Friday, 13 September 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The New Adventures

The first novel in the New Adventure range. This book was controversial on release for featuring more adult language and content (including sexual scenes) than was normally associated with Doctor Who.

Doctor Who and the medium of books have had a long history together. From 1973 onwards Target Books had published novelisations of almost all of the original Doctor Who serials, in many cases written by either the original writer or former script editor Terrance Dicks (who ended up writing almost half the range by himself). In an age without video or repeats, these novels helped budding Doctor Who fans catch up on earlier stories and become acquainted with the show's lengthy mythology.

However, the BBC had always been reluctant to allow the writers to pen original fiction. The closest they came was when they permitted the Target authors to adapt unproduced scripts from the TV show (most notably, the four stories from the 'original' Season 23 before it was transformed into The Trial of a Time Lord). In 1990, with the show off-air and with no return date set, the editor of the range, Peter Darvill-Evans, pursued the rights to write original fiction once again to fill in the gap and this time the answer was yes.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures launched in 1991 with a four-book series referred to as the Timewyrm arc. In this sequence, the Doctor does battle with a cybernetic villain known as Qataka. During their first battle, in ancient Mesopotamia (where the Doctor allies himself with the hero Gilgamesh), Qataka is absorbed into the TARDIS and starts taking it over. The Doctor flushes her (and the TARDIS secondary control room) into the Time Vortex, but this merely gives Qataka the power to travel through time and space. The 'Timewyrm', as she is now called, causes chaos on 20th Century Earth when she changes history so that the Nazis won WWII. Eventually, in Timewyrm: Revelation, the Doctor confronts and defeats the Timewyrm in a desperate, surreal battle within his own mind. This battle features elements such as an ordinary English building (in this case, a church) transported onto the surface of the Moon and a child in an astronaut's suit, elements that would recur in the post-2005 TV series. The writer of this particular novel was a newcomer named Paul Cornell. Cornell would become arguably the most popular author of the range for his unusual take on the character and was one of several writers to cross over to working on the new TV series.

The New Adventures series eventually incorporated sixty-one novels published over six years. Initially the series was split into story arcs. After the Timewyrm quartet was the Cat's Cradle trilogy, in which the TARDIS is destroyed but later restored by the Doctor, although suffering from extensive damage. The notion of what would happen if the TARDIS was destroyed was revisited several times in the later TV series. This trilogy also featured books written by former script-editor Andrew Cartmel and Marc Platt, who wrote the TV serial Ghost Light. Cartmel and editor Darvill-Evans agreed to continue the 'Cartmel Masterplan' from the last two seasons of the TV show and explain the Doctor's origins. This would be done slowly over the lifespan of the range.

After the Cat's Cradle series was a stand-alone novel, Nightshade, written by a new writer (and committed Doctor Who fan) named Mark Gatiss. Gatiss would both write and guest-star in the new series after it returned in 2005. Following this book was the Future History Cycle, featuring a series of novels set over the next thousand years or so of history. Amongst the most notable of this series was Love and War by Paul Cornell, in which Ace leaves and the Seventh Doctor recruits a new companion, archaeologist Bernice 'Benny' Summerfield. Another important novel is The Highest Science, written by Gareth Roberts who would also go on to work on the new TV series. This book also introduces the Chelonians, a new alien race of cybernetic tortoises (!) who would be mentioned in the new TV series.

Ace would return in Deceit and she and Bernice would both accompany the Doctor for many novels. Birthright and Iceberg would create a format that the new TV series would go on to employ, with the novels occurring simultaneously with one focusing on the Doctor and the other on what his companions were doing at the same time. Iceberg would also be notable in featuring the Cybermen in the first major appearance by a TV enemy race in the books (re-using the major TV races required the publishers to pay a licensing fee to the original creators, hence was mostly avoided to keep costs down). The next novel, Blood Heat, would feature the return of the Silurians and would be set in an alternate timeline where the Doctor and UNIT would be defeated during the events of The Silurians. The Ice Warriors would return in Legacy and Ace would leave - again and permanently as a regular character this time - in Set Piece. The novel Blood Harvest, written by Terrance Dicks, would see the Doctor's former Time Lady companion Romana rescued from E-space and returned to Gallifrey, where she would eventually become President of the High Council of Time Lords (something later declared canon by the producers of the new TV series; Romana was President when the Time War began, though not by its conclusion).

