a real world point of view
TV Action was the final name of a weekly Polystyle comics magazine that began its run under the name, Countdown. Published in Britain from 1971 to 1973, the magazine contained comic adaptations of television programmes, but targeted a slightly older audience than its sister publication, TV Comic. The Doctor Who strip moved to Countdown with the very first appearance of the comic Third Doctor.
In the late 1960s, Polystyle was eager to start a magazine that appealed to a slightly older audience than its de facto television adaptation flagship, TV Comic. Whereas that publication had debuted with "funny animal" comics and adaptations of young childrens' shows like Muffin the Mule, they wanted something to compete with TV Century 21, which had been replete with comics based on Gerry Anderson properties. When that magazine folded, the license to print Gerry Anderson comics became available. Polystyle seized on it, buying not just the right to do new comics, but to reprint what had come before in TV21. SInce shows like Stingray, Thunderbirds, UFO and Fireball XLV all had a kind of space-age theme, a natural title was Countdown. To reinforce the theme, Polystyle unusually numbered the pages backward, so that readers were "counting down" to 1 as they read.
Unfortunately for Polystyle, public enthusiasm for Anderson properties was drying up. All these shows, except for UFO, had been cancelled by the time Countdown debuted. Dwindling sales figures quickly reflected the market's lack of appetite for a comic based mostly on programming that was no longer on the air. The publisher had to move to re-orient the publication. Polystyle sought licenses to produce wholly original comics based on popular action shows still in production. As the Gerry Anderson material gradually faded, so too did the Countdown name. At issue 59, they started numbering the pages in normal order. By the time the magazine became TV Action it had little to do with science fiction and much more to do with shows like Hawaii 5-0, Tightrope, Mission: Impossible and The Pretenders. Unfortunately, the changes never put the magazine on solid financial footing and it folded after only a little more than two years.
In the end, Doctor Who proved the longest-running strip of the magazine, having been left out of about five issues along the way. Although it failed to make the final issue of TV Action, it survived by returning to the pages of TV Comic.
The oft-changing title of this publication has created confusion amongst fans of Doctor Who, who are generally uninterested in the broader contents of the magazine. Some have mistakenly believed that TV Action and Countdown were two separate magazines. In fact, the change was too gradual to produce a bright dividing line between what was Countdown and what was TV Action. The plurality of issues were actually published under both names. Moreover, the numbering system was preserved throughout the transformation.
Cover Titles Edit
Although the title on the cover changed every few months, it was stylistically similar throughout the first hundred issues. While the word Countdown appeared on the cover, the title was always placed in a red banner across the top sixth of the page. After the title became just TV Action, this practice was abandoned. On the final thirty-two issues, TV Action became merely a logo at the top of a full page of art..
- 1-18 Countdown
- 19-45 Countdown The Space-age Comic!
- 46-56 Countdown for TV Action!
- 57-58 TV Action in Countdown
- 59-100 TV Action + Countdown
- 101-132 TV Action
Indicia Titles Edit
The situation is even more confusing if one looks at the indicia, or legal, title:
- 1-45 Countdown
- 46-56 Countdown to TV Action
- 57-58 TV Action incorporating Countdown
- 59-100 TV Action & Countdown
- 101-132 TV Action
Stories by Issue Edit
- 1-5: "Gemini Plan"
- 6-13: "Timebenders"
- 15-22: "The Vogan Slaves"
- 23-32: "The Celluloid Midas"
- 33-39: "Backtime"
- 40-46: "The Eternal Present"
- 47-54: "*Sub Zero"
- 55-62: "The Planet of the Daleks"
- 63-70: "A Stitch in Time"
- 71-78: "The Enemy from Nowhere"
- 79-88: "The Ugrakks"
- 89-93: "Steelfist"
- 94-100: "Zeron Invasion"
- 101-103: "Deadly Choice"
- 104: "Who is the Stranger"
- 107-111: "The Glen of Sleeping"
- 112: "The Threat from Beneath"
- 116-119: "Back to the Sun"
- 120: "The Labyrinth"
- 123: "The Spoilers"
- 125-129: "The Vortex"
- 131: "The Unheard Voice"
Special Issues Edit
- TV Action Holiday 1971: "The Thing from Outer Space"
- TV Action Holiday 1972: "And Now for My Next Trick..."
- TV Action Annual 1972: "The Plant Master"
- TV Action Annual 1973: "Ride to Nowhere"
- TV Action Annual 1974: "The Hungry Planet"