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January Books 5) Doctor Who Annual 1979

Yet again, a Doctor Who annual where the art is rather good for the Doctor but pretty awful for the companion - in this case, the lady on the right is supposed to be Leela, as played by Louise Jameson, but doesn't look in the least like her. Since this came out in September 1978, and she had left the programme several months before, maybe the compilers of the Annual and the BBC were hoping we had forgotten what she looked like. The picture here looks if anything more like Mary Tamm's Romana wearing a wig and a bad bra.

But in general the 1979 annual seems to be continuing the track of improvement on previous years. The fiction again is well-written and actually fairly substantial, the prose stories taking up 35 pages out of 64 and the comic strips another 12; the comic strips seem to have absorbed the spirit of 2000 AD in both style and substance, very flashy and busy but actually telling a story at the same time; and apart from my whine about the artwork the characterisation of Leela and the Doctor is generally (though not consistently) accurate. I was intrigued by one of the prose filler pieces as well, about the 'Skyship', which I hadn't heard of but turns out to be the ancestor of the Skyship 600 airship which is in fact in commercial use today. (So, yes, I was actually educated by the educational bits.)

Most of the stories fail the Bechdel test at the first hurdle, in that there is no female character other than Leela; the sole exception is the first of the comic strips, "The Power", which features a character called Princess Azula, but she and Leela do not have a conversation, so it fails the second hurdle. One can perhaps query whether the Bechdel test is fair on stories where most of the characters are non-human, though I think that if the non-humans are clearly gendered it's not unreasonable.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who Annual 1979
The visual image of the companion has nothing to do with 'the compilers of the Annual and the BBC... hoping we had forgotten what (Leela) looked like'. To use the likeness of Louise Jameson would have meant having to pay her some money, and that was obviously beyond the budget of this publication. If I remember rightly, Caroline John as Liz Shaw was the first TV companion to be credited on an annual's cover (although earlier comic strips in the Troughton books were at least using recognisable photo reference of Fraser Hines as Jamie. But it wouldn't be until the Davison era when the companions regularly started looking like the actors concerned!

Nowadays, when so much effort is put into maintaining and ensuring the quality of 'the brand' across all its merchandise, this would just not be allowed! I mean, the World Distributor annuals didn't even start using the programme's logo until 1980 - up until then, you could be forgiven for thinking the Annual was based on a programme called 'THE DR WHO'!
Jan. 8th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Doctor Who Annual 1979
Thanks, interesting points; would you mind identifying yourself?
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
Surely the vast majority of Dr. Who books are doomed to fail the Bechdel test, almost by definition...
Jan. 8th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
It is by no means inevitable. The Bechdel test doesn't require that the central character should be female, it just requires that there be two female characters (true of almost all Who stories longer than the ones considered here) who talk to each other (less frequent, but still I think true of the majority of Who stories) and talk about something other than a man (the tricky bit).
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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