The thirty-eighth novel in the series was Human Nature, written by Paul Cornell. In this novel the Doctor becomes human and goes undercover at a boys' school in pre-WWI England. The novel would later be voted the best in the New Adventures range. In 2007 Cornell adapted the novel for television, becoming the episodes Human Nature and Family of Blood. This marked the first time a pre-existing Doctor Who story would be used as the basis for a new TV story and also increased the confusion over the issue of canon: did the re-use of the same story in a new medium mean that the 'book' version of the story never happened? The thorny issue of canon would re-emerge several times further down the road (see below).

In 1996 a New Adventure entitled Damaged Goods was published. Set on a contemporary London council estate, the book had a familiar name behind it: Russell T. Davies. Davies was becoming a famous TV writer in his own right for his TV series The Grand (not to mention his well-received children's drama Dark Season, which featured Kate Winslet in an early role), and three years down the road would pen the highly successful Queer as Folk. Davies was a huge Doctor Who fan, something he would work into his Queer as Folk scripts. Around the same time, a collection of Doctor Who short stories was published called Decalog 3: Consequences. One of the short stories in the collection was 'Continuity Errors', written by a certain Steven Moffat.

The Doctor Who: The New Adventures line came to an end in 1997 when the licence was revoked by the BBC, who wanted to publish Doctor Who fiction themselves in the wake of the success of the 1996 TV movie. The New Adventures now had to be ended in a way that would dovetail into the TV movie (which, despite some fan grumblings, the BBC regarded as canon). Marc Platt was called upon to conclude the 'Cartmel Masterplan' with the novel Lungbarrow. This novel finally gave an explanation for the origins of the Doctor and Time Lord society. It met with a somewhat mixed reception from fans (and its canonical status is disputed). The succeeding novel, The Dying Days, was set after the TV movie and thus is the only New Adventure to feature the Eighth Doctor. The Dying Days also marks the separation of the Doctor and Bernice Summerfield; Bernice had become so popular that she continued to star in a line of solo novels (simply entitled The New Adventures with no mention of Doctor Who on the covers, and only oblique references in the text) which eventually stretched to twenty-three volumes.

The Doctor Who: New Adventures lines was succeeded by the Eighth Doctor Adventures, published by the BBC themselves. Originally the BBC were not concerned about maintaining continuity with the New Adventures, but given that many of the same writers crossed over between the ranges, elements established in the New Adventures continued to be treated as canonical for the later books.

Human Nature is widely-regarded as the finest novel in the range and the only one to later be adapted for television.

Connections with the TV Series

There are significant connections linking the New Adventures line of novels with the 2005 revival of the TV series. These are:
  • Shared writers. Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Paul Cornell, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffatt would all write New Adventures novels or short stories in the related Decalog range before writing for the revived TV series. Most significantly, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffatt would serve as showrunners on the revived series.
  • Adaptations. The novel Human Nature would be adapted as the TV episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood. The Highest Science was also likewise going to be adapted, but significant changes in writing saw it become Planet of the Dead with very few elements retained.
  • References. The alien Chelonians, introduced in The Highest Science, would be namechecked in The Pandorica Opens. Romana escaping from E-space and becoming President of the High Council of Time Lords would also be canonised in Russell T. Davies's account of the Time War, Meet the Doctor, in the 2006 Doctor Who annual.
  • Recurring thematic elements. In Timewyrm: Revelation an English church is transported onto the surface of the Moon; in the episode Smith and Jones, an English hospital suffers the same fate. The same novel also features a child in an astronaut's spacesuit 'killing' the Doctor, an element that recurs in the episodes The Impossible Astronaut and The Wedding of River Song. The novel Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible features the destruction of the TARDIS, this being reversed and immense problems from this event reverberating for some time. The same concept forms much of the underlying arc of the fifth season (thirty-first overall) of the revived series, culminating in The Big Bang.
  • Direct character appearances. Professor Arthur Candy of Luna University, an expert on the Doctor, first appears in Moffat's story 'Continuity Errors' before returning in the (non-Doctor) New Adventure novel Oh No It Isn't! by Paul Cornell. He appears on-screen in the episode Let's Kill Hitler, meeting River Song.
These connections have led some fans and websites - most notably the TARDIS Data Core Wiki - to treat the New Adventures as fully canon to the TV series. However, their canonical status is disputed by both other elements and also the show's own continuity policies, which are somewhat vague.

