Doctor Who - Documentary s02e24 Episode Script

Stripped for Action - The First Doctor

In the 1 950s, obviously, comics or kids' comics, had been around for quite some time, but with the rise of television, there was obviously a bit of competition there.
Kids were watching kids' programmes, so the obvious solution there to the comics publishers was to actually start publishing stories or comics based around TV characters.
And with that in mind, that's where TVComic came around.
The News of The World set up a separate company, which was called TV Publications and later became Polystyle, and they published TVComic, and that was launched in 1 951 .
And it included some of the early Gerry Anderson puppet series like Four Feather Falls, Space Patrol by Roberta Leigh was in there and Doctor Who came along in 1 964.
The first Doctor strips in TVComic, we have to remember that they're fun.
You know, the Doctor Who legend isn't set in stone at this point.
We don't know his origin.
The stories differed a lot from what was on television.
I guess because they had to worry about a younger readership.
TVComic was still considered a child's comic for people who were under, possibly, the age of 1 0, which suited me at the time.
But you were conscious that you were never getting the older companions like Ian and Barbara or even someone like Susan or Vicki.
I guess they needed to have someone for the Doctor to talk to, and in lieu of being able to pay perhaps the rights to use characters from the television series, of course they invented the infamous John and Gillian who stayed with the Doctor right through until his second incarnation in TVComic.
They were very much the young feeds.
You almost got the impression they were something like six or seven, certainly sub the Famous Five type characters.
Very brave, very supportive of the Doctor.
But they were there really to be the characters that would either run off, get into trouble, or do the traditional Doctor Who thing of being the line-feeds to the Doctor.
John and Gillian being children is very important because they're the audience for TVComic, and Doctor Who is literally taking a boy and girl of TVComic's age around the entire cosmos.
A kid watches Doctor Who and wants to see in the comic strip Ian, Susan and Barbara.
They don't really want to see John and Gillian, who are utterly useless.
The Doctor is an inventor, fundamentally, with his grandchildren, John and Gillian.
This isn't something that's challenged because there's no origin for the Doctor at all.
He is an inventor with a police box that travels through time and space.
He has a black Gladstone bag full of gadgets and tricks and things, and he invents stuff.
The first Doctor Who strip in TVComic was the Klepton Parasites, which did sort of introduce the concept, slightly borrowing ideas from the TV series, but without actually duplicating them.
So, we do see the Tardis in a junkyard at the beginning, and the Doctor does have grandchildren which was obviously sort of based on Susan.
There's something about comic strip Doctor Who monsters.
They're just so brilliant because they're so utterly unique to the strip.
And my favourite, really, I think, in the entire history of Doctor Who comics right up to today, my favourite monsters are actually the ones from the very first Neville Main strip, which are the Kleptons.
Which are these amazing, silly and slightly cute little reptilian things with their little snub noses and big ears.
The first TVComic artist, Neville Main, had a very, very basic style.
You know, quite static, panels of all roughly the same size and dimensions.
There wouldn't be an awful lot of variety in the story telling.
Neville Main stuff was more simplistic.
He was a simple line drawer, but he captured a much greater sense of continuity to the strips.
You always felt as though you were on this kind of voyage journey with his Doctor character because he'd usually show the Tardis whirling away at the end of one story and whirling back in at the other one.
One of the most significant moments in the history of the Hartnell TVComics is the Web Planet story because, for the first time, it brings into strip form something you've seen on television, a monster.
It's quite an interesting story because it's quite early on in the run.
It's explicitly a sequel to the Web Planet, the Zarbi story, which had just finished on television, and the Doctor says to John and Gillian, ''I have been here before.
'' When they first came out, the Zarbi were billed as the next big thing and they certainly captured the imagination of people who were roughly about 1 0 years old or 9 years old at the time.
The Doctor lands on the Web Planet and discovers that the Zarbi can now fly, and they can shoot venom out of their sting guns, and they're oppressing the Menoptra again, and what's happened? And, of course, it's revealed that the Zarbi they can see flying are actually hollowed out robot Zarbi controlled by some aliens called the Skirkons.
There were some ingenious stories along the way.
The Pied Piper story, if you ever see that one, it's uncannily close to the style and feel of The Celestial Toymaker.
The Doctor lands in Germany in the Dark Ages, wherever the Pied Piper story is supposed to be set, discovers that all the children are missing and goes in search of this He's a wizard, basically, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who tells the Doctor that, ''Look, the villagers didn't want to pay me to get rid of the rats, ''so I've taken their children.
''And if you want to get them back, you have to defeat my magic.
'' So you do get that sense of the fundamental Doctor Who ethos of science versus magic with science winning out and solving the mystery.
A story which was incredibly brave and possibly something you could only do in the comics was a story in which time ran in reverse.
They landed at the end of the story.
Everything went backwards to the point when they were reunited in the Tardis at the beginning of the story, having figured out that they had to do everything in reverse to achieve getting back to the point of origin of the story.
There's quite a mystery surrounding who actually wrote the scripts for the early Hartnell Doctor Who strips, or indeed all the Hartnell Doctor Who strips.
It was thought that the artists wrote them, but after talking to at least one of the artists, Bill Mevin, he doesn't know who wrote them, but he knows he did actually work from scripts that someone else provided.
TVComic was just a production line of every children's television programme that was issued.
And we worked just on a conveyor belt.
I would get a script and I'd draw it.
