First broadcast on 23 November 1963, Doctor Who quickly managed to establish itself as one of the most popular television series ever to be made in the UK, helped no end by the metallic Daleks who woul make their screen debut late in the December.
The series eventually ran for twenty-six years and featured seven different actors in the lead role: a Time Lord known only as the Doctor, who travelled through time and space in his TARDIS, a time machine that was stuck in the form of a Police Box.
The final incumbent in the role, between 1987 and 1989, was Sylvester McCoy whose tenure happened to coincide with Doctor Who being scheduled opposite ITV's all-conquering soap opera Coronation Street, and with new government legislation requiring the BBC to out-source many of its programmes to independent production companies. The show quietly slipped from sight in December 1989 with interest in producing the show being shown by various parties, including in the United States.
Despite numerous rumours involving Steven Spielberg, David Hasselhoff and most of the major American television networks, it was to be 1996 before the series briefly returned to the screen in a one-off TV movie for the US Fox Network, in which Sylvester McCoy briefly reprised his role before regenerating into Paul McGann. Sadly, despite praise for McGann's performance and highly respectable ratings on BBC1 in the UK, the movie failed to find an audience on its all-important US transmission, having been shown opposite an important baseball game and the demise of Dan in Roseanne.
Things then fell quiet until September 2003 when plans were unexpectedly revealed for a new multi-million pound revival to be written mainly by Russell T Davies (Dark Season / Century Falls / The Second Coming). Finally arriving on BBC One at Easter 2005, after one of the most high-profile advertising campaigns seen for a TV programme in the UK, the series, starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler, quickly found itself as one of the top-rated programmes on television.
With David Tennant taking over as the Tenth Doctor on Christmas Day 2005, and Matt Smith picking up the baton in January 2010, the series has been firmly re-established as one of the jewels in the BBC's crown.
Unsurprisingly, the popularity of the series over the past half a century has resulted in an astonishing number of products based on the series being released (see the Howe's Transcendental Toybox website), and in particular over four hundred fiction books.
The first spin-off book, Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, was published in 1964 by Frederick Muller Ltd and was a re-telling of the very first Dalek story, albeit with a slightly revised beginning in order to introduce the characters. Two other novelisations followed from the same company in 1965 and 1966, but it wasn't until 1973, when the initial three books were reprinted by Target Books, that the world of Doctor Who fiction really took off.
The first new title to be released, in January 1974, was Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, the very first story to have featured the Third Doctor, whose fifth and final season of stories had begun broadcasting on BBC1 the previous month. The book was written by Terrance Dicks, at that point in time the script editor of the television programme. Over the next twenty-one years he would go on to write over seventy novelisations and original novels based on Doctor Who.
Over the following few years, the rate of release of the Target novelisations would increase, eventually resulting in a monthly schedule.
January 1988 saw the publication of The Tribe of Gum, the first Doctor Who script book from Titan Books The range would eventually run to ten titles, although most of them would be edited transcripts of the dialogue as spoken on screen rather than the original camera scripts which most people would have preferred.
Publication of novelisations based on the TV stories continued until the early 1990s by which time Doctor Who was no longer being produced by the BBC and all but a handful of stories had been novelised. Virgin Publishing, who by then owned the Target imprint, were keen to see the range continue and in June 1991 Timewyrm: Genesys, the first original Doctor Who novel, was released. The New Adventures range featured the continuing adventures of the Seventh Doctor — portrayed on television by Sylvester McCoy — and was, in general, well received. Like the later novelisations, the books were more adult in tone, and were publicised using the tagline 'stories too broad and too deep for the small screen'. This was an approach that wasn't to the liking of many traditionalist fans of the series...
In November 1992 a new companion was introduced into the range in Paul Cornell's Love and War. Professor Bernice Summerfield, or Benny as she was usually known, was to feature for the next four years and eventually gained her own range of books and audios, as well as featuring in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip.
A second strand of novels began in July 1994, again from Virgin Publishing, and featured the first six Doctors. Initially released bi-monthly, the Missing Adventure range quickly found its feet and started monthly publication from the October.
Virgin's licence to publish Doctor Who novels expired on May the 6th 1997 and, after the production of the 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann, the BBC wanted to move the licence in-house. The outcome of this was that, in June 1997, BBC Books commenced publication of two ranges of Doctor Who books. The first was the Eighth Doctor Adventures, which featured, unsurprisingly, the continuing adventures of the Eighth Doctor after the events of the TV movie. The second was the Previous Doctor Adventures. Like Virgin's Missing Adventures range, this would concentrate on the previous Doctors — now including the Seventh Doctor.
Along the way Virgin had also published a series of Doctor Who short story collections, and the BBC range would also dabble in the area, although only three volumes in their Short Trips range were to appear.
Having lost the licence to publish Doctor Who fiction, Virgin Publishing opted to continue their New Adventures range with Bernice Summerfield as the lead character. This series continued until December 1999 when it was dropped.
