The 1966 Annual
|Starring the 1st Doctor and the Menoptera, Zarbi, Voord and Sensorites|
A Review by Finn Clark 14/1/04
Fandom seems to have forgotten World Distributors' Doctor Who annuals, which would have astonished me twenty years ago. To UK fandom of a certain age, these silly things were a huge deal. If you wanted to buy everything Who-related (and we did!) there were Target novelisations, the Marvel magazine and miscellanea like jigsaws and colouring books... and these. Twenty of 'em were published altogether. The Tom Baker annuals were ten-a-penny, available from all good car boot sales and second hand shops, but the earlier Doctors were harder to come by. (In fact I still don't own the first Pertwee annual, so there's gonna be a gap in this series of reviews.)
As a teenager I coveted the Doctor Who annuals, but I don't think I actually read 'em that much, especially the early ones. This first Hartnell annual has no jokes, quizzes, comic strips or Fantastic Facts pages to liven it up to a child's eyes, while an adult would see big-print stories printed on cardboard with three-colour illustrations seemingly scrawled by a four-year-old. It doesn't look particularly appealing, to be honest... which is a shame, since it's actually rather interesting.
For starters, this is a 93-page book with up to 800 words on each page. Without pictures this would have been novel-length, whereas even with Walter Howarth's illustrations it's easily the equivalent of a novella. [Howarth was a talented artist, but here his work was being printed on toilet paper and so subtleties would have dissolved into a blurred smudge. Nevertheless he draws a good Hartnell and his cover painting is lovely.] Without the kiddie inserts, there's more room for fiction - and this is effectively a chunky anthology of six good-length 1st Doctor short stories.
More importantly, these stories' author was an uncredited David Whitaker. (World Distributors were bastards who rarely credited their creators.) This feels like one of his first extra-curricular non-TV Doctor Who projects (the prose at the start of the opening story is a bit dodgy) and here we see Whitaker's original vision for Doctor Who, unfettered by the restrictions of sixties TV production values. It's an odd reading experience, of course. For example its hero isn't called the Doctor, but "Dr Who" or occasionally "the doctor". At first I thought that was a typo. There's even a two-page spread called "Who is Dr Who?" which is virtually the David Whitaker equivalent of "never cruel or cowardly".
(This Doctor has a more-or-less steerable TARDIS, by the way, though I do wonder about the temporary companions he acquires in The Monsters From Earth. The Doctor seems confident about getting them home afterwards, but the book's back cover painting shows the Doctor on another alien world with two children who look like Tony and Amy. Poor kids.)
The stories themselves are an odd mix of childish and startling; they're hard-edged, portraying a universe of utter bastards and not a few downbeat endings. The Lair of Zarbi Supremo is saved by its last page, for instance, turning on a dime from ridiculous "hurrah, we've killed the monster!" nonsense into something morally ambiguous and sophisticated. The Lost Ones (another Vortis story) has one of the most disturbing endings I can remember in Doctor Who, with the Doctor deciding that some Atlanteans don't deserve to live, while The Sons of the Crab is simply one of the best Doctor Who short stories I've read. The Yend's affliction is mind-boggling and the Doctor-Fomal scene is awesome, Hartnell at his best. ["Men breed men and donkeys breed donkeys. Your question is absurd."] And the final twist blew me away.
There's much imagination. The Lair of Zarbi Supremo seems to be ripping off The Tenth Planet... but then you realise that when this book came out, The Tenth Planet hadn't been screened yet. Also The Fishmen of Kandalinga inspired both Grant Morrison and John Ridgway for their 'Genesis of the Cybermen' comic strip The World Shapers in DWM 127-129.
However there's also much dumbness. The Lair of Zarbi Supremo's Menoptera are too stupid to live, while The Monsters from Earth has spiders which hate light and aliens which hate loud noises. (Okay, they're the Sensorites.) I bet you can't guess how the Doctor wins there, boys and girls! Though bizarrely The Fishmen of Kandalinga gives that latter weakness to the Voord too, but then does nothing with it and makes the Doctor find another way to beat them. Most astonishingly, The Lost Ones has the Doctor completely failing to recognise Vortis, the Zarbi or the Menoptera... sixteen pages after encountering 'em in Lair of the Zarbi Supremo! Is this a clever plot twist? No, I think it's simply a flashback to the story in which the Doctor first landed on Vortis. That was weird.
Oh, and the illustration on p92 for The Fishmen of Kandalinga gives away the ending.
