Sunday, 28 September 2014

New TV Tie-ins from Target Books

Doctor Who fans have never had it so good. Yes, there are the old fogies who yearn for the classic series and the time when no one except them watched the series. But in these enlightened times, we can give thanks for all the wonderful things available to us fans now that 'Doctor Who' is the most important thing on the planet. 

Time was, anything was merchandised and published with the Doctor Who logo on it. There was very little quality control on it from the BBC. I heard a rumour that back in the 1980s, the producer John Nathan Turner vetted everything that was released commercially and checked their authenticity to the series rigorously. Having seen some of the stuff (and even purchased some of it) from the era, we can all safely say that that is a myth - like further missing episodes turning up. JNT's pet dog Pepsi probably had more say in what could be released than he appears to have had.

In the 1980s, Doctor Who Target novelisations were a publishing phenomenon. Phenomenon in that no one in the publishing world could quite understand why there were so many and how on Earth a company could make them pay.

The books provided fans the chance to relive recent (and occasionally old) episodes in prose form before the age of Sky plus and TV on demand. Visually these books suffered in the mid-life with poorly chosen photographic covers and a lack of any Doctor other than the current one posing on them. Sometimes the photos appeared to have been cut out using a pair of 'Play School' scissors and stuck to a piece of day-glo card - whichever was available to the work experience guy at the time. All in all, visually they went through a pretty shit period. 

I'd hate to think what would've happened if the current Doctor Who success happened in the early 80s as opposed to today.... 

A BOOK: Yesterday

Friday, 26 September 2014

New: Build Your Own Dalek in Weekly Parts

I love part works - especially the very cheap first issues. 

Thanks to their lovely price tag, I now own a rather nice little figurine of Matt Smith shouting at aliens from 'The Pandorica Opens', a Batmobile from the first Tim Burton film, a top heavy model of the USS Enterprise D and a Victorian pocket watch that doesn't tell the correct time. 

I was lying in bed last night - as you do - and thought wouldn't publishing a part work be an ideal way for the Daleks to invade Earth. I was wide awake and my medication hadn't kicked in. 

No, the idea is reasonably sound. The Daleks have a thing for invading the Earth in the 22nd century. They tried it twice and buggered it up both times thanks to the intervention of TV's favourite Time Lord - the Doctor! 

This time, they publish a part work entitled 'Build Your Own Dalek' - which week-by-week builds not only in a complete library of all things Skaro but also allows the purchaser the 
opportunity to build their own Dalek! 

Obviously, it would take a very long time to supply all the necessary parts - especially the radio active organic bits and pieces. 

But that's the clever bit. By the time all of the part work Daleks are finally constructed, it will be 2150AD (or whatever) and the Daleks would have a ready made army here on Earth without the need for all that flying saucer stuff - which frankly looked kind of rubbish anyway in the original 'Dalek Invasion of Earth'. 

Just an idea anyway... I really should write stories for a living but I get bored easily...

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Spoiler Alert: EastEnders 30th Anniversary Episode Revealed

Relevant photo to illustrate BBC panic
I had a phone call this morning from an old mate at the BBC. Seems they were in a bit of a mess. The guy who usually puts together their PR stuff had turned up pissed again at Salford and was unable to produce some visual stuff for a top secret project that they wanted to promote at a TV trade fair in Bournemouth this weekend. Could I help? They'd fly me a tenner for my troubles. 

I thought about it for a few minutes. I did need the cash but didn't want to seem TOO eager. So I said, "Yes, I would do it but can you include a couple of audience tickets for the 'Strictly Come Dancing' final?"

They agreed, still with a detectable hint of panic in their voice. 

A buff A5 envelope was duly rushed to me by courier from London and within the hour I was opening it to find a rather sticky tenner and a book of tickets for recordings of 'Pointless' in November. Ah well, I did try for the hottest ticket in town. Can't really grumble. At least I had the tenner and could afford to eat for the rest of the week.

Anyhow, the project is something I've been sworn to secrecy. But since you are a friend, I'll let you in on it. BUT DON'T TELL A SOUL OR SPREAD IT ABOUT THE INTERNET. Remember what happened to Marcello. I don't fancy that being done to me - not by anyone. Poor sod!

The BBC had been planning a big episode of 'EastEnders' to tie in with the show's 30th anniversary next February. It would've seen the big reveal of who actually murdered Lucy Beale on Walford Common earlier this year. Well, they've now got cold feet about that storyline as audience research has revealed to them that viewers are bored shitless by the whole plot and that someone had twittered the murderer's identity anyway and spoilt it. 

They've now decided to drop the storyline altogether and in a short scene to be added to next Friday's episode - Phil and Sharon's wedding - it would be revealed that Lucy had actually slipped on some dog muck and accidentally strangled herself with her necklace. Ian - her Dad - would accept that conclusion and the apology from the coroner's office and he'd be alright about it - which is nice. 

