Friday, 19 December 2008

Fanzines Reviewing Fanzines - RTP! #27

The latest issue of RTP! (#27) has been reviewed by Zeus Blog reviewer Alistair Hughes.

Take a look here to read.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

If - "The Killer Cats of Gen-Singh"

A continuing series in which Peter Adamson investigates some of the stories that never quite made it to the screen. This issue, the Fourth Doctor adventure, The Killer Cats of Gen-Singh ...

We don' t have a lot to go on regarding Cats, but perhaps what there does exist and is known to have happened around its first commission and eventual rejection will be enough. Perhaps. Let's go.

Cats was to have been the season closer of Season Fifteen after Graham Williams suggested a sequel by Robert Holmes to The Deadly Assassin. Holmes declined and Cats was its initial replacement. The season had already undergone some considerable change throughout its production, having suffered from the usual conflict of lofty ideas versus limited budget (perhaps to a more spectacular degree in stories such as The Invisible Enemy and Underworld, the latter having been "saved" though the use of extensive CSO, a factor which would be its critical downfall for many years). Already then, the seeds for Cats' early shelving were sown, a fact not helped by the now widely celebrated but infamous "Wembly Park Stadium" scene, reputed to have hosted up to 96,000 extras in full feline attire. But Cats might not have been entirely lost just through one scene, which could still have been realised alternatively with, say, forced perspective (see: The Twin Dilemma). The script must have had its problems. What were they? Unfortunately, these remain unknown.

Certainly some elements of Cats survived to be realised in its eventual replacement, and this should come as no surprise given the rushed schedule to complete the season line-up, along with the co-writing credit by the season's Script Editor. The Invasion of Time kept the Gallifreyan setting, and it might not be too much of a stretch to imagine the felines taking their place within this model. A Sontaran beach-head model at this stage sounds unlikely, but maybe their part was as the aggressor - an attempt by them made on the Capitol? Who can say?

But what of the Killer Cats themselves? All we have to go on is a set of costume designs by Dee Robson (showing male and female versions), and what costumes they looked to be! The Cats would have worn flowing robes according to the design sketches, which by Who terms usually spells two things: civilisation and nobility. Perhaps they were a race as old as the Time Lords themselves. Were they a civilised race betrayed by one of their number who was either ambitious or foolhardy? Perhaps they were the precursors to Invasion's "Outsiders" - the idea of Leela leaving the TARDIS for a life among the felines seems plausible. One thing is certain with Cats however; the series' vision of Gallifrey would have undergone yet another change with the introduction of this new native race.

In some way, with what we know of what followed in the series some of this might not have made a complete clash; we know from Mark of the Rani that cats exist on Gallifrey, and this idea was extended in the Missing Adventures (Goth Opera had the Doctor reminiscing over introducing cats into the planet's biosphere; Invasion of the Cat People linked the book's villains with the Cheetah People and the Killer Cats as relatives). Who knows what fan theories might have sprung up regarding the sixth Doctor's choice of moggy badges had Cats seen production? Far more significant though, would have been the change to Gallifrey within the series. Unless the appearance of the Cats comes as some sort of contrivance (they reappear after returning from a long journey, a la the Minyans of Underworld, or are "woken" from slumber. A catnap if you will) then we must assume that they have always been part of Gallifrey. The only alternative is the contrivance, and this might perhaps have saved the overpopulation problem of the story. Survivors of thought-dead races in Who usually number under ten - often under five (Zygons, Kraals).

Problem solved? Maybe not. After all the supposition, the most famous aspect of Cats is that Wembly Stadium concept. As a season closer, a handful of monsters, grand, ancient and noble as they may be, makes less than impressive television. But then so did the Vardans apparently, which really just goes to show how much of a gamble the whole game becomes in the end.

- Peter Adamson

Friday, 21 November 2008

Now That's What I Call RTP! 27

Packed with the summer's biggest hits and more. RTP! #27 is now available ...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


Issue 14 was all about coming to ground after three years overseas. I returned to New Zealand in the May of 2003 and promptly a month later published issue 14 which I'd been working on since the previous November whilst still in Japan. The choice of cover paper was dictated by the idea that I wanted it to be full colour on the back and bleed to white on the front to help sell the Ice Warrior-in-a-snow storm idea of the cover art. Like most things to do with RTP! it didn't quite work!

Bob the Suicidal Dalek is advertised this issue having been doodled whilst at work in Japan the year before and would see print in the following issue. Meanwhile this would prove to be the final issue to which Jeff Stone would contribute. He did have a further Doctor Who Bullsh*t lined up for issue 15, but upon being asked by myself to alter some names in the story so as not to alienate my tiny readership Jeff refused to allow the story to be printed unless unchanged. Stalemate. And life went on and RTP! was published without his efforts.

And the editorial:
Forty Years Young ...

The series has almost reached 40 years of age and is now at a point we generally call middle-aged. Which leads me to ponder two questions: 1) has the series aged gracefully?; and 2) is the series experiencing a mid-life crisis?
Can a TV series age gracefully? I think a series can, but most never manage this feat from either being cut short by management focused solely on ratings and demographics, or limping past their used-by-date and dying a painful death long after their audience has switched channels to watch something new. Everybody has their own ideas as to when the later happens, hence the book and web site Jump The Shark. Take a visit to the web site and have a look at when people think the series 'jumped the shark'.
However this is an editorial and, more importantly, it is *my* editorial. So I can waffle on a bit now about *my* thoughts on these two important questions. Given that I haven't seen Doctor Who rushing out to buy a sports car, getting hair replacement therapy or trying to be trendy buy cashing in on the latest passing fad, I can only assume that it is *not* having a mid-life crisis. (It can be argued that Star Trek on the other hand is having a mid-life crisis, hence the alleged emphasis on tits and arse in Enterprise.)
Is Doctor Who aging gracefully? Some fans would point to the maturity of the now twelve year old range of original novels and that it feels secure enough to 'reboot' the series, such as with the events of The Ancestor Cell. Others still will gesticulate wildly toward the Big Finish audios and the way in which the last four Doctors are making use of the opportunity to flesh out their characters far beyond anything they achieved on the small screen. Again other fans will point to the DWM comic strip and the fact that it is happy to play with big stakes and take risks such as the Wormwood saga or more recently with Izzy's transformation.
I can't comment of any of these developments in the Doctor Who universe as I don't get DWM, the Big Finish audios or the BBC books. So I'll stick with the TV series. I feel that maybe the series had its mid-life crisis in the Eighties where it tried to re-invent itself several times from the basics of storytelling to the extras like theme arrangements. Because of that, I believe that the series is *now* the 'crotchety old man' of the sci-fi world and therefore holds the revered place of 'elder statesman' with Star Trek as the pretender to the throne. This is subject to change should the series return to TV screens.
As a result of this mid-life crisis in the Eighties, the various spin-offs and continuations of the series in other forms of media are much stronger than they would be if that crisis hadn't happened. It turned out to be a much needed wake-up call that allowed everybody (both the fans and the people producing the series) and to step back and see the larger picture, something that hasn't happened with the Star Trek franchise yet.
So, yes the series has managed to age gracefully and no it is not having a mid-life crisis, but is instead planning of what to do now that said crisis is over. Should it make a big comeback or slip quietly into retirement? Time will tell, it always does ..."
- Alexander Ballingall
Monty Python's Life of Guff:

Published: June 2003
A Doctor Who Fanzine launched by Matt Kamstra & Wade Campbell in October 1997
Editor: Alexander Ballingall
RTP! Logo Design: Peter & Bridget Adamson
Front Cover: David Ronayne
Back Cover: David Ronayne
Internal Artwork: Peter Adamson, Alexander Ballingall, David Ronayne
Letters: Peter Adamson, Alden Bates, E. Cartman [aka David Ronayne], Jamas Enright, David Ronayne, Jeff Stone, Sal Yardley [aka David Ronayne]
Page Count: 52
Print Run: 30
Price: NZ$3

