As part of our series of articles turning the spotlight on publishers in the independent sector (our sequel to last year’s Books! The Best Weapons in the World! – A Guide to Independent Doctor Who Publishing feature), this week we’re taking a look at the work of David J Howe and Stephen James Walker’s company, Telos Publishing.
Multi-award winning Telos Publishing was formed twelve or so years ago by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, co-authors (along with Mark Stammers) of Virgin’s legendary “Decades” books and the Doctor Who Handbooks back in the mid-1990s. Howe and Walker had also collaborated on Doctor Who: The Television Companion for BBC Books, probably the definitive classic series episode guide (and long since out of print, even after a second edition published by Telos themselves in 2003). As such, the company already had a head-start on the burgeoning non-fiction market in terms of the respect Howe and Walker’s research commanded among fans.
Although still perhaps best known for their range of Doctor Who titles (including The Target Book, and the year-by-year guides to the post-2005 series that began with J Shaun Lyon’s Back to the Vortex, the most recent edition of which was Walker’s Series Five guide Cracks in Time), there’s a lot more to the company than just Doctor Who, or even non-fiction. As well as the crime novels of Hank Janson and Mike Ripley, Telos are responsible for a healthy range of horror and fantasy books and the Time Hunter series of novellas, as well as any number of cult TV and film guides.
But in 2013, Doctor Who still figures highly in Telos’ plans.
“Fifty Years of Doctor Who... of course we here at Telos Towers can’t just let something like that go past without having some lovely books to celebrate,” says David J Howe.
“For 2013, then, we have several Doctor Who titles in preparation:
“Now on the Big Screen by Charles Norton is a look at all the various incarnations of Doctor Who which made it, and those which did not make it, to cinema screens. So it takes in the two sixties Peter Cushing films, and also things like Tom Baker’s Scratchman screenplay, the Daltenrey’s attempts to bring the Doctor to the movies, and beyond to the more recent rumours about a BBC Films adaptation. The book also contains details of some other film projects, including a previously unknown Abominable Snowmen film pitched by Mervyn Haisman. The cover for this title is by Martin Baines, and it includes elements from many of the film projects discussed in the book.
“River’s Run is the latest in Telos’ guides to the new Seasons of Doctor Who by Stephen James Walker. This volume covers the 2011 episodes – the sixth season of stories up to the Christmas Special: ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’.
“In July we have a two-volume reprint of The Television Companion by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker. This is the definitive guide to the Classic series of Doctor Who and has been out of print for some time now.
“Later, currently unscheduled, titles include:
“A detailed look at the work of Robert Holmes by Richard Molesworth. Richard has done an incredible job of documenting prodigious output of one of Doctor Who’s most admired, respected and imitated writers and script editors. Telos is proud to present this work in 2013 as a tribute to the show, and to the talent of Holmes himself.
“The Raymond P. Cusick Signature Collection. This is a collection of BBC designer Ray Cusick’s personal photographs from Doctor Who, all lovingly restored by Paul Smith, and with a commentary taken from Cusick’s interviews. Sadly Ray died earlier this year, but we have the family’s blessings to release this volume. We also managed to get limitation plates signed by Ray late last year, and so it will be published in a limited edition signed and numbered hardback as well as the standard paperback edition.
“As well as all those titles, though, we have launched a new imprint, Telos Moonrise, which features both digital and print editions, and covers crime and horror and steampunk and erotica... so lots of new fiction for people to enjoy. Other recent titles include Still the Beast is Feeding, a detailed look at the history of The Rocky Horror Show which celebrates its 40th birthday this year, and a new edition of Wiped! The acclaimed guide to Doctor Who’s missing episodes.
“As if all this wasn’t enough, we also have several other titles coming, including the second volume in the Songs for Europe series, a little book of Welsh Spells and much more, including some more Doctor Who titles which are still in the planning stages!
Richard Molesworth Interview
THE MISSING EPISODES
It was an odd time being a Doctor Who fan in the 1970s, because although you could never see the old stories, I used to love reading the Target books. I’d just read them and re-read them. I was always slightly annoyed that you’d got most of Jon Pertwee’s and Tom Baker’s but of the first two Doctors, there weren’t that many Target books around. The ones that were, ‘Wow!’ The Web of Fear I read and re-read and re-read over and over again, and also the 1973Radio Times special, with all those lovely colour photos. You know, you’d read about The Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep and think, ‘These must have been such brilliant adventures to watch’; The Daleks’ Master Plan and The Invasion – an eight-part Cyberman story, imagine that? But the chance of seeing them again, you just never really contemplated it – until they did The Five Faces of Doctor Who, in 1981 on BBC2. And you got to see An Unearthly Child and The Krotons and Carnival of Monsters and The Three Doctors and you began to think, if they’ve got those, they must have others.