In 2000, Big Finish Productions, who had already successfully recorded five audio plays based on some of Virgin's New Adventures novels, announced that a new range of books and audios featuring Benny would be released. The first of these was Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Dead Men Diaries — a short story anthology edited by Paul Cornell. The first proper novel, written by Doctor Who author and editor Justin Richards, was released in November 2000 under the title Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript.
Unfortunately, sales were disappointing and the final regular novel, The Glass Prison, was released in January 2002. The range of Benny audios continued uninterrupted, and in October 2002 Big Finish published a hardback anthology, A Life of Surprises, to celebrate ten years of Benny in print. This proved so popular that another volume followed in 2003, with the output being increased in 2004 to include a novel, anthology and collection of three novellas.
November 2001 saw the release of Kim Newman's Time and Relative, the first in a series of hardback Doctor Who novellas from Telos Publishing. With four novellas released in 2002, and a further eight due for release in 2003 — Doctor Who's fortieth anniversary year — it was therefore something of a surprise when Telos announced in October 2002 that their licence would not be renewed when it expired in March 2004. In total they managed to release fifteen titles, with the final volume being Simon Clark's The Dalek Factor.
September 2002 saw the announcement from Big Finish Productions that they had won a licence to release a series of hardback Doctor Who anthologies, picking up the Short Trips title from the earlier BBC Books series. These were released at the rate of approximately four volumes a year, before coming to an end in 2009 with the release of Re: Collections, an omnibus containing a story from each of the previous titles. The company has also issued a number of volumes containing the scripts to some of their most popular Doctor Who audio dramas.
With the announcement in late September 2003 that a new series of Doctor Who was to enter production, it was widely expected that this would see the end of the Eighth Doctor Adventures. This was finally confirmed in 2004 when the BBC announced that a new series of hardback books featuring the continuing adventures of the Ninth Doctor would be released in 2005 to tie in with the broadcast of the new series. As happened with the changeover from the New Adventures to the Eighth Doctor Adventures, future stories involving the outgoing Eighth Doctor would be transferred to the Previous Doctor Adventures range. In the event, only one further Eighth Doctor novel was to be published before the range of Previous Doctor Adventures came to an abrupt halt in December 2005 with the publication of Andrew Cartmel's Seventh Doctor novel Atom Bomb Blues. Despite talk of discussions, meetings and deadlines for announcements, further news on the continued publication of the range has been as elusive as the early-1990's promises about the future of the television series...
Unsurprisingly, the new Ninth Doctor novels were aimed at a much lower age-group than the existing novels, and with the departure of Christopher Eccleston at the end of the first season of the revived Doctor Who television series, it quickly became apparent that change would also be needed for the new series of books. The first three titles to feature the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler were duly published in April 2006.
But while the New Series Adventures have seen accusations of "dumbing down" leveled at them, 2007 provided further evidence that the New Adventures were in a definite class of their own as far as TV tie-in novels are concerned. With Russell T Davies in charge of the Doctor Who television series, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts and Matthew Jones all having contributed memorable episodes, and with Gary Russell and former New Adventures editor Simon Winstone in script editing positions, it was fitting that Paul Cornell's popular Human Nature should finally cross over from TV tie-in to television story. The two-part story (Human Nature / The Family of Blood) was broadcast to almost unanimous praise in May/June 2007 and must surely rank as one of the greatest achievements of the series to date.
The regeneration of the Tenth Doctor meant that further change was neeeded for the New Series Adventures, with the first three books featuring the Eleventh Doctor and new companion Amy Pond being released in in April 2010 — shortly after their first television adventure together.
Outside of the printed word, it should also be mentioned that there have been numerous commercial audio readings of the various Doctor Who books, beginning with State of Decay from Pickwick in the early 1980s. The 1990s saw BBC Worldwide release a number of abridged readings based on the Target novelisations, as well as three collections which tied in with the Short Trips short story anthologies.
More recently, three new series of Doctor Who audiobooks have been launched, in addition to the regular series of readings based on recently published Doctor Who novels. BBC Audiobooks have started to release unabridged readings of the Target novelisations on CD, as well as an ongoing series of original stories, initially featuring the Tenth Doctor. Series of original stories based on Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures have also been launched. The third Doctor Who range is the Companion Chronicles series from Big Finish Productions, which are read by the actors and actresses who originally played the television companions featured in each of the stories.
Back to the printed page, and the 2010s have seen several notable developments in the world of Doctor Who publishing, not least the dramatic decrease in the number of titles being released — not a single volume in the regular series has been scheduled for release in 2012. However, all is not lost for voracious readers, as 2010 saw the launch of an occasional series of hardback volumes written by established authors. The first title released, The Coming of the Terraphiles, was written by fantasy author Michael Moorcock, with 2012's releases comprising releases from Jenny Colgan and Stephen Baxter. The latter's book was the first to feature an older Doctor since 2005. Also of note has been the unexpected release of a novelisation based on Douglas Adams' Shada, the story which was abandoned partway through production in 1979.