Sunday, 22 February 2015


Hard to believe that it's been four years since Doctor Who lost one its greatest stars - the Brigadier himself, Nicholas Courtney.

December 16th 1929, William Nicholas Stone Courtney was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a British diplomat. Courtney went into acting in the late '50s after eighteen months of National Service as a private. His first television role was in 1957. He first brush with Doctor Who came in 1965 was he played Brett Vyon in the twelve-part serial, The Daleks' Masterplan (although prior to that he was considered for the role of Richard the Lionheart in The Crusade). He returned to Doctor Who in 1968 in the six-part serial The Web of Fear as the intended one-off role of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart of the Scots Guards. He was cast by Douglas 'Dougie' Camfield, the same director who had earlier considered him for the role of Richard the Lionheart. The happenstance that brought him to the role of Lethbridge-Stewart is something that cannot be forgotten, since it led him to him returning the following year as the now-promoted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, commander of the British devision of UNIT in The Invasion

It was a role that would see him returning as a semi-regular cast member for the following six years, right up until 1975s Terror of the Zygons. Neither Courtney nor the Brigadier were ever forgotten, and both returned in 1983 for two appearances alongside Peter Davison's Doctor and reuniting him with both Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in The Five Doctors. He returned once more to television Doctor Who in 1989 to star alongside Sylvester McCoy in Battelfield. Although the character never returned to Doctor Who, he was never forgotten and made appearances in many short stories, comics and novels over the following years. Courtney even returned to the role in several audio dramas produced by Big Finish. The character has been mentioned several times since Doctor Who returned in 2005, and Courtney even returned as Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart in the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008. Ill health prevented any further appearances, and shortly after his death in 2011, the passing of the Brigadier was noted on screen in the episode The Wedding of River Song.

The legacy of the character continues, of course, in the shape of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, now head of UNIT in the current series. She has appeared three times since 2012, and will return later this year in the opening episodes of series nine and later heading her own audio series of adventures for Big Finish.

Although the Brigadier himself is no longer with us, Candy Jar Books are all set to chronicle the history of this legendary character in the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels, the first of which can be ordered directly from Candy Jar now (any orders now taken will be dispatched almost immediately) and is officially launched on Thursday 26th February (only four days away!) with an event at The Who Shop in London on Saturday 28th (in attendance will be author and range editor Andy Frankham-Allen, licensor Hannah Haisman, Terrance Dicks [the script editor who oversaw most of Nicholas Courtney's appearances during the late '60s and 1970s] and Ralph Watson who played Captain Knight alongside Courtney in The Web of Fear. Also popping by will be other Lethbridge-Stewart authors David A McIntee, Nick Walters and Jonathan Cooper).

Please do enjoy the following video put together by BabelColour, and remember that legend that was, and always will be, Nicholas Courtney.

We salute you, Nick!

Monday, 9 February 2015


Legacy of a Legend

In a surprise announcement at midday today, Big Finish Productions have announced a new deal with BBC Worldwide allowing them to produce new full-cast plays based around UNIT, the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, run by Kate Stewart, the daughter of iconic character, Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart!

There will be four boxsets released at six-month intervals, with the first four-part story released in November this year. This is the first time Big Finish have been able to release stories that specifically tie in with the current television series, and does suggest the possibility of more connections coming in the future. Series producer David Richardson says that Big Finish 'feel privileged to work within the universe of the New Series Doctor Who for the first time'.

Additional details will be announced in the coming months, but we do know from the news announcement that Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT will be fighting a new invasion by the Nestene Consciousness, first seen in 1970's Spearhead from Space and later at the start of the revived series in 2005's Rose.

In the meantime, while Big Finish prepare to continue the legacy of the Lethbridge-Stewarts, Candy Jar Books will be bring you their first series of novels chronicling the start of the legacy with Kate's father, set just after his first appearance in 1968's The Web of Fear. The first novel, The Forgotten Son, sees Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart facing off once more with the Great Intelligence, most recently seen in 2013's The Name of the Doctor.

For more details on the Lethbridge-Stewart series, and to pre-order, click HERE.

For more news on the UNIT series, and pre-order, click HERE.

Thursday, 5 February 2015


For the second instalment in the Lethbridge-Stewart interview range we are pleased to visit with Welsh comic-artist Simon Williams, who provides the art for the cover of the first Lethbridge-Stewart novel, The Forgotten Son.

Welcome, Simon. Before we get to your involvement with The Forgotten Son let’s take a quick look at your background with art and comics. What was the first comic you ever read?