Anyhow, getting back to my little emergency commission... The BBC had decided to produce lavish 90 minute special in 3D and premiere it on the day of the anniversary around the world and in cinemas - as that sort of thing seemed to work on another show last year. 

Brilliant idea I thought. All they wanted me to do was some touching up of an old poster and re-letter it - something big and dynamic! 

So here it is...

Quite proud of it. Almost looks exciting... in a familiar sort of way. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Jon Pertwee investigates crime...

I was reminded today of a series of children's adventure novels from the mid-seventies that went under the umbrella title of "Roger Moore and the Crime Fighters". Apparently, the actor Roger Moore - famous for his roles as TV's Simon Templar in 'The Saint' and TV's Lord Brett Sinclair in 'The Persuaders!' - had a hobby of investigating crime with the help of children. These investigations were chronicled in a short-lived series of novels for the less-discerning teenager. 

The actor Jon Pertwee - then famous as TV's third Dr Who - needed an income following his departure from the popular BBC show. He saw the Roger Moore books and decided he wanted to some of that. He commissioned some of the old Doctor Who writers to come up with the goods. 
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They were never published and the Pertwee name remains unsullied...until now!

STOP PRESS (23/09/2014): 
I was inspired to post this after seeing the following tweet by Gideon Defoe . Thanks for the memory.

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The Lost Tradition of the Christmas TV Annual

A page torn from the 2014/15 Autumn/
Winter Shuttlewoods Catalogue.
The end of the school holidays in September used to bring with it the sight of Christmas on the horizon - only very tiny but within the space of a couple of months, it would soon loom large.  One of the earliest signs of Christmas in our family was the arrival of the huge tome that was the 'Kays Catalogue'. Hundreds of pages of things to purchase on weekly terms from ladies under apparel to bicycles to three piece suites to socks in packs of five. 

The toy section was always the best. A ready made order form for Santa's shopping list and at the end was usually a whole page of next year's annuals. For the non-UK citizen, an "Annual" is a hardback book usually released in the late summer/early autumn with an air of the Christmas market. Annuals could be based on pop stars, comics, films, cub scouts, kittens or TV shows. I recall checking the relevant pages in my Mum's Kays Catalogue for any new TV annuals. There was always the 'Dr. Who' (qv) annual but nearby listed were usually one or two others the tempt me into including it in the Christmas list - 'The Bionic Woman', 'Logan's Run', 'The Sweeney', 'Battlestar Galactica' and, even to my delight and surprise one year, a 'Blake's 7' one. (I actually managed to get that one BEFORE Christmas. A transgression that according to my father was tantamount to opening presents BEFORE Christmas Day.) 

My eagerness to devour these annual publications was matched by their overall shoddiness and paucity of content. The 'Dr. Who' annuals are legendary for their unique view of the worlds of 'Doctor Who'. Companions who looked nothing like the individuals they were written as, seat belts in the TARDIS and illustrations that looked like the prime ingredient of them was smoked rather than drawn. 

Many of the other annuals were no better though some had their merits. The 'Logan's Run' annual I mentioned earlier featured some early work by the artist David Lloyd who would go on to draw the sublime 'V For Vendetta' and the four 'Dalek' annuals released in the late 70s are almost on a par with their 60s counterparts due no doubt to actually being authored by Terry Nation himself. 

These days, there's still annuals but their content seems to be more based around celebrity than concept. 'Justin Bieber' and the latest boy band fill the flimsy hardbacks with full page paparazi photos and 'fun facts' gleaned from press packs. Even the 'Doctor Who' annual is a vacuous blend of large print, publicity stills, 'fun facts' and word searches - with the odd lightweight comic strip to break the garish monotony. The kids of today might accept this as normal but the plethora of these books that adorn the shelves of charity shops suggest that their appeal is merely ephemeral. I suppose that was the truth back when I devoured them in the 70s. Once Christmas was over and the January sales began in earnest, they were often available for half price or a quid until they died out some time in February. Perhaps that was their function - as a finite piece of fun disguised as a hardback book. 

I liked them though and as is my want as a fifty year old kid, I bemoan their passing. What if the annuals of today had the same obsession with TV they had in the sixties and seventies? 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Classic Kids' TV Shows Re-imagined For Adult Audiences

Over the past decade or two, the market for old kids' TV shows has developed into something of a nostalgia industry. 

I, myself, own a full size Bagpuss who sits on an old wooden school chair next to my TV. 

There are also many products available on the scene based on old children's favourites clearly designed for adults. In this category I would put anything to do with Gerry Anderson these days. Product Enterprise produced some splendid die-cast models of the likes of Fireball XL5, Stingray and Supercar a decade or so back.

Wouldn't it be lovely if some enterprising entrepreneur decided that the market was profitable enough to produce new re-imagined versions of our old favourites - new movies, new TV shows, new books - versions that were clearly aimed at the grown-ups?

Or are you off the opinion that such a move is tantamount to a bastardisation of a once cherished childhood memory...? 

Here's a few of my ideas anyway...

