The War Doctor has competition. Another forgotten incarnation of the Time Lord once starred in a long-lost Doctor Who comic.
According to a post on downthetubes.net, this alternative Doctor was borne out of rights issues. Apparently, every time BBC Worldwide published something that featured the Eighth Doctor, they had to pay Universal for the licensing, as they had distributed the 1996 TV movie that introduced this incarnation.
So how do you produce a new Doctor Who comic without having to pay Universal? Simple. Invent a new Doctor. And this is what freelance graphic designer Matt Bookman and Steve Cole (editor of BBC Books) decided to do. The idea was that this new Doctor Who comic would be incorporated into a new sci-fi themed magazine with the working title of Robot.
And so, along with artist Lee Sullivan, the team set about creating a dummy version of this new publication, with a view to showing it to some focus groups. Initially, Steve Cole drafted a provisional script starring the alternative Doctor. He wanted him to be more dashing and younger-looking in the hopes that he’d be able to connect with kids who might not have seen Doctor Who before. And ginger, at long last!
This new Doctor Who comic strip – titled ‘The Last Regeneration’ – saw the Doctor suffering with a bout of amnesia, whilst running from a fleet of attacking Cybermen. And the metal giants from Mondas were also given something of a redesign, with broad shoulders, bare wires, and rather sinister faceplates.
Reams of material was produced for this new Doctor Who comic, with Lee Sullivan creating 16 pages of provisional artwork, including a redesigned TARDIS console room which looked like a cross between the one seen in the TV movie, and the original from the Classic run of the show.
So what happened to this new series of adventures? Why did ‘The Last Regeneration’ never make it onto the shelves of WH Smith?
Apparently, this new Doctor Who comic did not perform well with focus groups. When dummy copies of the new Robot magazine were sent out to test readers, they didn’t see the appeal. According to Matt Freeman, the people being sampled were in the 13-30 age bracket, and didn’t seem to like anything about the publication. (Bear in mind that it didn’t just feature Doctor Who, but also Red Dwarf, The X Files and Lost in Space content.)
The general consensus was that comics and anthologies were “dead” and that kids were more interested in the likes of FHM or SFX Magazine which didn’t feature any comic strips. There was also a suggestion that Robot might have more appeal if the Doctor Who comic was replaced with something more like South Park or The Simpsons.
As such, Robot and its brand new ginger Doctor were consigned to the annals of history. A lot of the artwork has been retained though, and it’s well worth heading over to downthetubes.net to see it. Plus you can read more about the other content that was generated, including the original new strip entitled Zero Zone.
Matt Bookman, meanwhile, still thinks that Robot and the new Doctor Who comic could have been a success. To this day, he remains deeply suspicious of focus groups, and says that his love of comics is as strong as ever.
But what do you think? Would you have read a new Doctor Who comic strip starring an alternative Doctor? And would you like to have seen a sci-fi anthology magazine along the lines of Robot? Let me know in the comments.
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