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.)
There 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.
Some 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