By Richard Molesworth
From small acorns, mighty oaks do grow. TARDIS launched in June 1975 as a humble 12-page zine, priced just 5p, would run for more than 50 A5 issues, over 10 volumes, over the next decade. It would quickly be incorporated into the newly-formed Doctor Who Appreciation Society, and would become the society’s very own fanzine, before morphing into an A4 publication that would eventually become subsumed into the DWAS’s monthly newsletter, Celestial Toyroom.
TARDIS disappeared in the late 1990s, and became practically extinct for over two decades, before being very recently revived by the DWAS as an A4 glossy ‘zine with an impressive page count.
But back in 1975, there was no DWAS, and TARDIS was the first ever independent fanzine devoted solely to Doctor Who. Keith Miller‘s Doctor Who Fan Club had published semi-regular newsletters since 1972, but the DWFC’s larger A4 fanzine Doctor Who Digest wouldn’t appear until 1976. So in the summer of 1975, TARDIS Volume 1 No 1 really was the first of its kind. The original, you might say…
So what did it contain in its large-typed fuzzily-reproduced pages? Well, there is a big focus on the William Hartnell era of the series, which – given that Hartnell had passed away about six weeks before the ‘zines publication date – could very well have been the event that proved to be the catalyst for the ‘zine being produced in the first place. This issue is tellingly dedicated to his memory.
Inside the first issue is a brief overview of Hartnell’s acting career, and a checklist of the first Doctor’s stories (such information was hard to come by in the pre-internet, pre-DWAS, pre-Doctor Who Magazine, pre-everything days), a review of the Seven Keys to Doomsday stage play (which had completed its four-week run at the Adelphi in London, just a few months earlier), an interview with Terry Nation, and an article that looked at the ‘Rivals of Doctor Who‘ (in this case, The Six Million Dollar Man). There are also a few illustrations, but the reproduction of the ‘zine does them no justice at all.
The editor, Andrew Johnson, states in his editorial that he had watched the series since its first episode in 1963, and also mentions that he edits another fanzine, Starzine which is devoted to collecting DC and Marvel comics. (Does anyone remember this? Do comment below!). This might explain why this ‘zine is a lot less rough round the edges than you might expect. For a first issue, he does a very, very creditable job.
All this for the princely sum of 5p! Bargain!
Starzine and Andrew Johnson
In an article on Who fandom for Journey Planet Issue 19, Matthew Kilburn notes Andrew Johnson, was established as the editor of fanzine Starzine under the banner of Eyeball Productions.
He launched TARDIS, in spring 1975, apparently believing it to be the first Doctor Who fanzine, although the William (Doctor Who) Hartnell Fan Club, for example, had its own newsletter as early as 1965. This became which became the Doctor Who Fan Club, which was run by Keith Miller from 1971, who developed The Doctor Who Fan Club Monthly, effectively the first purely Doctor Who fanzine, which first appeared in February 1972.
Johnson was contacted by some of the older members of Keith Miller’s club, including Gordon Blows, who took over TARDIS from Issue 3 after the space-fiction-leaning Johnson rejected the second Tom Baker season’s Gothic turn.
He also contributed items to the magazine World of Horror, and an announcement of the impending launch of TARDIS appears in Issue 8, with a contact address in Ongar, Essex.