Having risen, rather like the series itself, out of the ashes of a company that last traded back in 1990, Andrew Skilleter’s Who Dares Publishing (a combination trading name born of two of Skilleter’s great loves, Doctor Who and Dan Dare) is re-establishing itself as an outlet for quality nostalgia products – with an extremely heavy emphasis on both the quality and the nostalgia aspects. Returning late last year with a very stylish calendar of Skilleter’s own Target books art, the revived company’s second release retains the vintage cover art theme and ups the ante on the elegance quite considerably.
£60 (albeit inclusive of postage and packaging) might seem a lot to ask, for what is essentially a simple set of six A4 art cards, but The Key to Time: Art of Colin Howard is a product whereby the idea and the realisation of that idea are what you’re paying for, as much as you are the art itself. Limited to just fifty units worldwide, this is a set that has been licensed, designed and marketed for the collector and that will no doubt appreciate in value pretty much from the moment it’s issued. A large part of that is because of its desirability; the six art cards are the paintings which formed the covers for the BBC’s VHS releases of the Season Sixteen stories back in the spring of 1995, and as much as the appeal is the nostalgia hit of the images themselves, another incalculable factor is the timing of those video editions. Arriving twelve months before the TV Movie landed on our televisions, the six tapes formed one of the last occasions during which it was possible to enjoy Doctor Who as a serial phenomenon, before Paul McGann arrived and the marketing of the series altered, and the landscape of our memories and their formation was changed forever. What you’re paying for here, assuming you’re of a certain age, is a fix of innocence gone by.
Who Dares have gone to town on the set, to ensure that the cost of licensing such a short print run is conveyed to the customer as painlessly as possible. The first thing you notice upon opening the package is the envelope which contains the antique dealers’ gloves, produced with the Who Dares logo attached, and which signify the effort the company have put in and the kind of customer they have in mind. The cards themselves, along with a signed certificate and a small full-colour booklet explaining the story of the original releases and Howard’s choices in representing the six stories, arrive in a simple but eminently classy hardbacked folder (you can house the set slotted in amongst your large format books), and the art is beautifully printed on high quality card. Altogether it makes this edition about as collectible and as desirable as a set of Doctor Who art could possibly be.
As for the images, if you know the VHS tapes you’ll know the compositions; as a precursor to the photo collages that dominate the Doctor Who DVD sets, there’s a care and an attention inherent in these – along with a sense of playfulness about the formatting and arrangements – that is for some sadly lacking in more recent years. They make up a very handsome set of six, that those who dare to tear into the shrink-wrap will no doubt frame and display immediately.
The even better news is that this has been designated The Who Dares Portfolio Collection 1. Which means, it seems, that there is more to come.
THE KEY TO TIME: ART OF COLIN HOWARD / PUBLISHER: WHO DARES PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW