Doctor Who Magazine is the world's longest running magazine based on a television series. It is currently published every four weeks and offers Doctor Who news, reviews, articles and comic stories. There are also occasional standalone publications. The abbreviation "DWM" is widely used in fandom to refer to the magazine, even though it has had other names that do not fit the acronym.
The magazine was born as Doctor Who Weekly, published by the UK branch of Marvel Comics in mid-October 1979. The first issue arrived on newsstands midway through broadcast of City of Death, and Tom Baker spent some time promoting it while in the midst of production of the ultimately cancelled Shada. At this time, a weekly magazine was still a popular format in the United Kingdom. Marvel republished several of its US comic books (such as Star Wars) in the black and white weekly format. Doctor Who Weekly's initial cover price was 12 pence, at the time roughly equivalent to 25 American cents.
With its 44th issue in September 1980, Marvel switched the magazine to monthly publication. Its title was changed to Doctor Who - A Marvel Monthly, then in 1982 to Doctor Who Monthly. In 1984, the title was changed again, to The Official Doctor Who Magazine and in 1985 to The Doctor Who Magazine. Since issue 107, published in December 1985, the title has been, simply, Doctor Who Magazine. The title changes, very broadly speaking, reflected a change of editor or direction for the title. The continuity of the numbering system — largely the indication of whether a title is considered "continuously published" — has remained intact from October 1979 to July 2018.
Since its first issue, a major feature of each issue has been an ongoing comic strip based upon the series. It has featured adventures of every incarnation of the Doctor and many of his TV companions. There have also been, from time to time, back-up comic strips featuring different characters. During the 1990s DWM was affiliated with the Virgin New Adventures book line, publishing short stories (dubbed "Brief Encounter") related to the books and comic strips that linked closely with current New Adventures novels.
The magazine's logo generally resembles the current on-screen series logo. Notable exceptions include the period from 1991 to 1999, when the magazine reverted to the "diamond logo" associated with the late Jon Pertwee and most of the Tom Baker era; DWM belatedly switched to the logo introduced in the Paul McGann TV movie in 1999 and it remained in use until it adopted a variation of the logo used for the revived TV series in 2005.
Over the years, many writers connected with the series have written for the magazine and others who have written for DWM have contributed to Doctor Who or its spin-offs. Correspondence collected over the course of several years between Doctor Who producer and lead writer Russell T Davies and DWM writer Benjamin Cook were collected in the book Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale in 2008; an expanded second edition was published in early 2010. The comic strip has, to date, been used as source material for one episode, 2010's The Lodger. Contributors to DWM have also been featured in other similar publications such as Doctor Who annuals, Yearbooks and Storybooks.
In October 2008, DWM published its 400th issue. It celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in October 2009. It published its 500th issue in June 2016. It is currently the longest-running professionally published and licensed magazine based on an English-language television series; its associated comic strip is the longest-running comic based upon an English-language television series to be published without interruption.
In an appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in October 2006, Billie Piper revealed she was a regular subscriber to DWM and that she loved the magazine, defending it when Ross attempted to dismiss it as "only for geeks". (CD Doctor Who at the BBC: The Tenth Doctor) More recently, actress Alexa Havins, in an interview published in DWM 437, said she was a fan of the magazine, which was often available for reading on the set of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
In addition to these superlatives, Doctor Who Magazine is a survivor of the print medium, having now outlasted many long-running science fiction-based publications such as Starlog, which have in recent years abandoned print for website-only productions or closed down completely. In January 2010 the magazine was relaunched with a new look. In 2011, it published its first 100-page issue. In January 2013, the magazine was again redesigned, with the physical dimensions of issues being changed. In late 2013, a Doctor Who Magazine app was launched, allowing users to purchase easily navigable digital versions of issues.
Further information relating to the various periods of the magazine's publication can be found through the links below. They are sorted first by "eras" of the magazine when the magazine was titled by a specific name. From issue 107 it was titled Doctor Who Magazine, the title by which it is still known.