There are no TV companions but plenty of TV monsters, with the Menoptra and Zarbi (twice!), the Sensorites and the Voord. The continuity is good, better than the contemporary TV Comic stories. Also twice the Doctor acquires temporary companions. There's nothing remarkable about Gordon, but I laughed out loud at Amy and Tony Barker. They're a brother and sister playing hide-and-seek in the bushes in 1966 when they stumble into the TARDIS and... okay, you know the rest. Also they have a small French bulldog called Butch. I now want to see Amy, Tony and Butch in an upcoming PDA.
Regarding continuity... We meet space-travellers from Atlantis (they're eight foot tall and worship the Greek gods) on Vortis, but we never learn whether they're from our Atlantis or a far-future one. Meanwhile the other Vortis story has dating peculiarities too. According to the Doctor, Gordon is "obviously" an Earth child from the 20th century, though this becomes unlikely when Gordon mentions space rockets in "the first half of the century". As a random side-note, it's hard to think of many stories with as many sequels as The Web Planet... there are two in here, plus Bulis's Twilight of the Gods (MA), The Naked Flame (1995 Yearbook) and On The Web Planet (TV Comic 693-698).
Oh, and remember Hartnell on TV calling himself human? Here he calls himself an Earthman! However a footnote on p46 observes that "of course, he did not come from Earth", so it's all a bit confusing. The astrophysics is better than much of TV Who, "galaxy" for once being used in a sensible fashion, but sometimes one wonders if Whitaker isn't using "million" as a handwave for "lots". It's hard to swallow the ending of Peril in Mechanistra otherwise, unless the Doctor misread his instruments. However elsewhere the Doctor implies that The Keys of Marinus was millions of years away in either the past or the future... taking into account The World Shapers, I'd suggest the past.
David Whitaker even managed to impress me with his namechecking. There are a couple of mentions of the Daleks... but they both come in a story where the concept of the Daleks is thematically relevant. How cool is that?
Overall I'd say that the first Dr Who annual (sic) has been unfairly overlooked. It's historically interesting for being written by David Whitaker, but it's also a worthwhile collection of stories. (All the best ones come first, unfortunately... if only to avoid getting confused by The Lost Ones, I suggest reading 'em in reverse order.) Give it a try!
Doctor Who's first short story collection by Andrew Feryok 4/4/12
Not many Doctor Who fans realize just how old the short story format is within Doctor Who fiction. While today we are flooded with Short Trips collections and Decalogs, the short story format actually dates all the way back to 1965 when the show was still in its infancy. it came in the form of the Doctor Who Annuals. And the 1966 Doctor Who Annual is where is all began. In America, Annuals are a bit strange to us. While we did grow up with activity books, the idea of a book specially published for the Christmas season filled with short stories, comics, games and articles was not that commonplace. But in the UK, especially in the early days of the series, it was a staple of every kid's holiday and once the show proved that it could last beyond one season, it quickly put out not one, but two annuals: the 1966 Annual and the Dalek Book.
The fact that the Daleks got their own annual explains why this first Doctor Who short story collection is strangely absent of Daleks at the height of their initial popularity. Instead, World Books filled the 1966 Annual with many other Hartnell era monsters: the Voord, the Sensorites, the Menoptera and the Zarbi all make appearances in the stories. This gives a unique feel to the annual that sets it apart from any other piece of Doctor Who literature. We are usually used to the First Doctor being fitted into future series continuity, but here we see the Doctor in a total "Hartnell universe" populated by concepts and alien races only found within the Hartnell era, which is unheard of today. And yet, so much of what we see in this volume can still be fitted into future continuity.
I don't know whether it was intentionally done or not, but many of the adventures in this volume seem to be set during the earliest years of the Doctor's travels when he made his first ventures out of the galaxy and began exploring for the first time. This seems supported by the article that accompanies the collection which attempts to explain who the Doctor is. We see a Doctor not used to meeting aliens or encountering alien environments and he is very quick to judge aliens and in many cases reject them simply because they are strange-looking. But we also see the Doctor grow as his travels progress throughout the volume so that by the final story he seems to be a much more experienced traveler whose excitement at encountering and exploring a new alien environment is much more apparent. He is also much better at controlling his ship as he attempts a difficult "short hop" maneuver with the TARDIS in the final story. We even get to see the Doctor's very first journey to Vortis in this collection!
