BBC News September 26, 2003: Time Proves No Match For the Doctor

In November, the 40th anniversary is marked with a new episode which stars Richard E Grant. Of the plot, Trickey is saying little, other than the odd tantalising details.

It's not very well-written news, but it's news. It's news besides "BBC announces: New episodes of Doctor Who to be made.... In your dreams, every single night!"

Or: "Doctor Who still seems pretty popular, say pundits. BBC responds: 'So?'"

Or: "'We'll never give you new episodes! Hahahahahahaha!' says BBC."

Even the most devout Whovians I know had begun to despair. My most Doctor Who-obsessed friend now dissolves into a froth of disgusted venting in which only the words "Stupid FOX" and "totally destroyed continuity" and "damnit" are audible whenever the show's future is mentioned.

Doctor Who returns to TV

Cult science fiction series Doctor Who is returning to TV, 14 years after it was axed.

The much-awaited comeback will be written by acclaimed TV dramatist Russell T Davies - a self-confessed fan.

One episode now, then many episodes later? As in death, so in life does the news coverage of this long-running series completely confuse me.

I swear that sentence made sense in my head.

When I first heard this (all right, less than half an hour ago) and tried to read the articles about it, nothing made sense. I was too excited. All I could see was "Daleks... Tom Baker! Shada! Animated series? Fans! Excited death borg! Nitro-9 explosion TARDIS BBC says!"

It was very confusing. But then, the past fourteen years have been confusing. I actually came to the series well after it ended, having been blessed to live in one of the parts of the world that still aired Doctor Who regularly. I saw everything from the end of the fourth Doctor on, a good ten or fifteen years of episodes in about six years' time. Then, they came to the end, and KVIE decided to just stop airing it.

My friends have no taste

oakling: there's going tob e new doctor woh episodes!
oakling: i can not type!
scrawl: never seen that show. seems pretty bad
oakling: *has complete cardiac event and blacks out*

I was utterly and completely obsessed with the show. I had been starving for a fantasy world to escape into, and became totally besotted with the wide range of worlds and characters that Doctor Who offered for my undivided attention. When the public broadcasting station cut me off, I was in the middle of collaborating on a demented, convoluted Doctor Who New Adventure novel with all my friends at school. We were convinced they would start making new episodes ANY DAY NOW DAMNIT. I got up a petition and passed it round school to pressure the station into showing us new episodes. They wrote back to say that they just couldn't afford showing us the old stuff, but as soon as the Beeb made more they'd be happy to get back in the groove. To which, of course, my reaction was, "They're NEVER going to make more, you FOOLS! DAMN YOU ALL!"

Oh, I was a terror, I was.

Since then, there has been years of misleading and "just kidding" news flashes over the wires. They're going to make new episodes! No wait, that was of Farscape! They're going to make -- oh it was April Fool's! They're going to -- never mind, they took it back already! I think Fox is -- oh right, they don't care either!

The many faces of Doctor Who

Doctor Who is coming back to BBC One in 2005. It will be a new live-action series, written by Russell T Davies.

"The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary," he said.

"Although I'm only in the early stages of development, I'm aiming to write a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage, at the same time as introducing the character to a modern audience."

While the Doctor himself has gone through many regenerations, the show is catching up to him. It was canceled once before, during the much-loathed 6th Doctor's run (frankly, I kind of like him). Then it was rescued and the wonderful 7th Doctor was put into play, with his explosive kick-ass companion. Then, of course, it was properly shut down - but during the intervening years, there was a series of videos made (the Stranger films) with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, and Sophie Aldred, all essentially pretending not to be in Doctor Who. The series was unpretentiously well-made, and nodded to by a lot of fans as being as close to Doctor Who as the actors, writers, and producers could get without violating copyright.

Then there was the New Adventures series, which began as simply a novel-length continuation of Doctor Who itself, with the tagline "Stories too broad and too deep for the small screen." There were a few copyright skirmishes between Virgin and the BBC along the way, and rumor had it more than once that Virgin was about to lose their license to publish these books. Ironically, according to the BBC's Doctor Who website, they decided not to renew Virgin's publishing license in 1996 because they thought the Paul McGann TV movie made in Hollywood would revive the series. Now, mind you, they've begun publishing the earliest New Adventures online for free at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/ebooks/ebooks.shtml.

Eventually, they split everything up into two series: one is the Missing Adventures, which features novel-length episodes of established Doctors and companions as if they had simply accidentally not been made during the show's run - complete with notes indicating that, for example, Craig Hinton's "Crystal Bucephalus" fits neatly between "the television stories The King's Demons and The Five Doctors."

The other series is simply called The New Adventures, "an imprint of Virgin Publishing Ltd.," and stars Bernice Summerfield, a quirky - nay, drunken - archaeologist with a sharp wit who... well, she does Doctor Who-ish stuff for about 250 pages. When these books were called things like "The New Adventures: An Original Doctor Who Novel," she eventually became one of the main characters (originally created by Paul Cornell, one of the series' very best writers), and her escape into a solo role seemed quite natural.

Then, of course, there was the web series. The BBC's Doctor Who website has featured a number of animated series voiced by the original actors; at this writing their site includes an original 6th Doctor episode called "Real Time" and an animated production of Shada. There have been others, and my inability to find them on the BBC site may be another illustration of their "now you see it, now we've locked it in a vault to torture you" treatment of Doctor Who over the decades.

And best of all, perhaps, although I haven't actually been able to afford to find out, are the audio adventures. Fans (and, all right, anyone with enough cash) can buy CDs or tapes of more original episodes. Some, like "Death Comes to Time," (which was first made as a website adventure and featured the 7th Doctor) have won awards; "Death" won the Gold Award for Best Drama from the Spoken Word Publishing Association, and The Daleks' Master Plan won a Bronze award the previous year for Best TV/Film Adaptation.

In retrospect, it seems like these past years must have been chock-full of Who-related goodness. I can't imagine how we missed the televised episodes, with all that going on. In reality, the chief difference is that all of these alternatives cost money: the books were originally (and in many areas still are) very difficult to find in the United States, and while relatively cheap are still frequently beyond my means; the audio adventures are quite steep, especially once imported across the pond, so much so that I have yet to try one even though they're available at my friendly local sci-fi bookstore; and the web episodes require a snappy connection which was unavailable to me for quite some time after I got laid off from my dot-com adventure. The traditional television episodes were free, shiny shiny free goodness week after week, available for recording and sharing and viewing again and again.

And now they're back.



  • Time proves no match for the Doctor:
  • Doctor Who returns to TV:
  • New Doctor Who TV series:
  • BBC's Doctor Who message board, including "It's Coming Back!" forum:
  • The BBC's Doctor Who Homepage:
  • "Happy Endings," by Paul Cornell: the fiftieth New Adventure novel. Virgin, 1996.
  • "Walking to Babylon," Kate Orman (one of the other very best authors of these books). Virgin, 1998.
  • "The Crystal Bucephalus," Craig Hinton: a Missing Adventure. Virgin, 1994.
  • "Timewyrm: Genesys," John Peel: the very first New Adventure novel. I used to beg Gayle's Books to order these in, and go downtown once a month with my friends to pick up our latest Doctor Who fix and eat ice cream. Virgin, 1991.
  • "Doctor Who: 25 Glorious Years," Peter Haining. The ultimate resource guide, if you don't mind that it was published in like 1988. (Virgin, 1988.)
  • The Stranger: In Memory Alone
  • Summoned By Shadows (another Stranger flick, only on video like 'em all)
  • More than a Messiah (the Stranger episode which featured the fabulous Sophie Aldred)