Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Perhaps one of the most obscure things I've ever reviewed on this blog - it's Marvel UK's Doctor Who Summer Special 1984, which detailed the history of Who merchandise.

Surely, 26 years on, this whole thing is outdated now? Why would anybody read this today? I mean 16 years later in 2000 we had the book Howe's Trancendental Toybox, which is so super-thorough that it even lists the Doctor Who Summer Special 1984 as an item of merchandise. (on page 275 in my 2001 copy)

Which is all a bit of shame. The many articles in this magazine about yesterday's Doctor Who's merchandise of yesteryear, while not exhaustive, were the most intense collection of information on the subject in those days. I read this through a couple of times as a teenager.

Pretty much the entire thing seems to have been written by Gary Russell, who years later would go on to become the TV series' script editor.

There are in-depth articles on Doctor Who Target novels, non-fiction books, comics, annuals, foreign books, records, fanzines and even confectionery, broken up with no end of pictures of said collectibles. Well, occasionally there was an end to them.

What probably makes the mag worth reading today though are the two contemporary articles, which each record something of the state of Doctor Who at age 21.

The first is the mag's very long and illuminating interview with Christopher Crouch, who at the time was the BBC Merchandising employee in charge of licencing the Time Lord's non-book spin-offs. He had tons of info to impart on the market dynamics of the day, particularly regarding the subtleties of licencing a toy TARDIS, as opposed to a toy Police Box.

"… it would be helpful if the Doctor flew around in a very flashy space ship because the toy trade would love to be able to take a licence to produce a space ship… So - swings and roundabouts - what we lose on not being able to licence an attractive space ship as say a die-cast model or plastic kit we can compensate by the fact that the TARDIS does make a very nice pencil case for Hummingbird or a nice shaped tin for Avon to put sweets in."

The second is an additional report by Chris Noll and Debbie Glienke on Doctor Who's twentieth anniversary convention in Chicago the previous year. This had even made the BBC national news over here, and this article contains so many photos of the Who 'family' of the time that it's a great reminder of the good old days. There's even a rare photo of Tom Baker with three of the other Doctors - how often does that happen?

All this and recent full-colour pin-ups too!

So, to answer my earlier question, today this ephemeral publication is all about the way that Doctor Who merchandise used to be.

As such it's now become a unique and invaluable snapshot of the programme's rich history off-screen.

How appropriate for a long-running show about time-travel.

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