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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Subj: Doctor Who Magazine #562 - Whatever We Can Get....
Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 at 01:07:48 am GMT (Viewed 106 times)

"Doctor Who Magazine Is One Of Many Publications Having To Contend With A Huge Drop In Footfall At The High Street." - Marcus Hearn, Editor

Having just received my first copy of DWM in two years (I wanted to show some support to it in these difficult times, and see whether it had improved any) I was determined to try and look at the Magazines content and style objectively, despite not being a regular buyer of the monthly magazine in years I did decide to order this issue as it looked interesting enough and I wanted to try an issue to see whether it has improved since the last issue I tried some age ago. I also ordered their recent Ron Turner TV21/Dalek release while I was at it... admittedly this was a substitute as I was unable to find the '1965 Doctor Who Chronicles' on their site, so it is entirely fair to say despite my ambivalence to their main Magazine Panini do still have my support with Doctor Who.
In the UK Doctor Who Magazine has always been there for the Doctor Who fan. From my early years I discovered its first issues in the school comics bin on a rainy day locked inside, and it was only years later, 1993, that I discovered it again on the shelves at WH Smith's and bought every issue up till around 2007 - Like many of my generation I have a strong connection to it. It has always been there for me as a Doctor Who fan. Like many a fan back in the day it would be Andrew Pixley's impeccably researched and scholarly archives, and a solid interview or two that would be the things you looked forward to each and every month, and enjoyed thoroughly. The Magazine was your friend and your companion. Today... well, things are very different for a DWM reader of my generation.
It hasn't been an easy relationship these last ten years, like a marriage gone bad is perhaps a valid anology, but while the decline of the high street and news-vendors has been a serious threat to the health and security of the Magazine the reality is many of its problems are of its own making....


Behind a rather splendid cover based on classic Dalek iconography the first pages to greet me are the now typical editorial pandering and unwanted mug-shots of editors and contributors. I do find these off-putting, why is this here? Looking at the issue as an overall product though the usual problems seem apparent, lots of pure filler as content, heavy graphics used to pad out the pages, but in particular what strikes me is the sheer amount of material that is (in one way or another) centred around selling something. The computer game article for example, the reviews section, John Lloyd's long forgotten rejected script revived as a Big Finish release. The Magazine is heavily commercial. Many of these things being promoted are of minimal interest to me personally, and are here doing little but act as advertising for DWM's sponsors. What always interested me in Doctor Who Magazine when I found it in the early 1990s was the regular in-depth material looking at the series itself, and the steady supply of in-depth interviews - sometimes finding someone obscure from behind the scenes of the series but with a lot of interesting insight coming from them - this issue's interview with John Lloyd harks back to that tradition, as while Lloyd never in fact worked on the show it is his experiences and friendship with Script-editor Douglas Adams that is explored and discovered. Generally, when you look to DWM today you don't see this approach, what you tend to see is watered down rather superficial 'filler' interviews, though it appears that over time the once staple interviews in the Magazine have become rather scarce relatively speaking. It is why the Special Editions are where it is at for me, as these really are value for money and tend to be superbly done all-round, a lot of hard work and love goes into the specials generally... but it is at the main Magazines expense.

So I ordered this issue. I want to try it again, but while it isn't all bad I do feel overall that looking at it I see all the things within this issues content that weigh it down in recent years. And with the comic-strip being placed on hiatus again, due to costs, there comes the knowledge that this is going to be another eight pages that need filled out with puff-pieces and padding.

But the content:

•The first several pages this issue consist of a series of utterly banal, heavily sanitised, and breezy letters pages smiling wistfully over the Target Novels. The purpose of a letters page used to be for showing off a variety of viewpoints, a reflection of the audience. But not in DWM here, not today. If you take these pages and then compare to the Reviews section at the back of the Magazine you will find the editorial tone of todays modern Doctor Who Magazine on full display... and it embodies everything that has gone wrong in its management. One of the main reasons for its ebbing popularity and readership.

Following the letters pages there is a page that looks back at 1985 and teases an exciting look at the Fanzines out in that year! But no, it IS Fanzines yes, but in particular this looks at the Charity fanzine event called "Fanaid" of that year. It's disappointing. These initial 12 pages are of no interest to me quite frankly, just filler material. I doubt they can be interesting to anyone...

