TSV 76: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

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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?)

SD

11 Responses to “TSV 76: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…”

  1. Paul Scoones Says:

    Thanks for the review, SD.

    I’m sorry that you (or is it other readers?) don’t seem to like the cover artwork. If I may offer a different perspective on this, at the Wellington Armageddon last weekend I was working the Retrospace sales table where we had this issue (plus back issues) displayed for sale. The colour cover artwork drew numerous favourable remarks from those looking at the issue and resulted in healthy sales of TSV 76.

    I would like to query a few specific points in your review:

    I’m not sure how you reach the conclusion about the colour cover artwork
    that “there only seem to be a couple of contributors willing to do it”.

    I’m equally unsure how you can link the colour cover to the “loss of 12 pages of material” when at 88 pages it is only four fewer than issue 75′s total.

    Lastly, the subscriptions page hasn’t fallen off the website. The website was modified at my instigation at the beginning of the year to restrict orders to the next available issue, but the page was never removed.

    best wishes
    Paul

    PS: There are a few misspelt names that caught my eye in the review. It’s Mike (not Mark) Searl, Peter Davison (not Davidson), Georgia Moffett (not Georgina Moffet), and Jon (not John) Blum.

  2. the_other_dave Says:

    I’m very wary of getting involved here as I’m probably seen as a “hostile witness” but I suspect the 12 pages thing comes from:

    100* – 88 = 12,

    and Adam’s comment here:

    http://nzdwfc.tetrap.com/forums/tsv/0000447.html

    (*TSV 75 can not be seen as representational as it had a colour cover too and you have to consider every other 100 page issue all the way back to #63)

    “I can do maffs me”

    I’ll leave the rest to you and SD, but would ask (seeing as it has been brought up) why did you modify the page to remove subscribtions beyond the next issue?

  3. Peter A Says:

    I take the blame for the typos – sloppy spell-checking is sloppy editing!

    Have to observe the irony though, of a man’s adopted surname being one of the most frequently misspelled names in Who!

    :)

  4. Paul Scoones Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Fair comment about the page count. TSV 74 was actually 104 pages, so you have to go back to TSV 73 in 2006 to find a 100 page issue. The page totals will likely remain in flux from here on in. TSV used to be fixed at 100 pages per issue but I always found it a struggle to hit that target under my editorship, and removing that restriction has freed things up for Adam, I think.

    The primary reason for TSV 76′s shorter length was not to do with the colour cover cost but rather that one major item intended to appear in the issue failed to arrive in time (even after a year of waiting). Not wanting to delay the issue any further we elected at a late stage to go with a shorter page count.

    The change to single issue subscriptions was entirely my decision. There are a few reasons for this, the most important being that with long gaps between issues (which has been a problem dating back to when I was editor), I don’t like making readers wait up to several years to get everything they’ve paid for. Many of our sales these days come from readers who buy issue-by-issue and it made sense to me to move the remainder of the readership on to a similar same footing. So far the new arrangement seems to be working out well.

    best wishes
    Paul

  5. Alden Says:

    I’m going to argue that the article about the Radio Times coverage *is* valid and relevant for a NZ fanzine. The average NZ fan may know all about the coverage the show is getting in the media here, but things are a lot different over in the UK, what with the Radio Times cheerfully spoiling everyone by putting Sir Topham Hat and sundry other spoilers on the cover prior to the episodes screening.

    Although one might look pointedly at the Herald at this point.

    And although that wasn’t the main criticism of the piece in the review. :)

    Oh, and thanks for pointing out the problem with the time, Dave. Dang daylight saving!

  6. the_other_dave Says:

    No worries – glad to help.

  7. the_other_dave Says:

    And… while we are on the subject I think the winners so far in this years spoiler stakes are the TV Guide for “outing” the final Cylon two weeks ago.

  8. Peter A Says:

    I’m not sure about the final Cylon (I haven’t followed the series, but have tried my best to make sure I can pick it up at some point in the future, just in case…), but the latest TV Guide breezily is telling us who is [allegedly] in the Who finale this year and whom [allegedly] they will be up against.

    As for the RT article I don’t entirely agree with the review either for similar reasons to Alden above, but I do agree that it’s perhaps not the best use of the medium when online format allows for greater flexibilityof size, colour and so forth – in fact the DW Clippings Archive does this part pretty well already. I have mixed feelings about photos in fanzines on the whole; it’s a difficult thing to do them justice sometimes.

  9. the_other_dave Says:

    Yeah, but two and a bit years ago the TV Guide breezily informed us the returning Timelord was going to be the Rani played by some britpop floozy. (It was actually the Herald who let the John Sim cat out of the bag well before the UK transmission).

    Hmmm, if we are taking a straw poll here I’m afraid I’d be on the anti side for the RT article, particularly if it’s intended to be ongoing. If 2005 proved to be a year of unprecidented and spectaular coverage it might deserve an article, but not 12 pages (there’s that number again), and not closing with a online reference where we can all read the issues anyway(and as Peter pointed out, there is at least one more of those out there).

    Maybe if there were some real gems and nuggets in there something on those individually and specifically may work, but if this is going to make up (12/88*100) ~ 14% of my annual TSV’age I’d expect more than being told that there is a hilairious anecdote in the Boomtown issue and to look it up again “if you’ve kept your issue and don’t recall.”

  10. Jono Says:

    I’m still waiting for the Ninth Doctor Dictionary…

  11. Peter A Says:

    Quiet, you!

    I’m genuinely interested as to when the next issue of TSV will be out and how it will juggle the specials and regeneration – will it look forward, or back? Or can it do both? It’s not just a question of TSV of course, RTP may well face the same issue (pardon the pun). If there’s a rough Christmas/New Year release date for TSV 77 then it could be quite an interesting issue indeed for that.

    It’s always been the dilemma of ‘slow media’ of course. The tantalising detail is in how one addresses it. Or, of course, whether one chooses to.

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