About the same time, there was that interview with Sue Malden in the Doctor Who Monthly Winter Special, which I think was the winter of 1981. Just as you were beginning to get to see some old stories, there’s that great big list with “Does Not Exist” or “None” or whatever it was, that was printed in the columns. You’d be going down it and thinking, The Daleks’ Master Plan, “None”; The Power of the Daleks, “None”; The Tenth Planet, One, Two, Three but Episode Four doesn’t exist – how can they not have Episode Four of The Tenth Planet? And it just made no sense as to why some things did exist and some things didn’t. That was the difficult bit to take, if it had all gone, you’d think, ‘Okay, fair enough, it all went.’ But there was just such a random selection of material that did exist, you know, most of the first two seasons, most of the sixth, but three, four and five were just decimated. There were only three episodes that had Victoria in, for example, back then.
There were 136 missing episodes, and it just was desperate to learn that. And then, a couple of months later, The Abominable Snowmen Episode Two was the first episode that was discovered, in the February of 1982, as a 16mm print – from a private collector. You start thinking, how do private collectors get episodes of Doctor Who that the BBC don’t have? It took me years to actually figure it all out, and understand how videotape was transferred to 16mm, how 16mm was sold overseas, how film collectors came across old BBC films, putting the whole thing together. But at the time it just didn’t make sense. I think the desire to try and impose some sort of sense, or at least understand what had happened and what had led to the situation that we were in in 1981 or 1982, where there were 136 missing episodes, to try and make sense of the whole situation, became – not a burning obsession; I could go whole days without thinking about missing Doctor Who episodes sometimes! – but it would become something to think and ponder about.
A couple of years later I first met Paul Vanezis, who lives just around the corner from me to this day, at a Doctor Who local group, and we used to meet up with some friends and chill out and have beer and started organising our own conventions. We were the people that did the TellyCon events in the late 1980s. And obviously Paul finding The Reign of Terror episodes, hearing that story more or less first-hand from day one, it sort of came full circle that I wanted to know about existing episodes, missing episodes, all things television relating to Doctor Who.
It does sound a bit clichéd, but to call it a Grail quest would not be an understatement, to those that care deeply or passionately about Doctor Who. To know that there’s 136 episodes that you’re never going to see again. Fortunately it’s a lot better now, it’s 106; thirty episodes recovered in thirty years. Some would say that’s not good enough, some would say it’s an absolute miracle.
I’d been trying to get Wiped! off the starting pads for years and years. I’d spoken to various editors at BBC Books, but the BBC is its own worst enemy when it comes to its publishing. Before Doctor Who came back they weren’t interested in doing anything to do with Doctor Who, they thought there was no market for it. Of course there’s a market, they just didn’t understand what the market was. They still don’t: as soon as Doctor Who does come back, the market is new Doctor Who and why would they want to be doing a book about old Doctor Who?
It would have been lovely in an ideal world, to do Wiped! as it stands word-for-word, but to have the backing of the BBC, so we could put things like telesnaps and photos and stuff like that in and make it more of an illustrated work. That would have been nice but it’s not essential, I mean as much as I like books with pretty pictures in, that particular book was quite information-heavy and quite information-specific, and it didn’t really need, in the end, any illustrative material. Thankfully it’s been a very successful book, it’s sold lots and lots of copies and continues to do so in the new edition. So I’m thankful in that respect that my hunch has proved right, and various other publishers I spoke to over the years, who couldn’t see what the book was about, well that’s their problem.
Fortunately with Steve and Dave, Telos is an independent publisher but that does enable it to be specialised and concentrate on books that I think should be mass-market, but it gets them out there. They didn’t need convincing about its merits, and as soon as I sent them the book proposal it was kind of, “Yes please – when can we have it?” It seemed to me very obvious that it was the great unwritten Doctor Who book at the time. And that was the reason I wanted to do it, because I thought ‘If I don’t, someone else will and they’ll probably make a hash of it, and then that’ll make it impossible for someone to do it properly.’