•The first actual article of substance it a series of short interviews with artists who have contributed to Doctor Who Merchandise over the years - Colin Howard, Chris Acchileos, Martin Geraghty, - these I enjoyed reading! Although very short entries they offer an insight into both the artists and their work for the series, and it is the one part of the Magazine that justifies the heavy Graphics policy.

•John Lloyd's Interview I commented on above, this harked back to the great interviews of the early 90s DWM, when fans would go out and eagerly seek out the most obscure of subjects for an interview and use them to shed new light on a particular era or aspect of the show. An enjoyable piece this.

•Autograph Hunters - an article looking at the people who collect autographs, I have yet to read this but it does look an interesting enough distraction.

•The Moonbase revisited - a computer generated recreation of the huge set used in this 1967 serial, I did enjoy the Evil of the Daleks recreation in this series but here the modelling for the Moonbase set is something I find very lacking. This story had marvellous sets, the flaw in the recreations here is that the angles used in the modelling are distance shots and the picture sizes in the article are bafflingly small. Though it may be that the first point is what informs the latter. This is just disappointing to look at.

•Interview with Chris Noth. I just could not care less. This isn't for me.

•Comic Strip 'The White Dragon' - I Don't care. No interest in this whatsoever.

•The Fact of Fiction looks at 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship'. A lightweight regular feature to DWM this is a mainstay you can either take or leave. In my day it was The Pixley Archives, and this is the difference between Doctor Who Magazine as it once was, and what it stands for now. 'Nuff said.

I have to say that on the whole when I look at the Magazine, its choice in content, the slapdash nature of it all, I see something that just isn't good enough anymore. It feels malnourished, listless. Without flavour.
What was once an essential purchase for the Doctor Who fan now reads as disposable, a reviews section that was once balanced in its abilities to pass praise or critique now seems utterly emblemic of the entire editorial approach to the Magazines content and house-style. But whatever the average age is of the people who submit the reviews at DWM it is an age bracket that seems not to know how to actually write an honest critique of a commercial release they are given, which as a writing standard is remarkably true of the rest of the Magazine's content in general. It looked and reads to me like the equivalent of a mis-sold sausage Roll - the sort you buy, you consume, only to find all there is is puff-pastry, there is very little actual substance or filling....

I like reviews, I used to like reading Doctor Who reviews in DWM back in the day, but as I skimmed through this issue and came to the reviews section it was with some resignation. I know DWM has towed a very middle-of-the-road-line for years now, a place where the word "critique" is not in anyone's dictionary, and their reviews section is no exception to this policy.
So I read the reviews. And Every. Single. One. Of. Them. is free of critique. There is no discussion in any of these reviews. No ambiguity. Just a very sanitised rundown of the release in question and praise given. That is it. None of these pieces have a drop of critique. No criticisms of a writers style, no observation as to how strange or poorly thought out a plot-beat is, no words on a story being too light or just plain dull, all there is is middle of the road rundowns of a release and praise duly given on it being a fine Doctor Who release.

Regular readers of the Magazine will be telling me this is par for the course, but from my perspective it is just tiresome and disappointing to see such blandness and a lack of any grit in the Magazines overall tone and content. Here is a Magazine that surely appeals to no one out there in the fandom, as it makes it a mission statement to be as impartial and non-judgemental as it is humanly possible to be. To the extent that there is some spoken or unspoken consensus with review contributors that all confrontation and negative undertones are to be excised and edited out of their submissions.

What a testament to mediocrity this Magazine has become.

I love the Special Edition's yes, but the main Magazine has suffered heavily due to the solid in-depth articles and research the Specials demand, while the main Magazine looks to have been bled dry to service the demanding schedules and depth of work the Specials require to service them.
I am torn here thinking that I do hope DWM can rebound, that it can retrench as it did in the early 90s and find and connect with the hardcore fan who loves the series and its heritage, but realistically the world has changed and DWM has changed. Today it is all about creating division and festering on Social media, the makers of DWM have been guilty of doing all of this, more interested in a minority interest like Twitter than it is in delivering what the mass audience out there in the real world want in the Magazine, but it really does sadden me as DWM has the clear potential to be so much more than it has been reduced to thanks to them. Inadequate editorial, poor management and understanding of resources and the need for finding writing talent, and perhaps above all a catastrophic failure to understand or reach out to its core readership.

That will be the legacy left behind.