My opinions of the individual stories will stand on their own below, but overall the collection is fantastic. The artwork is equally fantastic and draws the reader into the fantasy of the collection. The quality of the writing is also very high and it's greatly apparent that while there are no authors credited, a lot of time and thought went into the making of this volume and to make it fit within the continuity of the series at the time. A highly recommended read. 10/10
The Lair of the Zarbi Supremo
Doctor Who's very first short story does the medium proud with an absolute winner of a story! Given my prior experience with The 1980 Annual and The 1992 Yearbook, I was a little apprehensive about the quality of the story. While it does take on the airs of a comic book in print, it is so well written that you would be fooled into thinking otherwise. The beginning of the story is where the story shines as the Doctor answers a distress signal and finds himself on Vortis again amidst a vast complex of giant ant hills and streams of Zarbi flowing over them! This is definitely taking the imagination of the series to a level that could never be realized on the BBC budget. His subsequent investigations of the crashed ship, and discovery of strange robot Zarbi with Menoptera inside of them make for intriguing mysteries as the reader begins to wonder exactly what is going on. However, once the Doctor and his new friend Gordon get swept away by the Zarbi to the central control and they meet the enormous Zarbi Supremo, the story kind of breaks down as the author doesn't really think of anything creative to do with the buildup to the impressive Supremo and instead just has our heroes, the Doctor included, shoot the thing with revolvers. The ending is nice though, as the humans prove to be not so benevolent after all and want to seize the Zarbi Supremo's technology to benefit Earth's ambitions causing the Menoptera to have to deal with all but those few who believe in peace still. So when exactly does this story happen in the continuity of the series? Fortunately, the author keeps things vague enough that you could easily place this before his travels with Susan or after The Web Planet. All we know is that the Doctor has been to Vortis before (a fact established in The Web Planet) and ends with the planet being piloted back to its galaxy and the Doctor wondering about Vortis' future. On the whole, a well-written short story filled with amazingly detailed and colorful illustrations that will thrills fans even to this day. A great way to start the volume! 10/10
The Sons of the Crab
So this was an annual written for children? You wouldn't think so after reading this bizarrely titled story. It's a very adult story and definitely one of the best written and plotted in the annual. This feels more like it belongs in a Short Trips book than a World Books annual! The story opens with the TARDIS making its first journey beyond the Doctor's galaxy, thus setting the story pretty early in the Doctor's travels. Certainly his reactions to the alien races and his misgivings about helping the Yend and their problem speaks of a time traveler who is hardly the cosmic crusader, but an inexperienced explorer still learning the rules. The story opens marvelously as the Doctor is immediately confronted with a planet filled with horrors and he's frozen by a force field unable to move. Imagine a planet inhabited by John Carpenter's The Thing and you'll get the idea. The Doctor then finds himself in a laboratory where he is a specimen in an experiment where the scientists are amazed he isn't changing. Its made clear that a virus is at fault, but what is this virus? Why are the creatures morphing? And how did things get this way? I would really like to know who wrote this story because it's well-plotted and well-paced. It's filled with horror and lots of cool sci-fi concepts about genetic engineering, test-tube reproduction and star radiation. Definitely not a story to be missed. It all comes to a rather dark end in which the Doctor's efforts to save the Yend prove hopeless and it seems that he learns for the first time that there are some things you just can't change because mother nature has decided to deal with things already. With the exception of the special effects required to show the morphing creatures, I could easily imagine William Hartnell performing this dark little story as a one-episode standalone. A fantastic story and great accompanying pictures (even if we don't get to see any of the horrors). 10/10
The Lost Ones
This story starts off rather promisingly as we see the Doctor landing on Vortis for the very first time! This was great and completely unexpected, filling in a piece of the Doctor's history that we have long speculated about. The story opens as the Menoptera mistake the Doctor as being part of a human expedition that has been killing them off. For the second time in this volume, an alien race want to dissect the Doctor, but fortunately he is rescued by a race of giant Atlanteans! But what are men from the lost city of Atlantis doing on Vortis? Sadly, once the Doctor reaches the Atlantean spaceship, the story goes downhill. The Menoptera and Zarbi almost totally disappear from the story and the Atlantean story is both ludicrous and dull. Are we really to believe that ancient Atlanteans developed space travel and nuked themselves out of existence? What ultimately brings the story down is that there doesn't appear to be a point to the story. There is no evil to destroy or oppose. It's just the Doctor meeting a bunch of strange people and then running back to the TARDIS. Not the most exciting or interesting of stories, but still well written. 5/10
