Monday, September 24, 2012
Doctor Who: The Comic Strip Companion
Doctor Who was given two young companions rather than the adult companions he had on the TV show. The desire to have children in the strip was a request of Arthur Thorn of TV Comic, to give the readers of the comic somebody to relate to ... or perhaps simply to save a little money as the paper was already paying the BBC for the rights and William Hartnell for using his likeness. Using the two companions and other characters and creations from the TV series would have incurred more fees and a great deal of additional negotiation.
Such are the revelations to be found in The Comic Strip Companion by Paul Scoones. Scoones has dug out some remarkable stories from the BBC's archives and reveals the inner workings of how the BBC helped shape the scripts. To take just the first few appearances of The Doctor in TV Comic: the original draft of the first story featured the Daleks; giant insects had to be removed from the second story because a similar notion was being developed for the TV series; a storyline was approved for the third story but was never used; and objections were raised by TV Comic when it was learned that not only could they not use the Daleks, but that the Daleks were to appear in a rival paper.
I find this kind of detail endlessly fascinating – and this from someone who wasn't really exposed to the TV Comic Doctor until episodes were reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics in the early 1990s.
Wearing my bibliographers hat, it is great to discover that vague attributions for writers like David Motton and Roger Noel Cook have been nailed down – Motton writing stories in 1965 and Cook taking over in 1966 and continuing to write the scripts until 1970 when Alan Fennell took over. I'm not convinced that Tom Tully was one of the writers in 1965-66, as posited by Scoones (p.79):
Roger Noel Cook recalls that he took over writing the Doctor Who strip from "... a freelance scriptwriter called Tom – I can't for the life of me remember his last name. Tom was a good friend of Arthur Thorn's, in his late '60s."
Well, Tully had only just begun his career as a scriptwriter around 1960 and was certainly not in his sixties. "When Tom retired, editor Dick Millington decided that Cook should take over writing the strip." Tully certainly didn't retire and was still writing Roy of the Rovers into the 1990s.
Instead, the writer would seem to have been born in the 1890s and was a regular at TV Comic during the era of editor Arthur "Mike" Thorn in the 1950s and 1960s. Tom isn't that common a name and the only other scriptwriter who immediately springs to mind is Tom Vincent, who wrote scripts and stories for Girl, but I know nothing about him beyond the name. I'm not saying that it is Tom Vincent who wrote those scripts ... I'm just saying Tully wasn't the only Tom in comics at that time.
But this is a minor, minuscule point in a magnificently researched volume. 600 pages of solid factual material relating to not only TV Comic, but also the Dalek strips in TV Century 21, the Doctor Who Annuals from World Distributors and the various Dalek Books.
The Comic Strip Companion. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who in Comics: 1964-1979 by Paul Scoones. Telos Publishing ISBN 978-1845830700, 30 September 2012, 608pp, £16.99 [£16.14 from Amazon]