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Faces of AbbyShot: Philip Smith

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Faces of AbbyShot: Philip Smith

“Who Am I? Who Am I?” - Xoanon

My birth episode (displaced by one day) is “Power Of The Daleks,” Episode 5, an episode sadly missing from the BBC archives in its entirety, although small excerpts do still exist - most notably the Dalek battle cry of “Daleks conquer and destroy!” as the Daleks prepare to take over the Vulcan colony. Not much of an entry into the world as memories go. In fact my earliest memories of The Doctor’s exploits are vague recollections of the Pertwee stories “The Three Doctors” (the Gellguards surrounding the UNIT headquarters); “Carnival Of Monsters” (the Drashigs bursting from the mud); “Planet Of The Daleks” (the fabulous Dalek Supreme); “The Green Death” (the Maggots!). I am not sure if I was watching the show (or allowed to watch the show) as a 6 year old (going on 7!) but I am also vaguely aware of the Ogrons and Alpha Centauri who both featured in the previous season - although the memory cheats and it may have been I saw the Ogrons in “Frontier In Space” and Alpha Centauri in the later “Monster Of Peladon.” What I do know is that by the time Jo Grant said her tearful farewell at the end of “The Green Death” I was a fan of the show and wanted to see it every week. It was family viewing and very exciting!

During this early interest in the TV show I was also to become aware of the fabulous Target novels, which adapted the TV episodes into book form so that they could be relived again and again - there wasn’t such a thing as video, DVD, catch up, streaming, satellite repeats, if you missed an episode you would be very very very unlikely to see it repeated! If you wanted to “watch” Doctor Who that had been on television the only way was to read these exciting adventure novels. Coming to the party as late as 1972 - 1973 I had already missed out on nine whole seasons of Doctor Who, and, as mentioned, may not have been fully watching the show during Season Ten!! There was much to catch up on!!

My first Target novel was Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters:

I can safely say that the depiction of the “Tyrannosaurus Rex” on the cover was a big factor in this being the first book in my collection; aren’t all young boys fascinated by dinosaurs at the age of about eight? This book was first published in January 1974 (according to The Target Book, an invaluable source of information about these wonderful novelisations) and I must have bought it around that time. I am pretty sure it cost the nominal sum of 35p (a fortune to pay for a paperback in those days!). I had never seen the transmission of the story (“Doctor Who And The Silurians”) but the novel fascinated me, especially the wonderful artwork drawings within the pages to further illustrate the prose of Malcolm Hulke. He also penned the scripts of this, the second story of Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor. This book was well thumbed and re-read many times! The second Target novel I added to the “collection” (are two books a collection?) was Doctor Who And The Planet Of The Daleks, published over two years later in 1976. This was probably influenced by the memory of the Gold/Black Dalek Supreme from Episode 6.

By this time, of course, Jon Pertwee had long since hung up his cape and the Doctor had regenerated into the form of Tom Baker who was by now facing the Gothic Horror period of the Philip Hinchcliffe years. Notwithstanding, and, for the most part, blissfully ignorant of the rumblings from the TV watchdog Mary Whitehouse, I, like nearly (or sometimes over) 10 million other viewers, was riveted to my seat on a Saturday night to follow the exploits of my hero.

As the eighties dawned and the great Tom Baker hung up his scarf for the last time I was already in secondary school and my Target collection had grown into a Target library!! And as the seventies had come to an end I had chanced upon a comic called “Doctor Who Weekly” in a local newsagents. Actually I found two copies Issue 12 (with the image of a Dalek burning in “Death To The Daleks” on the cover) and, tucked behind it slightly, Issue 10 (“featuring Davros Mastermind Of The Daleks” on the cover in a classic still from Genesis Of The Daleks). I was shocked! How had I not seen this marvellous comic before now?? As with tracing and buying the missing Target novels from my collection, I also had the task of purchasing the missing back issues of this fantastic comic - with no internet and only writing actual letters to achieve this feat! Doggedly I did so and soon had the comic/magazine on regular order at my local newsagents. I never missed an issue and subscribed many years later to ensure I was sent the magazine as soon as it was published.

Throughout the eighties I came to know three more Doctors in the shapes of Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and, whilst I had strong favourite stories for each of them I always enjoyed every story as the travels of the Doctor continued.

