Doctor Who Adventures made its debut on Wednesday April 5th 2006 – ten years ago today!
It was launched on the back of the amazing success of the revived series the previous year, and I first got wind of it when I saw some top-secret early dummy pages just lying around on the printer at work.
Being told that we couldn’t use ANY pics of Eccleston a few hours before showing all our ideas to the BBC and having to shoehorn the one press shot of Tennant into all the spreads. That was great!
Lee Midwinter, Art Editor
I’d loved Doctor Who since I was about six, so there was absolutely no way I was going to pass up the chance to work on the new magazine, and I basically begged for the art editor’s job. My interview was a chat in the canteen with Moray Laing, who was to be the mag’s first editor, and I think I pretty much had it in the bag when I confessed to having owned a TARDIS tent as a child.
We celebrated the launch with special Rose cocktails and wore really trendy t-shirts with the logo on them to hand out copies in reception at the BBC.
Nicola Noah, Marketing Exec
Our bosses expected the magazine to appear fortnightly while each series of the show was on air, but that it would probably drop to monthly when it wasn’t. In reality, the magazine became a bit of a phenomenon, and we were soon struggling to keep up with the incredible demand for copies.
I remember meeting a real-life Cyberman at a presentation in the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill. He was HOT. Literally sweating buckets in that suit.
Roni Kneale, Marketing Manager
At the time, I don’t think I ever really stopped to think about what an amazing experience it was, so to celebrate the magazine’s 10th anniversary, I’ve had a dip into my pile of back issues and caught up with some old colleagues to look at some of the things that made Doctor Who Adventures the best magazine in the universe.
1. The readers
A magazine is nothing without its readers, and ours were truly amazing. We received bags of post each day, filled with of letters, drawings, jokes, questions and pics of readers dressed up as the Doctor. We made a point of opening and reading all of them – sometimes dressed up as Cybermen, sometimes not.
Mostly, the questions were run-of-the-mill, but sometimes the postbag would offer up some unforgettable gems. This reader wrote in to our Dear Doctor page with an interesting moral dilemma.
My favourite memory was the letters page and the number of adults who loved the magazine. I remember a lovely man called Kevin calling up most weeks to complain, affably, about the sellotape on the gift and how it rips the cover when he tried to remove the gift – he wanted his front page to be pristine, was there any other sellotape/adhesive we could use? Dedicated fan, sweet man!
Mel Bezalel, Writer
Of the many thousands of drawings our devoted readers sent in, two have always stuck in my memory. The first was received the week after the episode Evolution of the Daleks was broadcast, and featured the Doctor, Martha and various monsters gathering for Dalek Sec’s funeral. The whole scene is utterly tragic, from the Cyberman supporting a Cyber-pal whose legs have given way with grief, to the inscription on the headstone (“A good commander and a great EXTERMINATOR”).
The other all-time great starred a slightly unexpected subject – Francine Jones, mother of the Doctor’s companion, Martha.
As you can see, it depicted a cheerful Francine at the supermarket, picking up some chocolate, a banana and a bottle of wine.
EastEnders’ Tamwar was a reader! Well, he had a copy in a scene once.
Melanie Caine, Art Editor
So what happened to all the amazing drawings and letters we received? Alas, it was BBC policy not to retain any correspondence which contained children’s addresses, so we had to SHRED THE LOT. Sorry, kids!
2. The covers
When we started making the magazine, we wanted to offer something that wasn’t like the average licensed character title. I looked at celeb magazines like Heat and Grazia for inspiration, which might seem like a strange place to start for a magazine full of horrible monsters aimed at 10-year-olds, but I wanted to create something that would also draw parents into the world of Doctor Who, with familiar elements and cover treatments.
As the TV show was unashamedly big, bold and populist, I tried to bring some of that spirit to the magazine – our MD once told me that I was the only art editor she’d ever met who demanded MORE coverlines. The team at BBC Wales were amazingly supportive of our madness, and let us get away with far more than most other custodians of a massive global brand would. That’s probably a big part of why the magazine was so great and why it sold so well!
The biggest-selling issue ever appeared half way through series 3 – we shifted an absolutely incredible 204,000 copies of this one.
If you’d told me when we launched that within a couple of years we’d be publishing a Christmas double issue with KYLIE MINOGUE on the cover, I’d probably have though you were crackers, especially as we had confidently predicted she wasn’t going to be in it just months earlier.
I came in when the magazine went weekly. There was a lot of scrutiny on covers as we tried to keep sales above 100,000. I think we did it on a couple of occasions. We often had to wait on embargoed pics, and I remember once having to make Tennant’s blue suit brown for a cover. Years after I left, I was delighted by DWA’s dogged persistence in printing the one pic they had of a Snowman week after week! My main memory though was that it was a lovely team – happy times.