Thanks, Chris. The first comic I can remember reading was Might World of Marvel issue #231, waaaaayyyyyy back in 1977! It was a UK Marvel weekly, reprinting various US titles. This issue featured among others, a reprint of the US Incredible Hulk #198… written by Len Wein, with artwork by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton. With that issue, I became a life-long fan of the Incredible Hulk, and it was Sal's artwork that inspired me to want to draw comics. Two fun facts about this issue… The back-up strip was a reprint of Marvel US's Planet of the Apes magazine, and the UK editor at the time was Neil Tennant (of Pet Shop Boys fame)!

How much influence did reading comics and seeing their artwork have on your development as an artist?

I can't put into words the influence those comics had on me. Not only as an artist, but my life as a whole. I learned to read with comics, especially Marvel. All I've ever wanted to do was draw comics.

You count artists such as Sal and John Buscema, John Romita Sr and John Byrne as being some of your major inspirations. What is it about their art that you found appealing and how has their style inspired yours?

Well, Sal's artwork was the first to stand out for me. With the Hulk being my favourite character, and Sal being the artist on the book for over one hundred issues, I read more of his work than anyone else’s. At the time I started reading comics, you had Sal on Hulk, Marvel UK were reprinting John Romita Spider-Man stories, John Buscema on Conan and The Fantastic Four… and John Byrne's run on Uncanny X-Men. To me, the Buscemas, Romita and, of course, Jack Kirby were the masters and innovators of the classic Marvel style. Brilliant draftsmen who could not only draw, but were master storytellers as well. John Byrne was one of the first of the new wave of ‘hot’ artists (along with the likes of Frank Miller) to follow in their footsteps, who carried on that tradition of classic storytelling and art, while maintaining modern sensibilities.

And in a few words how do you describe your personal artistic style?

Classic, Retro, Marvel!

You have said that you broke into comics thanks to Panini editor Alan O’Keefe, who contacted you in 2003 after noticing your art portfolio online. First, tell us a little bit about that portfolio. What were some of the art subjects and do you have any particular favourite pieces from that collection?

I can remember that there were several Hulk pieces on there… as well as several pages from my original Discotronic Funk Commandos strip, which I created back in 1996. I do tend to cringe when looking at my old work (especially stuff that I drew nearly 15 years ago!), but those early DFC pages feature some work that I still feel holds up to this day.

Now, once Alan O’Keefe noticed your work he offered you a chance to draw for the then-new Transformers: Armada title. You later contributed art to titles such as Action Man, Spectacular Spider-Man and Marvel Heroes. Looking back on your entry and first years as a comic artist, what do you feel are the most valuable experiences or lessons you learned as an artist?

Well, the first thing I have to say is how grateful I am to Alan and the Panini guys for giving me my start as a professional in comics. Working with editors Ed Hammond, Brady Webb, Tom O'Malley and Rob Jones was an absolute joy. In my first year, I got to achieve two of my life-long ambitions: to draw the Incredible Hulk… and to draw a Hulk vs Thing battle (with Spider-Man thrown into the mix)! As for what I've learnt from back then; I'd say as an artist that you never stop learning. I still learn something new to this day.

In 2009 you generated a lot of fan and professional excitement by drawing and posting online a comic series that featured a showdown between the Hulk and Death’s Head,  a robotic bounty hunter – or as he calls himself, ‘a freelance peace-keeping agent’ – first created in Marvel UK’s Transformers comic in 1987. Tell us a little about that artistic experience and also your thoughts on why the project attracted so much positive attention.

That project started out just for fun. I have always loved the character of Death's Head, and always hoped to see him fight the Hulk back in the old Marvel UK days (after all, he met and fought the Transformers, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and even the Doctor!). So I decided to draw up some pages to post on my deviantArt page, again just for fun! However, people really started to take an interest in this strip, so I decided to finish it as part of my convention exclusive Soulman Inc Sketch Book. I never dreamt that it would actually lead to the real thing, where Marvel Heroes editor Ed Hammond told me that they were going to do a Hulk/Death's Head strip, with me on artwork and Death's Head creator Simon Furman writing! It was genuinely a dream come true.

In recent years you created the comic title Retro Tales – Discotronic Funk Commandos for the Retro Comics Group. Tell us a little about the vision of Retro Comics and this superhero team’s place in your own comic book world.

