Tuesday, 4 November 2014

1994: DREAMWATCH MAGAZINE Issue 1


From October 1994: the launch issue of DREAMWATCH, successor to the long-running, much read and highly-controversial (reading its' anti-JNT vitriol now just seems venomous... although the excellent book THE LIFE AND SCANDALOUS TIMES OF JOHN NATHAN-TURNER does at least put it into context) fanzine DWB (originally DOCTOR WHO BULLETIN).

Despite its shortcomings, I really liked DWB and found its news coverage and reviews (except when they had a JNT hate-on) to be second-to-none in the pre-internet age.  And their broad no-longer-just-WHO remit meant it was the essential companion to TV ZONE.

DWB's relaunch as DREAMWATCH sounded promising but - really - the early issues were a disapointment.  The layouts were poor (DWB always made a virtue of cramming in as much content as possible) and the articles and reviews suddenly seemed superficial.  

Things did get better... it started to look more professional with every issue and, within the year, secured newsagent distribution for the first time.  It was now a proper magazine.  

Like every other magazine and newspaper in the land (including everything Visual Imagination could churn out), Dreamwatch became obsessed with THE X-FILES and ensured every issue was filled with something related to the show.  BABYLON FIVE also loomed large throughout the mid-nineties.  

Titan Magazines bought the title in 2001, presumably because it created synergy with its other licensed titles.  It survived until issue 150 in 2007, at which point Titan pulled-the-plug.  

The prominent mention of SHAKEDOWN on the above cover was a handy bit of cross-promotion for one of Dreamwatch's other business ventures that year: a new, full-length video drama spun-off from DOCTOR WHO (made possible because of the BBC's bizarre joint-ownership of the monsters, companions and sundry elements) featuring the return of - spoiler alert - The Sontarans.  The drama, filmed (rather too obviously) on HMS Belfast, pulled together several familiar faces from British telefantasy for what appeared to be (judging from the rather-too-candid Making Of... video) a somewhat fraught shoot.  It later became (more) WHO cannon when writer Terrence Dicks novelized it for the Virgin Books range. 

The film was premiered at... wait for it... DREAMWATCH, the magazine's spin-off convention.  I don't think they ever did another film.. or another convention. 

The awful logo was soon dispatched too...

7 comments:

  1. I bought Dreamwatch on and off from around the year 2000 onwards - it was okay but my favourite sci-fi mag has always been SFX and everything else never seemed as good. I remember that Dreamwatch changed its' title to DW but there was a bit of a reader backlash and they quickly changed it back to Dreamwatch and made a grovelling apology - this must have been around 2004-ish.

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    1. Hi Colin.

      I know all magazines have to dance carefully around studio PR folks to avoid burning bridges by being too negative but - post the Titan takeover - I was always dubious whether DREAMWATCH was being a little too friendly with the studios and producers because they also, in many cases, held the official licenses for magazines based on the same properties. Great synergy for the publisher... and a smart way of gaining access... but did they loose their independence?

      I must admit I had stopped reading Dreamwatch around the time of the DW reboot but I do remember seeing it at the time and thinking it was rather odd. I'd stopped buying because none of the TV shows of the era held any particular interest for me. I kept with TV ZONE (although I'm sure I missed a few) because of the excellent archive feature (often, but not exclusively, penned by Andrew Pixley) which had evolved from being verbose summaries of whatever the subject was to detailed and articulate behind-the-scenes accounts.

      However, towards the end, TV ZONE's quality plummeted as well and it was pretty obvious that origination budgets had been cut to the bone and they were just filling pages between the DVD adverts.

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  2. there's no doubt that dreamwatch went downhill after the titan takeover..the short lived and ill advised DW logo appeared just before issue 100...the golden era of this mag was between issues 20-40 when for me, it was the model of what a genre mag should be....bursting with colour, great articles and lovely freebies such as photo prints and posters...sfx also used to be very generous with such added incentives but that was another era....

