Tuesday 18 June 2013
Whilst researching images for my recent post on The Monster of Peladon, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia on seeing the old Weetabix collectable character cards again.
Now, there is a great deal written about the 1960's Dalekmania merchandising (there's a significant feature in the recent Dalek Magazook). There are whole websites, and books, devoted to all the merchandise released since the series came back in 2005.
The 1980's green K9, 5-sided TARDIS console and two armed Davros get mentioned a lot - entirely due to those errors.
One era of merchandising rarely talked about is the stuff covering what might be argued as the classic series best years - the later Pertwee / early Tom Baker period. Why? Because there was virtually nowt released.
And yet there were a few gems to be found during my own personal formative fan years. I do have an older brother, but he is of the "Not We", so there wasn't any Dalek material for me to inherit. (Yes, a deprived childhood).
Come with me then, if you will, on a journey back through time - to what is often thought to be merchandising's Dark Times.
The images at the head of this post were the second set of collectables from Weetabix. The first set were the full figure ones, some of which can be seen immediately above. Other characters included a Yeti, Quark and White Robot from the Troughton era. There was also Saarl (sic), which was actually taken from a photo of Azaxyr. You could also collect Alpha Centauri, Aggedor, a Silurian, a Sea Devil and an Axon monster. I had several Cybermen, and turned one into a Cyberleader (using a black felt pen) after watching Revenge of the Cybermen. The figures could stand up, and on the back of each box was a background scene to pose them against - jungle, volcanic cavern etc.
My family never bought Weetabix - until prompted by me. They never ate any of it once bought, so it was down to me to finish the contents of every box in order that another could be purchased. (I must have been a very regular youth). Naturally I would cheat a little, binning the odd one or feeding one to the dog - never appreciated - but did manage to complete both sets.
Another promotion which I collected were the Typhoo Tea photo cards, sending off for the accompanying book "The Amazing World of Doctor Who" (which is what the World Distribution annuals ought to have been like). For a couple of months, my dad was deprived of his favoured PG-Tips (he loved the chimps) just to placate me.
Talking of the annuals, they continued throughout the entire run of the programme, but were sadly lacking in much visual representation from the programme itself. What I always wanted were photos from the series - especially pictures of monsters. Before DW Weekly and the magazines born out of the Star Wars phenomena - "Starburst", "TV Zone" etc., there were very few places you could get photographs (apart from Radio Times).
Having that aforementioned older brother, who was into horror movies, introduced me to the short-lived magazine "World of Horror".
The magazine featured primarily Hammer, Amicus, Tigon films, but the first edition had a photo of Malpha, from Mission To The Unknown. Subsequent issues covered an increasing amount of Doctor Who material - even getting the above cover. The pieces were relatively text free monster galleries, but one of the last issues had a full feature on The Claws of Axos. Of course, another draw for the 10 year old me were wonderfully gory (and frequently naughty) images from what were then X-rated movies I had absolutely no chance of ever getting to see. You'll find copies of this magazine on e-bay - but for a heck of a lot more than 30p.
A particular item treasured by me was the Doctor Who Poster Magazine. As you can see, the cover was not exactly promising, and the actual poster was a publicity shot of Tom, but the reverse of the poster held a plethora of glossy photographs from the show (sadly mostly B&W). I bought my copy on a trip to the Blackpool Exhibition - a much anticipated annual event for me. Imagine my delight on a subsequent trip to obtain the second Poster Magazine - with far more colour photographs and two posters.
Soon after, those hideous Doctor Who dolls were released (including the scary Leela), and Star Wars was about to burst onto the scene - initiating loads of sci-fi magazines which featured the programme (as mentioned above). Then, in 1979, we got a publication all of our own.
It may sound a bit perverse, but in some ways I miss the relative lack of merchandising. There was stuff out there, and you really had to hunt for it (or eat hundreds of Weetabix), and it made finding things all the more thrilling. We're all a bit too spoiled these days (and a lot less regular)...