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Review: Sonic Waves - Issue Four

That Sonic Waves won fanzine awards during its reign in the mid 80s is unsurprising. When it arrived in 1984, the fan tapezine market had been established but from its opening introduction by Alan Hayes and Paul Hewson, Sonic Waves' aim to deliver a better product set the tone. That Alan re-recorded the first issue again as he felt it wasn't good enough is testament to that. In an era of negative and demanding fans, Sonic Waves struck the balance perfectly with informed and well-rationalised articles spanning the shows past and present. The finger was on the pulse of fandom but had a beat of its own. Its influence can be seen elsewhere. Another tapezine of the time turned itself around rather curiously in the style of Waves, to the extent it turned its whole view of continuity errors, expressed in previous issues, on its head. It also had a string of imitators, many from the same person!

So by issue 4 , where was Sonic Waves at? Back in 1985, I had stopped buying after Issue 3 - not out of dissatisfaction but my interests shifted to collecting the stories rather than listening to reviews of them. It was another four years or so before I heard the remaining issues. Looking at the set as a whole, Issue 4, the first one I missed, is ironically in my opinion, the best. The tone is particularly noteworthy. Sonic Waves had got angry with Michael Grade's 18 month hiatus decision at the downbeat end of Issue 2, and had subsequently celebrated the programme's current season by means of retaliation in Issue 3. Issue 4 moves on admirably, evolves and relaxes.

The change of title music (an original rendition of the Doctor Who theme), though perhaps unnecessary, also paves the way to original incidental music created by Jim Mortimore. This put the whole product in a class above. Similarly, the creative output pulls out the stops with The Doctors' Schooldays, a playlet of four episodes with impressions of all Doctors and more characters besides. Before hearing this, I unhelpfully had this quoted out of context to me repeatedly to my utter confusion. This is not one for the serious, anal Who philosopher, as it plays fast and loose with show's continuity for the sake of an amusing scenario. All the Doctors are at school at once the Blinovitch Limitation effect isn't in it! A clever idea with the happy anarchy of Spitting Image, then in its infancy. The diversity of the articles shines through particularly on Issue 4: Marvel Comics' Sixth Doctor, overseas filming locations and the deaths of companions being prime examples subjects seldom discussed in any detail previously. Then there is Robert Franks' frank review of The Daleks' Masterplan. In an era where 60s Who (especially the missing kind) could seemingly do no wrong, this is refreshing to say the least, giving both barrels to the lazy upshot of Dalekmania and the limitations of Terry Nation. Very brave, very honest.

The Doctors' Schooldays is not the only way in which Issue 4 looks forward. There is a strong plug to the then emerging Audio Visuals range; a review of their latest production and even an interview with Nick Briggs, Audio Visuals' Doctor of the time, and these days of course a star of the show actual. Prophetic stuff. This pre-empted the tone of the 90s in fandom to 'carry on regardless' in the absence of the TV show.

Let us not forget the audio letters from Colin Baker that graced every issue! This was the icing on the cake and very brave of Alan to have attempted this. Equally, it was very generous of Colin Baker to record them. One wonders whether this type of request was a regular occurrence for him. If so Sonic Waves was privileged indeed. Maybe others didn't have the nerve to ask him. Either way, they always provided a unique link up to the main man himself at the time.

Sonic Waves stands the test of time as the definitive tapezine. The calibre of its contributors, some of whom have gone on to become well-known professional writers, many gems of knowing humour along with a lack of complacency and strife for improvement and innovation, put it ahead of its competitors.

by Nick Goodman

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