~ Contents ~

  • [01] COVER
  • [02] CONTENTS
  • [03] The FIRST LAW of TIME
  • [04] The TARDIS Manual
  • [05] The BOOTCUPBOARD [Letters]
  • [09] Doctor Who Bullsh*t: Report from the Front!!!!
  • [12] COMIC: Pulp Who - The Master and Saucer Smith's Wife [part 2 of 3]
  • [18] ARTICLE: The Fractious Paradox
  • [30] ARTICLE: Genre Benders
  • [33] FICTION: A Taste for Killing
  • [34] INTERVIEW: All Kneel and Praise Her [Jamas Enright]
  • [41] REVIEWS: The First Fifty [EDAs and PDAs]
  • [45] REVIEW: The Scope [DVD Review]
  • [46] CARTOON: Aquaman - In 'Crackerjack - A tragedy in Two Pages'
  • [48] The New RTP! Logo
  • [50] Are You a Fanboy or a Mad Scientist?
  • [52] COVER

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Baker's Dozen

At the time issue 13 was published I was still based in Osaka, Japan and would remain there for about another six months. The issue marked the last of the old material that Matt Kamstra had been hoarding and final instalment of Jeff Stone's The Red Menace which took up at least a good third of the issue. In this sense the issue marked the end of an era, the closure of the Matt and Wade Campbell's tenure. In another sense the issue marked a new beginning with a revamp of the interior layout and the arrival a new logo.

Issue 13 also marked the start of the third and final batch of Pulp Who comics, covering the final storyline of the film Pulp Fiction and long-time non-contributor to RTP! Phillip Gray was interviewed.

Language problems meant that the entire issue was printed on paper the same weight as the selected cover card (something that had plagued the previous issue as well). This would be the last issue printed in Japan as by the time issue 14 surfaced I was back in Godzone.

And the editorial:
Reincarnation, Regeneration, Rebirth

No, you aren't hallucinating. Another issue of Reverse the Polarity! is currently sitting in your hands begging to be cuddled and taken home to be read. The fanzine has weathered a two year dry spell and after a rocky start back onto the road with issues 11 and 12, I think it is safe to say that RTP! will be around for some time to come. After all, it's all about reincarnation, regeneration and rebirth.
RTP! is the reincarnation of the ill-fated fanzine attempt known as The Scrolls of Rassilon which Matt Kamstra and Wade Campbell attempted to foist onto the world in early 1997. The Scrolls of Rassilon never saw the light of day but RTP! did. It's early days were an attempt to find its' feet and carve a place out for itself in the New Zealand fanzine landscape, rather than become a clone of Telos. And I think that that fear of becoming a Telos clone goes a long way to explaining the rather unbecoming attitude towards the aforementioned fanzine that featured in RTP!. One that cast a shadow over those first four issues as Matt and Wade grappled with this conundrum. In the middle of 1998 Wade bowed out and the fanzine underwent a regeneration.
September 1998 through to June 1999 (issues 5 through 8) saw RTP! flower into a zine in its' own right and shake off any doubts about being Telos by another name. Part of this may be the fact that I (as new coeditor at that point) had never read Telos and therefore couldn't care less if RTP! resembled it in any way, shape or form. Hell, they are both New Zealand fanzines about Doctor Who. It would be impossible for them to be completely dissimilar. As a result of this regeneration and flowering people began to subscribe to the fanzine. The readership by 1999 had become evenly split between those in Christchurch and those who lived in the rest of New Zealand. It even picked up an overseas reader.
The feedback received during this period was generally good and despite some small problems RTP! continued to grow. People took the time to contribute something special for each issue. However it seems it was all too good to last. There was six months between issues 8 and 9 and things began to take longer and longer to come together for each issue. Things came to a head when I left for England in May 2000 after issue 10 was published. At which point news about the next issue became hard to come by and, as you all know, it eventually appeared that RTP! had ceased to be altogether.
Thank goodness for rebirth. For here we are, the third issue after the break and still gathering steam. But change, a complete rebirth, was needed to keep the fanzine moving away from the rut it was in. Many of the changes made to RTP! last issue were rather small and cosmetic. A general tightening up of the layout that was established in issue 10. With this issue however, and the arrival of a new logo curtesy of Peter & Bridget Adamson, it seemed appropriate to completely revamp the image of the entire fanzine. I don't think there is really any better way of showing that Reverse the Polarity! is back in the running once more."
- Alexander Ballingall
The Dark Guff:

Published: November 2002
A Doctor Who Fanzine launched by Matt Kamstra & Wade Campbell in October 1997
Editor: Alexander Ballingall
RTP! Logo Design: Peter & Bridget Adamson
Front Cover: Peter Adamson
Back Cover: David Ronayne
Internal Artwork: Peter Adamson, Alexander Ballingall, David Ronayne
Letters: Peter Adamson, Alden Bates, Jamas Enright, Jon Preddle, Paul Scoones
Page Count: 52
Print Run: 30
Price: NZ$3

~ Contents ~

  • [01] COVER
  • [02] CONTENTS
  • [03] The FIRST LAW of TIME
  • [04] The TARDIS MANUAL
  • [05] The BOOTCUPBOARD [Letters]
  • [09] COMIC: Pulp Who - The Master and Saucer Smith's Wife [part 1 of 3]
  • [18] FICTION: The Red Menace [part 8 of 8]
  • [36] INTERVIEW: The Importance of Being Phillip [Phillip J Gray]
  • [42] REVIEWS: The Virgin Publications [Reviews of NAs & MAs]
  • [46] Doctor Who Bullsh*t: The New & Improved Doctor Who Drinking Game
  • [48] REVIEW: The Scope [DVD review]
  • [49] Final Exam
  • [50] 30 Second Theory
  • [51] Poetry
  • [52] COVER

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Third Logo

The third logo for the fanzine was the first one to be devised by the husband and wife team of Peter and Bridget Adamson. Like the original logo, the second logo had been plagued by publishing issues and never really appeared at it’s best, thus a far simpler logo design was needed. I have a feeling that this logo change was precipitated by Peter who was perhaps itching to have a go. As Peter explained in his article about the fanzine’s fourth logo in issue 14, the third logo was based on the old Ready to Roll television series (the NZ equivalent of Top of the Pops, but without the live performances) logo.

The logo lasted only four issues (9~12) before giving way to the current logo, but as this run spanned the infamous ‘hiatus’ it was actually around for three years (2000~2002).

Friday, 1 August 2008

Wade at Work

Wade Campbell hard at work on Issue 3 (the second-to-last issue with him credited as an Editor).

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Come in Number Twelve, Your Time is Up!

Matt Kamstra had stepped down as Editor of RTP! with the completion of issue 11 in April 2002. Only a month later both Matt and I were winging our way to Osaka, Japan where we both planned on staying for at least six months. For a fanzine that had only just managed to haul itself out of a two year hiatus this could have proved to be a huge complication. Luckily I was taking my then year old G4 Titanium PowerBook with me on the trip and would be able to edit the fanzine with it. Whatever role Matt might have taken in a sort of advisory capacity as I edited RTP! in Japan while have to remain unknown. After only a month there, Matt elected to return to New Zealand while I stuck it out for what eventually would be almost a year.

Issue 12 was very much an attempt at clearing the decks of older material, hence much of the issue was illustrated by odd pictures from Peter Adamson that didn't match the written material, especially in the case of the interview with Jeff Stone. This also explains why this final installment of "The Scope" (Jeff's reviews column) covered books from some time back. Also featuring was my latest attempt at a comic, this time in a vaguely manga style, entitled The Construct that the Doctor Built. This was a re-working of an idea I'd intially had back in 1998 as an anniversary story before replacing it with the Christmas-set Myhrr. The issue also marked the final appearance of Graham Muir's comic creations, Saucer and Birdy seeing off the Daleks.