Doctor Who was just another script, and a very odd one.
I did Santa Claus.
Doctor Who had to help Santa Claus enlarge his workshop, his floor space, so he sent him to another planet, as you do.
And I think now, if I were doing it now, Santa Claus would be saving the planet by controlling the emissions on his reindeer.
Unfortunately, it was one of those which sort of acknowledged the fictional aspect of the series.
So we have the Doctor, John and Gillian landing in the Tardis at the North Pole to find Father Christmas is having to work very hard to manufacture lots of toy Tardises so they can be sent to all the children all over the world.
And, unfortunately, an evil gnome tries to stop him.
I would defend the Christmas story because, rather as Russell T Davies has defined, Christmas stories have that slightly different sense of style to them than the regular ones.
Doctor Who was a very difficult script to draw.
It would take days.
I look at it now and I think, ''To do one of those a week!'' And I even managed to do Doctor Who and other small strips at the same time.
It was a lot of work.
And as I say, it was one of the most difficult strips I've drawn.
It's quite different to the Neville Main in style.
I mean, it was in colour and he used that quite well.
It was quite sort of bold colour, more of a realistic representation of the characters.
I think the Doctor started to actually look like William Hartnell a lot more.
And he did clever things where he pulled focus on the characters.
The backgrounds would be slightly blurry to give a slightly 3-D look.
The BBC were very, very helpful with reference.
Every time I wanted anything, I would get a stack of photographs, especially on Doctor Who.
I used photographic inks.
I found that the ink used in photo touching up and colouring worked beautifully on the strip, and I used a lot of that, apart from a bit of water colour.
But it was a very primitive It was a very good process.
It was straightforward.
It was called lithograph, I think.
Bill Mevin had a more, almost like a birthday-card style of illustrating which made the Doctor seem a little bit more of a jolly character.
There was a little bit of a Charlie Drake look about him which Yes, got you the grandfatherly side of the Doctor, but not the sternness that people remember the first Doctor as also possessing.
I wasn't working as well then on Doctor Who as I did later.
I wasn't given the chance to develop Doctor Who.
Six months is not long enough to develop a strip.
I had agoraphobia.
I couldn't leave the bungalow for some time.
And I think John Canning moved in then.
He was a very He was a backslapping gentleman, John.
Every time you say John Canning, you have to do that.
Every character, particularly the Doctor's, will always at some point go, with that finger.
John Canning's style of art for the strip was quite, quite energetic, very dynamic.
He'd always put his characters in halfway through action poses.
So they all looked like they were moving rather than static.
And his male characters tend to be very jowly.
They would always have these quite thick jowly necks, including the Doctor.
Very sketchy line art.
Not enormously detailed, very two-dimensional.
Whereas both Neville Main and particularly Bill Mevin had tried to make everything quite three-dimensional, because they'd used very thick and round circular shapes to everything, Canning was a very straight sketch artist.
I wasn't mad about John Canning's style.
He was a flamboyant gentleman and his drawings were flamboyant, but he didn't get the likeness to William Hartnell that I saw.
The early ones that I saw, it wasn't like William Hartnell.
Undoubtedly the most bizarre and most interesting opponent that the first Doctor faced in the comic strip were the Trods.
And the reason the Trods were there is because the Daleks weren't in TVComic, at least not at that time.
They presumably hadn't been able to negotiate the rights with either the BBC or Terry Nation.
So rather than spend money, they thought, ''We'll create our own monsters that may be just a little bit like the Daleks.
'' They're a robotic race, no obvious legs just like the Daleks.
They've got tentacles with sort of lashing rays, just like the Daleks.
They can attack people remotely.
They are a machine intelligence, that's all we know about what controls them.
They just sit in their city on Trodos, and are quite nasty, actually, to their captives.
There's quite a nasty sequence of a human slave being lashed, which seems quite vivid for the time, actually.
Sadly for the latter William Hartnell comic strips in TVComic, they moved back into the black-and-white pages, still with John Canning as the illustrator.
In 1 994, I was approached by the editor of Marvel comics to do a cover that would tie-up with my strips that I drew 30 years before They were running inside, they ran inside the comic.
And I did a drawing of Doctor Who, of William Hartnell.
The editor liked the cover so much, he asked me to do the Christmas number cover.
And I thought up this idea, I did a rough version of it, of two Daleks with tubes leading into a barrel of whisky, and they're shouting, ''Inebriate! Inebriate!'' And the fellow who created it, I think his name is Terry Nation, the fellow who created the Daleks wouldn't wear that at all.
So I'm afraid I wasn't able to do it.
I did a different, a much milder version.
It is surprising that there's so much interest in the Doctor Who strip now, 40 years later.
And they are fanatics.
I've had people writing to me.
I was sent a questionnaire.
''What inks did I use? What brush did I use?'' I mean It was another I said to one of them I was a workshop artist.
And he wanted to know where the workshop was in the studio! But they're fanatics, some of them.
And jolly good.
With hindsight, looking at all the Hartnell comic strips in the context of the whole run of Doctor Who in comics, they are quite basic and childlike.
But you do have to remember they were aimed at children, so they did fulfil what was required of them at the time.
But when you compare them now to something that's in Doctor Who Magazine, they just don't compare, really.
And they are not really comparable to the TV series at the time on television either.
So they're a little bit of an oddity in their own world.
They're fun.
You can certainly get a smile out of reading them.