Retro Tales is my love-letter to ‘70s Marvel Comics. I created the Discotronic Funk Commandos back in 1996 (although back then they were called the Funktastic Four). I always had this crazy idea about superheroes and villains based of ‘70s disco musicians/bands. It's a comedy strip, but played straight (much akin to the classic Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward). My style of artwork has always been compared to the ‘70s/’80s style Marvel comics, so I decided to use the Funk Commandos as the main characters of Retro Tales, written and drawn in a retro comic-book style.

Last year Retro Comics debuted two new characters, The Hoff and Thor, the Rock Warrior. Both creations are based on two real-life pop culture icons: American actor David Hasselhoff and Canadian heavy metal frontman Jon Mikl Thor, respectively. How did their involvement into your comic title come about, and how has it been for you as a comic creator and artist working with these two men in translating their real-life personalities into the comic book world?  

Working with both Jon and David has been an absolute dream come true! I'm a huge fan of the band Thor (and often draw listening to their music!), and have been a long-time fan of the Hoff. My collaborations with both started by correspondence online, and since have met David several times. I'm hoping to meet Jon sometime this year, as I believe he will be in the UK promoting his new bio-pic I Am Thor.

Let’s return briefly to Death’s Head. It is little-known in Marvel Comics lore that Death’s Head has a comic connection with a certain Time Lord known as the Doctor, a fact which you have mentioned in previous interviews. Growing up, were you ever a fan of Doctor Who, and if so, did you ever watch the 1970s stories featuring UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?

I certainly did! Doctor Who is a definite favourite of mine. Tom Baker being the Doctor I grew up with. Now, thanks to the DVDs and television repeats, I have seen most of the UNIT episodes featuring Jon Pertwee, and of course the wonderful Nicholas Courtney, whose character of the Brigadier is one of my absolute favourites!

You are the cover artist for The Forgotten Son, which is the first instalment in the upcoming Lethbridge-Stewart novel series published by Candy Jar Books. How did you first become involved in this project? Is it your first time drawing cover art for stories as opposed to comic book story art?

I was approached for the project by range editor and Forgotten Son author Andy Frankham-Allen, who is a very good friend of mine. I have always wanted to draw something related to Doctor Who professionally, and when I heard it was the Brigadier I was over the moon! This is my first time drawing covers for a novel, but I couldn't think of anything better to start with!

Although The Forgotten Son won’t be available until 22 February your art for the book is already viewable online. In the image we see the profile of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, a young boy in somber clothes, an ominous house and a Yeti hovering over a glowing pyramid. Without giving away any details of the actual story, what can you tell us about your design for this cover and what helped to inspire you in its drawing?

The design of the cover was something I discussed with Andy Frankham-Allen, and Candy Jar publisher Shaun Russell. I told them to give me the specific elements that they wanted me to incorporate onto the cover, and of course what style they would like. I was pretty adamant though about the Brig being prominent on the cover; something both Andy and Shaun were in full agreement with!

Finally, and again without giving too much away, will this be your only cover for this book range or can we except more of your art covering the world of Lethbridge-Stewart?

As it stands right now, I'll be doing more covers for this series! I'm awaiting more news from Mr Frankham-Allen on this, but I should be starting on the next one very soon!

Simon Williams, thank you.

Artwork © Simon Williams, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Way back in 1986, for reasons beyond his control, Colin Baker was effectively 'fired' from the lead role in Doctor Who. He was made the fall guy. At the time, angry and annoyed, he refused to come back in 1987 to record a regeneration story, and so as a result the Sixth Doctor never had a final adventure as performed by Colin Baker, until now...
September 2015 sees the release of a very special story from Big Finish, as The Last Adventure at last provides a heroic exit for Colin Baker’s much-loved Time Lord...
Says David Richardson, Big Finish producer, ‘I spoke to Colin not long after Matt Smith’s final outing, The Time of the Doctor, was broadcast on television. I felt very strongly that regeneration stories, and each Doctor’s final end, are very important to Doctor Who fans And so I asked Colin if he might finally consider doing the Sixth Doctor’s final story with us. To my huge delight, he said yes.’
Colin Baker was very open to the idea, saying he owes it to Big Finish as they were responsible for giving him the opportunity to re-address the bad press his Doctor often gets. 'At Big Finish the Sixth Doctor has lived and breathed anew and developed in a way that I am extremely happy with. I never actually filmed a regeneration, and left poor Sylvester floundering around in my empty clothing with a blond wig on, I have resolutely maintained the lie that I am still the Doctor and all the rest are imposters because I never regenerated!'
The Last Adventure will be released in a lavish book-sized box set which will contain special photography, illustrations and behind the scenes interviews, as well as four hour-long episodes. The stories are connected by the presence of Michael Jayston as the Valeyard, the entity that exists between the Doctor’s twelfth and final regeneration.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

ME AND WHO - 1988

The first in a new series of articles in which Andy Frankham-Allen, range editor of Candy Jar's Lethbridge-Stewart novels, takes a look back at some of his most important Doctor Who memories.

