The Amazing World of Doctor Who
|Starring the fourth Doctor, Sarah and Harry|
A Review by Finn Clark 25/2/04
On the face of it, this is merely a rejigged edition of the 1976 Dr Who Annual. However it's a far more interesting book in every respect, in large part because it breaks away from World Distributors tradition and has filler articles which are actually Who-related! Believe it or not, for once someone published a large-format Doctor Who hardback which doesn't think you're really interested in astrology, space jargon, Greek mythology and carnivorous plants. Let me list this book's articles:
Who's The Doctor?
The Sinister Slithers of Strikk
The Mind of Dr Who
Dr Who's Space-Age Crossword
The Giant Robot
The Ice Warriors
Time Travel? Try a Tardis!
Music and Radiophonic Workshop
'Who's The Doctor?' is a run-down of the series mythology, even acknowledging the other actors who played the part! 'The Sinister Slithers of Strikk', 'Dr Who's Space-Age Crossword' and 'Mysterious Monsters' are just games and puzzles, but all the other features go into detail about some aspect of the show. The monster articles are specific and detailed, with plenty of photos, and there's even a behind-the-scenes glimpse at a day in the life of Dudley Simpson. By today's standards it's nothing extraordinary, but when I was a nipper this was my bible.
The fiction is greatly improved too. A New Life, Avast There! and The Hospitality on Hankus have all been junked. That's improved things already, though I kinda enjoyed the last of those. Instead alongside The Sinister Sponge and The Mission are two all-new stories: The Vampires of Crellium and On The Slippery Trail. These I really enjoyed. They're not earth-shattering or anything, but they have scary monsters and they manage to build up a fair amount of menace. Creating a genuinely sinister monster in four or five brief pages is harder than you'd think; I was particularly impressed by The Vampires of Crellium.
The 1976 annual's comic strips both return - Neuronic Nightmare and The Psychic Jungle. They're a tour de force of delirious Nosferatu-like imagery, in the latter's case a little too much for its own good. You can't see what's happening! However this reprint changed the duotone colour hues and turned up the contrast on the black-and-white inking. Looks like an improvement to me.
But then, as the ultimate in cool, we even get a five-page reprint from the old TV21 Dalek comic strips in 1965. It's the episode that these days seems to get called Eve of the War, though whoever stuck it here reckons it's called A Fresh Start. Okay, it's been reprinted three times since then by Marvel, but this is still great stuff. David Whitaker, Richard Jennings and Ron Turner... you can't beat 'em. And it's full of kick-arse Dalek-Mechanoid violence too.
Overall this is a lovely-looking book that you could give to young fans today. The Sinister Sponge would fry their tiny minds and The Mission would cure their insomnia, but that aside it's an attractive hardback full of facts about the show. It has the usual brain-exploding illustrations by Paul Crompton, while The Sinister Slithers of Strikk is another surprisingly good counters-and-dice game, this time actually requiring strategy. You could do a lot worse than this.