Promoted as the “21st Year Anniversary Issue”, although oddly the 20th was never mentioned, the 1985 annual features seven short stories, and two articles that go behind the scenes on the production of Doctor Who. The first of those is an interview with designer Tony Burrough, and the second is an article about the BBC special effects department. It reads oddly as if it is all information gleaned from an interview, sometimes in the form of questions and answers, without actually being in the format of an interview or saying who was spoken to. Illustrating how brilliant those effects chaps are, there’s a full-page photo of the Myrka.
The lineup for this annual is the Sixth Doctor and Peri, and their characterisation is captured very well throughout the seven stories. In Battle Planet the Tardis gets hijacked by Ranon, Guardian of the Debans on the planet Belstar, who wants the Doctor to help him defeat the Siros, with whom they are at war. He is promptly dispatched on a quest to “the Tower of Selsor” to get a blue crystal that has absorbed all the secrets of the sister planets Lostar and Kristar, which they want to control. All of which is about as exciting as The Twin Dilemma.
The Doctor and Peri soon find themselves in a warzone, and the most interesting thing about that is the illustration of a Siro, who looks a lot like Shayde from the DWM comic strips.
In Day of the Dragon it’s clear that the annual writers are trying to distance themselves from the extreme violence of the television series at the time:
Peri bent over the blackened figure.
“He’s been burned to death!” she exclaimed.
…or perhaps not. The victim is Edwardian gentleman Colonel Latham.
“Spontaneous Human Combustion,” replied the Doctor flatly.
Child of 1984, here’s a new phobia for you. Enjoy. But there’s more to it than the Doctor realises, because there are “dragons in… in the cellar!” Fortunately, the Doctor is an expert in this kind of thing.
“Three centuries ago, I had the great displeasure to tangle with one of the most dangerous adversaries I have ever encountered. Qualar, the Grand Master of Fire.”
Could it possibly be Qualar again, yet another annual villain the Doctor has met before but we have never heard of? Well, yes. Of course it is. It’s actually quite an interesting and scary idea, a creature able to target fire so precisely that it is able to burn the Doctor’s arm without affecting his clothes. A bit pointless as a weapon, but thoughtful. You wouldn’t want to damage those threads.
In The Real Hereward, the Doctor and Peri encounter some Saxon outlaws, “keeping out of sight of the Normans”. It’s what we might term a celebrity historical nowadays:
“Whether this is in fact the legendary Hereward the Wake.”
But just when you think it’s going to be a pure historical, something magnificently bizarre happens. A tiny robot turns up.
“I am Martin, the Metal Marvel. I can do all sorts of things. I am pleased we are friends. I am Martin…”
When I was very, very young, there was a great television series during the early 80s about a diminutive robot called Metal Mickey. Not that it has anything at all to do with this annual story. I just thought I’d mention it. No particular reason.
In The Deadly Weed (no, not that kind of weed), the Doctor meets up with an old Time Lord friend, Vama, whose policy of non-intervention seems to have lapsed somewhat:
“I’m afraid I have some business to attend to… you know, pacifying a few Dalons, and sorting out the planet Rexac and Excalon… did you know they’re at war again?”
At war “again”… as in linear time, an irrelevance to a Time Lord? What’s going on here? There seems little point in this being a Time Lord story at all.
Anyway, they are on a planet in the solar system Lagon 2, named Kyros, where they witness an animal who appears to have been poisoned and turned “from its natural blue colour, to a metallic bronze”, like some kind of a bargain basement Goldfinger girl. Unusually, that’s not the source of the danger for the Doctor, but his means of defeating some invading robots.
In the fifth story, Vorton’s Revenge, “some force pulled the Tardis here.” We have to have that sentence at least once per annual.
“It does look as if some catastrophe has happened to kill the planet, but if that is the case, we may yet find survivors.”
That too. It’s another post-apocalyptic world, a staple of Doctor Who annual stories. The Doctor and Peri meet Vorton, who appears from the illustration to have stolen a batch of Sontaran helmets.
He doesn’t like the Doctor very much, because he’s from that race of meddlers known as the Time Lords (apparently).
“Of course! You and your people were condemned by the Time Lords for your attacks on neighbouring planets and attempts to take possession of these. They launched a full scale attack on your planet and devastated it!”
The Time Lords feature in person in The Time Savers, drawing the Tardis off course and bringing him to Gallifrey. The whole annual, although warped in its portrayal of Time Lords, manages to be oddly predictive of The Trial of a Time Lord. Could it be that somebody read the annual and took inspiration from it? Surely not?
“Doctor.” The deep voice of the Lord President greeted him.
Which one would that be then? President Flavia? President Romana? No, neither of them have been smoking 60 a day and developed a husky voice. This is an annual, silly. Of course the President’s a bloke.
So why do they need the Doctor? “Someone has interfered with time on Earth.” They have traced the source of the disturbance to 1966, and send the Doctor and Peri off to investigate. There they find a comedy drunkard, who has been drinking methylated spirits. The writer is quite specific about that, in case any children reading were unsure about how to aspire to be a down and out. But who is meddling with time in 1966? Take a wild guess.
“I prefer to be known as Professor Masterman here, Doctor. Surely you are not surprised to see me?”
Um… not really, no. In the final story, The Mystery of the Rings, the Doctor has decided he wants some privacy:
“You can have a wander round instead of having to watch me fiddle about, can’t you?”
But it turns out that he doesn’t have anything to fiddle with, so instead the Doctor and Peri go wandering around an English village together, because the Doctor needs to buy a small screwdriver. Because he doesn’t have one of those in his near-infinite time machine.
They find a shop keeper who isn’t very welcoming, because “we’ve been having a lot of strange folk round these parts lately.” The “strange folk” have been doing strange things at a ring of standing stones, imaginatively named “the Rings”. What follows is a pretty standard tale of aliens possessing humans, which feels like it belongs in a Pertwee annual… oh, apart from the violent relationship between the Doctor and his companion:
Peri glared at him. The Doctor laughed. “It’s a good thing I was there to slap you out of it!” he said, and skipped neatly out of the way of her raised hand.
Burnt corpses, methylated spirits addicts, the Doctor slapping Peri. All in all, the 1985 annual fits in perfectly with the television series it was made to accompany. RP