David J Howe

Sapphire and Steel guide from TelosDavid J Howe has been associated with Doctor Who for a quite sometime. His books on the history of the classic series released during the 1990’s are regarded as some of the finest pieces to be written about the show.

His publishing house Telos has also released some excellent books which cover other cult shows such as Space 1999 and Sapphire And Steel as well as cult cinema. We caught up with David to ask what exactly keeps him a Doctor Who fan and what future plans he has.

What’s your earliest recollection of watching Doctor Who?

My earliest memories of Doctor Who are back from 1966 when I can remember the end of The Evil Of The Daleks – the Doctor looking down over the destroyed Dalek city. I have flash memories of some of the earlier elements from that story as well – the Daleks converting people into human Daleks, walking under the conversion arch and so on. I remember The Tomb Of The Cybermen as well – the Cybermen coming to life, the one which Toberman destroys spilling white gunk everywhere.

Were you instantly hooked on it the series?

I don’t think it was instant. I was young and although I remember watching some stories, most of my memories are from the 1969 season – The Mind Robber and The Invasion especially. But I don’t remember anything after that until Spearhead From Space which is when I think I started watching it regularly. I do know that I wasn’t allowed to watch The Ice Warriors as I was getting nightmares from it – but my brother who is three years younger than me was allowed to watch.

Was there one thing about it that got you interested or was it the show as a whole?

The monsters. I always loved the monsters. I liked Lost In Space for the same reason.

How did you get into writing about the series?

It was just having an interest in the show as a whole. I was always more interested in ‘how they did that’ than the actors and plots, and this just gravitated to my wanting to do a magazine which I did from 1977 onwards. This then led to the DWAS Reference Department, and from there to another fanzine and ultimately to Virgin commissioning us to write some books about it all.

Your series of handbooks published in the 1990’s detailing each era of the then seven Doctors gained much critical acclaim. How long did these take to put together?

Each one took about a year as I recall, but we were able to call upon a great amount of research we had collectively done in the preceeding ten years of writing for various fanzines.

Also your “Decades” hard-backed releases became huge hits with the fans, were these hard to pitch to the publishers?

Not really, it all started with a book on the Daleks which eventually was quashed by Terry Nation’s agents, and after that we discussed more ideas with the editor at Virgin and eventually they went for a book looking at the development of the show in the sixties … and thus that series of titles was born.

You’ve been behind many volumes dissecting the show’s history, is there one release you’re most proud of?

I’m very proud of all the books I have been involved with. Probably my favourite one was Timeframe as it came out so well, and perhaps I Am The Doctor as it was both a real challenge and a joy to pull together with Jon Pertwee – one of my heroes from the show.

As you just mentioned you worked with Jon Pertwee on his book I Am The Doctor, was it a happy experience?

It was happy and challenging. I had to help Jon remember everything, transcribe all the interviews and then write in Jon’s ‘voice’ so that it all sounded authentic and as though Jon himself was telling the stories. Of course it was a great shock when he died about 2 weeks after we finished the writing of it all.

Myth Makers Telos editionHow did the publishing company Telos come about?

It was a sequence of happy accidents. The first book that Telos published was a tie-in to the Channel 5 horror series Urban Gothic – a collection of short stories. And shortly after that we started the range of Doctor Who Novellas, plus non-fiction like the Stargate guide. Like all things, you try and do what you enjoy doing and hope that others enjoy them as well. Companies tend to start small and then build up and grow as time moves on. For more information on this, see a new DVD just out all about Telos Publishing (available from www.telos.co.uk).

Telos has published books on the new series but none penned by you, why is that?

Time mainly. It takes a lot of time to bring books through a publishing schedule almost single handedly, and it also takes a long time to write books. I have just found there are not enough hours in the day to do both, though I would dearly like to write more. I’m hoping to do some more Doctor Who soon though, and we shall see if I can make that happen alongside the schedules.

Your Transcendental Toybox series must take some putting together, are all the photos of merchandise from your collection?

Not all of them, but a great many are. We are lucky in that we get some from the people who make the merchandise, and others are contributed from readers and collectors … it’s very much a joint effort pulling the books together. They are hard books to do as well – the current UPDATE edition has been delayed about a year at this point and won’t probably now appear until 2010!

What’s your opinion on the huge wave of Doctor Who merchandise is it a good thing or is the market now saturated?

I think the market is very saturated. It’s no longer fun for collectors to try and keep up – the items are being produced for young kids, and when you already have well over 100 pairs of underpants then it stops being interesting really. There is so much stuff coming out that it’s impossible to keep on top of it all, and too expensive also. So the next Toybox Update will be the first to contain a disclaimer that we have done our best, but that we’re pretty certain that there are more things produced than we know about.

And your thoughts on the new logo?

Hmmm … really not sure. But then the taxi cab one sort of grew on me, so maybe this new one will as well. It depends how it works in the title sequence and what branding is built around it for all the next wave of merchandise.

You’re famous for your large collection of Doctor Who memorabilia. What was the first piece you bought and which one is your most prized piece?

I have no idea! Possibly the Piccolo Making Of Doctor Who in 1972? Prized piece … maybe an original black Marx Dalek from the sixties? But I have lots of things I love in my collection … if I started to list them we’d be here all week and beyond!

You wrote the acclaimed drama Daemos Rising, will you be penning anymore?

I’d love to, but for the moment, independent dramas are not being made by anyone. I have a completed script one just waiting for someone to be interested. It might turn up one day as a special Time Hunter novella or something like that. I’m quite proud of it. It’s called Face Of The Fendahl and is set during the time of the Crusades as a sort of mash up between Roger Corman’s The Masque Of The Red Death and the whole Time Hunter/Image Of The Fendahl remix that we had going on in a couple of the Time Hunter Novellas.

What is it about Doctor Who that keeps you an avid fan?

It’s the accessibility of the show, the fun and the adventure, without it being dumbed down for kids. It’s always been about horror and adventure and monsters to me … as long as they keep all that coming then I’ll be happy.

Many thanks to David J Howe – you can find out more about Telos at www.telos.co.uk; meanwhile the many books on Doctor Who that David has co-written are available from Amazon.



James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.

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