After a fourteen month wait between issues, any negative review seems like kicking an invalid while he’s down, but with TSV’s letters page gone without trace, and this issue release provoking barely a ripple of comment on the boards, TSV’s readership seems to have checked their critical faculties at the door. (with rare exceptions) This seems a shame as silence may be interpreted as assent.
Once again we have a wrap-around colour cover. Opinion may be divided on the merits of the artwork, apparently done as a “rush job” at least six months ago (described by one fan as “Peter Davidson, his ventriloquist’s dummy, and a wall of floating heads”; and by another as “the baby-poo brown issue”), but the real concern is if any visual advantage is offset by the loss of 12 pages of material. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great for a special issue, but given the time, effort and cost, (and that there only seem to be a couple of contributors willing to do it) is it really justified?
Inside we have a lovely caricature of Tony Hadoke warming his hands between sets (no, I know it isn’t, but two other readers thought of it independently), before launching into the “chunky” articles that dominate the issue. First up we have a series of Season 4 reviews by Mark Searl and Tom Reilly. But while it’s great to see new blood and critical opinion, I just get the nagging feeling I’ve seen a lot of this perspective before (even with RTP! wisely pulling the plug on its reviews last season). Mark Searl’s pieces particularly may have benefited from a “season as a whole” overview rather than repeating complaints over episodes. It would be good to see more from these two, but with tighter editing and an understanding that brevity and conciseness are essential in any “hit and run” or drive-by shooting. (And was the font made bigger so that each one would take up about a page or two?)
Preddle at Pendraw Place was a nice, very personal piece of work. If the editorial staff are keen to introduce a greater UK perspective to the dusty old NZDWFC zine more of this kind of thing would work nicely. Full marks.
Now on the other hand, pass me the hobnail boots as we deal with the Radio Times Reflections. Be assured none of the following it a criticism of author Richard Allison, whose writing style is inclusive, light hearted and flowing – the problem is that the concept of the articles themselves seems flawed. (I use the plural because the way it reads this is implied to be the first of a series.) I’m not going to harp on about what this is doing in a New Zealand fanzine (although the question about this and the TARDIS Has Landed in Kent would be valid), or that it’s not particularly topical (although this also would be true), or even that each issue summary seems to take up more space than entire novels in the PDA article, or even the annual reviews when a similar thing was tried there (although again this would be a valid point). The real problem is that, in an issue heralding online content this is the article that would be perfectly suited to being online, with the ability to link to high-res colour scans and illustrations, rather than printing highly reduced in black and white on the printed page. It is a waste of space – and I don’t mean that nastily. It could be better used elsewhere and feels like filler.(although it is worth noting that at the time of writing the “online” content wasn’t actually “online” yet.)
We then roll into the feature interviews of the issue, starting with Peter Davidson – The TSV Interview. This piece was surprisingly refreshing in its outlook, focusing on Davidson’s recent work in Time Crash, and his perspective on the new series rather than well worn anecdotes from 25 years ago. The only fault with this is that in some points it highlighted the age of the interview (the Georgina Moffet comments particularly), and it’s presented in an odd style that, while avoiding the traditional question/answer format, does seem to let the interviewer’s questions and comments run into those of the subject, making difficult to see in places where the interviewer’s supposition stops, and the interviewee’s comments start.
This problem also permeates Tony Hadoke – Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, although it seems less noticeable in the shear verbiage of the piece. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hadoke and enjoy his work, but even with this the interview seems to ramble (I shudder to think what anyone who didn’t have context to hang all this on would’ve made of it). Some more comments and observations on the series itself or his Who (non-acting) background would’ve made it more accessible, and while it was great for him to offer up so much time and effort for us, as he himself notes – sometimes cutting out stuff you love is the key to success.
(It’s also interesting to note that the two interviews are of different font sizes. It seems odd that the shorter interview was in a smaller print while the longer one was much bigger – seems like padding).
Sandwiched between the interviews is a local Con report, which again, age does not help (almost bang on a year); but also highlights what a missed opportunity it was not to interview Kate Orman and John Blum while they were about.
In the home straight is the last instalment of Chris Skerrow’s PDA articles, and it closes the series nicely. I don’t think any of us would begrudge the amount of effort and time re-reading all these novels must have taken, and I look forward to Chris’s next, hopefully less mammoth (for his sake) work.
The issue rounds off with a short story by Lorna Fleming. It is great to see fiction making its way back into the pages of the fanzine, although I am hoping for a slightly meatier plot next time.
But perhaps the most worrying thing about the issue occurs on the last page. While you can draw your own conclusions about the need for a third editorial set of hands (realisation that quicker turnaround is needed, or more basic executive grooming?), there seems a tacit acknowledgement that we’ve slipped again from being bi-annual to now “once a year (twice if we’re lucky)” …and nunce if we’re not. And given that one has to ask whether the latest issue suggests if it really is worth the wait?
(Note: as an aside I’ve also noticed the subscriptions page seem to have fallen off the website – is this also a sign of executive thinking?)