Richard Atkinson, Acting Art Editor
This cover is one of my favourites. With our new weekly frequency we could be totally responsive to new episodes as they were broadcast, and I think issue was when all that really came together – brilliant cover image, strong storyline sells, and a Sontaran made out of a potato. It had THE LOT.
This was, at the time, our lowest seller, which I think is a disgrace. Any child who didn’t want a magazine starring the Fortune Teller and the Trickster didn’t deserve to have it in the first place. We forgot to put Doctor Who on the cover, which was probably a bit remiss.
We had a big relaunch for the first Matt Smith issue, which was art edited by the fabulous Nikki Davies, as I’d moved over to be deputy editor by then.
One of my greatest achievements was the first redesign when all I had to go on was that wretched logo with the pointy up bit over the DW and one press pic of Matt and Karen. And when the official style guide finally came out (over a year later), it had some of my bits in!
Nikki Davies, Senior Art Editor
I’m extra proud of this one, as it came out just after I’d somehow managed to become acting editor for three months! It sold bloody loads, thanks to a fantastic Nikki Davies design with loads of welly.
One of my hangups from working on the magazine is that I really HATE it when people flip pictures of Daleks so their plunger is on the left. I’m very proud to say that never happened in our magazine.
Ed Lomas, Production Editor
3. The complaints
If you’ve ever met a Doctor Who fan, you’ll know that the only thing greater than their love for the show is their love of complaining about each and every aspect of it. Doctor Who Adventures was no exception.
I liked the mum who wrote in to complain, saying she was left in tears over our use of “the highly offensive four-letter word, f**t” in a feature about the Slitheen. She couldn’t even bring herself to write it in her letter without censoring it.
Ed Lomas, Production Editor
After one reader complained that there had never been a ginger Doctor and that there weren’t enough ginger people in the show generally, we did the only reasonable thing and compiled a double-page spread featuring Doctor Who’s greatest redheads.
The most strident reader complaint came one day in 2011, when six identical envelopes arrived in the post, each containing a copy of the handwritten message below.
They had all been individually stamped, so it must have cost whoever sent them a fortune.
4. The posters
When we first started, choosing the all-important posters was relatively easy – the Doctor, last week’s new monster and something with a Dalek on it would usually suffice. Later on, we had to get more creative to avoid the mag becoming repetitive.
This fearsome line-up of Mandrels from the 1979 story Nightmare of Eden must have come as a bit of a surprise to the young readers of 2010, but I’m sure they were secretly thrilled.
Doctor Who fans were badly served when it came to posters back in 1987, when the Tetraps made their first (and to date only) appearance in Time and the Rani. We were happy to rectify this outrageous oversight, and even got Photoshop “wizard” Lee Binding to add some 21st Century CGI glitter to proceedings.
Lee was also responsible for this minor masterpiece, based on a throwaway line about the Master’s vanity from Last of the Time Lords.
Unfortunately, I eventually pushed it too far, and this fetching pin-up of Honor Blackman as Professor Laskey in The Trial of a Time Lord was destined to remain unpublished – UNTIL NOW.
5. Getting paid to play at Doctor Who
In the early days of the magazine, we would get the dressing-up box out to recreate our favourite Doctor Who scenes and put the pictures on the contents page.
This was the incredible scene where I became the Dalek Sec Hybrid with the aid of an astonishing headpiece fashioned from a papier mâché half balloon to which was attached a pair of rubber gloves. Writer Olivia McLearon made an excellent Tallulah, with publicity-shy deputy editor Annie Gibson lurking in the background as a Pig Slave.
The tradition was revived some years later when editor Natalie Barnes took the role of Joy, and I became a Silent, sporting the marvellous giant fingers we’d given away as a free gift that week.
I’ll always look back fondly at some of the covermounts – the Silent finger set, which resembled something you’d pick up at Anne Summers, and the rubbery Kaled mutant toy that when turned upside-down looked like a ball bag.
Craig Donaghy, Deputy Editor
6. The amazing comic strip team
DWA’s dynamic duo of artist John Ross and colourist Alan Craddock were like a comic-making machine, together producing the artwork for the first 316 issues of the magazine (with Ade Salmon colouring the earliest issues) without ever missing a week. They had to endure endless “helpful” feedback from our bosses, who never really understood comics but were nevertheless always full of ideas about how they might be improved.
At one point we were ordered to start presenting them like old Rupert The Bear strips, with equal sized frames with blocks of text underneath telling the story, but I basically just ignored that. I wasn’t so lucky when some bright spark decided the presentation benefit from running the stories right across the fold with arrows between every panel to show the readers which direction to read in, and we were obliged to try this out for several months before common sense eventually prevailed.
