I made the header image for this post using Piktochart, an on-line image editor. It’s not perfect but Piktochart is a way to get started, and I hope the information is clear.
There have been six series of Doctor Who novels. They are:
- The Target Novelizations – In the 1980s and 1990s – Target, the paperback publishing arm of W.H. Allen published a series of novelizations of the Doctor Who stories. I have many of these, as do most older Doctor Who fans. They were available in both the US and UK, and I remember buying them in mall bookstores like Waldens. The books were written for children, and the simplistic style was a drawback. However, if you didn’t have access to Doctor Who – they were a great way to experience the stories. Most of the Classic Series stories were adapted into these books.
- The Virgin Publishing Missing Adventure Books – These appeared after the series was cancelled in 1989. They were published alongside the New Adventures, but featured Doctors 1-6. Also, many were sequels to Classic Stories. They were original stories and some of the authors (of this and the next three book ranges below) have written for the New Series, or gone on to become original writers of SF novels, Fantasy novels, Comics, and television.
- The Virgin Publishing New Adventure Books – These were also published after the cancellation of the series, and consisted of original stories. The series featured the Seventh Doctor, initially with Ace but later introduced new companions such as Dr. Bernice Summerfield (an archaeologist). The series was connected and best read in order, with the first seven books actually telling two single stories (books 1-4 Tymeworm; books 5-7 Cat’s Cradle).
- BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures – These were published immediately after the 1996 Eighth Doctor TV Movie. They featured Doctors 1-7, and the vast majority were completely independent and could be read in any order. Though the quality varied, most were very good – and this is my personal favorite range of Doctor Who Books. The exception to the “read in any order” was a mini-series of stories about the Seventh Doctor and Ace written by Robert Perry and Mike Tucker (some volumes written solely by one or the other, but most by both). The Past Doctor Adventures (or PDAs) also branched out by bringing in companions from the Big Finish audio plays, such as Dr. Evelyn Smith (nearly retired history professor) and Frobisher (the shape-changing penguin who apparently also appeared in the comics). And the PDAs at times just had fun, such as The Indestructible Man which was a cross-over featuring the Second Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime, crossed with all the Gerry Anderson stuff, especially U.F.O. and Captain Scarlet (the man of the title). Meanwhile, World Game, is set in Series 6B – giving credence to the fan theory that before the Time Lords forced the Doctor’s regeneration, he worked for him as an independent time agent, doing their bidding.
- BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures – Published after the 1996 movie this series of original novels, featured the Eighth Doctor and a number of new, original companions. The companions in this series were different from the Eighth Doctor Audio play companions (Big Finish), and also did not include Dr. Grace Holloway or Chang Lee from the TV Movie. However, that isn’t to criticize the Doctor’s companions in this range – I quite liked several of them. There are also several novels in the range where the Doctor has no companions at all. The Eighth Doctor Books must be read in order, and have tight continuity. I’ve read some of them, and enjoyed them and found them to be of high quality, however, I felt the tight continuity was a drawback – there are definitely places in the series that are bad places to start (I initially started with one of them and had to backtrack.)
- New Series Adventures (BBC Books) – These books take place alongside New Who, and feature the Doctors, Companions, and characters from the new series. I’ve only read the first six (published as hardcovers) and I was disappointed at the more “Young Adult” style of the writing and plots. I’ve heard they’ve gotten better, and will read some of them soon. This series is ongoing.
There are also various one-offs, short story collections, and licensed original novelettes. In short, there is a lot. Still, I encourage reading at least some of the original Doctor Who novels, especially in the PDA Range. I’ve reviewed many of the Doctor Who novels on my GoodReads page, see widget with links on the lower right of this website.