And my first editorial as a solo editor:
So here we are again.
Another issue that combines all the subtlety of a sledgehammer with the wit of a drunken conversation.
In the four and a bit years that RTP! has traversed the line between bad and extremely bad taste, in the search for that something extra to give our readers, we have brought you the highs of the “Update” column, where we have revealed to the world the reality that is Matt’s inability to spell check. And we have brought you the lows of straight out plagiarism and wholesale theft of other peoples’ good ideas in the form of Pulp Who and others.
What does this say about RTP!? I like to think of RTP! as an expression of our enjoyment of that little known sci-fi series Doctor Who. So what if the effects were dodgy, the acting painfully awful and the scripting something left to be desired. The contents of RTP! have always struck me as a fresh and playful exploration of our continuing fascination with the series, one that doesn’t shy away from the series faults and instead builds them up as further reasons to enjoy the programme.
And the survival of RTP! is a testament to that enjoyment. The fanzine has embraced some of the most outlandish aspects of the series and the surrounding wasteland that is the public arena. We haven’t shied away from interpreting and expanding upon such elements as absurd villains and monsters, the never ending mill of fan rumour, public perception of the series and its fans, as well as the existence of this very fanzine itself. We have gloried in beating the series to death in all its forms because we know that as long as we continue to enjoy the series it will survive all that we can throw at it.
It is now the second half of 2002 and in less than eighteen months the series celebrates its 40th anniversary. As per usual rumours abound about the series making a comeback. It is also RTP!’s 5th anniversary in October and it has made a comeback. What does this mean? Well, it proves once and for all that Matt Kamstra, even if he is a very, very lazy bastard, can make good on his promises better than the Beeb. Make of that what you will ...

- Alexander Ballingall
Looking forward to beating his head against a brick wall ...
Being Guff Malkovich:

Published: September 2002
Editor: Alexander Ballingall
RTP! Logo Design: Peter & Bridget Adamson
Front Cover: Graham Muir
Back Cover: Peter Adamson
Internal Artwork: Peter Adamson, Alexander Ballingall
Letters: Peter Adamson, Alden Bates, Jamas Enright, David Ronayne, Jeff Stone
Page Count: 52
Print Run: 30
Price: NZ$3

~ Contents ~
  • [01] COVER
  • [02] CONTENTS
  • [03] EDITORIAL
  • [04] UPDATE
  • [05] The BOOTCUPBOARD [Letters]
  • [08] Newspaper clippings
  • [09] REVIEWS: The Scope [Reviews of PDAs & EDAs]
  • [15] COMIC: The Construct that the Doctor Built
  • [29] A Very Cabbage Retrospective
  • [31] CARTOON: I was a Doctor Who Vegetable!
  • [32] INTERVIEW: Modern Art [Jeff Stone]
  • [38] A Minute in the Life of rec.arts.drwho
  • [39] Doctor Who Bullsh*t: Series Revival Rumour Generator
  • [42] CARTOON: Saucer + Birdy—In 'The Power of a Dalek or Two'
  • [44] FICTION: The Red Menace [part 7 of 8]
  • [52] COVER

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Interview - Shades of Gray (Part Four of Four)


(David Ronayne) How did you get involved with the show?
(Scott Gray) My earliest memory of watching any TV is the cliffhanger of part one of The Tenth Planet. The one where the guy gets clubbed to the ground by these big figures. He tries to shoot them but it doesn't work, and then the camera pans up and you see the Cybermen. I remember that so clearly, it just scared the hell out of me.

I've always loved the Cybermen. They are my favourite baddies from the TV show. They haven't always been used terribly well. They've had good stories and bad stories, but I still think they looked pretty nifty in that first episode.

(DR) You worked on Razor. What was that?
Razor was put out by Cornelius Stone, who designed it, edited it and published it. It was mostly written by him, too. It was basically a big fanzine. I used to draw some of the stories. When I look back at them now they are really embarrassing. It taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do, in terms of constructing a story. Cornelius sent me the first TSV, that's when I discovered Who fandom. I started sending in bits of artwork, because I was really liking the Sylvester McCoy stuff more than I had liked anything since the early Tom Baker days. There seemed to be a proper vision of how the show should be working. It was also very comic-booky. I wasn't surprised to learn that Andrew Cartmel was a comics fan. Sophie and Sylvester translated really well into the comic strip. Fast-paced stuff, lots of action.

(DR) Most people remember you, before DWM for your TSV covers (21-27), and The Dreaming Book. Do you still draw much?
I haven't drawn very much at all. I've done a few covers recently for the superhero reprints I edit. It was part of the agreement when I came on to do these titles, but as it turned out I haven't really done that many. Generally I try to avoid doing that as the artists on my books are much better than me and it seems kind of corrupt to commission myself to do them.

(Darrell Patterson) Why did you come to London?
To do comics. John Freeman bought a story off me. I did two stories for TSV and had sent them both to John. I received a reply after the first one, The Resurrection Test. It was a brilliant letter, really detailed about what I had done right and wrong. He seemed genuinely interested, and told me to send something else. I did the second one, The Dreaming Book, and he wrote back and said although he wasn't terribly keen on the art, I should send a script in on spec. So I sent him Memorial (DWM #191) and he bought it. I just couldn't believe it. At that point I decided to go to London and try and get more work. The comics industry was doing really well and there were lots of opportunities to do stuff for about a year. After that everything seemed to collapse.

(DP) How did you become assistant editor for Doctor Who Magazine?
I was just coming in to the office on a regular basis when I was writing scripts. If the artwork changed some aspect of the story I had to do on the spot rewrites and edits. Characters' expressions or emphasis may change, so you have to adjust the dialogue to suit. By this stage Gary Russell had taken over. He is a wonderful guy and I got on really well with him. He seemed to think I understood the strip, understood Who, and could spell, so maybe I could work on the magazine. When he was promoted to oversee a whole load of magazines he just offered me the job. Then, around ten months later, we had this major implosion. We were taken over by another branch of Marvel called Panini and they axed everything except DWM. It was such a terrible day. It had been a really great time. It was a shame it had to end.

(DP) What is it like working with Lee Sullivan?
Lee is great to work with. In Land Of The Blind I had a street scene set in a spaceport and just asked for 'lots of different aliens', just to see what he would come up with. When it came back, all the aliens were out of the Doctor Who Annuals. He had the Fishmen of Kandalinga, and all these other aliens just wandering around. He's a huge sci-fi fan at all levels. He worked on the Tek War comic, and got to know William Shatner pretty well. It's surreal, I know someone who has had dinner with Captain Kirk.

(DR) You used to be Warwick, why did you become Scott Gray?
The only reason I changed it was that no one could understand it through the accent. When I was on the phone I would say: 'Hi, it's Warwick Gray here from Marvel Comics ... ' Then I would have to stop and explain my name was Warwick ... W-a-r-w-i-c-k ... It was a terrible way to introduce myself. Eventually I went into Gary Russell's office and said, 'This is driving me crazy! I've got to change my name.' I was expecting him to say no, but he is an insanely nice man. He said, 'We'll do it in stages. First you will be Warwick Gray, then you will be W. Scott Gray, then Scott Gray.' So that's how it came about. I don't know where Scott came from. I was delirious with flu on the weekend when I made this decision. So now fifty percent of the people I know call me Warwick and the other fifty percent call me Scott.


(DP) Have you ever had Paul McGann or his agent react to any of this?
Paul McGann is just brilliant about this stuff. With all the other Doctors, apart from Tom I think, we have to pay them or their estates to use their likenesses, but Paul McGann doesn't even ask for money. I don't know if he has even read them. Doctor Who was just a gig for a few weeks and then he was on to the next thing, and I suspect it doesn't weigh much on his mind. The only time I bumped into him was at BAFTA after the screening and everyone was just milling about. It was surreal, because I just went to the loo, and the door opened and Paul McGann came out. Doctor Who goes to the john. He just smiled and went 'Hi.'

