Monday, June 9, 2008

TV Comic Action In Exile 1: Tearaway Continuity!

It amuses me to think that TV Comic, one of the bastions of British culture and childhood, has not only been completely abandoned by said culture and childhood, but that its thousand-plus issues are only sought after for one thing - the two-to-three pages each issue devoted to Doctor Who. Because, while it was one of the only sources of new Doctor Who fiction outside of the TV series, annuals and cigarette packets, it's hardly what you'd call good material. To be fair, it's hard for anyone to get a decent amount of plot, characterization and action into two pages with a deadline of a week, especially when it all has to be 'user friendly' to age 3 upwards. This, coupled with the twin difficulties of Doctor Who not having an established setting or plot or even regular characters AND the fact all the decent monsters were copywrited, forcing to use a bunch of also-rans no one (especially not the author) knew well enough to write for, makes the TV Comic's version of Doctor Who the weakest-ever official entrant for canon.

Only three stories have ever even been mentioned in the mainstream, and they're all from the Constipation-of-a-Madman era where Patrick Troughton was playing the Doctor - most famous is Craig Hinton's ever-namedroppable "The Sixth Doctor and Mel fight Quarks and their Giant Wasps!" was straight from The Killer Wasps, and if the sod had ever actually told us this missing adventure, it would have rendered said strip even MORE uncanonical than ever. You might be able to bluff Human Nature and Human Nature existing in the exact same universe, but no one has managed to save TV Comic. Even DWM's special TV Comic celebration for Doctor Who's 35th anniversary was simply: they're all just a dream.

Why? Because it's tough enough working out a continuity for TV Comic itself, let alone to make sense of it in the context of it's TV progenitor.

The TV Comic Doctor Who begins with a post-Web Planet "Dr Who" retiring to Earth in the 20th century and rebuilding the TARDIS so it doesn't merely fade away, but spins into a Tasmanian Devil-style blue tornado, which then floats off into time and space. He also seems to have the faintest idea how to control it, and builds a new console underneath the scanner, so many a TV Comic has the Doctor and his companions cramped around a monitor as if the "bigger-on-the-inside" business is just a myth.

One day, John Who and his sister Gillian arrive at the junkyard to meet Dr Who, their grandfather and apparently an inventor. The Doctor shows off his time machine to the duo, but John decides to press one button which sends the TARDIS over a thousand years into the future and also proves that the Doctor's repairs are useless, as instead of arriving in the 29th centure as planned, they turn up in the 31st! With the TARDIS haywire, the Dr Who, John and Gillian are left stuck with each other as they hurtle through time and... ah, you get the picture.

But no sooner have I worked out that this is some Unbound Doctor, post-The Massacre where he decides to stay in 1960s London with Steven Taylor, who then sires a disturbingly large family worryingly quickly (and names them all "Who" to piss off the Doctor), then continuity goes bye-bye.

Suddenly, we see that Dr Who has become Doctor Who, the Beatle wannabe that plays the recorder! Whatever happened to change the TV Comic we never see, but John and Gillian stop calling him 'Grandfather' and he refuses to consider them relatives. What's more, the new Doctor ditches the duo in every story and wanders off alone and, in that missing regeneration saga met up with Jamie McCrimmon, a Scotsman from the 1960s, became good friends, but didn't invite him to the TARDIS! Then, halfway through the Second Doctor era, Doctor Who finally ditches John and Gillian (who have, oddly enough, somehow aged to the point they're in their twenties, having spent their entire adolescence in the TARDIS) and teams up with Jamie for good. Well, until Jamie ditches the Doctor, off-screen, to live as a millionaire in New York...

But even THIS demented view of my favorite program is then easily abandoned!

TV Comic churned out new strips every week, plus annuals and specials and the like, so when The War Games ended, TV Comic was left with the baby so to speak, having to put out new stories until Spearhead in Space came along. Without knowing who the new Doctor was, or the UNIT set up, they decided to stay with the Second Doctor but, get this, from now on it wouldn't be set in some 'distorted nightmare' of Seasons 1-4, but categorically set in the same universe as the TV show, after the final episode of The War Games. TV Comic then changed the Doctor in full view when it became clear Jon Pertwee would be the new Doctor, and continued the run for another three stories before integrating properly with Season 7.

This, boys and girls, is the first ever Season 6b.

The last seconds of The War Games and the first frame of The Tearaways - it's UNCANNY how they match, isn't it?!?

Whatever we think of The Two Doctors, the fact remains TV Comic did it first, in 1969.