By now I was fully up to date with the Target novels and was buying each as they were published. Despite my early unawareness of both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor in those early black & white years I had come to appreciate those earlier stories through the writings of such as Terrance Dicks, David Whittaker, Bill Stratton, Gerry Davis, Brian Hayles and many more.

With the eighties came the VHS videos, some hacked beyond recognition in an attempt to get them passed by censors and to fit on a VHS cassette which was affordable (!) by the public. Early videos of the show were trimmed of their title sequences and edited harshly but I lapped them up as they were chances to see again (or for the first time!) stories of which I had only my memories, and the imagery created in the Target novels. The initial experiment proved successful in some ways but the harsh editing and extortionate pricing came under heavy criticism from the Doctor Who fandom, and the BBC realised their errors and the profitability of the show. Too late! The BBC policy of “junking” the black & white master tapes of the Hartnell and Troughton (and even Pertwee) years had already destroyed a huge number of the episodes from the 60’s and early 70’s. Like many Doctor Who fans I was heartbroken when this became clear - so well documented in the pages of “Doctor Who Magazine” (as it had now become, after a period as “Doctor Who Monthly”).

Thankfully the BBC began releasing the stories in complete form on VHS and the price came down as the video recorder became a household device within the price range of most families. To store yet another growing library (alongside the Target novels and the Doctor Who magazines) I was able to buy one (then a second) TARDIS style video cabinet to put them in.

These Harvard Associates cabinets were flatpack and proved very solid in construction but, of course, change was coming in two ways to Doctor Who as the eighties were drawing to a close.

The first change was that the show was being criticised so much that it went into “hiatus” in the mid-80’s and fell foul of being put on trial with a view to being cancelled. Despite surviving the axe there was always a feeling that this was “merely a reprieve” and, despite the change of actor and the entrance of the Seventh Doctor finally the BBC pulled the plug and the show came to an end. Fandom went into spasm as some blamed the management, some the producer, some the actors, some blamed fans for being too proprietary about the show that they had ruined it for everyone else. I just hoped it would be brought back!

Having survived over twenty six years, in various forms, Doctor Who didn’t just fade away. The New Adventures, and later The Missing Adventures novels fed the desire for new stories both moving forward and visiting previous Doctors and Companions between the televised stories of the past. Doctor Who Magazine continued to publish, even despite the end of the show on TV, reporting on the new novels, the missing episode searches, interviewing myriad people involved in the show in many capacities, promoting merchandise including the ongoing video releases and then the second major change as the video releases gave way to the DVD versions which gave the fans more than just the episodes, thanks to the hard working team who delved into the wealth of Who information which had not been seen before.

Whilst visiting the Llangollen Doctor Who Exhibition I purchased my first ever bit of cosplay clothing - the 7th Doctor’s tank top as made by Dapol, although the tank top isn’t as screen accurate as the more recent Lovarzi version (which I also own). I cannot recollect exactly when this was but the exhibition was only open between 1994 and 2003 so it was probably in the mid 90’s I went whilst visiting my sister who lived nearby at the time. To complement the tank top I bought a white linen suit at M&S and managed to procure a Paisley tie and scarf from the now sadly defunct Tie Rack. I even managed to procure a decent hat to top off the outfit but had to forego the distinctive Question Mark Umbrella (now owned thanks to the wonderful people at Lovarzi). Sadly the suit no longer fits as I have gained a few pounds since those days so I no longer have an early 7th Doctor outfit.

During the 90’s, of course, there was the TV Movie featuring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and a beautiful cameo for Sylvester McCoy as the outgoing Seventh, something I feel was very worthy of inclusion but I realize others have differing opinions on this.

Although the TV Movie didn’t launch the Doctor into a new series there were plenty still out there to keep the faith of the possible return. More novels both New and Missing Adventures came from Virgin Books and then BBC Books when they brought the range back “in house”.

During the late 80’s I became aware of The Stranger series of films made by Bill Baggs using predominantly Doctor Who stars even if there could be no reference to the Doctor due to licensing controls. Starring Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Nicola Bryant and Sophie Aldred (to name a few) they were the nearest to Doctor Who other than the TV Movie and I have to admit I enjoyed them. Baggs’ biggest coup was The Airzone Solution which brought together four of the surviving Doctors in Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy and remains a very clever and interesting item for any Whovian’s collection.