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    1. The best SFX freebies for me were the two paperback books of episode guides for a great mix of shows (from memory: BABYLON FIVE, AMERICAN GOTHIC, SAPPHIRE AND STEEL, SPACE:1999, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, ALIEN NATION and - I think - ST: DS9). They were great, and informative, reads.

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  3. I still have those books but there's also a lot of sfx stuff i didnt keep and i really regret that now....I've said this before here that your blog has had a ' retro - active ' effect on my collecting habits...when you put up all this amazing stuff, my first reaction is

    " gee, wish i had seen / bought that at the time "

    but also in the present, it has made me a more active and careful collector..now all magazines etc are opened and stored safely..its funny how the mag market has changed..even though genre mags like SFX and SCIFI NOW and yes even STARBURST are still with us, there are no longer any magazines dedicated to dvds or collecting....I remember DVD REVIEW being very generous with freebies, it was almost par for the course back then but now due to the shrinking economy, you would be lucky to get anything free with a mag...there were also some great mags like MODEL MART and TV AND FILM MEMORABILIA that for no apparent reason just shuttered overnight..what a shame....back to genre mags....in the 1980s, there was really only STARBURST, and then in the 90's, there was an amazing surge in such mags due i guess to the surge in genre telly....you could fill an entire blog alone just writing about that period...now there's an idea....

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    1. Hi Ed

      I think THE X-FILES certainly hoped to fuel that boom in magazines... it suddenly made the genre mainstream for a while. Visual Imagination certainly used it as a good excuse to crank out even more product. Suspiciously similar material used to pop up in STARBURST, TV ZONE, X-POSE (hmmm... I wonder how they came up with that name?) SHIVERS and all their associated spin-offs. Quite a little publishing empire at its peak.

      I'd forgotten about DVD REVIEW and the like to be honest although I do remember buying one because the freebie was a compilation of Universal action shows. The disc contained an episode of MAGNUM PI, a show I'd never really paid too much attention to, and I was very impressed (and surprised) by the quality of the show and the light touch of the writing and performances. I went out and bought the box sets. LOL.

      One thing I do miss since the demise of TV ZONE: the copious adverts for upcoming DVD releases. Most months there was something that made you go "I want that".. Now I have little or no idea what the new releases are. Which is a good thing for the back account.

      I was hunting through my stuff-in-storage the other week and I stumbled across copies of MEMORABILIA (published at one point, I believe, by Titan) and another one called AREA 51 which, as I recall, ran for a few years.

      No blog of nineties TV would be complete without extensive coverage of season two of BAYWATCH NIGHTS: The Hoff goes X-Files (in a desperate attempt to chase ratings) by being a lifeguard by day and Ghostbuster by night. As the credits said: "The nights will never be the same". I found German DVDs of both seasons (the first, which ITV aired for a couple of weeks, was a crime show) in a little DVD shop in Brighton (!) once... and snapped them up. Ha.

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  4. yes the x-files was a huge factor in the boom but there were loads of other shows being produced such as babylon 5, farscape and all of the trek spinoffs to name but a few...its mind boggling just how many genre mags were published in the 90's...there is always something new to discover...on a more recent note, did you ever buy the great but short lived DEATHRAY...?...the same publisher also produced the even shorter-lived FILMSTAR.

    there was a time when the shelves were awash with dvd mags....dvd monthly, ultimate dvd, what dvd , dvd this, dvd that and so on..now there are none and as you point out ,its hard now to know in advance what will be released....the new boxset of tv's batman is very welcome and definitely prompts me to say " i want that "

    On a magnum related note, tom selleck was recently the guest star on the rockford files which bbc2 have very nicely been screening every afternoon.. rip james garner

    there were two seperate magazines titled memorabilia. the first began life as MODEL MART then expanded its page count and changed to TV AND FILM MEMORABILIA. This had a good long run. The other mag was simply titled MEMORABILIA and was published by titan. it only lasted 7 issues. area 51 was a very attractively designed mag but was very hard to find in the shops.

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