With Doctor Who facing a lengthy hiatus (though nowhere near the longest hiatus in its history), many fans will be looking for ways to satisfy their appetites during the break. We’ve collected five of what we believe are the best things you can do to get your fill of Doctor Who-ness this coming year and a bit. We’ve tried to keep it open to people on a budget as well as delving into more creative realms.
If you have your own tips, feel free to comment and let us know!
1 – The Classic Series
If you haven’t already delved into the original series, now is a great time to give it a try. If you have The Horror Channel on your TV, they are showing runs of classic serials every so often. If you don’t mind sitting through adverts every now and again, that is. I first got into Doctor Who watching UKGold (which later evolved into UKTVGold, and then Dave), during the early 2000s, when they would show big omnibuses of classic serials. It was Sylvester McCoy’s The Greatest Show in the Galaxy that first got me hooked, and I watched obsessively until Survival (the last serial of the classic run).
We will put together a more detailed guide to getting into the Classic series, but in brief, there are a couple of ways to approach it. If you have the money, you can pick up some box-sets – second-hand ones tend to go fairly cheaply, especially of the early releases.
If you’re able, try and grab The New Beginnings Box Set, which gives you Tom Baker’s final stories, his regeneration, and Peter Davison’s first outing. It’s a great jumping on point as it gives you some brilliant stories, like The Keeper of Traken, some mind-bending puzzles (Castrovalva), the most famous Doctor (Tom Baker, of course), a regeneration, and a chance to see the spry young Peter Davison dashing about in his trainers.
It’s often good to pick a Doctor and run with them. If you start with New Beginnings, I highly recommend continuing on with the Fifth Doctor and beyond. If, however, you want something a bit closer to the 2005 series, Sylvester McCoy’s final two series, beginning with Remembrance of the Daleks, provide a good bridge. Ace, his companion, is like a mix of all the best parts of Rose, Donna, and Clara.
2 – Big Finish
Big Finish began during the long wilderness years while Doctor Who was off-air in the 90s and early 2000s. They provide audio adventures of the classic Doctors, their companions, and even boast a number of spin-off series for numerous characters. Beginning with Bernice Summerfield (a companion for the 7th Doctor) they proved themselves capable of attracting an audience and creating quality products. It wasn’t long before the BBC gave them the nod, and the Doctors were back in business.
I previously talked to Nicholas Briggs who runs Big Finish (and also voices the Daleks in the TV series), and you can listen to the interview here.
Again, there are Box Sets you can grab to get a taste of Big Finish. If you’re not too familiar with the classic Doctors, worry not! A new range of 10th Doctor Adventures is on the way, and we already have a War Doctor Box set to get us through the nights. The Diary of River Song is also out, featuring Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor.
Indeed, the 8th Doctor is often many people’s preferred jumping-on point for Big Finish audios. The 8th Doctor had only one television appearance, the 1996 TV movie, and so many were hungry for more of him. His Doctor has some complex and emotional times in the TARDIS and the recent Dark Eyes series pushed him right to the brink. If you like your timy-wimy plots, your character development, and your moral conundrums, Dark Eyes is for you.
Check out some of the early ranges if you’re on a budget – some of them go fairly cheaply and you can sometimes nab some second-hand on Amazon or EBay. Take a listen and discover new adventures!
3 – Books
The Doctor Who novel range has expanded exponentially since the series returned in 2005, but there was still a hefty catalogue already in existence. Again, much like the Big Finish audios, there are costs to be considered, but if you pop into any second-hand book shop you’re more than likely to find a couple of titles.
If you fancy starting with the newer series Doctors, there are some really extraordinary books out there. There is a lovely box set of Ninth and Tenth Doctor novels that is worth hunting down. Since it’s been out for a while, it doesn’t tend to break the bank.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous and curious about the classic Doctors, the novels can be a great place to start. There are novelisations of some classic stories where you can enjoy the adventures without the flimsy sets people keep going on about. What’s more, you can enjoy the First and Second Doctor in the full-colour HD of your imagination. The Target Novelisation range (mostly written by Terrance Dicks, former producer of Doctor Who), range from script to page adaptations, to fully realised novels. Sometimes finding the good ones is an adventure in and of itself.
There are the Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novels, too. Most of these focus on the Seventh Doctor, and carry on his adventures after the end of Survival. They delve into the Doctor’s dark history, take him and Ace (as well as other, new companions) into some of the weirdest places you’ll find in the Whoniverse. This is also where Bernice Summerfield came in, and if you like her, there’s more in the Big Finish range and in the comics. This is also where you’ll find a surprising number of writers who later went on to work for the TV show. Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Matt Jones, Simon Winstone, Gary Russell, and even Russell T Davies shows up with his novel Damaged Goods, which Big Finish later adapted.
There are also countless Doctor Who comics and graphic novels out there. Some come from Doctor Who Magazine, some from various Doctor Who annuals, and others have been published on their own, most notably by Titan Books. Be warned, if you are a completist, these comics have been running since 1963 and did not stop, making it the longest running comic strip based on a television series in the world. There are nice, neat compilations out there that are well worth getting your hands on, including some 8th Doctor Adventures that hint heavily at his regeneration into Christopher Eccleston (these were written before John Hurt’s War Doctor was invented).
4 – Create Your Own
There’s a lot of snobbishness about fan fiction, fan films, and such out there, but for those of us who went through the Great Hiatus, these were what kept us going. Indeed, you’ll find that plenty of fan film projects from the 90s led to some writers and actors who went on to work on the series. John Guilor (who I interviewed here) had been involved in a number of fan projects before getting to voice the Doctor not only on DVD reconstructions but in The Day of the Doctor, too!
It’s a great way to engage with the show in a creative way, and it often builds communities. So many Doctor Who hubs were born out of fans trying to create a mini movie, or their own radio drama, or even just writing and sharing stories. Fan Fiction websites may be chocked full of Doctor Who fan work, but there’s no reason not to try your own hand at it. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll end up working on the show itself!
You’ll find a lot of creative people who grew up in the 90s were involved in Doctor Who fandom in some way. It created a lot of new talent.
5 – Fan Communities
Online forums like Gallifrey Base, or Facebook Groups, even Tumblr cliques – all these online fan communities need people to keep them going. Find like-minded fans to get excited with, find people who can watch it and re-watch it with you, share your thoughts, share your ideas, and share your art.
Beyond the internet, you’ll find conventions and parties that go on all year round. Tenth Planet Events often have opportunities to meet the stars of the show, giving you an opportunity to talk to them face to face, as well as to meet fellow enthusiasts.
Cosplaying, model building, art, crafts, and more besides. Whatever attracted you to Doctor Who, you’ll find others who feel the same. So work with one another and keep the Doctor alive!