He’s back, and it’s about time. The unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1997 has finally materialised, courtesy of Terraqueous Distributors.
It seems appropriate for a TV show about wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey goodness that a 1997 annual should be published in 2023, and a theoretical one at that. This is one of the ultimate ‘what ifs?’ – what would an Eighth Doctor Doctor Who annual have looked like in the late 90s, hot on the heels of Fox’s 1996 TV movie?
There were tantalising glimpses at the time; the Radio Times published its own weekly Eighth Doctor comic strip, and then of course there was the popular range of Eighth Doctor novels from BBC Books.
But a Doctor Who annual, of course, is a completely different beast – ‘beast’ being the operative word, as this publication from Terraqueous Distributors comes in at a beefy 177 pages, dwarfing even the most detailed of Type 40 manuals. And across these 177 pages, readers can expect to find a mixture of stories, puzzles and features, plus afterwords from Doctor Who writer Gary Russell and Radio Times comic strip artist Lee Sullivan.
But why have these particular contributors been chosen for the 1997 Doctor Who Annual? Well, Gary Russell was the creator of two key characters from the Radio Times strips – Stacy Townsend and Ssard the Ice Warrior – whose creations have been resurrected for this publication, with kind permission. And Lee Sullivan, of course, was the man who brought them to life visually.
And for those of you who never caught the original Radio Times strips, Stacy Townsend was a worker on a space freighter called the Dreadnought, along with her fiancé Bill. But in true Doctor Who style, the freighter was attacked by Cybermen, and Bill was inevitably subjected to cyber-conversion, although he managed to resist this ‘upgrade’ long enough to wipe out the Cyber invaders. And with her job and personal life officially in tatters, Stacy decided to join the Eighth Doctor on his travels through the cosmos.
It was while she was on these adventures that she and the Eighth Doctor encountered Ssard on the Ice Warriors’ home planet of Mars in 3998 A.D. They became embroiled in something of an Ice Warrior civil war, at the end of which Ssard decided to join the two travellers in the TARDIS.
At this stage, though, it is unclear if the 1997 Doctor Who Annual will acknowledge this origin story for Stacy and Ssard and pick up where the Radio Times left off, or whether it will retell their first encounters with the Doctor. But it does contain a number of exciting adventures for the trio, with the publishers promising villains, aliens, shape-shifting sands, dangerous doppelgängers, a trip to 1950s India, and a battle with the TARDIS’ defence systems.
In addition, Terraqueous Distributors has designed three unique covers for the Doctor Who Annual. There is the main cover from artists Mark Wogan and Pete Wallbank, plus two collectors’ covers from Kris Merola and Carolyn Edwards. The latter designs are only available to those who donate to the charity Refuge – an organisation which provides specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
The only thing to decide now, of course, is how this Doctor Who Annual fits into the complex Eighth Doctor canon. We may need a bigger blog post.
And while the internet is unravelling that particular mystery, head here to pick up your own copy of the 1997 Doctor Who Annual. It’s also worth noting that this is a not-for-profit publication, and none of the money paid by purchasers goes to the publisher / the contributors / Kerblam! / the Bad Wolf Corporation, etc. Delete as applicable.
In the meantime, do you remember Stacy Townsend and Ssard the Ice Warrior? And what’s your favourite memory of being a Doctor Who fan in the 90s? Let me know in the comments below.