The canonical fate of the Doctor's final companion from the original series, Ace, remains unclear.

The New Adventures, like most Doctor Who spin-offs, are of debatable (and believe me, people have debated it at exceptional length) canonicity. Unlike other franchises like Star Trek, where the spin-off media have always been ruled non-canon, or Star Wars, where it has always ruled as canon (so far, anyway), no official position has ever been adopted by the BBC with regards to Doctor Who's canon. With the original creators and producers having passed away, and with the show having a revolving door of writers and showrunners, it is unclear if there is any one person actually in a position to say whether something is canon or not. This issue has been exasperated by the Time War, which occurred between the 1996 TV movie and the 2005 revival, and has been said to have overwritten and changed history, so things that were once canon may no longer be so. Paul Cornell has used the example of the differing accounts of the fate of the Sun in the First Doctor story The Ark and the Ninth Doctor story The End of the World being down to the Time War.

This issue also seems to be confused by the fact that some of the New Adventures seem to have been de-canonised - the TV serial Human Nature/Family of Blood would seem to have rendered the novel Human Nature non-canon - whilst other elements originating in the spin-off stories, like Professor Candy and the Chelonians, have appeared in the new TV series.

A further complexity is the ultimate fate of Ace, the Seventh Doctor's final on-screen companion. In the novels Ace leaves the Doctor, returns to him after three years in deep space fighting Daleks and ultimately returns to Earth with a short-range time machine strapped to a motorbike, fighting threats to Earth. The comics, which have generally been regarded as less canonical than the novels, contradicted this by killing Ace off in a huge explosion. The Sarah Jane Adventures TV episode Death of the Doctor hints that Ace, under her real name of Dorothy, is running a charity on present-day Earth called 'A Charitable Earth' (A.C.E.), which may be compatible with the former outcome but not the latter. According to Russell T. Davies, he was going to explain this in a future episode of the spin-off series, but Elisabeth Sladen's death and the cancellation of the series made this impossible.

Different fans have developed different approaches as a result. Some hold the TV show and TV show alone as only being canon. The TV show can use the novels as inspiration at times, but the novels themselves are not explicitly canon until events from them are said to be so on TV. Other fans take the opposing view, ruling that both the novels and other media (such as the comic strips) are canon until the TV show contradicts them, thus ruling them non-canon. Other fans state that all Doctor Who stories are 'canon' regardless of origin or continuity errors, and instead may take place in alternate dimensions or realities to the core continuity of the TV series.

Others suggest just enjoying the show and not worrying about this stuff too much.

Lungbarrow is controversial for the amount of the Doctor's backstory that it revealed. Some felt that it destroyed too much of the Doctor's mystery, whilst others found it unsatisfying. It is unlikely that the backstory in Lungbarrow will be acknowledged in the new series.

The Cartmel Masterplan
When he became script-editor of Doctor Who in 1987, Andrew Cartmel decided to work in a long-running storyline which would gradually darken and complicate the Doctor's character before culminating in the revelation of his backstory and origins. Several writers hired by Cartmel, most notably Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch, helped work on this plan, although producer/showrunner John Nathan-Turner seems to have been more dubious. Nathan-Turner vetoed a Platt script for Season 26 which would have been set in the Doctor's ancestral home on Gallifrey as exposing too much of the mystery of the Doctor.

With the New Adventures novel range unfolding, range editors Peter Darvill-Evans and, later, Rebecca Levene, agreed to continue the storyline in the novels. Time's Crucible revealed that the Gallifreyans had suffered calamitous conflict between a religious sect led by a prophetess, the Pythia, and a sect devoted to science and reason, led by Rassilon (this sect eventually became the first Time Lords). During this conflict the Pythia cursed the Time Lords with the inability to reproduce naturally, forcing Rassilon to develop regeneration as a way of circumventing the curse.

