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Reach for the Sky

In the summers of 1967 and 68, Doctor Who fans regarded one ice lolly as light years ahead of the rest. Available for a mere sixpence, Sky Ray came with a free colour picture card and was accompanied by a 28-page book. The only problem was an unfamiliar-looking Doctor…
The first 35 cards in the Doctor Who Sky Ray series.
The Doctor says farewell to his friends in the 36th and final card.
This advert for Wall’s lollies from the early 1960s includes the Booster, the precursor to the Sky Ray.

There are famously rare and ephemeral items of Doctor Who merchandise. Then there are those that just melted into history. Literally.

In 1967, Wall’s began a Doctor Who-themed campaign for its Sky Ray ice lolly. Unless there are fans out there with large freezers and a knack for avoiding power cuts, it’s likely that all of the lollies are long since gone, leaving behind only sticks, wrappers, and a set of collectable cards with an accompanying book. Fortunately, they’re the most interesting part of the story.

Wall’s, which began as a butcher’s stall in London’s St James Market in 1768, didn’t move into ice cream products until 1922, when an acquisition by Unilever made it a financially viable option. The company initially concentrated on the dessert market, with family-sized tubs of ice creams and packs of basic ice lollies, until two serious challenges forced it to change its approach. Mr Whippy ice cream vans began operating in 1958, and close rivals Lyons Maid began to exploit the commercial potential of single lollies sold to children with an eye-catching slogan and artwork.

Wall’s would acquire Mr Whippy in 1964; as regards ice lollies, they had no option but to provide their own alternatives. Early efforts such as the Sno-Frute and the two-flavour Woppa – both promoted by cartoon artwork and available in several varieties – were hugely successful. These paved the way for a high-profile relaunch in 1963 with three new lollies: chunky 3D, the caramel and chocolate Z-Bar, and the rocket-shaped Booster, which boasted an “orange-flavour nose cone” and “raspberry flavoured rocket”. It was less boastful, however, about its similarity to Zoom, a rocket-shaped fruit-flavoured ice lolly launched by Lyons Maid a couple of months earlier.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

• In his Production Notes showrunner Chris Chibnall recalls recording the Thirteenth Doctor's special reveal scene last July • 40 years on from his Doctor Who debut, we pay tribute to Douglas Adams, “the greatest writer ever to have turned his genius to Doctor Who” • A look at Douglas Adams' notebooks reveal more about his creative process • Peter Purves answers questions from DWM's TARDIS tin • A blast from the past as DWM investigats the Sky Ray ice lollies which were enjoyed by Doctor Who fans in the summers of 1967 and 68 • The story of IDW's distinctive range of Doctor Who comics in America • DWM chats to graphic designer Lee Binding about the packaging for the Season 12 Blu-ray box set • Part Five of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Time Team tackles three of Doctor Who's most controversial and complained-about episodes • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2017 Twelfth Doctor story Empress of Mars • Seventh Doctor cosplay with Jamie Lenman • Previews, audio reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!