Here it is! At long last! The post I have been threatening you all with since I began writing Literary Clutter. The post you have all been waiting for with bated breath… The first Doctor Who post.
Now, for those of you who do not know what Doctor Who is (because, clearly you’ve been living under rock for the last 47 years), I should explain that it is the longest running science fiction series, ever. First going to air in the UK in 1963, it lasted for 26 seasons, finally being cancelled in 1989. But, just like its main character, it would not die. It came back for a tele-movie in 1996 and then a revived series starting in 2005, and is still going strong. The principal character, known only as the Doctor, is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels in a time/space machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental, which means that it is bigger on the inside than the outside. It is also able to change its external appearance to blend in with its surroundings — at least, it’s meant to. It’s actually broken and is stuck in the shape of a 1960s police call box.
One of the most remarkable things about this series is its ability to change lead actors. You see, the Doctor, like all Time Lords, has the ability to regenerate. When his body wears out, or if it is damaged, instead of dying, he changes — becomes a new person. So over the years, he has been played by 11 different actors — William Hartnell (1963-1966), Patrick Troughton (1966-1969 ), Jon Pertwee (1970-1974), Tom Baker (1974-1981), Peter Davison (1982-1984), Colin Baker (1984-1986) Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996), Paul McGann (1996), Christopher Eccleston (2005), David Tennant (2005-2010), and Matt Smith (2010-??).
Doctor Who has gone way beyond its humble television origins. Aside from the numerous television spin offs (K9 and Co, Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood and the new K9 series), Doctor Who has resulted in feature films, radio plays, CD audio adventures, computer games, toys, comics, magazines and, of course, books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Hundreds of them, in fact.
It all started with the novelisations published by Target Books (later taken over by Virgin Publishing). There were 156 books published in this series, with only 5 of the original series stories left un-novelised. I used to love these books as a kid. I would read and re-read them. Hardly a week would go by without me reading at least one of them. I have particularly fond memories of Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks, which was my most often re-read Doctor Who book.
Things didn’t end with this series of novelistations. After the series was cancelled in 1989, Virgin Publishing began a range of New Adventures books, original novels set after the series, continuing the adventures of the seventh incarnation of the Doctor. Then there was the Missing Adventures books, original novels featuring earlier incarnations of the Doctor, set during the events of the series, but between televised stories. And so it went on and on. After the tele-movie in 1996, which featured a new eighth Doctor, there were more books. And now with the new series, we have another range of original novels featuring Doctors #9 through #11.
Sadly, with the recent demise of the Short Trips anthologies, a series of short story books from Big Finish Productions (the company that also produces the Doctor Who audio adventures), there are no longer any new books featuring the older set of Doctors. I keep hoping that the BBC will one day again licence a publisher to do more novels with the earlier Doctors. In the meantime, there are the current series books and the books based on the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures.
Doctor Who books had a huge influence on me as a kid. They fuelled my interest in the television series between seasons, and in science fiction in general. Although I no longer religiously read all the books, I do still occasionally dip into the Doctor Who literary ocean. The last one I read was Doctor Who: The Story of Martha, and as I look over my shoulder to my to-be-read pile, I can see three other Doctor Who books as well as a Torchwood novel. I’m also rather looking forward to the upcoming Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by the well-known science fiction author Michael Moorcock.
Want to know more about Doctor Who books? Check out the TARDIS library, a very comprehensive listing.
So… any other Doctor Who fans out there? What are your favourite Doctor Who books? Leave a comment below.
And stay tuned for more Doctor Who, as over the next couple of posts, Literary Clutter will be visited by a few authors who have had the good fortune to play in the Doctor Who universe.
Catch ya later, George