Friday, 1 June 2007

Doctor Human

So, last week and this, the Doctor is a human being. That’s providing for some interesting drama. Unfortunately, he has turned himself into a human as a disguise because, confronted with an alien threat, he has decided to run and hide and leave others in danger rather than face his enemies. Several innocent people have died already. That seems a poor take on the character to me, but there you are.

Mind you, there is one version of the Doctor who has every excuse for being human, because he has never been anything else: Doctor Who, the Eagle comic fan, who knocked together his amazing machine TARDIS in the back garden, and travelled in it with his granddaughters Barbara and Susie and his niece Louise.

Doctor Who, played by Peter Cushing, was the lead character in the 1960s movies Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD.

He first appeared in comics in America, surprisingly enough, when Dell published Dr Who and the Daleks as a “Movie Classic” in 1966, a year after the film came out. I don’t know who adapted the script, but the art was by Dick Giordano and Sal Trapani. Don’t go expecting something of the standard of “There is No Hope in Crime Alley”. This is crude and rushed stuff.

It is little surprise that there was no comics adaptation of Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD. That film also underperformed at the box office, so producer Milton Subotsky never took up his option for a third film. That’s a shame, as the third Dalek serial on TV, now commonly known as “The Chase”, had the Doctor and the Daleks meet robot versions of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. Cushing would have been right at home.

So far as I know, this version of Doctor Who has only appeared in comics once more, if we set aside his brief role in Mad Magazine’s Doctor Ooh spoof.

Yes, do let’s set that aside, shall we?

Cushing’s Doctor Who reappeared in the 1995 Doctor Who Spring Special, which was mostly given over to articles about the movies. The comic strip, “Daleks versus the Martians”, by Alan Barnes and Lee Sullivan, is up to the standards of the regular Doctor Who strip of the time. But it has its own disappointments.

Grey aliens? The Face on Mars (at the time still awaiting its thorough debunking) really a Japanese-style giant stompy robot? Surely this is the wrong Mars. I wanted hoverbouts versus tripods, exterminator guns versus heat rays, mushy blobs with tentacles versus … erm, mushy blobs with tentacles. But, of course, the works of H G Wells were still in copyright (and remain so, in the EU, until 2016).

In the end, the Daleks did conquer Mars. But that’s another story. From The Dalek Book, to be precise. More about that next week.

Pictures and panels
Photograph of Peter Cushing as Dr Who scanned from DVD pack for The Dr Who Movie Collection, Studio Canal+, 2002

Movie Classic issue 12-190-612, “Dr Who and the Daleks”, art by Dick Giordano (pencils) and Sal Trapani (inks), edited by Don Arneson, Dell Publishing, December 1966. Cover scan taken from the Grand Comics Database, interior reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics issue 9, Marvel Comics UK, 21 July 1993

Doctor Ooh by Geoff Rowley (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist), Mad British Edition issue 161, General Book Distributors Ltd, 1975

Doctor Who “Daleks versus the Martians” by Alan Barnes (writer), Lee Sullivan (art), Elitta Fell (letters), Gary Gillatt and Scott Gray (editors), Doctor Who Magazine Spring Special, Marvel Comics/Panini UK, 1995

The Daleks “Invasion of the Daleks” by David Whitaker (story) and Richard Jennings (art), The Dalek Book, Panther Books/Souvenir Press, 1964


Siskoid said...

I find I can still muster some affection for the Cushing films. They look very good, the stars aew sympathetic and the condensing of the tv plots don't lose anything of real value. Ian's a bit much though, and each film's finale is grating for different reasons, but still nice retro family entertainments.

Not sure The Chase would have made a good film, hehe, and Master Plan's a bit lethal... Given Cushing's health even by Invasion, I suppose Evil of the Daleks would have been a bit late.

Steve Flanagan said...

As a boy, I hated the Peter Cushing movies. Partly through Kontinuity Konsciousness, partly because I became convinced that, if they didn't repeat those movies every holiday, the BBC would have time to show some real Doctor Who! (I had no understanding of the rights issues or agreements with the unons, of course.)

Nowadays, I rather like them: there's an innocent charm to the style, and compressing the stories down to under 90 minutes has removed a lot of the padding from the 7-part and 6-part original serials. And that bright sixties colour certainly appeals.