It was as the 90’s drew to a close that the worlds of Doctor Who came closer to being real once again as Big Finish attained the licence to produce new audio adventures. From the small beginnings of bringing Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy back to the part of the Doctor with new and wonderful stories, Big Finish have managed to woo so many former Who stars back with their dedication to the show (and, by all accounts, their food spreads)! For this I am eternally grateful, otherwise how would we have the wonderful Tom Baker, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse recreating their TV personas, not to mention the huge cast of other Who stars like Nicola Bryant, Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson, Mary Tamm, Wendy Padbury, Frazer Hines, and so many more! Big Finish have, deservedly, gone from strength to strength and I hope they do so for years to come! Plus, we got treated to characters from beyond the TV series of the first 26 years in the shape of Bernice Summerfield, Charlotte “Charlie” Pollard, Lucie Miller, Evelyn, C’rizz, Erimem and more!

Then, in 2004 the rumour started that the show was coming back to the BBC on Saturday nights! After the false start of the TV Movie (in no way the fault of the film, its producers or stars) I was nervous. In fact, I didn’t actually watch many of the first season episodes until I bought the DVD set (although this was mostly due to having to work Saturday nights and not being able to watch entire episodes!) The ones I did watch: Rose; Dalek; Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways thrilled me beyond my wildest expectations. Doctor Who was back and with a bang! I hadn’t dared hope the new show would survive but here it is over ten years later and still going and I couldn’t be happier.

One thing I have always tried to do is be loyal to the show and, like Colin Baker, I am not overly keen on the need to catalogue the Best to the Worst, as, for me, any Doctor Who is great. Can I say which actor was the best at portraying the character of the Doctor? Not really as they all brought new facets to the character. Do I have a favourite episode/story? Well, with so many to choose from I can say I really enjoyed “Caves Of Androzani”, “Genesis Of The Daleks”, “Planet Of The Daleks”, “The Keys Of Marinus”, “The Robots Of Death”, “The Web Of Fear”, “Pyramids Of Mars”, “Earthshock”, “Attack Of The Cybermen”, “Remembrance Of The Daleks”, “The Visitation”, “The Curse Of Fenric”, “Dalek”, “The Girl In The Fireplace”, “School Reunion”, “Blink”, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, “Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, “Planet Of The Dead”, “Amy’s Choice”, “The Doctor’s Wife”, “The Girl Who Waited”, “A Christmas Carol”, “Asylum Of The Daleks”, “The Snowmen”, well, you get the idea, I love them all, no matter what other opinions there might be I am happy there is more Doctor Who each time a new episode airs, a new audio is released, a new book is published and the Whoniverse expands!

With the advent of the new series there was a huge outpouring of new memorabilia including TARDIS WiFi speakers, TARDIS projection clocks, Doctor Who figurines, stationery, toys, games, household items and more. As with my wife’s love of Harry Potter I have tried to buy the higher quality items as there simply isn’t enough room in our home for us to buy everything from both franchises!!

However, there was one area which became a passion and is still growing despite my wife’s attempts to limit it!! Cosplay!! Back when I bought the Dapol 7th Doctor’s Tank Top in Llangollen in the 90’s I am not sure the term Cosplay had been coined but now it is a huge part of life for so many people whatever their favourite might be. From Firefly to Star Trek, from Batman to Wonder Woman, the world of Manga and cartoon, cosplay is everywhere, and Doctor Who is no exception.

I loved the costumes from the “Classic” series but only ever managed to come close to the early 7th Doctor outfit back then. During the time of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor there was plenty of interest in the flowing Brown Greatcoat he wore much of the time and I became aware (from which source I am unsure) that there was to be a licensed replica made available to purchase! I knew I had to have it. My wife, not realising what she would be starting, bought me the 10th Doctor’s Coat for Christmas 2009!

This beautiful replica from AbbyShot was the pride of my wardrobe from that moment on and still holds a special place in my heart, I even wore it to the ’40’s Christmas Leave event at a Preserved Steam Railway on Boxing Day.

