Doctor Who is not only one of Britain's most famous television programmes, it has also spawned more collectables than any other British TV character. For over 50 years the BBC have been licensing products based on the series, and my new book: Doctor Who Memorabilia takes you through the history of Doctor Who merchandising.

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Authors collection

I have been collecting Doctor Who Memorabilia myself for around 30 years. I remember first watching the series in the latter days of Tom Baker, and vividly recall sitting through what seemed like endless Saturday afternoon football results waiting for the programme to start. I never actually hid behind the sofa - I couldn't because it was jammed firmly against the wall - but I remember the sense of atmosphere and jeopardy the series excelled at. In these early days I wasn’t obsessed with Doctor Who - there were too many other distractions for a child of the eighties - but I would buy the occasional piece of merchandise, and as our yearly holiday often took us to Blackpool, a trip to the Doctor Who exhibition would be a given.

I continued watching Doctor Who regularly throughout the eighties, missing the odd episode due to bothersome commitments like cub scouts, or the injustice of another family member wanting to watch The A-Team. Then Doctor Who got temporarily suspended in 1985, and went off the air for a bit. It was during this period when virtually everyone else was tired and jaded about the programme that I started getting seriously interested. I started buying the magazine regularly, and religiously buying the Target books adaptations.  When Doctor Who came back on the air with The Trial of a Time Lord, I was ready to swear fidelity to the series, and other interests such as Star Wars, Marvel comics, and Masters of the Universe quickly fell by the wayside. I would literally buy anything and everything to do with Doctor Who, and in those early days my collection was pretty unfocused; if I saw it, and my pocket money would stretch to it, I would buy it.

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The Amazing World of Doctor Who poster and cards (Typhoo, 1976, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

My collection grew quickly, and even though the series went off the air in 1989, I had no intention of stopping. There was no realisation at the time that the series would be taking such a long break; a lot of fans assumed there was a new series or movie just waiting on the horizon.

As we hit the mid-nineties I was still collecting avidly, but found myself starting to drag my heels a bit, no longer buying every video or book the minute it came out. But for a brief period in 1996 my interest in Doctor Who was reenergised, when a TV movie starring Paul Mcgann was broadcast. Sadly, it quickly became apparent that there wasn’t going to be a series, and for the first time many fans, including myself, started to come to the realisation that the series was possibly gone forever. Those latter days of the nineties were my dark period as a collector; I never completely threw in the towel, but got further and further behind with the merchandise, usually waiting for sales, or getting items second-hand. My interest hit the lowest it had ever been, and had there been financial pressures, I think there may have been a temptation to just jump ship and get rid. Thankfully, I never did, and would advise anyone thinking of getting rid of a collection to think hard about it. As a collector you will go through varying levels of excitement and disillusionment over the years. One day you may look at an item and feel tired of it, but you never know when that enthusiasm will be reignited. Better if you can to just put it away ready for the day it will be cherished again. Don’t be one of those collectors - whom I have known a few of over the years - that go through the pointless cycle of selling and rebuying the same item several times.

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Talking figures (Product Enterprise, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

My interest in Doctor Who had begun to pick up again in the early noughties, mainly driven by nostalgia, and then, to the surprise of many, it returned to TV in 2005. I was braced, ready for my levels of enthusiasm to hit new heights, and I planned to collect everything. But then I saw the programme and my heart sank. The truth is it took me several years to fully realise it, but it slowly dawned on me that this wasn't my Doctor Who. The series had moved on, and was being made for a totally different audience. Initially I collected the new stuff out of habit, but one day when my disillusionment with the series was so intense, I turned it off. I had to ask myself what was the point. Why was I collecting stuff I didn’t like?

This is perhaps another lesson of collecting - to have some focus and not just collect for the sake of it. I realised, that while I didn’t like the new version of Doctor Who, I would always have that affection for the old, so the choice became simple - just stick to the collectables from the classic run.

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Doctor Who Doctors bust set (Fine Art Castings, 1985, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

My book, surprisingly, only covers this classic period, not just out of sour grapes, but because the amount of post-2005 product is so overwhelming, there would barely have been a chance to pay it lip service. As much of the new stuff can still be found on car boot sales, bargain bins, etc, I felt it best to focus on the stuff most fans have nostalgia for, which tends to be the 60's, 70's and 80's, although the book does touch on the nineties and early noughties.

My book doesn’t cover everything from that period, it is more of a snapshot of its vast merchandising history, but for anyone interested in Doctor Who collectables, I am sure you will find the book a pleasing trip down memory lane.


Paul Berry's new book Doctor Who Memorabilia: An Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who Collectables is available for purchase now.