Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

In October 1979 (when I was 8 years old) I (well, probably my dad) bought the very first issue of Marvel UK's Doctor Who Weekly from the station newsagents.

I wasn't particularly into Who back then, but as I'd already got that week's edition of all the other comics that I was collecting, I figured what the heck – why not? It was mainly comic-strips, barring the odd Crazy Caption competition, and came with free transfers on the cover, which I still have to this day.

The following week I got issue #2. The week after that, someone else got to it before me. And that was how I left it, for three years.

Towards the end of 1981 I rediscovered the TV series though, and 1982 saw me picking up the latest edition again.

It was much more wordy, and clearly aimed at an older audience now. Also, the numbering was much lower than I would have expected after three years. Apparently, the weekly hadn't even seen out a year, before changing to a monthly, more magaziney format.

Someone at Marvel had evidently realised that Doctor Who was bigger with bigger kids. A handy thing that, since I was a bigger kid myself now, aged 11.

The next few years were great. Doctor Who was pretty big in the early eighties, airing twice a week in prime-time slots. People would regularly write to the BBC to complain that it was on too late for younger kids to see it now.

Eventually the BBC relented and returned it to its old Saturday teatime slot, and then almost immediately axed it both for lower ratings, and for having become too violent for young children. Containing stabbings, torture and returning characters from 20 years ago, maybe no-one had thought to forewarn the production team of the new earlier timeslot...

Anyway, next the BBC did the right thing: they brought the show back again, aimed it squarely at an under-10 audience, and simultaneously moved it back to an adult weekday slot again, whereupon its ratings obviously plunged even lower.

Perhaps they should have just left it all alone?

That was what I, and evidently other fans, thought, so we exercised our right to free speech and told anyone who would listen. The show had become so dumbed-down, that I would actually have rather had no Doctor Who than to keep pointlessly rooting for a show that didn't want a teenager watching any more. But at least there was still The Official Doctor Who Magazine - they couldn't spoil that for us.

But here's the thing: one month, the mag's editorial actually had a go at those of us who were complaining about the lower standard of the new episodes.

From that month on, I kept me money. Two years later, the show got axed again, this time permanently.

A decade later, while on a break from work, I (now aged 27) found the mag still on sale in Kingston. I picked it up, and bought it on and off for a while. Off, because the editing still felt a bit snobbish.

The following decade, here on the other side of the world, I (aged 34) found the mag's 25th anniversary special on sale.

It's not actually the current one. Overseas magazine sales are a bit weird here in New Zealand, because it takes about three months to ship them here. I sometimes flick through science-fiction mags in shops, and my travelling between the UK and here can be a bit confusing, when you keep jumping backwards and forwards by an entire season. As a result, although it's March here, this current issue is actually dated December last year. If you're in the UK, and you miss an issue of something, then email me.

Issue #350 looks like an odd number to pick to run an issue-wide retrospective of the last 349 editions, but hey, we Doctor Who fans will use any excuse to plunder the past and re-examine it. And in this case it's actually the mag's 25th anniversary too, so that's all right then.

One of the lovelier ideas within this lookback is the resurrection of old regular features, for just one issue only. My favourite would be the return of the 3-panel Doctor Who? strip by Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett. Their strips were rather hit-or-miss, but for a one-off return, they can do no wrong. And the Crazy Caption Competition is back too, though given that the closing date is Christmas Eve last year, I don't think I'll be entering.

Finally, issue #350 also comes with a free full-size replica of that very first issue from 1979, though sans real transfers. (they're printed onto the cover below)

It's a bit weird to flick through this, as it's easy to kid myself that this is my original copy that has somehow followed me here from the other side of the globe. There's certainly a rush of nostalgia as I flick through the impossibly clean pages and see the comic again as it used to look in my eight-year-old hands 25 years ago.

And it's reassuring to know that, with a new series finally in production again, Doctor Who as a legend has proved itself to be as immortal as the man himself.

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