Currently in its 36th year and just a few months shy of its 500th issue, Doctor Who Magazine is a remarkable publication, often carrying journalism of the highest calibre – but every now and then, it runs something quite exceptional. Such is the case in the latest edition (issue 489 if you’re counting), which includes a piece by John Williams about veteran Doctor Who author Malcolm Hulke – the man who kept a generation behind the sofa with such memorable creations as the Sea Devils and the Silurians.
But this piece isn’t about monsters in string vests emerging from the waves of the Solent; it’s about something altogether more fantastical. John Williams has been researching the recently released surveillance files on Malcolm Hulke which were kept by MI5. Those crazy cats had him bugged for years. They listened in on him. They steamed open his mail. It’s an extraordinary tale, opening a window onto a world of Cold War spookery both sinister and farcical. As sinister and as farcical, indeed, as anything that Graham Greene ever cooked up in the name of fiction. It’s an eye-opening read and an outstanding piece of research – and I’m rather thrilled to learn that one of my childhood heroes, whose trenchant teatime parables about kindness, compassion and common humanity played no small part in expanding my own moral horizons, was considered by the authorities to be ‘a dangerous man, and without scruples, so far as his Communistic outlook is concerned’.
Not a lot changes really, does it?