Polystyle Publications Ltd
The 1979 TV Comic Annual

Published 1978 Cover image
SBN (not ISBN) 85096 084 3

Starring the fourth Doctor, Milena and Miss Young


A Review by Finn Clark 14/9/04

It's Doctor Who's last appearance in a TV Comic annual! I dare say I've tested the world's patience with my endless wibblings about TV Terrors, Mighty Moth and other such random curiosities, but over the years these silly annuals notched up 106 pages of Doctor Who comic strip, two short stories and a rather good behind-the-scenes article on the filming of The Daemons. I'm sorry to reach the end of them.

This year's annual is daft, but like last year it has Star Trek and two Doctor Who stories (one comic strip, one text story) to break up the kiddie strips. The Who stories are good. And best of all, there's no Barney Bear, Nelly and her Telly, Roobarb and Custard, Tarzan, Tom and Jerry or Texas Ted! Rod Hull and Emu have replaced Captain Pugwash, probably a fair exchange, and overall this is one of TV Comic's stronger line-ups. There's lots of Dad's Army, for starters. It may not be up to sixties standards, but it's more than passable.

The Star Trek story is gibberish. It's a Two Alien Factions story that tries to squeeze ten pages of story into five pages of strip, which it achieves by excising any information you'd need to follow what's going on. But John Canning's art looks pretty, so that's okay.

The Sea Devil is TV Comic self-plagiarism; someone liked 1977's The Tansbury Experiment so much that they redid it. And quite right too! The result is a strong story with an alien meteorite, killer seaweed and overblown dialogue. ("...This seaweed... part of that plant mutation... is contaminated by a radiation energy from DEEP SPACE.") The Doctor even destroys the monster just as he did in 1977, using sounds to lure it into a trap. This story was published during Leela's tenure and for a while TV Comic bought the rights to use her in the weekly strip, though they soon clad her in more modest fare than Louise Jameson's animal skins. (TV Comic published four Leela stories over 27 weeks and 54 pages: The Orb, The Mutants, The Devil's Mouth and The Aqua-City.)

I mention this because The Sea Devil also stars Leela... sort of. She's certainly channeling Leela's personality. She talks like her and slashes a seaweed tentacle with her knife, shouting, "Back, sea devil!" However at some point in the production process, someone decided to save a little money and thus was born Miss Young, who may be the only companion who's not Grant Markham to wear spectacles. Ah, of course. Can't possibly be Leela, then.

John Canning drew The Sea Devil (in full colour) and also illustrated the untitled text story on pp44-47. Unlike last year's text story, that's good too. It stars the Doctor, another temporary companion (Milena) and some vampiric body-hitchers who want to go play on the sun. (Yes, you read that right.) It's a fun little tale... but also it has huge, though accidental, ties with DWM comics continuity.

Do you remember Frobisher, the shapeshifting Whifferdill from the planet Xenon? Well, Milena's home planet is also Xenon. Presumably it's a planet of many different races. Milena is a Zenonian: unnaturally tall and thin, not to mention somehow ugly and sexy all at once, with an elegant African princess look and hippy hair. She's also the daughter of Xenon's ruler, an old friend of the Doctor's. Unbelievable. Why did the 4th Doctor get all the best companions, eh?

Things I learned from reading this book:

  1. Eating holes in an astronaut's space suit will not endanger their life in any way.
  2. Radiation from DEEP SPACE is scarier than ordinary radiation.
  3. Trees can bend double without snapping or showing any signs of permanent damage.
  4. At some point during his travels, the 4th Doctor had an impressionable female friend who hero-worshipped Leela and used her as a role model.
  5. Foxes can throw tree trunks.
I enjoyed this annual. Admittedly I didn't linger on the likes of Basil Brush, Popeye and Bugs Bunny, but hey, I'm not that big a masochist. The TV Comic annuals have been variously awful, hilarious and astonishing, but for my money they're far from the bottom of the Who pile. They're not "too broad and deep", whatever that means, but for entertainment value, the best of TV Comic is tough to beat. (And the worst of TV Comic is even better!)