(DR) So, what was it like at BAFTA?
That was such a brilliant night. It was so great seeing it on a big screen, and everyone was there. There was also a big batch of fans who had won the competition, so we saw it with all the bigwigs and again with all the fans. It got such a great reaction. People were laughing and cheering. There was a really great bit at the end, where the Doctor is finally in control, and he's got Grace and Chang Lee in the TARDIS. He smiles at them and starts fiddling round with the machine and suddenly everything stops dead. There's this pause, and this guy behind me started whispering, 'Do it, do it!' And sure enough he just bangs the console and everything starts again. It just seemed so right. The bit where they're in the ambulance and the Master corrects Grace's grammar. I think Eric Roberts came up with that. It certainly wasn't in the script. When I heard he was going to be the Master, I thought it'd be great. He just looks the part, as scary as hell.

A lot of people watched the TV movie with their arms folded, saying, 'Convince me this is Doctor Who, convince me this is the show I love.' And that's probably the wrong attitude to take. I really enjoyed it.


(DR) Do you think that would work in an American 45 minute Star Trek format?
Star Trek is about dialogue and characters interacting. In a weird sort of way it's not terribly visual. I can't imagine Doctor Who like that.

(DR) Do you think they will bring it back?
Maybe with computer generated imagery. If things get cheaper to create. I kept thinking if it came back as a series you couldn't have that many men in rubber suits. There would have to be a lot of CGI aliens, and virtual sets. I want to have that feel in the strip. The Pariah couldn't be a woman in a costume, she looks totally alien. Stark in The Fallen, if he was done on TV, would clearly have to be a CGI monster. We want to up the special effects content of the comic and do some stuff that is new and strange.

TV isn't big on serials now, or cliffhangers. If you take away the cliffhangers, is it still Doctor Who? Will it still be perceived as Doctor Who if they land for fifty minutes and have quick adventures? It wouldn't feel quite right to me.


(DP) How far ahead do you plan?
Probably not as far as I should. I've got the next one forming in my head now. Alan's got a book to do on Sherlock Holmes, so I'll be writing the strip full time for now. I think the phrase I used was, 'You will have to prise it from my cold, dead fingers.' I would like a decent run on the strip, and I love working with Martin. He is just an ego-free zone. I feel privileged to have the chance to write this stuff, because comics and Doctor Who are two things I really love.

(DR) Do you ever see yourself losing interest?
Yeah, I think getting Whoed out' is a very real possibility. You tend to use up ideas at a very alarming rate. Any writer who comes into it may have four or five good ideas, but after a while you have to go, 'Okay, have I got another really good idea for Doctor Who?' I've done thirteen Doctor Who stories in the last seven years for Marvel. Of course, I started off with Sylvester and Ace, and now there is McGann and Izzy, so it does feel like a different strip now.

(DR) Any non-Who related projects?
I'm working on something with Roger Langridge at the moment. It will be done the same way as Tintin and Asterix; kids will be able to buy it and enjoy it, but adults can read it too.

It's about a young boy who lives on an island in the South Pacific and has adventures. The first one is all about an artifact that falls out of the sky and starts altering things on the island. Various parties become very interested in getting hold of it. It should be fun.

(DR) What really stands out for you most in the job?
At the last Panopticon we had a nine-year-old boy come up with his maths text book. He had drawn a complete Doctor Who story in it, which instantly brought back memories of doing the same thing. It was the Doctor and Izzy fighting the Daleks, and the Threshold appeared. It got me so chuffed, actually sparking this kid's imagination. We were encouraging him, telling him it was brilliant, to keep doing it, and thinking fifteen years from now he'll be actually writing the strip or drawing it, which would be kind of cool. These things do happen.

I always try to think of children when I'm writing the strip. You have to get the young readers excited, kids who have never had to deal with a cliffhanger because they're too young to remember the series on TV. And it's so great getting letters back from the young readers going, 'I'm dying to know what happens next.' That's Doctor Who.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Interview - Shades of Gray (Part Three of Four)

(David Ronayne) How did it feel to kill off Ace?
(Scott) Ground Zero was the first story that really clicked for me. I had a very strong idea of what the story was about. It's funny, because the initial idea was that this would be the beginning of the McCoy period again. Then news filtered in about the TV movie and it ended up as Sylvester's final story. As Ace wasn't in the TV movie, Gary [Gillatt] wanted her written out. Originally I planned that only Ace's spirit would die, but her body would be OK and the Doctor would hold on to it so we could bring her back later. When I mentioned it to Gary he said, 'That's Abslom Daak, and his girlfriend stuck in the tube. The Doctor would always be trying to find a way to cure Ace and bring her back. He couldn't go off on adventures and forget about her, that would be really callous.' He was right, and it was at that point I realised she had to die. It's not like I got the knife and fork out and thought, 'Right, let's get her!' Ace was my favourite companion, I didn't want to see her dead.

It was quite an emotional moment for me in a bizarre way. If you psyche yourself into writing this stuff, the characters become very real to you. When I finally met Sophie Aldred, we sat down in a pub and Gary introduced me by saying; 'This is the bloke that killed you.' She thought it was great, which was a relief. I still believe it was a brilliant way to go out. Dying by her own hand to save the Doctor in a big explosion. It just seemed so fitting for the character.

Martin did it brilliantly with lots of silent panels and the broken umbrella in the background. We stripped the Doctor of everything. He loses Ace, he loses his symbol, the umbrella with the question mark, and the TARDIS gets totalled. By the end of the story he is left with nothing. This great chess player ends up as a pawn in a game the Threshold have been playing with the Lobri.

At the last Panopticon there was an interview with Chris Boucher and Terrance Dicks on stage. I was in the audience with Martin, and Terrance said, 'I can't imagine a Doctor Who story where the villains win.' Martin and I just looked at each other. That wasn't actually the intent, but we ended up doing it.

(Darrell Patterson) You have several upbeat stories as well, like By Hook Or By Crook, and Happy Deathday. Was it difficult to write the anniversary story?
It was fun. You've got everyone kicking back and relaxing for eight pages. Initially I thought that the Doctors would have to have eight separate scenes. Then it occurred to me you can have four scenes and they can just bounce off each other. You've got to have Hartnell and McGann together, and Colin and Patrick Troughton paired again. Then you've got Tom and Sylvester having this surreal conversation about allergies.

(DR) Very Eddie Izzard.
Yeah. Gary is a huge Eddie Izzard fan, so am I, and Roger Langridge is too. That's why jam features in By Hook Or By Crook, because "jam" is just an Eddie Izzard word.

(DR) Do you think he will make a cameo appearance?
I hope so. We're continually casting real people in the strip. Everyone kept asking who the Beige Guardian was based on, and all I had to say was, 'Do you watch Frasier?' and everyone suddenly slaps their foreheads. 'Oh yes! It's Niles!' Wouldn't you just love to see David Hyde Pierce as a Doctor Who villain?

(DR) What's it like working with Roger Langridge?
He's a writer's dream. Roger is a writer himself and really understands that aspect of producing a comic. He's one of the most talented comic artists to ever come out of New Zealand. In a fairer world, where the comics industry was doing really well, we wouldn't get him in a million years! He'd be busy doing graphic novels for huge amounts of money. He added in his own little jokes as well, like the penultimate panel, with all those little games cartridges. I suggested a few of those and Roger did the rest. "Measles to the Daleks" and "The Chalk Pit of Slough", that's all Roger. He actually contributed my favourite line in the whole thing, which was, 'The colour blue started to smell of Swiss cheese.' Cheese again, another good Eddie Izzard word.

In Happy Deathday there is a line; 'I could do that, I just don't want to: That comes from a New Zealand sci-fi fan, James Benson. We'd watch a guy on TV doing a triple somersault, and James would go, 'I can do that, I just don't want to.' Hi, James, if you're out there!