In Lungbarrow it is revealed that the Time Lords used 'cosmic looms' to genetically create new Gallifreyans in the absence of biological reproduction. In an odd twist, the Doctor is revealed to have been the reincarnation of the 'Other', one of the Time Lord triumvirate (along with Rassilon and Omega) who created time travel technology. The nature of the Other was unknown (hence his name) but his influence on the Doctor led to the Doctor stealing a TARDIS and rescuing the Other's granddaughter, who later took the human name Susan, from the dawn of Gallifrey's past before going on the run.

This explanation was somewhat unsatisfactory, as it simply transferred the mystery of, "Who is the Doctor?" to "Who was the Other?", and seemed unnecessarily convoluted. The post-2005 TV series has noticeably ignored it, such as mentioning the Doctor's childhood and explicitly showing the Master as a child in the Sound of Drums story arc. The new series has also said that the Doctor has had children, apparently throwing the whole 'Pythia's curse' storyline out the window. However, some fans have worked on ways of reconciling these contradictions (and again suggesting that the Time War may be responsible).

List of Doctor Who: The New Adventures Novels

NA01: Timeyrm: Genesys by John Peel (June 1991) ***
NA02: Timewyrm: Exodus by Terrance Dicks (August 1991) ****½
NA03: Timewyrm: Apocalypse by Nigel Robinson (October 1991) ***
NA04: Timewyrm: Revelation by Paul Cornell (December 1991) *****

Cat's Cradle
NA05: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible by Marc Platt (February 1992) ***½
NA06: Cat's Cradle: Warhead by Andrew Cartmel (April 1992) ****
NA07: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark by Andrew Hunt (June 1992) ***

NA08: Nightshade by Mark Gatiss (August 1992) ****

The Future History Cycle
NA09: Love and War by Paul Cornell (October 1992) *****
NA10: Transit by Ben Aaronovitch (December 1992) ****
NA11: The Highest Science by Gareth Roberts (February 1993) ****½
NA12: The Pit by Neil Penswick (March 1993)
NA13: Deceit by Peter Darvill-Evans (April 1993) ****
NA14: Lucifer Rising by Jim Mortimore and Andy Lane (May 1993) ****½

NA15: White Darkness by David A. McIntee (June 1993)
NA16: Shadowmind by Christopher Bulis (July 1993)
NA17: Birthright by Nigel Robinson (August 1993) ****
NA18: Iceberg by David Banks (September 1993) ***½

The Alternate History Cycle
NA19: Blood Heat by Jim Mortimore (October 1993) ****
NA20: The Dimension Riders by Daniel Blythe (November 1993)
NA21: The Left-Handed Hummingbird by Kate Orman (December 1993)
NA22: Conundrum by Steve Lyons (January 1994)
NA23: No Future by Paul Cornell (February 1994)

NA24: Tragedy Day by Gareth Roberts (March 1994)
NA25: Legacy by Gary Russell (April 1994) ***½
NA26: Theatre of War by Justin Richards (May 1994)
NA27: All-Consuming Fire by Andy Lane (June 1994)
NA28: Blood Harvest by Terrance Dicks (July 1994)
NA29: Strange England by Simon Messingham (August 1994)
NA30: First Frontier by David A. McIntee (September 1994)
NA31: St. Anthony's Fire by Mark Gatiss (October 1994)
NA32: Falls the Shadow by Daniel O'Mahony (November 1994)
NA33: Parasite by Jim Mortimore (December 1994)
NA34: Warlock by Andrew Cartmel (January 1995)
NA35: Set Piece by Kate Orman (February 1995)
NA36: Infinite Requiem by Daniel Blythe (March 1995)
NA37: Sanctuary by David A. McIntee (April 1995)
NA38: Human Nature by Paul Cornell (May 1995)
NA39: Original Sin by Andy Lane (June 1995)
NA40: Sky Pirates! by Dave Stone (July 1995)
NA41: Zamper by Gareth Roberts (August 1995)
NA42: Toy Soldiers by Paul Leonard (September 1995)
NA43: Head Games by Steve Lyons (October 1995)
NA44: The Also People by Ben Aaronovitch (November 1995)
NA45: Shakedown by Terrance Dicks (December 1995)
NA46: Just War by Lance Parkin (January 1996)