“You Haven’t Been Born Yet”
Remembrance of the Daleks

You know, I could talk about Remembrance of the Daleks forever. It has its flaws, especially now, twenty-six years on (yikes! Yes, over a quarter of a century already), like the wobbly Daleks or the incorrect edition of The French Revolution book, but it has so much going for it. It was the perfect opening adventure for the twenty-fifth anniversary season (indeed, I still think it should have been the twenty-fifth anniversary story); it was set in the same fictional location as the very first Doctor Who episode, it had the Daleks (a staple of 1960s Doctor Who), and it had more continuity than you could shake a stick at. Never too obtrusive, but enough to please the long-time fans. There is so much more I can say. I could even tell you the story of how my VHS cassette onto which I taped the story had a problem – the first episode would speed up and slow down at odd moments, rendering some of the most interesting dialogue in twenty-five years of Who – such classics lines, like the Doctor, after hearing Gilmore’s bewilderment at the idea of a death ray, saying ‘not as predictable as spots’. And Allison, upon learning that a soldier had been shot by a Dalek questions it with, ‘daddy, are you sure?’ For years I was puzzled by such dialogue, until the video got released some years later. ‘What a predictable response’ and ‘dead, are you sure?’ make a whole lot more sense, I’m sure you’ll agree. But you know what? I’m not going to tell you that story. I have two others I want to share with you.

The first is from 1988, before the story was even transmitted. Back then (twenty-six bloody years ago!), I lived in a place called White City in London. I had only been back into Doctor Who for a year (don’t ask me why, but Time and the Rani episode two brought me back to the fold), and so was rather looking forward to this new season. I had started getting Doctor Who Magazine again and knew all the rumours. The Daleks were coming back! Woo! Good time to get back into Doctor Who, right? One of the places I visited the most was Hammersmith, King’s Street, the hubbub of shopping for those living in West London. I knew the area pretty well, spent a whole load of time there. Except for one particular week. And that week just so happened to be the one the Doctor Who team were filming Remembrance of the Daleks in Macbeth Street, Hammersmith. I only found out the next day in the local paper. I couldn’t believe it! I’d have loved to gone and watched Daleks trundling along the streets, the Doctor differing over whether to enter the TARDIS or not. But no, I had missed it totally. Years later, in 2005, I had moved back to Wales and guess who followed me there? Yes, the Doctor Who production team! I’m pretty sure they knew. So, believe me, I made sure I was on hand for at least one day of location filming. Should have been uber exciting, but it turned out to be a rather tedious and long night of exploding market stalls, falling Christmas trees and Santas with flamethrower trombones. Oh, and Billie Piper and Noel Clarke. I often wonder if watching Remembrance of the Daleks would have been more fun. Would rather have seen them land a shuttle in a playground than a large Christmas falling down. 1988, I was fifteen, so yeah, most likely would have been. Daleks! Hmm, come on, who wouldn’t want to meet the Daleks in real life? No? Just me, then? Okay.

They turned a corner into Macbeth Street, and once they had neared the school that stood there, Jake noticed the police box in an alley alongside a block of flats. Jake smiled. At last they were getting somewhere.

This little excerpt is from a short story I wrote for Big Finish back in 2004, and fans of Remembrance of the Daleks may just well recognise the above place as the location used for Coal Hill School in that story. When I wrote that story I intentionally set it in and around Hammersmith because it’s a place I know so well from my own youth, and it’s always good to write about what you know. Having set it in such a location, I couldn’t resist having the TARDIS land in the same place the police box prop had once stood in 1988. I may have missed the location filming, but in my fictional universe of Doctor Who I could at least visit it through the eyes of Jake Morgan. Plus, it made a nice little Easter egg for fans of the show. To my knowledge, other than my sister, no one picked up on it. But, you know, that’s fine. Every time I think of that scene, I find myself wondering why the Third Doctor never spotted Coal Hill School opposite. Maybe he did. Maybe he even went inside and replaced the incorrect French Revolution book with the one Susan actually borrowed in 1963. Maybe.