The drawbacks first: the annual features Sarah Jane Smith as the companion, though she had left the show more than a year before most people would have read this, and in addition she is once again very poorly portrayed in the art (see right), looking more like a somewhat chunkier version of Leela than at all resembling Elisabeth Sladen. The filler material is as banal as ever. The whole thing is only 62 pages, which I think is a new low.
But the stories are actually rather good, and some of the images had lingered with me for a third of a century - the world full of skeletons in "A New Life", the crowds of people lost in their own separate dream worlds in "The Sea of Faces", the Doctor forced to go back on an ally who turns out to be flawed in "The Traitor" (the comic strip from which I took the frame shown here). Somehow the writing quality has gone up a notch.
And having earlier decried the filler material as banal, I loved the Doctor solving a diplomatic crisis with the old trick of taking a three-figure number, reversing it, taking the difference, reversing that and adding them to inevitably get 1089:
I prove this mathematically as follows:
Your three-figure number can be broken down as 100a + 10b + c
Its reverse is 100c + 10b + a
The difference is 100(a-c) + (c-a) = 99 (a-c) = 100(a-c-1) + 90 + (10+c-a)
the reverse of that is 100*(10+c-a) + 90 + (a-c-1)
add them together and you get 900 + 180 + 9 = 1089
Anyway, worth getting hold of another paper copy at last.