The 1994 Yearbook
|ISBN||1 85400 317 8|
|Starring the first seven Doctors and various companions|
A Review by Finn Clark 9/5/04
A World Distributors annual in all but name. Six chunky short stories, two comic strips and only two non-fiction articles. The Unknown Forest looks at non-fan analysis of the show, including actors and production team members, while Whofax is simply a breakdown of how many stories and episodes featured each Doctor, companion, monster and returning character. It's just a series of tables and footnotes, only of interest to irredemable saddos and thus, um, well... okay, I loved it. It's like reading someone else's Top Ten list; you can't stop yourself checking what's at number seven and so on.
There are also a few one-page features, including a crossword by Nigel Robinson, but this is basically a hardback Doctor Who anthology. (It's lavishly illustrated too, with particularly gorgeous work from Phil Bevan and Brian Hudd.)
Unfortunately it's not always much fun. There's nothing written by Colin Baker this year (boo, hiss!) and a lot of stories are po-faced. Marc Platt's Loop the Loup is dull, though I liked the sheep. Mark Gatiss's Perfect Day tries to do something heartwarming with the (literal) end of the Earth and nearly succeeds, but it's still hardly a laugh a minute. Nigel Robinson's Pulling Strings wrongly puts the NA Doctor in Season 24 (calling him a "dour-faced" masterplanner... yer what?), though a second reading showed the story to be less downbeat than I originally thought.
Even the Tim Quinn & John Ridgway comic strip A Religious Experience left me cold, despite the fact that it's an unusual type of story and has a strong, distinctive 1st Doctor. Maybe it's the gaudy colouring which massacres John Ridgway's scratchy, atmospheric art. (Fortunately the other comic strip, Rest and Re-Creation by Warwick Gray & Charlie Adlard, is more enjoyable. It's a straightforward tale of the 4th Doctor, Leela and two duelling Zygons, mainly notable for blocky, dynamic art. The likenesses aren't great, but that's not what Adlard's interested in. Instead he gives us good visual storytelling, interesting compositions and strong inking.)
There are high points, even if they're only relative. The Changeling Years is by Gareth Roberts, whose 4th Doctor is as wonderful as ever, but the story has two handicaps. One is Paul Vyse's art, which is gaunt, haunting and not what you'd choose to illustrate a comedy. You don't realise that you're meant to laugh. The other is Leela, who's oddly bland. Leela is a fantastic character who can be hilarious in the right hands, but for some reason she doesn't click with Gareth. This story is funny and entertaining, no question, but only when Leela's offstage.
With Gareth off-form, that leaves only two stories I'd really rave about. One is Reconnaissance, by Terrance Dicks! It's fashionable to bash Uncle Terry's novels, but his work for these Yearbooks has always sparkled. It's a stream of joyful bubbling Terrance-isms that waffle on randomly and then stop - which is precisely what drags down his novels, but at this length it's fantastic. Plot? Who cares about plot? Terrance is evoking the UNIT era and it's note-perfect, a thousand times better than Deadly Reunion. This 3rd Doctor is definitive, entertaining in all the right ways.
However this year's best story is Andy Lane's The More Things Change, which gets more beautiful every time I read it. I won't go on and on, but suffice to say it's one of my very favourite Doctor Who short stories. It deconstructs the 6th Doctor (mirroring our thoughts on first seeing his TV stories) only to build him up again better than ever. It's also a nice slice of future history, putting Legacy of the Daleks in perspective despite coming out years before Peel's opus.
This feels like an uneven collection, sometimes overly serious but still containing some worthwhile stuff. It's chunkier than last year, having dropped the kiddie material, and with the small typeface is probably twice the word count of any World Distributors annual. It even has Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett! Their Infamous Moments in History is pretty funny, but I howled at Grim Realisation of a Time Lord...