(DR) I liked the bit with the Preacher in The Fallen. 'Pride will be your downfall.'
All the Doctors have this arrogant streak in them. McGann has this marvelously arrogant line when he's riding on the motorbike with Grace. 'The universe is tied together with such a fragile thread of coincidences that it's a terrible danger for anyone to play with it, UNLESS like me, you are a Timelord: That is the crux of The Fallen. The Doctor realises he is no wiser than anyone else in terms of playing with peoples' lives.

Pride comes before a fall, and the Doctor has fallen from Grace ... [Moans from all.] That's really bad, isn't it? I remember someone came up with an alternative title for the TV movie; "Grace: 1999". And then I realised this one is "2001: A Grace Odyssey". [Anguished groans.] I don't think puns work that well in comics. That's why we have the Wildean Wit Enforcer in Happy Deathday. Anyone who makes a pun gets killed instantly.

(DP) Why did you choose Brixton as a location for The Fallen?
I live nearby. It's the first time I've written a story around a real location. Just using things I've noted while wandering around over the past seven years, and thought, 'That's an interesting point – one day I'll do something with that.' The River Effra outlet really is underneath the M16 building for example.

(DR) You do lots of genre shifting and changing your formats.
In Fluid Links, Matthew Jones said Doctor Who's main strength is not travelling from setting to setting but from genre to genre. If you want to do a western, you can do a western, or an Agatha Christie murder mystery, or a gothic horror story, or anything you want. In the TV show they looked to films. They would do The Thing, and have them trapped in an arctic place with a creature going around killing them all. Then they would go on to Frankenstein. I'm beginning to understand that with the comic strip, it's not a good idea to keep looking to film for key genres. I should really be looking at comic genres and what works really well in comics.

(DR) What would you regard as your comic influences. What impressed you and got you into comics?
I remember collecting The Mighty World of Marvel, published by Marvel UK. A nice symmetry there, really. It would reprint The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. I just remember being hit by so many brilliant concepts. They really excited my imagination. Looking at them now they are still classic comics. Jack Kirby was a big influence. He produced a colossal amount of very powerful material. His sense of design is unparalleled. It was all huge and epic and amazing to look at. There is a lot of Kirby in the strip, particularly Wormwood with the Ziggurat. I just asked Martin to do something that looked like Kirby had designed it, and he did, and it looked fantastic. Huge black and white interlocking parts hanging in space. Kirby could always do size really well. In a tiny medium he could always do these massive images.

Alan Moore was another huge influence. Things like Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta. I would just sit there and actually read the comic out loud because I wanted to hear the dialogue. I would do this on my own, I should point out. His stories would start in one direction, move off into something else and then end on the same point you began with. I deliberately did that in Ground Zero. It starts with the Doctor and the door closing on him, and you're thinking Ace is narrating this part of the story, saying goodbye to him, and then at the end of the story you get those same three panels and you realise it's Susan, not Ace.

V for Vendetta is a work of sheer genius. We never really find out who V is. It's like the Doctor, we are never supposed to know who he really is, because if he's only one person then he suddenly becomes so much smaller than what he could be. Everyone has their own little theory about who the Doctor is, and without specifying anyone of them, he can be everyone in that sense.

I can clearly see a connection between V and Evey and the Doctor and Ace, the mysterious figure and his protege.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Interview - Shades of Gray (Part Two of Four)

FEY (cont.)

(Darrell Patterson) Are we going to see any more of her?
(Scott) I hope so. Events were going so fast the characters didn't really have a chance to interact. I've got one or two ideas about what's going to happen. It's going to be a rocky marriage, Fey and Shayde. It seems very idyllic and noble to begin with but things are going to go a little bit wrong for them. Eventually we'll come back to them, but not for a while.


(DP) Was the Threshold saga intentional from the start?
No. When Gary [Gillatt] and I took over the magazine, the strip had been doing multiple Doctor stories. They didn't link together in any way. They were just these little stories stuck between giant slabs of continuity, and nothing important could ever happen in them. We decided to bring Sylvester and Ace back, but before we did that we thought it might be fun to try and find a way of linking the multi-Doctor stories together. So we had Peter Davison, Hartnell, and Tom. We decided to have this mysterious force watching them, planning something. They would be seeing these Doctors out of chronological order. For them it would be a young blond guy, and then this old guy a few decades later.

In the end we decided it would be creepier if we had someone stalking the companions, as they're far more vulnerable than the Doctor. We'd have them meeting this mysterious off-panel voice, then cut away, and when we'd cut back nothing would seem to have happened.

We were planting the seed that something wasn't quite right. To give you an idea of how little attention the comic strip was getting at that point, maybe three people actually commented on these weird-shaped word balloons creeping into the story.

The original plan for the Threshold was that they were going to be the Doctor's equivalent to SPECTRE, the James Bond baddies. They turned out a little bit differently in the movies, but in the original books SPECTRE is this mysterious mercenary organisation people could hire. They weren't out to take over the world. If you knew who to contact you could hire SPECTRE to kill people, or steal stuff.

I thought it would be fun to expand that into an interstellar, inter-dimensional group. The Doctor has always fought individuals like the Master, or alien races. He had never really fought an organisation before. I couldn't think of a case where the Doctor had fought a team of agents who could be anyone, anywhere.

(David Ronayne) Very much like the Illuminati, or a secret brotherhood?
The Threshold are the original conspiracy, really. They have fingers in every pie and are everywhere. You can never tell who is going to suddenly smile and crackle into Letratone. The monsters are interchangeable in Doctor Who. They just represent the unknown, and generally the unknown is scary and dramatic. The best ones represent some part of the darker side of humanity. The Daleks are the ultimate xenophobes. They're driven by fear. They're frightened of every other race in the universe, and that fear translates into hatred. The Sontarans are basically the love of war that humans clearly have. And you've got the Cybermen who are essentially the callous side of humanity who don't give a damn about anyone else. They have blocked off emotion and are just machines crushing people. The monsters that keep coming back are the ones people can relate to in some way.

So, the Threshold basically represent human greed. 'We want to own it all, take it all, grab it all, whatever we see, wewantit.' In Logopolis, the Master announces to the universe, 'You will bow down before me and obey me forever, and I will be your king.' The Threshold don't do that, they just take out a TV advert across the universe instead. 'We're here to help you.'

We are a business, we are offering a service and you have got to take it. Where do you want to go today?'. I was flabbergasted by all those Microsoft ads that were comparing Bill Gates to Thomas Edison. Bill Gates has just tried to force every other competitor off the market and own absolutely everything. The Threshold were eliminating all other forms of transport, and saying, 'It's just us, you've got nowhere else to go, but for a modest fee we're here to help you.' Which is essentially what Bill Gates is trying to do. That was my inspiration for White in Wormwood. When I was putting all this together I was quite pleased when I realised that the teleportation devices they used in Ground Zero were called Windows. It was just too perfect.

The only thing linking the Threshold together is that they're all total bastards, and that is why they lose. There's a great quote, I think it's in L'il Abner; 'Good beats Evil, coz it's nicer.' The heroes all stand together, and make sacrifices for each other. Fey sacrifices her individuality to save Shayde, which in turn saves the Doctor, which in turn saves the day. The Threshold, on the other hand, are just at each others throats completely. White betrays Chastity, the Pariah betrays the Threshold, White betrays the Pariah. They are baddies, they are not very nice, and ultimately they don't cooperate. When I first came up with them, Gary Gillatt said the Threshold could be an eternal menace for the Doctor. We would never really find out where they come from, or what they're about. The Doctor would be always trying to get to the heart of the mystery, but never quite manage to do it. Then Gary turned round and said we should find out a bit more about these guys now, so I had to sit down and work it all out. No Cartmel masterplan here, I'm afraid. It was very organic, very natural, which is probably the best way for these stories to come together. It was Gary having ideas, and Alan coming in and doing stuff which I could react to. It was fun.