From 1979 through to November 1985 the magazine was known by a variety of titles, including Doctor Who Weekly and names that referred to its monthly status. In December 1985 with issue 107, the magazine became known as Doctor Who Magazine. Issues in the following pages are arranged by the "eras" when the magazine was known by a slew of titles.
From issue 107 in December 1985, the magazine was retitled, dropping "The" from its name to become, as it is known today, Doctor Who Magazine. All issues following this change are arranged by year based on their cover date; this is the date that is listed on the front of the magazine and indicates the last date the issue was current. It is not a publication date, rather it can be viewed as an expiry date.
Comic strip reprints
Over the years, the Doctor Who comic strip has been reprinted – often with colour added (it was published in black and white prior to late 2001) – in a number of different publications. In the United States, Marvel Comics and, more recently, IDW Publishing have issued reprint titles in comic book and graphic novel format. Panini has reissued the comic strips in deluxe omnibus form and in magazine-sized publications (see Doctor Who Magazine graphic novels).
Distribution outside the UK
Distribution of DWM and its forebears outside the UK has been sporadic. In areas where Doctor Who has been popular it has found limited distribution through specialty stores such as comic book shops and cult/fantasy shops.
During the Doctor Who Weekly era of the magazine it was not circulated in North America, but regular distribution through Marvel US occurred during the 1980s, following its move to monthly publication. This continued into the late 1990s. When ownership of the magazine shifted to Panini, distribution in North America became less widespread. Few magazine shops and comic book retailers carried it month-to-month, only occasional issues.
The re-emergence in the popularity of Doctor Who post-2005 has meant that Doctor Who Magazine can be found in most newsagents within Australia.
Due to distance considerations for areas such as North America and Australia, (two of the larger markets for the magazine) the magazine is often available on or after its cover date, rather than the few weeks prior the magazine is distributed locally in the United Kingdom.
Whilst this lag time often means articles intended to promote upcoming episodes in the United Kingdom arrive overseas out of sync with their UK broadcasts, they sometimes fall into sync with their local broadcasts. However the lag time does impact on a reader's ability to participate in deadline-specific activities such as contests, polls and surveys. Aside from this, the magazines generally arrive intact, including giveaways and premiums such as free CDs and cards included with the original UK release.
Inserts and special features
From the very beginning, occasional magazine issues have featured special bonus items and inserts. The first few issues in 1979 came with free transfers and many issues have come packaged with posters and other paraphernalia. These premiums have become less frequent in recent years, but still occur at least a couple times a year.
Notable items included with DWM releases over the years have included flexi-discs of soundtrack music, CDs of specially commissioned audio dramas by Big Finish Productions and in the summer of 2008, issue 397 came packaged with one of twenty-seven vintage Target novelisations (or related books). Issue 411 in August 2009 included a code that allowed readers to download an exclusive Big Finish audio drama, The Mists of Time, for a limited time. All issues following this issue that included a free or exclusive audio story with the magazine included it in this matter, as a digital download rather than as a physical CD.
Unusually, as many magazines strip inserts before shipping overseas due to licensing issues (or are prevented from international distribution as a result such as Doctor Who Adventures), DWM's international distribution includes most inserts, including the Big Finish CDs/downloads and Target Books bonus.
Special editions and other publications
Doctor Who Magazine has been in continuous publication since its launch, offering special editions each year in addition to its regular issues.
A number of sister publications have been published at various times. Some ongoing features alternated between titles.
- Doctor Who Magazine (special issues) (Marvel produced specials)
- Doctor Who Classic Comics
- Doctor Who Poster Magazine
- Doctor Who Marvel Adventure Comic (crisp promotion editions)
- Doctor Who Magazine graphic novels
- Doctor Who Magazine Special Editions (Panini produced specials – ongoing releases)
- The Essential Doctor Who (previously Doctor Who 50 Years; Panini produced "bookazines")
In addition, DWM editorial staff also oversaw a spin-off publication, Doctor Who Insider, which Panini initially published exclusively for North American markets.
In January 2010, Doctor Who Magazine became one of – possibly the only – fan magazine to itself become the subject of a fanzine, with the launch of Vworp Vworp!, a fanzine dedicated to the Doctor Who comic strips and the history of DWM.