Guinness World Records has named Doctor Who Magazine the world’s “Longest Running Magazine Based on a Television Series”.
First published on October 11, 1979, with a cover date of October 17, the magazine began life as Doctor Who Weekly, but with issue 44 moved from a weekly to a monthly publication in September 1980. At this time, it changed its name to, simply, Doctor Who. Other title changes took effect from issue 61, when it became Doctor Who Monthly, and issue 85, to The Official Doctor Who Magazine. From issue 99, the periodical became The Doctor Who Magazine, then, in 1985, just Doctor Who Magazine with issue 107.
With one exception, this is the title it has remained under ever since. The exception occurred in June 2008, when issue 397 was published as Bad Wolf. The significance of the words “Bad Wolf” could be found in the Russell T Davies-penned Doctor Who episode Turn Left, which saw its first television transmission that same month in the UK.
Despite the television series being discontinued by the BBC in 1989, DWM – as it is affectionately known by Who fans – continued publication and, in 1990, moved from a monthly-publishing schedule to its current four-weekly one, resulting in 13 issues every year. Since the series’ return in 2005, the magazine has gained in popularity, and the Guinness award comes as it enjoys one of its most successful periods in its history.
The magazine, which is officially sanctioned by the BBC, was originally published by the UK arm of Marvel Comics. However, in 1995, along with the rest of the Marvel UK catalogue, Panini Comics purchased the title. Panini published DWM’s 400th in 2008 and celebrated the magazine’s 30th anniversary in 2009.
Doctor Who Weekly (DWW) was originally geared towards children, but, over the years, DWM has grown into a more mature magazine, exploring the behind-the-scenes aspects of the series. Its longevity and close relationship with the TV-series production team gives it official status, something Davies, when he became the showrunner for Doctor Who in 2004, insisted should remain. Closely linked to the magazine himself during his time as the show’s head writer and executive producer, Davies wrote a “Production Notes” column for it, which his successor, Steven Moffat, has continued with. In 2006, the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, harked back to the DWW days by launching its own comic, Doctor Who Adventures, which is aimed at a younger audience. Initially published once every fortnight, since 2008 DWA it has published weekly.
To date, the magazine has had 12 editors. Its first editor was Dez Skinn, who presided over 22 issues, its longest-serving Clayton Hickman, who edited 74. The other previous editors were Sophie Aldred – who played Ace, a companion to the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, in the 1980s ¬(1 issue), was Sheila Cranna (31 issues), Paul Neary (26 issues), John Freeman (49 issues), Gary Gillatt (69 issues), Cefn Ridout (9 issues), Alan Barnes (20 issues), Alan McKenzie (48 issues) and Gary Russell (37 issues). Russell went on to produce more than 100 Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish, before joining BBC Wales as a script editor on the TV series of Doctor Who and its spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures. DWM’s current editor is Tom Spilsbury who took over the magazine in 2007. In the latest issue (420), Spilsbury says: “Every series of Doctor Who since 2005 has brought us thousands of new readers. Our RSV rating [Retail Sales Value] has increased every year since 2002 [three years before the BBC drama series returned to television] – which makes us unique not only in the Doctor Who world, but probably in the world full stop […] the good news is that DWM is now the best-selling title in our section of the market.”
In 2005, shortly after David Tennant was cast as the Tenth Doctor, DWM revealed that the actor, himself a fan of the show, had been a subscriber to the magazine since he was a kid!
Doctor Who, itself, already holds the Guinness World Records for the world’s “Most Successful Sci-Fi Series” and “Longest Running Sci-Fi Series”.
The magazine is on sale every four weeks. The current issue previews the new series of Doctor Who, which stars Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Karen Gillan as his companion, Amy Pond, and is executive produced by Steven Moffat.