(DR) It does seem very planned, and it meshes together nicely ...
It does, doesn't it? Looking back it seems like we had the whole thing worked out from the start.

In Fire and Brimstone you've got the Time Lord box. What's inside? Ahh, big secrets, big secrets. I confess we didn't have any idea what was in that box. It took me months to go over all the different possibilities of what could be inside that box before I could come up with something that would actually fit into Wormwood.

I'm quite happy with Wormwood. I was worried it wasn't going to have a decent payoff, but I reread it the other day and it makes more sense the second time around. There is nothing harder to write than the ending. The solution can't be something that's pulled out of a hat. There has to be a set-up earlier on, there has to be some clues as to how the Doctor will win. It also has to be reasonably original. That's tough, particularly when you already have a hundred and sixty stories on TV, and god knows how many novels and comic stories. It's a challenge, and we never approach it in a casual way. We're all very committed to doing the strip properly.

(DP) So are you going to bring any more characters back? You have brought back a few already ...
Yeah, from the Steve Parkhouse period, mainly because we're all fans of it. It's the best single run of the Doctor Who strip ever. Gary was quite clear when we were going to Gallifrey that it would be The Tides of Time Gallifrey rather than anything we've seen from the television series, and Martin specifically drew it to look like the Dave Gibbons version. The strip should have its own identity. However, you can get into a trap where you think, "Who shall we bring back this week?" (Points to Part One of The Fallen) Case in point!

(DR) Do you have any rules for writing your stories?
Keep the readers guessing, and give them a reason to buy the next issue. Give them a really good cliff-hanger that will raise a lot of questions.

(DR) What about the full page cliff-hangers?
I don't know if that had been done before we took it over. I'm pretty sure Land of the Blind was the first one. It's not so unexpected these days as we have done a few of them now. It's not going to be every single time. If it was it would be very predictable and a bit silly. When you have a shot like that, [Scott holds up penultimate page of part one of The Fallen] you get used to seeing these small, narrow pictures, all exactly the same size. You don't think about how big the panel is, you're centered on the scene, so once you turn the page a full-page shot looks enormous. It gives you a sudden jolt.

(DR) Like the cliffhangers in the series.
Yeah. I remember Alan wrote an article in which he said the best cliffhangers not only end at a life-threatening moment, but move the story in a new direction. In The Curse of Fenric when Dinsdale gets up and says, 'We play the contest again, TIMELORD.' All of a sudden a little piece of new information is given. We always try to do that.

(DP) Like the regeneration that wasn't ...
Imagine if you were watching The Twin Dilemma, and at the end of episode three, Peter Davison returned. What a trick! I didn't want the ninth Doctor to be terribly sympathetic. I wanted everyone to feel the way Izzy was feeling. She was very alienated and upset by this. 'What is this? Who is this guy? He's not my Doctor.'

(DR) While the visual aspect of the Ninth Doctor was already established, where did you get his personality from?
To be perfectly honest he was based on Colin Baker. I think Colin probably would have been a really good Doctor with a different approach. He is quite a clever, witty man in person, but making him instantly unlikable didn't work. He tries to strangle Peri, preens himself in a mirror, none of this is the Doctor. I felt really alienated as a fan when watching that. That's the approach I wanted to take with this guy, coming in and going, 'Look at me. Aren't I stylish and wonderful?'

It had to be like the first episode of a new Doctor story. You had to spend a bit of time in the TARDIS examining him and his companions' reaction to him. We just ticked all the boxes. He gets Izzy's name wrong, you get all the old clothes thrown out, that kind of thing. Just all these little nods to the past so people would think this was the first story of a new Doctor. It had to be convincing, so we put all that in there.


(DR) There was no problem with getting Nick Briggs' likeness?
No. Gary went out to a car park and got lots of photos of Nick grimacing for Martin. Martin now has more reference photos of Nick than he does of Paul McGann. He was going, 'Are you sure we can't keep this bloke?' He's actually very good in the audios. Bill Baggs has got him in for the new pseudo-Doctor Who thing. He's called the Wanderer.

(DP) And now there's Grace?
We kept that one close to the chest. It had to be a surprise. Dave Owen thought it was another incarnation of the Doctor floating around in the helicopter in Part One.

(DP) Oh yeah, I thought it was the Doctor too.
Oh, excellent! One of the duties of any writer is to make the reader think the story is going in one direction when it's really going in another. That's the whole crux of Wormwood. You can sit there and think this is the first adventure of the ninth Doctor, and then go back and reread it and it's a different story.

You couldn't do that in a TV show. You can't assume people will be able to go back and look at it again. And what producer in his right mind would get rid of Paul McGann for four episodes? The fake regeneration could only really have been done in a comic. You couldn't do it in a novel because they announce these things months in advance, and I there would be no visual element to it, anyway. But in the strip it worked perfectly. If something can only be done in one particular medium, it's probably a good idea for that medium.

The Daleks, as popular as they are, don't look very good in comics. They're designed for TV. The great thing about them is the way they move and the way they sound, neither of which translates at all into comics or books. The Cybermen are the same. You can't show any facial expression or body language, and this is vital in a comic strip.

I'm quite keen on getting new monsters in the strip, like the Pariah, and Stark in The Fallen. I liked the Pariah. She was fun. Miranda Richardson would do the voice in the TV show. I was imagining her character from The Crying Game when I wrote it. Such an incredible bitch, absolutely reveling in her evil. The villains should really enjoy their evil. It should be their prime motivation.

(DP) Now the Threshold saga is over is it likely to be published in one volume?
There has been talk about it. It would be very big. Two hundred and eighty pages all together. It would be consistent in its appearance because Martin has drawn all the Threshold stories.

We are incredibly lucky to have Martin. He loves doing it, and is a huge Doctor Who fan. He works a day job in an advertising company doing storyboards, and then he goes home at night and draws the strip. He does two pages a week, which is pretty heavy going considering he does them in the small hours of the morning. It's just astonishing that it comes out looking as beautiful as it does. He takes great effort, care and love. He wants everything to look right. We're also very lucky to have Robin Smith inking it.

(DP) It has been a huge project.
There are probably a lot people scratching their heads, wondering what all those references to previous stories were about. Apart from the reference to Ace right at the end, I cut out all the references to Ground Zero when I got to Wormwood, because I thought it was a bit far back. But it was one of the first things that came to mind, having Ace's baseball bat delivering the final blow. She had to be acknowledged in some way. Poetic justice. I'm a big fan of poetic justice.

I was just so glad that Wormwood had a happy ending. We hadn't had a happy ending for so long. The stories just tended to blend together from crisis to crisis. They just sail off into the universe with the Doctor talking about going off to get something to eat.

(DR) So a few more happy endings from now on, just to get the average up?
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the end to The Fallen. The strip was a very cozy thing for a long time. People had clearly stopped reading it, because nothing major ever happened. Ace dying was the key moment when we slammed everyone in the face and said, 'From now on, all bets are off. Forget about continuity, forget about anything else, anything can happen.' So when the Doctor seemed to regenerate, people believed it. If Ace hadn't died in Ground Zero people might have been a bit more suspicious, but after that, we could do anything.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Interview - Shades of Gray (Part One of Four)

Interviewed by Darrell Patterson & David Ronayne (in 1999)

Over the past few years something very strange has happened to the travels of the Doctor. His adventures have fragmented and have split across a series of canons as fan authors have had the opportunity to create new adventures. Few, however, have had the ability or freedom to reach, and surprise such a large audience as Scott Gray. An expatriate New Zealander, and previous regular contributor to TSV, his tenure as writer of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip has been marked with controversy. New villains have come into play, companions have died and the Doctor was briefly 'regenerated. Darrell Patterson (DP) and David Ronayne (DR) track him down at the Fitzroy Tavern in London, and pester the life out of the poor man:

(DR) So what actually is your job?
(Scott) You mean in terms of DWM? I really don't have much to do with the mag at all. It's Gary [Gillatt], Alan [Barnes] and Peri [Godbold] doing the magazine. I'm just connected with the strip. I write parts of it, and am the 'hands on' editor. I go over the layout and pencil roughs with Martin [Geraghty] and Elitta [Fell] as well. I take a photocopy of the pencils and indicate where all the balloons are supposed to go, and where the text can be broken up and laid out. It takes a surprisingly long time, but I'm a bit picky about things. When people say, 'Oh, I'm a bit of a perfectionist', they generally don't see it as a flaw. It clearly is, because it drives everyone else around you completely insane. I get quite possessive about the strip which is a bad thing to do, because it is a team effort. There are a lot of people involved.

