It is with sadness and regret that Blogtor Who must report the death of Graham Strong, who has died at the age of 69.
Strong never worked on Doctor Who itself, either in front of or behind the camera, yet his contribution to the series has proven invaluable. An antecedent of modern fandom, in the sense of using the show as an inspiration for his own creative endeavours, as a fourteen-year-old in 1963 he launched himself on a project to record and preserve the audio of each new episode of Doctor Who as it was transmitted. In an era before streaming, before DVD, even before the Target novelisation, and when repeats were rare to non-existent, this was originally for Strong’s personal use so he could enjoy the episodes again and again.
Obsessed with electronics, he spent his childhood days repairing the neighbours’ televisions and building his own oscilloscope, when his mother suggested he watch this strange new program listed in the Radio Times, everything came together.
“I have my mother to thank for suggesting I watched it,” he later said, “I had previously watched Quatermass and the Pit but it never really gripped my interest. This ‘new’ program [Doctor Who] however had me hooked from the start.”
His notoriously dangerous method of recording by physically wiring his microphone into his television’s audio output achieved unparalleled quality and, from 1994 when mutual contacts put him in touch with the Doctor Who Restoration Team, his childhood work became a key element in bringing those classic stories back to life. Although audio recordings made by other fans already existed, it’s a testament to Strong’s work that his were often superior and used on several releases, as well as many fan reconstructions of lost episodes. Most impressive of all, even in some cases where the original video survived, his work was dubbed in place as the higher quality audio. Most recently, the Blu-Ray of the animated ‘The Power of the Daleks’ utilised the sound painstakingly recorded by the seventeen-year-old Graham.
As recently as last year he was attending conventions and described him as honoured and thrilled to get to share a stage with his childhood hero – Ian Chesterton actor William Russell.
Across social media, those who knew Strong, or appreciated his part of the preservation of Doctor Who, paid tribute to him. Researcher and writer Richard Bignell said “The generosity he showed making his wonderful Doctor Who off-air audio recordings available to everyone was appreciated by so many fans, helping us all to enjoy long-lost episodes once again. Thank you, Graham.”
Philip Morris, who himself retrieved several lost Doctor Who episodes just a few years ago, called him “A true gentleman and legend thank you for your immense contribution to the lost history of Doctor Who.” Doctor Who Restoration Team member Peter Crocker agreed, saying Strong was “a gentleman whose foresight and generosity has enabled so much pleasure and entertainment for Doctor Who fans.” Meanwhile, the official Restoration Team account paid high tribute – “We couldn’t have done the half of it without you. Thanks for everything.”
More about Strong’s life, family history, and connection to Doctor Who can be found at his official website http://www.gstrong.co.uk/index.html which includes a video of him being interviewed about his work in 2017 http://www.gstrong.co.uk/rickmansworth.html
Graham Strong 1949-2018