No wonder people dislike the idea...


The Tearaways! by Roger Noel Cook and John Canning - 5 episodes

Official Plot Synopsis: (how the comics describe their own stories)
Exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, the Dr. Who books into a swanky London hotel to take things easy for a while. Through the keyhole, Dr. Who has been watching three boys play football in a hotel suite. When their guardian ticks them off, the boys plot to steal his private plane. The Doctor tries to stop the boys running off with the aircraft's keys, only to be knocked out. The three brothers have run away from their evil guardian, Harrington Fitz-Walker, whose henchmen are stealing secrets from a nuclear arsenal, planning to use his private plan for a getaway. However, the boys have stolen their guardian's plane for a prank and have crashed it nearby! When the guardian's men learn that their craft has been smashed, they go bezerk - but Dr. Who is on their heels...

The Doctor finds exile a living nightmare...

That's Kind of Cool: (stuff worthy of note)
The earthbound stuff is very refreshing with no aliens or monsters or evils from the dawn of time, and the Doctor spending his Sunday stopping three brats from getting themselves killed on an airfield. It's mundane and vaguely credible that normal people could get caught up in such an adventure in a world of sarky butlers, demos, taxi cabs and boredom. It's more set in the real world than Spearhead from Space, especially when you think the previous comic strip had the Doctor gathering a Seven Samurai-style fighting force of hunters, safe-crackers and nutter professors to rescue a kidnapped astronaut from bubblebath-worshipping alien dwarves with a spaceship made entirely of rubber, so the writers were clearly taking the cue that "the Doctor's travels are over". It's not so much Season 6b but a different Season 7, since there are plenty of TV Comics where the Doctor teams up with the military to fight aliens and monsters.

Fitz-Walker falls foul of the fickle finger of fate...

It's also amusing that anti-nuclear protestors are the people that stop Fitz-Walker's car from reaching the airbase, thus screwing up his pro-nuclear intentions without even trying. The plot twist of the 'heros' using spherical plastic explosive not as bombs but soccer balls is pretty neat too. The Doctor using his tie-pin as a surrogate sonic screwdriver is a nice touch, plus his desire to save the lives of kids who by now would have pushed others to let the fuckers die. I suppose the stircrazy kids are kindred spirits with an exiled Doctor, except he seems to enjoy his punishment to the point it seems the Time Lords have rewarded him...

You Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me: (the stupid stuff that makes it non-canonical)
Despite his blatant fury and disappointment at being trapped on one planet and one time on screen, the Doctor treats this all as a lovely holiday, and having a roast duck and a comfortable bed outweigh anything time travel has to offer. In fact, the Doctor actually bitches about having to endure the cramped conditions and dehydrated food aboard the TARDIS - giving the impression he chose to live on Earth and the exile stuff was added at the last minute. When he gets knocked unconscious, instead of seeing birds around his head, he sees stars and planets and smiles like a retard. He is a kung fu expert capable of bollocking anyone who doesn't have a knife, likes riding motorbikes and can completely forgive the boys for their repeated attempts to kill him. Uh, WHICH Doctor is this again?!

Give me strength...

Stupid Mistakes: (the stupid stuff that TV Comic should have noticed)
If the Doctor is, as it appears, left in 1969 London with nothing but the clothes he stands in, where does he get the cash to get suitcases full of possessions, a moped and a luxury suite at a hotel? Any friends he might have had from the previous comics have been retconned out of existance - otherwise he'd surely be hanging around with millionaire playboy Jamie or the Who family (assuming they accepted he was the same little old man who kidnapped the children and never returned them... maybe it's more realistic he avoids them...)

Why doesn't the Doctor call the police? OK, FW wouldn't want that, but the Doctor doesn't know about it and could have rung them anyway! Were they all too busy with the demo?

The taxi driver doesn't notice that his young charges are hurling their luggage out of the taxi window at other motorists?! (I might buy they're stupid enough to throw out stuff they actually need).

How does Cecil know how to take off a private plane? More importantly, how does he know how to take off but not how to pilot or land? Are we supposed to believe none of the kids thought this far ahead? Where were they planning to go to anyway?

Isn't a private airfield right next to a nuclear weapons base a tad... inconvenient? And would a private airfield right next to a nuclear weapons base have SOME kind of security, even on Sundays? Plus, wouldn't the ease with which the henchmen steal Fitz-Walker's plane implicate him in it? Why does Fitz-Walker want the secrets anyway? To sell? He's already rich! And why HAVE the police been following him for some time?

