Doctor Who Novels
Created | Updated Feb 26, 2014
This entry contains spoilers.
The long-running BBC TV series Doctor Who has spawned several series of books. In addition to the ubiquitous children's series many remember from their youth, the Doctor Who brand was kept alive during its wilderness years largely by several series of books that ensured there was still a fan-base and a pool of authors for the series' return to the small screen. Since 2005, yet another series of books has aimed to broaden the appeal of the programme.
The first books, published by Frederick Muller in 1965, were based on three early William Hartnell stories. Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure With The Daleks was based on the first Dalek story, but its author, the TV show's first script editor David Whitaker, confused many young fans by inventing an entirely new reason for the characters to all meet (as the proper first story wasn't going to be novelised at that stage). The other two books were 'The Web Planet' and 'The Crusaders'.
The Target Novelisations - 157 Books
In 1973, Universal-Tandem acquired the licence to novelise episodes of the TV series, as well as the rights to the Muller books and went on to produce over a million copies of a hundred titles under the Target imprint. By far the most prolific author was Terrence Dicks. Otherwise, books were largely written by the authors of the scripts, or by Ian Marter (who played Harry Sullivan, companion to the fourth Doctor), former producer Barry Letts and others. A few non-TV stories also crept in, such as Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma, Harry Sullivan's War and K9 and Company.
There were frequently differences in title between the novel and the TV series. This was not helped by the lack of overall on-screen titles for the early First Doctor stories (when each episode had a title). Notably, all the early book titles began Doctor Who and the... In a small number of cases, the title of the novelisation bore no resemblance to the title of the televised episodes. Examples are Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon for Colony in Space, Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters for Doctor Who and the Silurians1 and Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster for Terror of the Zygons.
Later books, and reprints of the earlier books, featured a number giving a definitive order for the books. Books already published at this point were numbered in alphabetical order, up to number 73, Doctor Who and the Zarbi, with subsequent volumes being numbered in order of publication, starting with number 74, Time Flight. ome novels were re-issued by Star, with two novels in a single volume and shiny silver covers. These were not limited edition, nor were they given a separate title as a series. This appears to have been done simply to further confuse collectors' filing systems.
Richard Branson liked the Doctor Who novelisations so much that he bought the company; or rather, Target owners WH Allen were purchased by Branson's Virgin Group. However, what must have seemed like a sound financial investment was dented with the demise of the TV series. With no new stories to novelise, Virgin did what they could to recoup some of their investment, including re-issuing the Target line in matching covers (though this was curtailed after number 32, The Horror of Fang Rock). The editor of the range negotiated to fill in some of the gaps for stories that hadn't been novelised, often with the authors of the original scripts adapting their own stories. These were mostly First and Second Doctor adventures, along with 'oddities' such as adaptations of The Pescatons2, Paradise of Death3 and three stories that had at one point been lined up for production in the TV series until its 18-month cancellation in 1985 forced a rethink. These stories, as well as The Nightmare Fair by Graham Williams, Mission to Magnus by Philip Matin and The Ultimate Evil by Wally K Daly, formed the Missing Episodes range4, and featured another Pertwee radio serial, The Ghosts of N-Space, in its number. Douglas Adams was unwilling to novelise his stories for a reduced fee (nor let someone else do them), and Eric Saward attempted to novelise his Dalek stories but eventually decided he didn't want to see them in print. These are now the only televised stories not to have been novelised.
One of the early heroes of cover art was Chris Achilleos, whose designs used pointalism5 and minimal colour washes. Achelleos gave each story a dramatic image that, in the days before re-runs and home video, were the only visual reminders they had for some of these stories. He made a controversial design choice on the cover of The Dinosaur Invasion, where a picture of Jon Pertwee being terrorised by a pterodactyl was accompanied by the word 'KKLAK' in large, bold letters.
Towards the end of the novelisations, the covers were being painted by Alister Pearson, whose photo-realistic montages dominated Doctor Who merchandising in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Stand-out images include his reprint cover for An Unearthly Child, which had the First Doctor and his granddaughter Susan sharing an eye6, Silver Nemesis, which reflected the Nazi element of the story with a swastika-shaped 'window' and Survival, which featured claw marks down the image that were actually genuine slash-marks that Pearson had made with a scalpel.
The books had, over the years, been published with different cover designs. The first Target books had big, black block letters for the words Doctor Who, which were later amended to use the logo from the Pertwee years (the one with the wonky 'H' that was later reused for the McGann movie). These covers tended to have illustrations with plain white backgrounds, a border round the artwork and coloured spine and back. The diamond logo was introduced to the covers from around 1975, both on new stories and reissued books. The neon tube logo, introduced in 1981, covered stories from Seasons 18 to 22 and appeared on novelisations of older stories such as The Gunfighters, The Mythmakers and An Unearthly Child. Many of these featured covers painted by Andrew Skilleter. The McCoy logo (an ellipse with a metallic 'WHO' and a scrawled 'Doctor') came in for 1987 and ran for both new novelisations and reprints until reprints ceased being printed, the last one being Horror of Fang Rock. Each time the logos were changed, a partial reprinting of the more popular books was put in motion. Some of the covers commissioned for the books also ended up appearing on the BBC VHS tapes, specifically the black-and-white stories like An Unearthly Child, The War Games and The Dominators.