One of the things I’d been trying to do for a long, long time is work out the overseas sales of Doctor Who. Thanks to Jon Preddle’s BroaDWcast website, that information is now only a mouse-click away, but back in the 1990s, nobody really knew who had bought Doctor Who, when they’d bought it, when it was shown... So I spent absolutely ages trying to pull all this information together from various different sources, and draw up a worldwide transmission “booklet” of Doctor Who, which countries it went to in what years, and the transmission dates. And that kind of became part of the catalyst for Wiped!, to get information like that out there. Jon, independently of me, was doing the same thing, and we got talking a few years later; I was able to point him in a few directions, he was able to help out with me, and the information kind of moved on from there. But one of the most important things, something that Paul worked long and hard to try and locate – and eventually did – was the overseas sales information that was held by the BBC Commercial Rights department, and for the first time ever, really, we had it there in black and white: which stories were sold to which countries in which months and years. And that’s when we knew the full possibility of what was out there, or potentially be out there, or that could have been out there, and then we could start trying to extrapolate overseas sales.
That was a big part of Wiped!, trying to find out where the missing episodes did go, where they might still be, where they definitely no longer are; to try and pull something together with that information. And that was the longest period of research really, the 1990s and early 2000s. When I sat down and wrote the book I think it did take a good twelve months; the Robert Holmes book, again that took a good twelve months, and that’s not just a few hours of an evening, that was a lot of nine-to-fives, Monday-to-Friday, in front of the computer screen, or researching in various libraries, or at the BBC Written Archives down at Caversham going through various dusty old files of paperwork and correspondence there.
I’ve done three books, I don’t think I’ll be doing a fourth, not for a long, long time. I’ve had my fill of books for the moment I think!
The two episodes being discovered in 2011 is obviously a wonderful thing, but there are a few other bits of information that needed to be updated in the first edition, one or two typos, so it was good to do a second edition. It was wonderful to find those episodes. Nobody could have predicted it was going to happen, there were no rumours, there was no gossip.
The one before that was The Daleks’ Master Plan Episode Two, back in 2003, and what did surprise me actually, was I remember at the time and prior to that with The Crusade Episode One – and these were discoveries before Doctor Who came back – they both generated a quite significant amount of media interest, they made the national news bulletins, then it was in the papers the next day. With The Crusade, Paul Vanezis and I did a programme for The National Lottery, and they had Frazer Hines on that week doing the draw. So I was quite expecting there to be far more publicity this time around, for those two episodes, The Underwater MenaceEpisode Two and Galaxy 4 Episode Three, given that Doctor Who was now back and was big news in its own right. Conversely, I don’t think it created that much of an impact.
But it was good that even after all these years, two episodes could come straight out of left-field, and they were the two least likely episodes that anyone was ever thinking would be discovered. To see an episode of Galaxy 4 was just wonderful; it’s one of those things you just don’t think you’re ever going to see. And The Underwater Menace Episode Two is such a brilliant episode; I mean, Episode Three is a bit of a clunker, there’s no denying it, but Episode Two is just wonderful.
And if the book gets other people asking the right questions in the right places at the right time, then it can only be a good thing. What is not necessarily a good thing – something that would come up when we used to do the Restoration Team forum, and more so now on the Missing Episodes forum, although I don’t go onto it that often – and this sounds quite disparaging, but a lot of people come to it and think, ‘Hey, why don’t we try this?’ 99 times out of a hundred that somebody says that, it’s been tried. ‘Why don’t we look here?’ – we’ve looked. ‘Why don’t we think of this?’ – it’s been thought of. What is not helpful is people contacting overseas broadcasters; there’s a way of doing things, and I would be very wary of giving anybody any encouragement to sit down with Wiped! and think, ‘Now I can go and...’ It’s not The Da Vinci Code, you’re not going to find the answers to everything in Wiped! It’s just a historical document of what happened and why it happened. Getting the knowledge out there is good, but I’d hate for somebody to use that as a starting point to start bugging people at foreign TV stations. We know, for example, that ABC get two or three enquiries a week: “Have you got any old episodes of Doctor Who?” Literally, two or three a week, and have done for decades. Well-meaning, well-intentioned people: “Have you got any old episodes of Doctor Who?” It’s got to the point now where any letter that comes into ABC mentioning Doctor Who episodes just goes unread. It’s not helping them, it’s not helping the BBC, it’s not helping the missing episodes cause. If anybody does have any novel ideas, take the time to research them and find out they are novel first.
If you’re investigating a subject, sooner or later you’re going to have to send a letter or make contact with somebody you’ve never met before, and try and explain what you’re doing and see if they can help you. Writing to people who used to know Robert Holmes, for example, they’d get this letter or email out of the blue from a bloke who says he’s writing a book about Robert Holmes, and they don’t have to help me.