(DP) So how much input does everyone have in developing characters?
A lot. We sit down and talk about it, particularly regarding Izzy and Fey. Alan formulated both of them, so he will say, 'No, Izzy wouldn't say this. Fey wouldn't do that.' And we sometimes end up arguing and tussling. [Laughs] Funny thing is, we don't argue about what the Doctor would do. We are more or less in agreement about him. I think it's important not to overwrite the Doctor. If anything I'm guilty of underwriting him.


'Dashing' seems to be the best word to describe him. Mister Darcy. You could see him in a sword fight, swinging off a balcony on a rope. He's kind of a template you fix your own ideas about what the Doctor is to. We have seen so little of him. He's a bit manic in the TV movie because he's just regenerated, so you get the feeling he's only just come right in the last fifteen minutes of the show. He struck me as a pretty cool character. He's essentially an English gentleman. A romantic figure from the past, one that would appeal to American women. Always making this last minute dash to freedom, battling the villains on the balustrade and making this constant sacrifice.

(DR) Funny you should mention sacrifice. You have put him through the wringer a lot. Lots of the cliffhangers have the Doctor plunging a syringe into his hearts or being exterminated by Daleks.
It's not something we consciously set out to do, but it seems right for the character. There isn't much point in the Doctor saving the day by simply pushing a button and reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. If the guy is going to be the hero, he has to do heroic things, and there is nothing more heroic than putting yourself on the line to save other people. That for me is the whole gist of the Doctor. There is some pretty obvious Christ imagery in the movie and Alan had great fun in the end of The Final Chapter with what appears to be the Doctor saving Gallifrey in the crucifix position. It seems very right for him.

You've got to give the impression that the Doctor is a kid at some level. It's too easy to simply have Izzy as the young, bubbly, youthful figure, and the Doctor going, 'Oh, Izzy! I can't believe you are being so childish.' You want to remind people that the Doctor is just as innocent in his own way as Izzy is, sometimes even more so. There is a great line in Nightmare Of Eden where someone says to Tom [Baker], 'Who are you working for?' 'I'm not working for anyone - I'm just having fun.' Which is him to a tee. We're trying to get back to that. We don't want the Doctor to have any great plan. He's wandering about and seeing what's happening.


(DP) Is Izzy based on anyone in particular?
Izzy was originally based on several people. Particularly Louise Weiner, the singer from Sleeper. Easy on the eye, and she looks the part. Her and Dianne from Trainspotting were the initial inspirations. Someone skinny and hip in look and attitude. A bit of a Britpop girl. If you look at Endgame she starts out looking very different. She looked like she worked out, and we were saying to Martin that she's got to be skinnier, more this kind of waif type. So if you look at Endgame now, over the course of those four issues she goes on this crash diet, so she has the right physique by the end of part four. At the beginning of part one she wasn't quite there. You see her bursting through a window with a laser gun and it's a kind of 'Ace' thing to do. It's how Izzy would imagine herself to be rather than how she really is. In hindsight, it's not quite right for her as an introduction. She's more the kind of person who would try that and end up bashing her head against the window.

(DP) Izzy seems like one of us.
That's always the role of the companion. You're not really supposed to identify with the Doctor, but you are supposed to identify with the companion. When the show has been less interesting to me, it's generally when the companions have been a bit odd, like Nyssa or Adric. They seem completely removed from your own experiences. You can't relate to them. You can't relate to the Doctor either. You can't get terribly involved. With Ace you could, she seemed much more down to Earth. It just seems sensible to have an Earth companion from a contemporary setting.

Izzy is a Doctor Who fan, or at least would be if there was a series in the Doctor Who universe. She'd be the biggest fan ever. She'd be Jackie Jenkins. The fun thing is that lzzy makes all these cultural references that all the readers instantly understand, and the Doctor doesn't get any of it. This notion that we know more about something than the Doctor does is quite enjoyable. He's kind of blind to the popular culture of the latter half of the twentieth century. It's not something he's paid much attention to.

There was a key moment when I understood the relationship between them. In By Hook Or By Crook Izzy's baiting the Doctor and they argue. 'Who got captured by the Threshold?' 'Yeah? Who got exterminated by the Daleks?' You realise he's just as much a kid as she is, and suddenly, Izzy comes across as the slightly more mature one in a weird way. Then a couple of pages later she's in prison with him. They both blunder into situations. They just think, 'Oh, I know what to do - don't worry.' They just go with whatever comes into their heads. So she just runs off and leaves him there and comes back with the sonic screwdriver baked in a cake. That's her brilliant idea!

(DR) In Endgame she says, 'I'm Izzy Nobody'. I thought her past may turn up again, but it hasn't.
'Izzy Somebody from Stockbridge' is sort of her official name. She's had several foster parents and has never really had a sense of stability. You don't get companions with lots of family ties, it's basically one of the rules. In the beginning the companions were adults. You never stopped to wonder if Ian's mother was worried about him. After that they tended to be orphans, or the family were just never mentioned. Jo, Sarah, Tegan - do we know about their relatives? Tegan had an aunt, but she didn't last long, did she?

(DR) There seems to be no playing games with Izzy.
No, that's been done. The Doctor can still be quite sly. Wormwood points that out better than anything else. But he doesn't play games with Izzy. When it comes to his friends he's not going to dick about with them.


(DP) So who is the visual reference for Fey?
No one really. The trick with Fey is that she wasn't meant to be a companion. She was originally fated to die at the end of Tooth And Claw. Alan just really liked her and said it would be helpful having her around, simply to have two people carrying the Doctor to the TARDIS. Fey can handle tough situations. She's a female version of the Doctor. She's been to all of these places around the world, had all these adventures, and she also name-drops lots of people. All traits of the Doctor. When he meets her for the first time he thinks, 'Hey, you're really cool!' simply because she reminds him of him.

Alan said he'd kill her off at the end of The Final Chapter. But when we got to the end, he came back and said it would deflect attention from the regeneration. So then Gary suggested Fey could be a Threshold agent ...

No! [Waves hands in the air in mock horror] That went against everything I had planned about the Threshold not being able to travel in time. We eventually got round that by having them simply plant a bug inside her. She is the perfect spy; someone who doesn't realise they are a spy. It's quite humiliating for her, because she's meant to be this cool secret agent, and the Threshold are laughing at her in the background. Once I got that in mind it all seemed to click into place. Then she became a really important figure in the overall plot.

(DR) She seemed to work really well.
Yeah, but as Alan said, it is very difficult to have two companions in an eight page comic strip. I'm very conscious of the amount of space we've got in each chapter. You have got to have a substantial amount happening. It's very easy to not write enough, or do the opposite and cram too much in. Then Martin doesn't have enough space. It can be tricky.