It soon became clear that there were only a finite number of times that these books could be re-packaged, and Virgin were forced to look for other means of earning money from their licence.
The New Adventures (NAs) - 61 Books
In 1991, Virgin approached the BBC about the possibility of producing original Who stories. They were granted a temporary licence.
Initially cautious, editor Peter Darvill Evans released a series of four books under the New Adventures label. These were the Timewyrm series, and were very similar in style to the TV series, featuring the eponymous villain menacing the Seventh Doctor and Ace, with much running down of corridors to escape Nazis.
The success of this trial series encouraged Virgin to release a further trilogy, Cat's Cradle. These were much more loosely linked and featured some much more abstract scenarios, notably Time's Crucible where three timezones intersect after the Tardis is destroyed. From then on, the novels became regular, first bi-monthly and then monthly.
Ace left the Tardis in Love and War as the Doctor became increasingly manipulative, a theme carried over from the last season of the TV series. The same book introduced Bernice Summerfield as a companion. Ace returned to the Tardis, older and more embittered7, after several years fighting in the Dalek Wars. She left again in Set Piece, and was replaced by former Adjudicators8 Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej in Original Sin. Bernice was married off in Happy Endings, Roz eventually died in So Vile a Sin, then Chris left in Lungbarrow, a novel that both revealed much of the Doctor's past and set him up for the events of the TV Movie. Due to problems with writing, So Vile A Sin was heavily delayed and was actually the last NA released, making Roz's 'surprise' death one of the worst-kept secrets in the range.
Only one NA was an 'oddity'. Shakedown by Terrance Dicks expanded upon the Dreamwatch video of the same name.
Aside from appearances by TV favourite baddies such as the Cybermen and the Master (but notably not the Daleks), the NAs introduced new villains such as the Hoothi, the Timewyrm and the Gallifreyan gods. The Doctor was portrayed as Time's Champion, a reference to the Ancient Gallifrey goddess Time, who constantly played games with mortal lives against fellow goddess Death. The NA Doctor had a highly utilitarian philosophy, being prepared to sacrifice individuals to save planets. This was tempered somewhat in later novels as the Doctor learned from his more humane companions.
The final New Adventure, The Dying Days, took place after the TV movie and featured the only meeting between Benny and the Eighth Doctor.
The New Adventures began with the artwork of fantasy artist Andrew Skilleter, and later Peter Elson, with the covers avoiding the 'heads in space' approach of Pearson in favour of an illustration depicting a key scene from the story.
All the NAs used the McCoy-era logo and had distinctive white spines. Starting with the 50th book, Happy Endings, the logo was de-emphasised, making it partially transparent and removing the background. The last five NAs (including the out-of-sequence So Vile A Sin) did not feature any Doctor Who logo at all. This maintained a degree of continuity when Virgin continued to publish the NA line featuring former companion Bernice Summerfield after losing the licence to use BBC-copyright characters.
Among the best-received NAs were Love and War, The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Human Nature, Lungbarrow and The Dying Days.
The Missing Adventures (MAs) - 33 Books
As monthly releases of NAs continued to sell well, Virgin began a second range of monthly books, each featuring one of the first six Doctors and written to fit between televised episodes. The range began with Goth Opera, a Fifth Doctor novel that formed an inter-linked pair with the NA Blood Harvest. The MAs were more limited in scope than the NAs, as they were constrained not to make any long-term alterations to continuity that would conflict with the later episodes of the TV series. The exception was the Sixth Doctor MAs, where a gap in continuity caused by the cancellation of the 1985 season left writers a deal of freedom to introduce new companions such as Grant Markham.
Former Target cover-artist Alister Pearson returned to the books to paint the majority of the covers for the Missing Adventure covers, which featured the Doctor and companion for the novel on the left of the cover, with an illustrative 'scene' to the right. The series had black spines, to distinguish them from the NAs, and used the diamond Doctor Who logo from the mid-1970s.
Some of the most popular MAs were Goth Opera, The Romance of Crime, The Sands of Time, Cold Fusion and The Dark Path.
Several New and Missing Adventures are available on-line as e-books.
The Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDAs) - 73 Books
In 1997, at around the time of the US TV movie featuring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Virgin's licence came up for renewal. The BBC decided that it would make greater financial sense to publish Doctor Who fiction in-house, and so the Virgin lines came to an end. Many of the Virgin stable of authors continued to write for the new BBC series.
