Beyond the TV Whoniverse

 At the end of my previous post I noted an apparent discrepancy related to the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. While 2013 may have marked 50 years since the broadcast of the first Doctor Who episode, it is clear that there was a significant period of those 50 years when no new episodes of Doctor Who were being made for TV.

I think most people (myself included) gave little thought to the show during that period, assuming that like so many other once popular shows, this one had also been committed to history and occasional re-runs.

But not all people are “most people”, and there were enough who weren’t ready to allow the Doctor to fade away. Disappointed fans of the show did what they could to keep their connection to Doctor Who going. There were avenues beyond TV through which stories could be created and enjoyed. Some of those avenues were already being explored and exploited during the show’s successful years, with novelizations of TV stories and audio productions. (I recall reading Doctor Who and the Zarbi during my teens and recognising it as being based on an episode I’d seen as a child, which I later found was The Web Planet from the show’s second season.)

DWMThere was also the continuing popularity of Doctor Who Magazine (DWM), which started in 1979 and is still being published today. After the cancellation of the TV show, the magazine provided an outlet of new Doctor Who stories through comic strips.

Other publishers gained the rights to release novels of new Doctor Who stories. Both the comics and novels continued from where the TV show left off. Through these the seventh doctor, (played by Sylvester McCoy on TV) was given new life and adventures for several more years until an attempted reviving of the TV show introduced the next regeneration of the Doctor.

In a made-for-TV movie that failed to generate enough interest to commission a continuing series, Sylvester McCoy handed over the role to the 8th Doctor played by Paul McGann, and while a new TV series didn’t eventuate, McGann’s Doctor was kept alive in DWM’s ongoing comic strips, along with new companions to share his journeys.

As well as the authorised stories in various media, creative fans produced their own Doctor Who tales including the “Audio Visuals” a series of audio dramas made in the 1980s and 90s starting even before the TV show was cancelled. Although the Audio Visuals were unlicensed and technically illegal, the fans involved were never challenged by the BBC, who held the copyright, and many of them have since worked on authorised Doctor Who productions.

Big FinishSome of those involved with the Audio Visuals went on to work with Big Finish, a company that started with audio stories adapted from the New Adventures range of books published by Virgin. Initially denied the opportunity to record Doctor Who related stories, Big Finish started with adaptations of a series of Who spin-off books.

Virgin New Adventures had introduced Bernice Summerfield as a new companion for the Doctor and later gave her a series of her own. Big Finish obtained the rights to adapt the Summerfield books and the quality of the resulting recordings helped to convince the BBC to issue the Doctor Who rights.

Big Finish has now released well over 200 Doctor Who stories, most of which feature original actors from the TV show and TV movie, including Doctors played by Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann; and several original companions.

As well as this link to the past, Big Finish also has links to the new Doctor Who series. Big Finish director, writer and actor Nick Briggs has been the voice of the Daleks, Cybermen and several other aliens from 2005 through to the present.


So while the Doctor had a 15 year screen absence, he never really went away, making last year’s half century celebrations fully justified


The Many Faces of Doctor Who: (Introduction)

 Those familiar with Doctor Who will know that over the 50 years of the series’ history, there have been many different actors playing the lead role since the show was first screened in 1963. The first change was needed because of the ill health of William Hartnell the original Doctor.

Other shows have maintained popular characters by changes to cast members, giving no explanation for that character’s change of appearance, expecting the audience to follow along until the new actor becomes the accepted face of that character. But Doctor Who producers came up with a logical reason for the change that could be re-used when necessary in the future.

The Doctor is a member of an alien race that can extend life through “regeneration”. When exposed to life ending conditions, his body can be renewed, taking on a different physical appearance, a different personality and different dress sense.

A roboman from The Dalek's Invasion of Earth

A roboman from The Dalek’s Invasion of Earth

I first saw Doctor Who in England when it was originally broadcast by the BBC. I was only 5 at the time so my memories of the early episodes are minimal and seem to come from only two stories (The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Web Planet).

I also recall a few of the later episodes featuring the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, but again, being so young, the memories are vague. It was after Jon Pertwee took over the role (3rd Doctor) that my recollection improves, probably because I saw regular repeats of episodes after I moved to Australia as well as new episodes with Tom Baker (4th Doctor) and Peter Davison ( 5th Doctor) in the title role. I must have stopped watching some time during the tenure of the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker, because I remember least about his stories, and I know I saw nothing at all of Sylvester McCoy’s brief time as the 7th Doctor..

During McCoy’s time as the Doctor, the show was axed in 1989.

I gave very little thought to Doctor Who after I stopped watching it on TV sometime in the mid-1980s, and was no longer interested enough to watch a 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann (as the 8th Doctor). Likewise when a new series started in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston I wasn’t tempted to watch it.

Things changed at the end of 2012 when I saw that year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. I’m not sure why that particular episode sparked my interest enough to start buying the newer Doctor Who series on DVD, but it helped that they were being sold with large discounts early in the new year.

Throughout 2013 I built up my collection and watched all episodes of the new series featuring three new Doctors. I was able to catch up in time for the 50th anniversary episode shown in November.

Those with mathematically attuned minds might be wondering how a show that ran for 26 years before being cancelled and then renewed almost two decades later and then running for another 8 years making a total of 34, would be entitled to a 50th anniversary. But there is more to the story than a TV show.

More of that story to follow…