22nd Feb 2019
Doctor Who has been a massive part of my life, my first memory being the classic Tom Baker story The Hand of Fear and specifically the cliff hanger to episode one where the stone hand comes back to life. I am not sure whether I can actually recall any of the episode other than that cliffhanger but I certainly remember my reaction to it, the nightmare that followed that night and the criticism my parents received for allowing me to watch something so unsuitable for a child that age.
That was October 1976 so my memory can only have been fleeting..
It was in the 1960’s and 1970’s that television and film merchandise really started to grow in popularity. The obvious game changer was Star Wars but for fans of Doctor Who there was still lots of great things available, things that may appear a little basic today but that brought joy and magic to children of that era. I loved the look and feel of Doctor Who items and the diamond logo gave me excitement like nothing else.
During that time there was no internet, there was only 3 television channels, video recorders were in their infancy and mobile telephone devices didn’t exist. If you wanted merchandise there were no pre-order lists where you could see future releases months in advance and if you wanted something you would need to scour a catalogue or trudge round the shops hunting for it. If you were really young you would be reliant on Birthday or Christmas gifts, if you were lucky you may be bought a treat.
In this blog I will be listing in no particular order those pieces of Doctor Who related books and merchandise that were special to me in the 1970’s and 80’s.. I have started here with 5 of my favourites…
All of these items are still worth looking out for..
These are not rare items and hold very little value today. These were bought for me by my Dad from WH Smiths in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the late 1970’s.
I do remember seeing lots of Star Wars figures at the time but I was so happy with these books. I struggled to read them at that age but I loved the cover artwork by Chris Achilleos and Jeff Cummins and still do today. Lots has been written about Doctor Who novels over the years and I can’t add anything to what has already been said. These books were my first ever Doctor Who items and I adored them.
These were the beginning of my journey in collecting Doctor Who merchandise, a hobby that I would carry on with for the next 40 years and more…
I was bought one of these from a toy shop is a small village called Ponteland which is just outside Newcastle Upon Tyne. In later life I have learned that this was based on the Doctor Who story “The Face of Evil” starring Tom Baker. I loved the picture on this jigsaw and have vivid memories of making it on our glass coffee table. The artist, Paul Crompton did lots of Doctor Who related artwork in this era and was often featured in the Doctor Who Annual. This was one of his less psychedelic paintings. There was a whole series of these jigsaws with different paintings but this was my favourite. I do still have my original but there are loads of pieces missing and the box is in tatters.
There have been a number of sets of Doctor Who jigsaws throughout the life of the show. It started in the 60’s with the Daleks and continued into the 70s with a number of sets featuring Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. The was a series title ‘The Enemies of Doctor Who’ featuring some classic villains and the ‘The Amazing World of Doctor Who’ with some more Daleks and K9. These are all well worth looking out for and feature some lovely artwork and imagery. The army of Giant Robots is a brilliant concept for such a capable war machine. Into the 80s there was a Peter Davison set which was not so good with some photo composted images being the main image on the puzzle. These don’t look great to me but are still nice to have…
It was common in the 1960s and 70’s to write to the BBC Production Office asking questions about the show and saying how much it had scared us. The BBC would reply with one or two fan cards from the respective era of the show. Many of these have now become incredibly rare and collectable, selling for large sums of money. In the mid to late 70’s the fan cards were replaced by colour postcards. The pride of my collection was a postcard of the Doctor, with a pre-printed signature signed “Happy Days Tom Baker”. This encouraged me to write each year in the hope I would accumulate more of these. I was delighted one year when visiting the Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool to find a different picture that was signed “Welcome to Blackpool”. Those replies from the Production Office were always worth waiting for, often with letters, postcards and a synopsis of the series with an Episode Guide included.
Definitely Happy days!
I mentioned in the introduction that video recorders were very expensive and scarce in the 1970’s and the advent of BBC Video releases was still some years off in the late 1970’s. There was no way you could enjoy old stories other than occasional TV repeats or TARGET novels, there was no Doctor Who Weekly until 1979. However, there were some very lucky fans who had off air audio recordings and some even luckier ones who had video recordings but for a 5 year old these were almost impossible to obtain.
I think the first Doctor Who media release was BBC Records release of Genesis of the Daleks. This had a wonderful cover that I found haunting, with the wonderful logo as well as linking narration by Tom Baker. I have no idea how we knew this was available, maybe it was mentioned in the continuity when an Episode has finished airing on the BBC but I knew it existed and I desperately wanted it. I can clearly remember walking round all of the Record Stores in Newcastle and enquiring whether they had this in stock and nobody did. In one Shop, the assistant said they did but I was disappointed when I realised they had thought we had asked for Dr Hook. I have never liked Dr Hook since.
In the end we ended up ordering it from a shop and I had a to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive. It was agonising.
It was worth the wait. I must have listened to that story hundreds of times and can still recite the whole thing word perfectly. This was my only source of the theme tune and I loved the Dalek monologue at the end. It still seems weird when you watch the full version that the destruction of the Kaled Dome and the line “Who sent Harry and Sarah in there” is not an actual cliffhanger and the story does not end with the magical Dalek monologue.
This maybe my favourite piece of merchandise and I still enjoy it today.
This was probably my favourite ever Christmas present and it came from my Grandparents. It was a great Christmas because I received this and a plushy Basil Brush. This Dalek was my first Doctor Who related toy and it also spoke. Like most things at this time it had striking cover artwork featuring a Dalek in battle with bold and colourful ‘DALEK’ text finishing the box. I was advised at the time to keep the box and be careful with it but after a few weeks it was destroyed and lost.
The Dalek said a number of phrases when you pressed the speech button on his head. “You will OBEY”, “Attack, Attack, Attack”. “What are your orders” and of course “EXTERMINATE”. Sadly the speech mechanism on these would often fail with seized up motors or corroded battery terminals but they still look great. I didn’t have a Marx Dalek or Denys Fisher Dalek so this became my favourite and stood on display for many years.
Unfortunately, not only did the speech fail with thousands of these toys losing their voices, they also lost their eye stalks, guns and plunger arms. It was common to see these not talking, without their appendages and with no box but in my mind they still looked fantastic and are still one of my most loved toys today.
I do still have the remains of my original one, the voice box and appendages are long gone, the plastic body is split and the head is cracked open but I just cannot throw it away. I mistakenly believe that one day I will have the skill to repair and refurbish it. Surely, it is cheaper just to buy one in better condition? Maybe, but I will never throw it away…
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