Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Cuddle up to a Dalek

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Thirty years after the Tardis first materialised, Dr Who is a cult show, with merchandise in great demand

My meeting with David Howe, who owns one of the world's most impressive collections of Dr Who memorabilia, is probably the closest I shall ever come to time travel. An addict of the programme by the age of six, I found it rather unnerving to rediscover what seemed to be all my favourite childhood toys — the annuals. the badges, the Dr Who Give-a-Show projector, even the battery-operated Dalek ("with amazing robot action" that never functioned properly after my father tripped over it on Boxing Day 1964.

No other British-made television programme exerts such a powerful nostalgic pull or offers such a rich subject for collectors, "For fans of telefantasy," Mr Howe says. "Dr Who is outstripped in popularity only by Star Trek and is way ahead of all British rivals, such as Blake's Seven." The cult can be traced back to the first appearance of the Daleks, who confronted the first Doctor, William Hartnell on his second adventure, broadcast in December 1963. The croak-voiced robots converted an experimental children's science-fiction series into a world-wide commercial success, which continues to this day, making it hard to understand why the BBC stopped making the programme in 1989, "'They've never explained why," says Mr Howe, who is excited by the prospect of a new Steven Spielberg-financed television series, expected next year, with, it is rumoured, Jim Dale playing the Doctor.

The only worry about that is the prospect of an avalanche of new merchandise to buy and to document. Mr Howe, a computer programmer, began watching Dr Who in 1966. "In 1974 I started to keep memorabilia, such as toys, books and cuttings from The Radio Times." Then he met Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker through a fanzine called The Frame, which lasted from 1985 to 1993. A major aspect of this was detailed research into the programme's history, based on interviews with actors, producers. scriptwriters and the makers of special effects, as well as work in the BBC's archive at Caversham.

This led the three to work on a three-volume history of Dr Who. The first part, on the 1960s. appeared in 1992, and the second, on the 1970s, is published this month. One of the books' most impressive features is the comprehensive listing of Dr Who merchandise. This has been welcomed by collectors, who are able to buy and sell at conventions held at regular intervals throughout the country. These events are listed in the Dr Who Magazine published by Marvel UK, and in the newsletter of the Dr Who Appreciation Society. The society acts as a forum for all fans of the programme — indeed, Mr Howe met his wife, Rosemary, at one meeting.

As well as merchandise, Dr Who memorabilia includes props and costumes from the series, which form a more specialised and expensive field for collecting. The BBC has held several auctions of costumes, at which Mr Howe has acquired some celebrated monsters. including a Silurian from the 1970s, which he bought recently for around £500, and a Foamasi, made in 1980, which cost him £150 in 1983 but is now worth £500 to £600. 'There is no Dalek, however -- "the BBC has kept the originals, and although it is possible to commission replicas, they are very expensive". Mr Howe's greatest treasure is the wooden model of the Trojan Horse, used in a 1965 adventure, The Myth Makers, which he was given by its creator, the BBC designer. John Wood.

Dr Who merchandise is much broader in its appeal than props. However, many of the items from the 1960s are now very rare and command high prices. "The most coveted item of all." Mr Howe says, "is the 1964 Dalek Dressing-Up Costume made by Scorpion Automatives. The factory's entire stock was destroyed by fire, and none are known to have survived apart from two presented to the grandchildren of William Hartnell." As with all toy collecting, prices rise steeply fur items in good condition which retain their original packaging. That battery-operated Dalek I remembered so fondly would now Lost £110 to £150 if it had survived in its original box.

Other rarities are Dr Who sweets. Mr Howe owns an intact set of Dr Who Candy Favourites," another example of which recently sold at auction for £100. As far as anybody knows, there are no survivors of the Dalek's Death Ray Ice-Lolly. made from 1975 until 1977.

Many collectors have specialised interests. Some concentrate on the novelisations of the stories produced in great quantities from the mid-1970s onwards, others are interested only in Daleks, and some will collect only items relating to one of the seven actors who played the Doctor.

That difference reveals the source of the potent charm of Dr Who memorabilia. For anybody over 30, it is a reminder of the days of small black-and-white television sets, of Saturday mornings watching lurching monsters from behind the cushion and of that familiar eeir music.

Inset: Dr Who: The Seventies, by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker. is published by Virgin on October 20. The authors, and Jon Pertwee, will be signing copies at London's Forbidden Planet, 71 New Oxford Street, WI, on Saturday. November 5.

The Dr Who Appreciation Society. PO Box 330, Swansea SA2 OYU

Dealer John Fitton Books and Magazines, 1 Orchard Way, Goole, North Humberside DN14 0RT Michael Hall

Caption: Above: the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, with Daleks and (left) a Cyberman. Above right: 1993 video collection Tardis (£80). Right: 1980 Dr Who Candy Favourites (£100). Below right: 1994 Dalek salt and pepper set (£80)

Caption: Above: David Howe has hero collecting Dr Who toys. books, sweets, costumes and other memorabilia since 1974 1964 battery-operated Dalek (111111-E151))

The author is the architectural editor of Country Life

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  • APA 6th ed.: Beddall, Martin (1994-10-15). Cuddle up to a Dalek. The Times p. 10.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Beddall, Martin. "Cuddle up to a Dalek." The Times [add city] 1994-10-15, 10. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Beddall, Martin. "Cuddle up to a Dalek." The Times, edition, sec., 1994-10-15
  • Turabian: Beddall, Martin. "Cuddle up to a Dalek." The Times, 1994-10-15, section, 10 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Cuddle up to a Dalek | url= | work=The Times | pages=10 | date=1994-10-15 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Cuddle up to a Dalek | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 April 2024}}</ref>