It’s the same with TV companies, if you get in touch. I mean, I’m as guilty as anybody; back in 1992 when The Tomb of the Cybermen was discovered, and it was just when I was trying to put together this overseas transmission details database, and I thought, ‘Well if Hong Kong had Tomb, then where could other episodes be?’ And I sent off about 150 letters in the space of about three months, most of which got replies, some of which I didn’t. But I got into a lot of correspondence with the Hong Kong TV station that had returned Tomb, to see if there was any possibility that they had other Doctor Who episodes, and one of the things they said in one of the letters was “We can’t actually check what’s in our archive.” Because the information, the index cards, paper records, were destroyed in a fire some years back, so there was no indexing of their archive. They just knew they’d got all these racks of films, and all the information that told them what was on those films was gone, so they were slowly but surely having to re-index and re-catalogue everything. But they assured me, “If we find any other BBC programmes, if we find any more episodes of Doctor Who, we know where to send them now…”
Ian Levine was looking in Africa in the 1980s, I’ve certainly sent off my fair share of letters to so many different African countries, and ultimately, when you get a response back or get a letter back, which says, “Sorry we don’t have any of these films anymore,” you have to take them at face value – you can’t go back and tell them, “No, actually, I think you’re telling porkies.”
From watching Doctor Who in the 1970s and 1980s, Robert Holmes’ name on the credits – apart from The Power of Kroll! – always gave an indication of quality, you were watching a good slice of Doctor Who action; whether he was writing it or script-editing it, it was always a good story. And that intrigued me, why his stuff was always better. It’s a very difficult thing to try and quantify, why one script or story is better than another; the way it was scripted, or the way he could string a narrative together, seemed to be a class above his contemporaries. And in the 1980s, when I’d start seeing his name crop up on other programmes like Blakes 7 and Shoestring and Bergerac, I’d start realising that this is a guy who’s not just writing good Doctor Who, he’s writing good stuff full stop. The news in 1986, that he was taken ill so suddenly and died whilst working on the final episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord, was all so desperately sad.
For a couple of decades, I gave no thought to Robert Holmes other than what a brilliant writer he was, and how much he was missed. British drama seemed to be crying out for somebody like him.
And then in about 2003, I was working on the Doctor Who DVD range. One of the titles coming up was the first release of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and I put forward the idea of doing a Robert Holmes documentary. It didn’t go on that title, it was eventually commissioned for The Two Doctors DVD release, but that gave me the opportunity to speak to Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe and Eric Saward and Terrance Dicks and Chris Boucher about their time working exclusively on Doctor Who with Robert Holmes. It was kind of an overview of Bob Holmes’ Doctor Who career. It would have been nice perhaps to have made it a bit more about Robert Holmes’ wider career, but as it was it just looked at Robert Holmes and Doctor Who.
At the time, I tried to get in touch with his wife Patricia; I was given an address and I sent a letter off and didn’t hear anything back for a few weeks, maybe even a month, and then I got a phone call out of the blue from Bob’s daughter Laurian, who explained that her mum Patricia was ill and in hospital and it was very very serious. But I’d put in the letter that I was making a documentary about her father and was interested to hear any family reminiscences, so she invited me down to the cottage that Bob and Patricia used to live in – Patricia was still living there, Laurian was looking after the place while she was in hospital – so I went down there one Sunday and met up with Laurian, and she showed me Bob’s study and his big file of paperwork and scripts, and correspondence going back to the 1950s almost.
She said, “If there’s anything there that can help you?” I was desperately hoping there might be a first draft of Doctor Who and the Space Trap, or whatever it was first called. There wasn’t, but there was an immense amount of material. I had a chat with Laurian and she lent me some photos of Bob. I went away, and a couple of weeks later she phoned me up to say that Patricia had passed away in hospital. She was tending to the estate, the house was being sold... Obviously I sent my condolences, and went back and met her and returned the photos. She was really going through a difficult time, understandably, she’d just lost her mother.
But it always sat at the back of my mind that there was a much bigger story to tell about Bob Holmes than just his Doctor Who career, which I’d done in that documentary. A little over 18 months ago I think it was, I sat down and thought it would actually be good to do a book about Robert Holmes. I’d written Wiped! at that point – I’d also done the Skins book as well, which was less complicated but still great fun. But Wiped! was the first book I’d ever written, and it taught me a lot about structure and writing. So I thought a book about Bob Holmes would be an ideal next project.