When I wrote Wormwood we agreed I had to get rid of Fey. I had considered killing her off at the end of part one. I thought that would be a really dramatic way of starting the story, with the Threshold saying, 'We're not playing around anymore, guys.' Then the idea of having her merge with Shayde came along and I thought that would be more fun. I liked her. Now she's too powerful to be a companion, and the Doctor wouldn't be terribly keen on having someone running around with a gun. Fey was essentially the Ian Chesterton/Jamie figure. McGann isn't going to anger easily and get into fights, but she could just beat people up. It just seemed fun to make that character a woman for a change.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

RTP! #27 Status Report

Work on issue 27 of RTP! is already underway with the following being prepped for inclusion in the issue (due around June '08 hopefully):

  • "The Tower of Angum" Part Two - The second part of the Tenth Doctor/Rose comic strip illustrated by Garry Jackson
  • "The Life and Times of the 3rd Warlord on the Left" - The comic adventures of Frank the Warlord continue in Part Two
  • 30 Second Theory - Looks at Mr Bannakaffalatta from Voyage Of The Damned
  • "Cyberman the Kroton" - More comic mayhem from the pen of Erato
  • "One Flew Over the Hen's Nest" Part Four - The fourth and final part of Alexander Ballingall's investigation into the history of Graham Muir's comic creations
  • The answers to last issues cryptic crossword
  • An interview with someone
  • And more!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Fanzines Reviewing Fanzines - RTP! #26

Zeus Plug has taken the time to review the most recent issue. Read Alistair Hughes thoughts here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Fanzines Reviewing Fanzines - TSV #75

Another review of TSV from the pages of RTP!:

TSV #75 (December 2007)

Seventy-five issue, twenty years, and a full-colour, wrap-around cover to boot. TSV clocks in for issue 75 with three main articles: a review of Series Three, a look back at the PDAs of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, and a dig into the broadcast of Doctor Who in Singapore. Beyond this the issue is dotted with some smaller items, yet nothing from all of this leapt out as an immediate must read.
The best part of the issue was the follow up to the ‘Drabble Who’ challenge with some amusing entries and Amy Mebberson’s art additions to the fanzine. I feel that TSV still needs more art to help break up the pages of text that can sometimes be a little daunting to look at. Jon Preddle’s ‘Singapore Who’ took a little getting into, but proved interesting in the end. Will there be follow ups or are there no other screening histories that Preddle has access to?
The rest of the issue was something I came back to a little while later, Chris Skerrow’s review of the PDAs of interest to me primarily because I’ve only ever read about a half dozen of them. Unfortunately as a result of this lack or merchandise, Edwin Patterson’s guide to purchasing the stuff was of little interest, but I presume it to be a fairly accurate and comprehensive guide to spending your hard earned dosh.
I’m still not sure what I’m waiting for in TSV, but I keep feeling like some ‘zing’ is needed.

— Alexander Ballingall
Read other reviews of the same issue here and here.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Legs Eleven

Dated April 2001, issue 11 surfaced in the April of 2002, a mere month after I'd returned to NZ from my two year OE in the UK. I have a vivid memory of using my sister's account at the University of Canterbury to get the master copy printed out as for some reason I was unable to do so at home. Much of the material in the issue was quite old, such as my Terror Of The Zygons video review which I'd written before my departure to the UK two years earlier! It was an exercise in getting the issue printed rather than worrying about anything else. Looking at the content now I can tell that at least a third of the issue was done before my May 2000 departure. I think that at the time it was finally printed both Matt and I were glad to see the back of the issue, more so for Matt as it meant that he could officially give up his post as Co-Editor (unofficially having given up a good year or two earlier) and not have to worry about putting together an issue in the future — issue 11 must have hung over him like the sword of Damocles! As a result of those two years of chaos and uncertainty, Matt paid for the issue out of his own pocket allowing subscribers to get that issue for free.

And the eyebrow raising editorial (dating from around April 2001), Matt's last one for the fanzine?:
It's official, Matt Kamstra is the laziest bastard in New Zealand Doctor Who Fandom!

In really old, not so ground-breaking news, Matt Kamstra has been named 'Laziest Dutch Prick in Fandom' in a recent DWB-S poll amongst spaced out garden gnomes (too many shrooms CAN be a bad thing). Not having compiled an issue since Alexander 'most of us just call him Joe' Ballingall left for foreign shores, most of us now believe that RTP! is dead, to be no more, just another failed New Zealand Doctor Who fanzine. But alas! Joe has succeeded in giving Matt an electronic kick up the arse and once again jump-starting the subversive Doctor Who subculture known as Reverse the Polarity! and it's adopted step-sister newsletter Neutron Flow (formerly known as Critical Mass).

Why this magnificent and award-winning magazine suddenly disappeared a little over one year ago is still somewhat of a mystery to contemporary history scholars and even Matt Kamstra himself. However, its sudden re-emergence has come as a shock to many, even causing the death of an elderly man in Waiwhakamukau. In an unofficial release to the DWB-S press on Friday night Mr. Kamstra had this to say about the matter: "impissedsofuckoffnleavemealoneyacommiebastard". Moreover, his publicist had this translation to offer: "Due to a heavy professional schedule and intense media pressure, my work has been seriously impaired. I do not wish to speak any further on the matter. Now f**k off."

Most importantly however, this reporter has discovered that RTP! is here to stay, and will in fact soon be published in Ware, Hertfordshire, England, and then in Kyoto, Japan, when Alexander 'Is my name actually Joe or Alex' Ballingall and Matt 'I'm surprised I can find anything in this joint' Kamstra move to the Orient to pursue careers in Asian boy bands! Sensational but true! More details are coming to light as we go to press, but by next issue we should have some early photographs and possibly a working title for the project. All this and a four page lift-out poster section!

In similarly ridiculous breaking news, Reverse the Polarity!'s website is soon to be upgraded after a two year hiatus. Tentatively renamed 'Saucer Smith's Psychedelic Magical Mystery Bus Trip' the site will feature a web-shop for subversive instruments and home made whiskey, reviews and articles from all three 'Saucer Smith' publications, and an extensive collection of amateur and professional porn courtesy of Paul 'sifty f**k' Maloney and his lovely ladies.

- Matt Kamstra
The Guff Revolutions:

Published: April 2002
Editor: Matt Kamstra, Alexander Ballingall
RTP! Logo Design: Peter & Bridget Adamson
Front Cover: Peter Adamson
Back Cover: Garry Jackson
Internal Artwork: Peter Adamson, Garry Jackson, Matt Kamstra
Letters: Peter Adamson, Jeff Stone
Page Count: 52
Print Run: 30
Price: NZ$3

~ Contents ~
  • [01] COVER
  • [02] CONTENTS
  • [03] EDITORIAL
  • [04] UPDATE
  • [05] The BOOTCUPBOARD [Letters]
  • [06] K'umface' / The Twelve Pages of Karkus
  • [07] Doctor Who Bullsh*t: Prime Re-Run Surprise Shocker!
  • [09] REVIEWS: The Scope [Reviews of PDAs]
  • [10] REVIEWS [Attack of the Cybermen]
  • [12] OPINION: Doctor Who Goes Digital
  • [13] An Alt. Future for RTP!
  • [16] CARTOON: Saucer + Birdy—Meet the DJ from Hell!
  • [18] INTERVIEW: Confessions of a Melophile [Alden Bates]
  • [22] The Cabbage Criterion
  • [25] OPINION: Your Two Cents Worth ...
  • [26] The Sexual Misadventures of Doctor Who - The middle Davison TARDIS crew
  • [27] COMIC: Pulp Who—The Gold Star [part 4 of 4]
  • [37] REVIEWS: Armageddon '02 conventions in Auckland & Wellington
  • [38] Doctor Who Bullsh*t: JFK Plot Update ... Again!
  • [40] REVIEW [Terror of the Zygons]
  • [42] FICTION: Alternate Realities [part 1 of ?]
  • [44] FICTION: The Red Menace [part 6 of 8]
  • [48] ARTICLE: The NZ Connection
  • [49] CARTOON
  • [50] OPINION: Thoughts from the Kitchen
  • [52] COVER