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Annual Reports

Every picture told a story in the Doctor Who annuals of yesteryear – but now readers including Peter Purves and Matthew Waterhouse are telling these tallest of tales on audio…
The First Doctor meets some strange cellmates in the 1966 Dr Who Annual story The Sons of Grekk.

Long before Christmas Day TV specials, the highlight of a fan’s festive season was that year’s Doctor Who Annual, published by the Manchester-based World Distributors between 1965 and 1985.

Now, BBC Audio’s Doctor Who range editor Michael Stevens hopes to revive the annuals’ appeal with a new set of readings on CD. “I was looking around for new audio opportunities to run alongside our ongoing Target Books range”, he explains.

“I suddenly realised there was a whole fund of stories piled up beside me in the form of a stack of annuals. It’s easy to take the annual stories for granted because a generation of us grew up with them, and they’ve always been there quietly minding their own business on the bookshelf.”

Michael has fond memories of these hardback gift books: “I think my first one was the 1978 annual, and I’d have been seven”, he remembers. “From then on it was an annual event, pardon the pun. Anything under the Christmas tree with a Doctor Who flavour was always exciting, but the annual was the one I would be most excited about.”

Six stories of yesteryear have been adapted for The Doctor Who Audio Annual… including the Second Doctor, Polly and Ben 1967 Annual adventure The King of Golden Death – read by Polly actress Anneke Wills (below).

Michael considers that the part of the annual stories’ magic lies in their tangential approach to the programme.

“They are often somehow not quite in the strictest Doctor Who canon – and hailing from before the time when Doctor Who had brand guidelines, they flaunt some of the style rules that have since been laid down. The Doctor is often referred to as ‘Dr Who’, and the narrative will talk about him ‘emerging from Tardis’ rather than ‘the TARDIS’. Also, familiar characters can sometimes appear a little off-beam, and not quite like their TV counterparts…” Judging the stories to be period pieces, Michael has resisted the temptation to update or ‘correct’ them. “It’s easy to smile and slightly ignore them, a bit like embarrassing relatives. But then it occurred to me that if you look past those quirks and accept the annuals exist in their own parallel dimension, then they do have a lot going for them. Their prime qualities are their charm and naivety. And it’s difficult to resist stories about living dust and sinister sponges, or story titles like The Fishmen of Kandalinga or Death to Mufl! What I find really refreshing is there’s very little cynicism and absolutely no postmodernism, and that’s a rarity these days.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine 519 has an exclusive interview David Bradley, who will play the First Doctor in this year's Christmas Special, 'Twice Upon a Time'. The contents of DWM 519 also include: • An interview with Sir Derek Jacobi who is returning as the Master for a new series of audio adventures • Interviews with Jared Garfield and Lily Travers who will play the First Doctor's companions Ben and Polly in the 2017 Christmas Special • A previously unpublished interview from 1997 with Michael Craze who played the original Ben • Costume designer Hayley Nebauer tells us how she created the First Doctor's 2017 look • A tribute to Trevor Martin who played the Doctor in the 1974 Doctor Who stage play 'Seven Keys to Doomsday' • Trevor Martin's final interview • Peter Purves and Matthew Waterhouse talk about recreating stories from the Doctor Who annuals • We celebrate Doctor Who's 54th birthday by looking at what else has happen on 23rd November over the years • Part One of a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill, 'he Phantom Piper', by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty • The Time Team share their thoughts on 2011's 'The Almost People' • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2007 story 'The Lazarus Experiment' • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, 'The Blogs of Doom', prize-winning competitions and much, much more!