The Monsters from Earth
This is a nice little story which sees the Doctor teaming up with two school children and their dog as temporary companions. They seem to echo the comic strips at the time in which the Doctor was traveling with his two "grandchildren" John and Gillian. It's nice to see that this annual uses so many of the Hartnell-era monsters and here we see the return (possibly the only return) of the Sensorites! While the illustrations make them look like bald-headed gumbies, they come across in a far more villainous manner than they did on TV. These are probably the Sensorites at an earlier time in their history since they don't yet have telepathic abilities and worship giant spiders in caves. They also fear all aliens as monsters. The story opens and closes with great excitement as the Doctor does battle with giant spiders on giant spider webs with the TARDIS dangling on it. This is certainly not something that could have been done on TV back in the day, at least not convincingly. The Doctor still seems to be early in his travels and still not used to dealing with weird aliens and their planets. He does not hesitate contemplating gassing giant spiders and even the Sensorites in order to escape! Fortunately Tony, Amy, and their adorable dog are there to lend a bit of humanity to him, although Amy comes across as being a big baby cowering from her own shadow at every opportunity. The ending is great, as the kids and a barking dog scare the Sensorites away and then the tense climb up the web as giant spiders close in from all sides. The final moment as the Doctor severs the leg off a spider which then convulses on the floor of the console room and then the Doctor frantically setting the ship's coordinates as the spiders shake the ship outside. Great adventure story and a return to a bit of quality. 9/10
Peril in Mechanistria
The revelations keep coming as we seem to discover how the Doctor ended up with a damaged and faulty ship during the 1960s era. It seems the Doctor got into a fight with the Daleks! Could this therefore mean that the Doctor has encountered the Daleks prior to the very first Dalek story? Or is it just a case of the authors not giving a darn about continuity and just looking for a quick bit of entertainment? You decide. Anyway, the world of Mechanistria is really cool and reminds me of the world of Mirrodin from Magic: The Gathering: a world entirely made of metal and ruled by machines with humans as its slaves. And, in a cool twist, it turns out the robots are actually humans who have converted themselves into robots, thus anticipating the Cybermen almost a year before they would be introduced! This is actually a story I could see not only being made on TV, but could have also been expanded into greater detail. There is so much that I wanted to learn about how this warped society got this way and I too was curious like the Doctor as to whether Drako would succeed in changing his planet's history. I've begun to notice that this pre-Unearthly Child Doctor is much more lax when it comes to interfering with history. But, in this case, I could totally sympathize with the reasons behind the Doctor doing it. But this is clearly not the "you can't change history, not one line" guy yet. Another fantastic story and it's not surprising this adventure ended up being republished in Adventures in Time and Space by World Books. 10/10
The Fishmen of Kandalinga
The final story of the book sends us out on a high note. I was very surprised to see another forgotten Hartnell monster return: the Voord! The Voord were Terry Nation's other Season 1 monster, who never took off as recurring villains; here, we see the BBC trying to push them as major villains. Actually, it's a shame they never took off since they look really great and this short story makes them far more gruesome and villainous than they were in The Keys of Marinus. The Voord are now telepathic, which originates from those Cybermen-style ears on their helmets. Their leaders can also now send out hypnotic rays capable of enslaving the fishmen of Kandalinga. However, in a brutal move on the Doctor's part, he breaks off the telepathic "horns", leaving the Voord a gibbering vegetable but freeing the fishmen. More than any other story in this volume, the short story has close ties to the continuity of The Keys of Marinus. In fact, the Doctor not only recalls the events of that story in vivid detail, but recognizes when the Voord suddenly produce two of the six keys of Marinus and teleportation watches. It seems that the Doctor has become a legend among the Voord for leading to their overthrow and exile from that planet. However, in setting this story after The Keys of Marinus, this now creates a continuity problem. While the future of the show was still not written at the time, we in more futuristic times now know that the Hartnell era is a finite period and that he never traveled alone. This therefore takes place around that vague period when the TV Comics and his appearances in the anniversary shows The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors take place. But, continuity aside, this is a really strong if short tale. The overall plot is paper thin, but author does such a marvelous job with his prose in describing this aquatic world and the Voord's tampering with it that you almost don't notice that not everything that was brought up was answered or that story consists of the Voord taking a long time capturing the Doctor and then as soon as they have him, teleporting him instantly back to his ship. Despite this, the story leaves the volume on a strong note that makes me hunger for more! 9/10