‘Vworp Vworp!’ Issue Five reviewed

The team at Vworp Vworp! return with another deep dive into the worlds of Doctor Who!

The Doctor Who universe has got to be one of the most documented universes there is in both its fictional version and its real life, behind the scenes guises. Despite this, there is still much to uncover and much that we don’t know. The latest issue of the fanzine Vworp Vworp! takes its readers into some of these previously undocumented areas and uncovers a whole lot of new facts, as well as speculating on the truth of some well-worn ‘taken as facts’ facts.

Their big scoop this issue is a look at the Nelvana animated series that so nearly came to fruition in the early 1990s. It’s pretty amazing how close this came to happening while completely slipping under the radar of fandom. At a time when fans would seize any slight rumour and blow it up into a big piece of news, it goes to show there still could have been a surprise return of the show, albeit in a guise they wouldn’t have expected.

There’s a surprising amount of detail about the pitch from Nelvana in the well-researched article. I won’t spoil all the details here, but it’s fascinating to read about the thought that went into bringing Doctor Who to life again as an animated series and what the company would have done with the show over the 26 episodes that were possibly to come. That we get to see multiple drafts of the pitch and series bible is astounding and I thoroughly enjoyed Nick Pegg’s close analysis of the various drafts of the series’ potential pilot episode.

Even better though is the bonus CD which really does give us a what if moment by presenting a full cast dramatisation of the script for Rowen. It’s very well done and gives us a tantalising glimpse of what the series may well have been like. The Doctor, in inspired casting, is played by Arthur Bostrom who throws himself into the role with gusto. It’s not casting I would have considered but on the strength of this, give him the role! That he reveals himself to be a bit of a fan too in the bonus interview is really wonderful. He certainly knows his stuff.

A thorough look at the worlds of Doctor Who animations takes in the first and actually produced cartoon, an Australian advert for Doctor Who ice lollies, a potential McGann era animated series and the work in 2001 for a potential animated series by Mike Tucker. There are some interesting proposals among them but launching a new animated series by reuniting the Doctor and Nyssa on Terminus? Possibly not a good way to hook an audience outside of fandom…

What’s wonderful about Vworp Vworp! is that from the start its remit has been to really champion one of the more unsung areas of Doctor Who; its comics.  This issue takes a detailed look at the making of the early Colin Baker era comic strips, with a special focus on one of the greatest strip stories of all, Voyager. As a fan who was exactly the right age of these strips at the time, I absolutely adored them. It was great to read that they’re still held in similarly high esteem by the creators, John Ridgway, Steve Parkhouse and Alan McKenzie, to this day.

While I’m no artist, I’m always really interested to read about the creative process of putting the strips together, so it was a delight to read about how Voyager came into being. John Ridgway was always my favourite of all the artists to work on the DWM strip and it’s so good to read about his enthusiasm for his time on the strip. There’s a tangible feeling of trust that comes through the interviews with Ridgway and Parkhouse; they both brought out the best in each other’s work with Parkhouse’s scripts leaving Ridgway the space for his art to fly. It’s a strip that captured my imagination aged 9 and one I still find beguiling to this day. As the article notes, it’s one of those rare times where, arguably, the comic strip version of Doctor Who is of a far higher quality than the TV show. Voyager remains the most imaginative and wonderful adventure the Sixth Doctor had in any medium.

It was also lovely to read about the life and work of artist Phil Bevan. I was a huge admirer of his work in the 1990s, especially because his work often had such a sense of movement within it. He had a unique style that always felt very organic, possibly because he wasn’t slavishly copying publicity photos at a time when that was very much the norm. It’s good to see some rarely seen full page examples of his work and find out a bit more about the man himself.

The zine takes a good look at the world of the Daleks for much of the issue. For many years the writer of the TV-21 Dalek strips and the stage play Curse of the Daleks has been largely attributed to David Whitaker, perhaps to the denigration of Terry Nation. Was this actually the case though? Alan Stevens takes a deep dive into both pieces of work, analysing what made it to the page or stage and speculating, based on other works of both gentleman who might have written what.  He presents a convincing argument for more involvement from Nation than perhaps was previously thought. Sadly, though, however convincing the argument, it’s still a question we may never know the actual answer to. It is good to see Nation getting a bit more credit than is often the case though.

One character that is seemingly timeless from the Doctor Who comic strip world is Absalom Daak: Dalek Killer. The star of the back-up strips in Doctor Who Weekly is one frequently cited as a good fit for a spin-off show or further comic strip exploits and the lengthy article on the creation of the character and all his adventures considers why this might be. Drawing a little on aspects of Daak’s creator, Steve Moore’s somewhat troubled life among other influences, Alan Stevens once again writes a fascinating article that makes sense of some of the inconsistencies in Daak’s story over the years and why we still love him, despite the character not being a comfortable fit in the Doctor Who universe.

Of course, no issue of Vworp Vworp! would be complete without some new comic strip action. This issue delivers some cracking material too; a new Star Tigers adventure drawn by John Ridgway, a truly superb return to the alternative world where Rome never fell with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in The Iron Empire, as well as new instalments of The Daleks, the Cybermen and a trip back in time 30 years for An Encounter at Crinkly Bottom… Oh yes, really! There’s also a delightful little text story from the late Donald Tosh.

It seems wrong to refer to Vworp Vworp! as a fanzine, as this is as professional as magazines come. It’s beautifully put together and gives the articles the wonderful look they deserve. Honestly, treat yourself to a copy of this. You won’t regret it. You’ll get several hours of quality reading and articles you will want to revisit and enjoy again as well as a bonus audio adventure with a new incarnation of the Doctor you’ll quickly fall in love with. Highly recommended!

❉ “Vworp Vworp!” issue 5 (February 2023) Edited by Colin Brockhurst. Published by Gareth Kavanagh. Available from vworpvworp.co.uk .

❉ Si Hart is a regular writer for We Are Cult but when he isn’t writing he’s busy podcasting. You can find him as one of the main crew on Maximum Power, the Blake’s 7 podcast and a host on Trap One, a Doctor Who podcast. He’s aslo regular on A Hamster With A Blunt Penknife.  He tweets from @Si_Hart. So basically, you can’t escape him! 

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