I’d obviously got all the reference interviews and materials that I’d pulled together in 2003, and the first thing I tried to do was get back in touch with Laurian to see if she’d still kept all of Bob’s files. I didn’t think she would have got rid of them, but obviously with the cottage being sold, things might have been disposed of. But I couldn’t find her new details anywhere. I had a few people looking for her and it came to nothing. Then I was put in touch with her son, this would be Robert’s grandson, James Richards. So I sent him an email saying that I was trying to contact his mother and I explained who I was, that I’d done this documentary about his grandfather, and he sent me an email that evening saying that Laurian had passed away a few years ago. It really made me think. Bob had died, his wife had died, his daughter had died, his son had died earlier, and James – who was only about three months old in 1986 when Bob died – knew of his grandfather’s legacy, but he never had any memories of his grandfather. With his mother passing away it suddenly dawned on me that a lot of information about somebody like Bob was about to disappear. Some had disappeared; we’ll never get the chance now to talk to Laurian about her times with her father. I wish I’d been able to speak to Patricia before she became ill. A lot of Bob’s colleagues had also passed away.
So I thought, if it’s not done now, whenever it is done, you’re going to have a poorer book because of it. That was really the spur and the catalyst. So I decided it was a good idea; I spoke to Steve and Dave at Telos, they agreed and said go ahead.
That was it really. I got in touch with James; fortunately he had kept all of Bob’s files, he was the custodian of Robert Holmes’ estate, so he kept all his scripts and his paperwork. He was initially a little bit reticent, because he didn’t know me from Adam. We corresponded and he agreed to lend me all the material, which I went through and catalogued for him, because he didn’t really know what he’d got. Scripts were all over the place, they’d been split up and put back in the wrong order; things like that I was able to catalogue. And also, he was a little unsure. I mean you don’t get a manual about how to run somebody’s estate. He didn’t know all of the work that Bob Holmes had done, he didn’t know when certain things had come out on video and DVD.
It’s a long and rambling story, but basically I wanted to do the book for James really, so he could have a better understanding of what his grandfather did as a career, and his life and work. And also, outside of Doctor Who, not a lot is known about Bob Holmes. Apart from programmes that he worked on like Blakes 7 and Shoestring, he had an enormous body of work behind him in the 1960s and late 1950s, of which not much is known about, so it was good to go looking at those programmes and his early writing, and see how his career developed. And it then became very apparent how much of an influence Doctor Who had on Bob Holmes when he first got introduced to it and started writing for it in the late 1960s, and how it really formed the backbone of his career from the mid-1970s onwards.
The difference between the Robert Holmes book and Wiped!, with Wiped! I knew it all, it was just a question of putting it down on paper; there wasn’t much new information to seek out. I mean obviously, speaking to people like Sue Malden or Ian Levine or Bruce Campbell, people who’d actually been there at the time and had found stuff, and getting them to tell their stories first-hand, that was an important part of Wiped! But most of what they were telling me I kind of already knew anyway, although it was important to get it from the horse’s mouth for the first time. That was an easy book to write.
The Robert Holmes one was a voyage of discovery from the very get-go. And the starting point was the paperwork and correspondence and files that James had kept of his grandfather’s, that he very kindly lent me and I was able to go through and start piecing together bits of his early career. There were scripts of episodes of dramas that no copies exist of in the archives any more – and probably the scripts don’t exist anywhere else. There was one of his scripts for Knight Errant for example, from 1960: the episode no longer exists; most of Knight Errant no longer exists. And then you start realising how that fits in with all of these other people Bob worked with at the time – he first came into contact with Barry Letts, for example, when Barry Letts wrote a script for Knight Errant. This was something Barry told me back in 2003, part of the information that I didn’t put in the documentary, that wasn’t really relevant to Bob’s Doctor Who career. But I’m able to tell that story now, how Bob and Barry first got to know each other through this TV series in 1960. And then you start tying other bits together and those other bits start locking into place and making sense. It really was a very different exercise from writing Wiped!
I was able to meet Richard Marson, author of the JNT book, last year when he was doing some research on the book and help him out in a few small areas. And that was almost as fortuitous for me as anything else, because I mentioned to Richard that I was doing this Robert Holmes book. He said, “I’ve got an interview with Robert Holmes I did in 1985 which was never published,” when Richard was still working at Marvel. And he sent me an audio recording, which has got some very nice information that was never published.
I was then able to send James this interview: “Here’s your grandfather talking”; he’d never really heard his grandfather’s voice, and he was just absolutely gobsmacked to be able to sit down and listen to it. Those few seconds on Whose Doctor Who were all James had ever seen of his grandfather until quite recently.