We did manage to cock things up ourselves from time to time, though. Apologies to writer Jac Rayner for accidentally sending an earlier draft of her script for issue 2’s Mirror Image to the art team, rendering the whole thing completely incomprehensible.
In addition to the main comic strip, we had AAAGH!, in which an vicious elderly robot named Mrs Tinkle ran an employment agency for out-of-work monsters. Although I didn’t create Mrs Tinkle, I wrote a lot of her adventures, and like to think that her rude and objectionable personality is an accurate reflection of my own.
7. Strange gifts and makes
There wasn’t much that we didn’t have a go at making out of plastic and taping to the cover over the years, and with a very quick turnaround time and limited budget, some efforts were more successful than others.
Lots of readers are still proud owners of vast armies of tiny Daleks and Cyberman, but I wonder how many still treasure this delightful reproduction of The Eleventh Hour’s Prisoner Zero, complete with biting action?
Or this frankly rubbish version of a Cybershade, which was meant to flop down windows on its funny little orange bobbles, but in reality would stick fast wherever it first landed and refuse to budge.
I remember vividly the sonic screwdriver covermount that was coloured pink and therefore looked exactly like a penis.
Helen Joubert, Marketing Manager
We also had some amazing makes.
Weren’t there monsters made out of potatoes?
Sam Robinson, Group Editor
I spent hours making this Mr Sweet out of fruit. Everyone hated it and it broke my heart. I had to wipe away a tear with berry stained hands. I remember trying to explain what my job was to my mum. I showed her this picture and she just nodded sadly.
Craig Donaghy, Deputy Editor
8. The brilliantly ridiculous features
In the seven years I worked on the magazine, we made 276 issues – that’s nearly 10,000 pages. I can’t remember absolutely everything we ever put in (and I wouldn’t want to remember some of it!), but here are some choice cuts.
Natalie Barnes took over as editor in 2011, and one of her brilliant ideas was to have interviews with the monsters, posing the very trickiest questions sent in by our readers. I had to take on the persona of the Siren from The Curse of the Black Spot, which was easier said than done as she didn’t say a single word. To get around this problem, I gave her the personality of Amy Childs from The Only Way Is Essex, which had just started, and proceeded accordingly.
We even branched out into love poetry for Valentine’s Day in 2011. The Weeping Angel one will actually break your heart.
When Simon Guerrier was in the office, the features always got about 97% weirder. This was his masterpiece – a complete guide to how to catch a flying space shark using only a big net and a pie.
Comparing monsters to nuts was a high point for me. Olivia McLearon, Writer
We did hundreds of episodes of Tales from the TARDIS, in which we’d turn an exciting scene into a photo story. Doing the screen grabs for these was always a treat, especially for Catherine Tate’s episodes. She gave good face.
The puzzles page was never a great favourite of mine to put together, but I still have a soft spot for the Incredible Juggling Ood.
9. Jackie Tyler
Obviously with two gays in charge of the magazine when it launched we tried to get Rose’s mum, Jackie, onto as many pages as possible – even when they had nothing whatsoever to do with her.
We even did a scary moments guide where we rated the various behind-the-sofa scenes using Jackie’s Scream-O-Meter.
And of course were also a bit obsessed with Margaret Slitheen. Well, who wasn’t?
We loved all the women! Jackie, Martha’s mum, Joy, Yvonne, Sylvia, Herself (as we always called the Empress of the Racnoss for some reason), Diana Rigg as that witch Gillyflower and of course, Bloodtide and Doomfinger. And KYLIE!
Nikki Davies, Senior Art Editor
10. Absolutely everthing else that happened
This was the result when we tried to save money by doing the photoshoot for a step-by-step K-9 make on the same day as one for our sister title, All About Animals.
We were always short of Dalek photos, so when I spotted one sitting in the foyer of Television Centre on the way back from lunch one day, I got a photographer down there with a backdrop and staged a guerrilla photoshoot.
My favourite memory was being at the script reading of Matt Smith’s final episode. So emotional and beautifully acted.
Natalie Barnes, Editor
Another time I went all the way to Cardiff to have my picture taken with Miss Hartigan’s frock.
One of the most special days was when to went to a school where pupils had won a script writing contest. Their prize was to have their own mini-episode filmed on the Doctor Who set, but what they didn’t realise is that Matt Smith himself was hiding at the back of the room to surprise them. Everyone went CRAZY.
Friendships, spaceships, monsters and all of time and space to play with. I loved it all. Happy anniversary, Doctor Who Adventures. Moray Laing, Editor