope the people are managing to keep warm. They won’t be used to snow and ice – their winters are usually very mild indeed.”
“Well then,” said Turlough, “shall we go and see if they’ve survived or not?”
“Sometimes,” the Doctor said, “your flippant remarks are somewhat out of place.”
The characterisation of Turlough, as you can see from that quote, is spot on. Most of the stories in the annual feature Tegan and Turlough, although a couple of the stories plump for just one or other of them, without explanation. For anyone familiar with the previous annuals, the second story will feel very familiar, with the Doctor visiting an old friend we have never heard of, and a threat from giant rodents. However, the approach to the problem is much more enlightened.
“We prefer to examine the creatures who share this planet with us,” said Sellot, turning to smile at his companions. “It is not our policy to kill without very good cause.”
“I know,” replied the Doctor. “I wish more people thought along those lines.”
It turns out the creatures are really not much threat, simply trying to find food in the cold, and they are not dangerous unless they are provoked. So there’s not really a story here as such, apart from a lesson in compassion.
In The Creation of Camelot, the Doctor pays King Arthur a visit, and makes a shocking discovery about Merlin. Clue: he has a rubbish beard. They all do a lot of talking and the Master scarpers. Despite that, it still manages to be an explanation for Merlin that’s more fun that Battlefield.
In Class 4 Renegade, the Doctor finds some people who are in a bit of a pickle:
“We were three different human beings before the crash,” explained the middle head, “but the surgeons who put us together again – well, they were from Tandemus – they’d never seen a human being before. They thought our craft was a one-seater.”
Here they are:
No laughing at the back. They want the Doctor to help find a missing robot…
“Because he’s got something of mine,” said the right hand head.
No, it’s not his missing arm. The Doctor’s quest takes him into a different “zone”, “populated by thieves, runaways, murderers, malfunctioning robots and mutants of every shape and hue.” Did they really need to use the word “hue” in a story about a segregated society?
In The Volcanis Deal, the Doctor and Turlough arrive on a geologically unstable planet, unimaginatively named Volcanis. They have a quick look around, and then the Doctor decides to head off to Earth to see some cricket, but weird things start happening in the Tardis. A cricket bat turns into a snake, and the Doctor grows a second head.
What did I say about laughing at the back? In the nemertines (oi! no capital letters here), the Doctor goes back to UNIT to see the Brigadier, in his pre-teaching days. When the Brig gets a phone call, it seems that we really are right back in the good old days of UNIT:
“It seems that we have a problem. The Thames at Westminster is crawling with worms.”
Of course, being a Dr Who annual, they are giant mutant worms.
“Now,” said the Doctor, “the problem is whether we kill this thing outright, or just take samples from its body?”
Wait, what? Did he learn nothing from his time on Mesique? Were those just hollow words? It would seem so. Here’s the Doctor’s solution to the problem:
Lashing worm bodies thrashed the salt water into foam, as if the water itself was boiling.
And without so much as a “there should have been another way”, the murderous Doctor disappears off into the sunset, with nothing to offer anyone in consolation other than a quip about salty fish and chips. If you can stomach it, there’s one final story, Fungus, about cats gone mad.
Edith snatched her torn and bleeding hand away, and watched in horror as the cat began to dash wildly about the room, tearing at carpets, curtains and furniture, shrieking in rage as it did so.
The Doctor is called in to investigate, but not by UNIT. A scientist named Lloyd is the pseudo-companion for this story.
“Stop!” shouted Lloyd. “It’s pulling my skin off!”
That’ll teach him to ask the Doctor for help. Never mind. I’m sure the violence levels in Doctor Who will get toned down for 1985… RP