The private airfield has a notice on the gate saying PRIVATE AIRFIELD. And nothing else. Despite the rest of that episode explaining full well that they were going to visit a private airfield and there being planes in the background. How did the kids get inside anyway?

When did the kids learn the "nosey parker" who has been following them was called the Doctor? When does the Doctor learn the leader is called Cecil? Did FW tell him?

FW is amazed the police have noticed the massive column of smoke emerging from the burning base. Which can be seen for miles. Why is he so shocked? Why aren't fire engines all over the place?

The kids aren't revealed as brothers until the fourth episode, and never refer to each other by names. If ANYONE (and I admit this is unlikely) gives a crap, the captions refer to Cecil (the one can't pilot the plane), Tommy (the one who makes shitty jokes) and the other one is totally unknown...

This is the TV Comic equivalent of Stephen Moffat.

Words of Wisdom: (dialogue you will not find anywhere else)
"W-why I d-don't believe it!" - The Doctor suffers a nervous breakdown when he sees three kids playing football inside a room. Good thing nothing serious was happening.

"I know! Let's pinch Fitz-Walker's private plane and fly it to another part of the world... the keys are in the locker!!" - A typical suggestion from overpriveliged 1960s pre-teens on how to pass an evening.

"Don't do it, kids! Don't do it!" - why they didn't use the Doctor for an anti-drugs campaign, I'll never know. Maybe it would have cut off the LSD supply to the writers?

"My henchmen are stealing important secrets from a nuclear near the airfield. They're going to use my plane for the getaway! Those tearaways must be caught before they ruin everything!" - FW reveals his evil secret scheme to his loyal manservant Chester for the first time. While he knows the Doctor is standing right behind him, and the door to the hotel room is open so anyone can hear.

"Great Powers! What has happened to the kids?!" - A typical Second Doctor exclamaition.

"GREW!" - No idea, but one of the kids thinks it's worth screaming when parachuting into an inferno.

"Well, we came looking for excitement. So far, we've crashed a plane and tried a parachute jump. What say we investigate the fire, just to make a day of it?" - Some people just don't deserve to be saved...

Cliffhangers: (complete with melodramatic exclaimations!)

  1. The Doctor burst in to convince the kids not to escape, and Cecil throws a vase of flowers at his head, knocking the ‘nosey parker’ unconscious. When Dr Who recovers next week he finds himself involved in a grim mystery!
  2. The Doctor watches on as the stolen plane goes out of control. In the cockpit, Cecil tells his brothers, "I’ve got this thing into the air, but I can’t think how we’re going to get down!" What will become of the tearaway trio?
  3. The Doctor watches helplessly from his own borrowed plane as the boys, in their parachutes, drift into the column of smoke, and to the heart of a blazing fire. Can the three boys escape a fiery doom?
  4. Cecil cheerfully informs the henchmen he has destroyed their getaway vehicle, to their amazement. Will the criminals wreak their vengeance on the brothers?
  5. The Doctor accepts the compliment as the boys compare their new guardian to the time traveller. Another all-action Dr. Who adventure begins next week: The Mark of Terror!

"Uncle Tom", huh. What next? Is his name Peter File?

At The End of the Day:
I liked it. It's unusual for the Doctor to be worried about nothing more important than stopping some hormonal teenagers from getting some kicks, a true comedown for a guy whose days off usually involve giant squids attacking spaceships, and it's a kind of neo-historical. For once the Doctor is the kind-hearted reckless improviser we remember, and the only real trouble with the story (bar perhaps the coincidence of the Doctor happening to get an adjoining room to the evil spies who happen to have unruly children who happen to be perfectly positioned to get into scraps) is that the children are arseholes. They smash up a hotel room, have an unexplained hatred of Fitz-Walker as their guardian, and not only beat the Doctor unconscious but try to kill him again by hurling suitcases at him when he's on a motorbike! "Young hooligans!" the Doctor shouts angrilly, and quite mildly considering what I'd call them... When the jerks cheerfully run into a burning building for a laugh and then tell a bunch of desperate criminals that their getaway vehicle is wrecked and it's all the kid's fault, they DESERVE to die. Thus it's a pity that the final episode has them suddenly 'jolly good show' young boys with no explanation whatsoever. It's like Lord of the Flies on rewind. Did TV Comic realize their readers were children of similar ages and try and put a positive slant on them? It won't be the last time the mag has a go at its readers, even in this particular run of adventures...

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