The Doctor portrayed in the EDAs has an almost reverential respect for all life, established early in the run with Vampire Science, where he refuses to wipe out a nest of vampires in cold blood9. This contrasts strikingly with the more pragmatic NA Doctor. His first companion was Sam, a blonde-haired teenager. The pair of them had a close relationship, both being vegetarian and sharing a set of code-numbers for stock escape plans. Indeed, Sam was such a perfect companion for the Doctor that it appeared her timeline may have been manipulated; in several EDAs, notably Unnatural History, an alternate 'dark Sam' appeared.
After the Doctor linked up with new companion Fitz Kreiner - the longest serving companion in terms of number of adventures - Sam departed the Tardis, and the Doctor unwillingly took on board former Faction Paradox agent Compassion. Her origins were even more mysterious than Sam's, and had devastating consequences for both the Faction and the Time Lords, as revealed in the novel The Ancestor Cell. After these momentous events, the Doctor lost his memory and was stranded on Earth alone for a century, before meeting up again with Fitz and new companion Anji. The Doctor's final companion was Trix.
By the final novels in the EDA range, the Doctor was far more violent and embittered than previously. His final major adversary was the former secret agent Sabbath, but Who fans widely agree that later novels lacked direction and many were disappointed that the final EDA, The Gallifrey Chronicles, did not close the plot gaps between the EDAs and the new TV series in the way that Lungbarrow did for the TV movie. The Doctor did not regenerate, did not get his memory back, was not parted from Fitz and Trix, and was last seen making a desperate leap to save mankind.
With the announcement of the new TV series for 2005, it was decided to cease publication of the EDAs. Among the best were Vampire Science, Unnatural History, Interference Books 1 and 2, The City of the Dead and The Adventuress of Henrietta Street.
The Past Doctor Adventures (PDAs) - 76 Books
The BBC also published a range of books featuring the first seven Doctors (and, after the demise of the EDAs, the Eighth Doctor). This became the longest-running of the original book lines. This range is not formally distinct from the EDAs, but continued for around a year after the EDAs ceased publication.
As with the MAs, the necessity to fit between televised episodes curtails writers' freedom to develop (or kill) characters. However, the first meeting between the Sixth Doctor and Mel is explored in Business Unusual, and Harry Sullivan is killed off in Wolfsbane. Also notable is The Infinity Doctors, set almost entirely on Gallifrey with a Doctor who may be a younger version of the First Doctor, a future regeneration or something altogether different. It also features a long-term romantic interest for the Doctor.
By the time the novels moved to BBC books, traditional hand-painted covers were abandoned for photographic montages. The past Doctor and Eighth Doctor ranges became almost indistinguishable, in terms of overall look, with design agency Black Sheep responsible for both imprints. Both used the McGann logo
A few of the top-flight PDAs were The Murder Game, The Witch Hunters, The Infinity Doctors, Last of the Gaderene and Festival of Death.
Short Fiction Collections
Virgin published a series of books known as Decalogs, each containing ten short stories. These tended to be connected by theme. BBC Books had their own short story collections, called Short Trips. When the range was discontinued, it was picked up by Big Finish, better known for their audio dramas.
New Series Adventures (NSAs) - 50 Books and counting
Originally released in a hardback format, but later issued in paperback, these tie in closely with the new TV series. To date, six have been released featuring the Ninth Doctor, thirty featuring the Tenth Doctor and fifteen featuring the Eleventh. Doctor Who novels have also participated in the Quick Read Initiative, short books aimed at encouraging literacy among young readers and adults who do not normally read.
Telos produced a range of novellas between 2001 and 2004 and a handful of scripts were published. Most notable of these was The Masters of Luxor, an unproduced script that was initially intended to be the second serial. In the event, that slot was filled by a last-minute script from Terry Nation.
Some Notable Authors
Several stalwarts of the original TV series produced novels, including Terrence Dicks and Barry Letts, who were widely associated with the 1970s and Jon Pertwee's portrayal of the Doctor (as Script Editor and Producer, respectively). Chris Boucher scripted a pair of Tom Baker episodes, and Marc Platt came up with the enigmatic Ghost Light, the final episode to be shot. David Banks, who played the CyberLeader on four occasions also brought the Cybermen to life in the NA Iceberg, and Ben Aaronovitch was responsible for the Daleks' final TV outing for 16 years as well as several NAs.
John Peel10 took on board special responsibility for the Daleks, first novelising two of the remaining Dalek TV stories (Power of the Daleks and Evil of the Daleks) and then contributing two EDAs, War of the Daleks (heavily criticised by fans for its wholesale rewriting of Dalek history) and Legacy of the Daleks.
Some of the most popular and prolific of the 'new generation' of authors who made their Who debuts in print include Paul Cornell, Kate Orman, Lawrence Miles, Dave Stone and Lance Parkin.
Several of the authors who contributed to the books have since gone on to script episodes of the new series, including Cornell and Gareth Roberts.
Finally, after writing the NA Nightshade, Mark Gatiss went on to have a hit with the BBC comedy series League of Gentlemen, returning to the Who fold to write more novels and the TV episodes The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot's Lantern for the new series.