One of the things that popped through the letterbox when I was away (OK, was handed to the Lovely Wife as it was considerably too big to get through the slot) was a mysterious large, flat parcel that when shown to me via Facetime to inspired a complete lack of recognition on my part. This is unusual; although I am certainly guilty of buying too much stuff from on line retailers I can usually keep track of what I had ordered and when it was likely to arrive, but I was drawing a blank on this one.
Turns out I had to wait until I got back from Asia to find out it was actually a bumper issue of Doctor Who Magazine (from here on referred to as DWM) which has turned in issue 500.
I have no embarrassment in revealing I’m a subscriber and while the tidal wave of BBC merchandise that has appeared related to the series since it came back on television in 2005 has rather washed over me – I still have trouble believing just how much Who related stuff is out there – this is one thing that I have stuck with. And it has been a long relationship. The first issue I picked up was in 1979 – issue three, in those days you never actually found out about such things existing except by stumbling across them in a shop which nowadays even I feel strange looking back on considering targeted internet advertising making it harder to avoid knowing there is something you could spend you hard earned pocket money on. But there it was, Tom Baker on the cover being menaced by a (not actually that menacing) ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ class cyberman (as an aside I have now just educated my spellchecker that ‘cyberman’ is a thing) lurking in a newsagent in Blyth in Northumberland, in October Half Term. Thoughts of sweets or some Spiderman comic vanished in an instant and I pounced. The relationship was off to a good start, and it is still going strong.
Love of DWM is almost a separate thing to a shared love with the rest of the leadership of the programme. The best way I can put it is that over the next 497 issues (plus specials!) I’ve grown up with this magazine and reading the celebratory 500th issue it brings it home quite sharply – I know all the in jokes as well as the contributors, probably better, because the best in jokes are ones that are subtle and known only to those who think themselves clever enough to notice. I suspect younger readers are somewhat flummoxed by this month’s exercise in nostalgia but I don’t really care. This month is not for them, it is for long term followers like me who had my parents subscribe to it from issue 4 and who now automatically renews his own subscription – and probably always will until it folds.
Why such loyalty to a magazine? Well, part of it is Who off course, but I think at the moment the magazine speaks straight to me. It is written for adult fans and most of the people writing for it, as well as the people actually making the programme are within a decade either way of myself; similar touchstones. Perhaps more importantly during the wilderness years – 1989-2005 with a blip in 1996 – DWM, together with the Virgin New Adventures novels was the main crutch for fans like me that were missing the programme that we loved. Endlessly creative in finding ways of filling the gap when there was nothing really new to report it rarely felt padded and if anything it seemed quite odd when the programme came back with so much publicity – and certainly they are playing an interesting game in featuring the new stuff but not neglecting the old that aged fans like me still want to see covered – and it is an important game as they cannot afford to upset the old timers. Like any specialist restaurant or pub you might patronise (in the proper sense of the word) the casual purchasers are what gives you profit, but it is the regulars that keep you afloat. A pub without regulars will usually fail at some point, and a specialist magazine without subscribers will go the same way; thankfully my favourite magazine seems good at playing the long game.