The Psi-Powers Arc
NA47: Warchild by Andrew Cartmel (February 1996)
NA48: SLEEPY by Kate Orman (March 1996)
NA49: Death and Diplomacy by Dave Stone (April 1996)
NA50: Happy Endings by Paul Cornell (May 1996)
NA51: GodEngine by Craig Hinton (June 1996)
NA52: Christmas on a Rational Planet by Lawrence Miles (July 1996)
NA53: Return of the Living Dad by Kate Orman (August 1996)
NA54: The Death of Art by Simon Bucher-Jones (September 1996)
NA55: Damaged Goods by Russell T. Davies (October 1996)
NA56: So Vile a Sin by Ben Aaronovitch and Kate Orman (May 1997)

NA57: Bad Therapy by Matthew Jones (December 1996)
NA58: Eternity Weeps by Jim Mortimore (January 1997)
NA59: The Room With No Doors by Kate Orman (February 1997)
NA60: Lungbarrow by Marc Platt (March 1997)
NA61: The Dying Days by Lance Parkin (April 1997)

Actress Lisa Bowerman has played Bernice Summerfield in audio dramas since the late 1990s. Bernice is one of the most popular and successful Doctor Who companions despite never appearing on the TV series, although Bowerman had a role in the final serial of the classic series, Survival, in 1989.

List of The New Adventures Novels (featuring Bernice Summerfield)

BS01: Oh No It Isn't! by Paul Cornell (May 1997)
BS02: Dragons' Wrath by Justin Richards (June 1997)
BS03: Beyond the Sun by Matthew Jones (July 1997)
BS04: Ship of Fools by Dave Stone (August 1997)
BS05: Down by Lawrence Miles (September 1997)
BS06: Deadfall by Gary Russell (October 1997)
BS07: Ghost Devices by Simon Bucher-Jones (November 1997)
BS08: Mean Streets by Terrance Dicks (December 1997)
BS09: Tempest by Christopher Bulis (January 1998)
BS10: Walking to Babylon by Kate Orman (February 1998)
BS11: Oblivion by Dave Stone (March 1998)
BS12: The Medusa Effect by Justin Richards (April 1998)
BS13: Dry Pilgrimage by Paul Leonard and Nick Walters (May 1998)
BS14: The Sword of Forever by Jim Mortimore (June 1998)
BS15: Another Girl, Another Planet by Martin Day and Len Beech (August 1998)
BS16: Beige Planet Mars by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham (October 1998)
BS17: Where Angels Fear by Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone (December 1998)
BS18: The Mary-Sue Extrusion by Dave Stone (February 1999)
BS19: Dead Romance by Lawrence Miles (March 1999)
BS20: Tears of the Oracle by Justin Richards (June 1999)
BS21: Return to the Fractured Planet by Dave Stone (August 1999)
BS22: The Joy Device by Justin Richards (October 1999)
BS23: Twilight of the Gods by Mark Clapham and Jon de Burgh Miller (December 1999)

Dorothy 'Ace' McShane: NA01-09, 13-17, 19-35, 43, 50, 54, 60
Professor Bernice 'Benny' Summerfield: NA09-17, 19-50, 53, 56, 58, 61, BS01-23
Roz Forrester: NA39-56
Chris Cwej: NA39-60
Wolsey the Cat: NA38, 43, 61, BS01

1 comment:

Jim said...

I have to mention that all the first eight live on in the Big Finish audios, which are mostly pretty good. I think that probably every living recurring castmember has popped up at one time or another.

Benny has her own series too. While that's kept apart from the main DW range, it's strongly suggested in her Christmas special that she'll be coming back to the main range sooner or later.

There are several other spin-offs, too. Irish Wyldthyme, played by Katy Manning. A focus on the Shoreditch group from Rememberance. A Dalek series, a Cyberman series, I think there were even a couple of Zygon stories. You name it, you'll hear it in BF.

I'm not Nick Briggs, I promise. Actually, my one complaint is that does he have to write or direct or be in every single audio? He's good, but he's a bit of a monopoly.