I had managed to buy a brown suit and blue shirt which approximated the 10th Doctor’s outfit but little did I realise the long term effects this coat would have upon me!! Less than six years later and I had improved the authenticity of the outfit by adding in the Hello Cosplay version of the Brown pinstripe suit: and even after this I have changed the outfit again by buying the screen accurate tie from Magnoli Clothiers. (My thanks to all who made this outfit possible).

It wasn’t long before my mouse brought me back to AbbyShot’s site and over the following years I bought many more of their fine licensed replica coats: the 11th’s Tweed Jacket; Bow Tie (red); Braces (red); Green Coat; Purple Coat; Bow Tie (purple); Braces (purple); Captain Jack Harkness’s RAF Greatcoat; the 12th’s Navy Coat and have treated my wife to the Ladies version of the 10th Brown Coat. I also own the AbbyShot Neo’s Lobby Trench (Matrix); two versions of the DmC Dante Coat (one red, one black) and all are produced to the high standard that I first experienced with the 10th Doctor’s Coat back in 2009.

The Jack Harkness RAF Greatcoat proved itself at another ’40’s War Time event when I was mistaken for an official re-enactor at the event!

AbbyShot’s wonderful range of clothing whetted my appetite and I was soon seeking out Classic costumes from other suppliers (as sadly AbbyShot only make New Who coats as yet!!) Magnoli Clothiers, Baron Boutique, Steve Ricks, UK Hello Cosplay, Costumeshow, Leathershop (Supreme Couture) have all been able to supply various coats, costumes and accessories. I have also been able to supplement the main coats with accurate items from more regular clothiers such as Budds Shirtmakers and John Smedley, whilst obtaining close replica items from places such as Walker Slater, all of whom I am greatly indebted to.

I truly admire those cosplayers around the world who are skilled in literally making their own outfits entirely themselves from scratch and I also envy them! Sadly my sewing skills are nowhere near enough to manufacture costumes myself but each cosplayer has their own style and wardrobe and I find great pleasure in wearing the various costumes I own.

Most cosplay is associated with conventions and Comic Cons, but due to my working schedule, I am not able to attend many of these events. In fact the first real event I was to attend was the 50th Celebration at ExCel, London and even then I was only able to be there for the morning of the Friday due to working that night! Although I forewent much of the auditorium event I was delighted to visit the stands and meet some of the vendors and stars of Doctor Who. I finally got to meet the wonderful AbbyShot team over from Canada and also chat with my friend Steve from Sci-Fi Collector. Highlight of the day though was having my photo taken with Nicola (Peri) Bryant, who was an absolutely lovely person and I have to admit was my favourite companion!

As it was 2013 I was still in a more stylised version of 10th Doctor outfit. I had hoped to wear my 11th Doctor Purple outfit but the coat had got held up in the post, however I was able to wear it to attend a ComicCon a year later at Earl’s Court: Between these two events I was delighted to visit Steve’s shop at The Stamp Centre in The Strand to meet the great man himself, the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. Tom was simply enthralling with his piercing eyes and ready wit and when his Jelly Babies ran out I happily passed my own bag across the table as the 4th Doctor without Jelly Babies just isn’t right!

That day I wore a stylised version of the Capaldi Navy outfit from the promo pics but had the authentic John Smedley blue waistcoat as part of it, now of course I have the more authentic outfit as the AbbyShot replica is in my wardrobe:

A few more costumes in the wardrobe:

As mentioned I am rarely available to attend events but this never stops me wearing my cosplay outfits. I have worn them even to do the weekly shop!! The Classic costumes are more outlandish in some ways but few people bat an eyelid at the new series costumes, perhaps I am just seen as an eccentric and that’s fine with me! As AbbyShot have said, whilst these are licensed replicas they are also wearable as everyday clothing and as such I like to wear them whenever I can!!

In the future I hope to visit more events and meet more stars of the show, visit locations and exhibitions (Wales is a must!) and I look forward to expanding my wardrobe of costumes and increasing my collection of memorabilia and I hope the show will now be able to continue for many years to come. But for now I can only say I love the show, the stars, the people I have met through my love of Doctor Who, whether local friends or those more remote (but still close though social media), and all those others who have added to my enjoyment of Doctor Who. Here’s to the future!

 Written by: Philip Smith

 Twitter: @TheGingerDrWho

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