Friday, 12 September 2014

New STAR TREK Kickarser Project Needs Funding

I'm doing this for a mate. 

Whilst I love 'Star Trek' and all who sail in her, I cannot vouch for the sanity of the man spearheading this project. 

I owe him one and this is why I'm posting this. 

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Thank you for your time

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Official DOCTOR WHO Writer Commemorative Collectors Plates

This is something I've been working on for.... oh... loads of hours today. I've nearly finished the 79 plate designs and hope that I will be paid the £50 I was offered for the gig tomorrow as I need to buy some food to eat over the weekend. 

Really looking forward to the finished product and to buying a new welsh dresser or two to display them all on. 

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STOP PRESS(20/09/2014): I've been asked to point out that the image of Paula Moore as depicted on plate 54 is an artist's impression only and may not be representative of the writer's actual appearance.  

STOP PRESS (21/09/2014): Owing to high demand from purchasers (including a bulk order from Little Chef Motorway Services Ltd), there are now very limited supplies. Phone now to order. Amongst those left in stock are seven Lesley Scots, some unboxed Geoffrey Ormes and a chipped Bidmead. Please state preference.

STOP PRESS (22/09/2014): Now sold out thanks to Poundland making an offer for the remainded lots. Check out your local branch from around Friday morning. Thanks for your support. 

STOP PRESS (23/09/2014): Just been informed that a street hawker has been trying to flog inferior knock-offs in Burton-on-Trent. These are not officially licenced and you are advised not to eat food from them. Local Trading Standards and that nice Dominic Littlewood have been informed.

STOP PRESS (24/09/2014): Still haven't been paid the fifty quid they offered me to design these plates - something to do with cash flow issues. They did send me as an apology a bizarre loving cup from their Complete Hammer Horror Georgian Tea Service range with Francis Matthews on one side and John Carson on the other. They said it was valuable. It's not the sort of thing I want on my welsh dresser. If anyone wants it, it's in a bin bag in the jitty next to my flat. Collect before Friday as that's when the bin men call.

STOP PRESS (25/09/2014): 
URGENT PRODUCT WARNING - Just had Derbyshire Trading Standards banging at my door. They told that the Official Doctor Who Writers Commemorative Plates are NOT microwaveable. They asked me if there was any way I could contact customers to instigate a product recall. I told them they had the wrong address and they went off somewhere else. Heavens. Just checked with my Tom McRae and they are right. Shit...!!!! Flat now reeks of rotting fish as well.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Doctor Who and the Zarbi - in colour!

The original scan
of the article
Photographs from the early days of 'Doctor Who' hold a special visual record of the era. Often it is because some of the many episodes produced during the 1960s are no longer in existence having been wiped or destroyed by a BBC too impoverished at the time to be able to store or keep them for posterity. The rise of home video and the internet now means that these errant TV programmes are now more sorely missed than ever before.

But for the case of the episodes that DO exist, old photographs can offer up a different perspective on the murky black and white recording of the actual shows themselves. They can reveal the detail of William Hartnell's wig and the sticky tape holding together the Cybermen's invasion force. Colour photographs can also supply us with the richness of the cloth used to clothe the actors in such productions as 'Marco Polo' and 'The Crusades'.

It's widely been known in 'Doctor Who' circles that colour photos existed from 'The Web Planet' - the only serial to feature the fondly remembered Zarbi and Menoptera. They were published by the Australian Woman's Weekly in 1965 and showed not just the eponymous monsters but also their creator - writer and former journalist for the magazine Bill Strutton. 

There has been much debate as to whether these stills were actually colour and had not been "colorised"  most recently on Roobarb's forum. Reasonably high quality scans of the page featuring the photographs appear on the 'AWW' archive website but these are quite yellowy and betray the age of the magazine itself. The photos also suffer from the poor printing of the period. These factors coupled with the fact that the Zarbi, the Menoptera and the planet Vortis weren't exactly the most colourful subjects for a colour camera have added to the opinion that the images may have been post-coloured monochrome images. 

Before and after comparison
I've had a close look at these pictures. I've zoomed into them and studied every mark on them - far too much some might say to remain sane. I did originally think they were coloured - abeit lightly - and that they originated on black and white film. 

However, I've now run them through some colour correction processes in Photoshop and have revised my opinion of them. They are real colour images. 

The yellowy-orange pall is consistent with photos taken in a television studio at the time. There's similar colour photos with the same 'tint' from other stories of the period. The colours are consistent throughout the images.

I've taken the liberty and attempted to restore the images to their 'original' colour and also to remove as much as possible the yellowy TV studio lighting. This I believe has left us with a more 'true' colour of the subjects. I don't profess to be an expert of this sort of restoration but I think I've made them look a bit more like proper photos rather than poorly printed pictures from a 50 year old magazine.

Sadly, the colours reveal very little... The Zarbi are black and the fur trims on the Menoptera appear to be white - or at least a very pale yellow. The only real revelation from this little project is the astounding fact that one of Vortis's moons is pink...... ish!

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