Doctor Who Expanded Universe
In late 1963 we had Doctor Who, the series which spawned the Whoniverse. Then in 1964, in the pages of TV Comic, the first Doctor Who spin-off comic started. Overall, the Whoniverse has encompassed three stage plays, webcasts, animation, choose-your-own-adventure books, novels, novelisations, audio dramas, comics and feature films (adapting two of the earlier television stories).
The three different Sarah Jane spin-offs serve as a lesson in how you can spin off the same character in different ways, using different tropes and for different audiences. Expanded Universe material in general and without the Doctor, in particular, tend to be Darker and Edgier and skew more towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism than their parent series. The Sarah Jane Adventures and K-9 & Company stand out as notable exceptions. (Sarah also appeared in the semi-professional direct-to-video production Downtime.)
Up to the present, the franchise's Expanded Universe continued usually in the form of comics and novelisations. During the "wilderness years", though, following the cancellation of the original regular series in 1989, and its revival in 2005 (it also came back for a television movie/BackdoorPilot in 1996), a number of other spin-offs in the form of original novels, audios and webcasts have picked up the slack, some of them involving characters other than the Doctor. Over time, a number of these have evolved into their own sub-continuities.
Notably, by the time Doctor Who came back following the wilderness years, the books and two Web Original stories, Death Comes to Time and Scream of the Shalka (which existed in an Alternate Continuity from each other), had all written out the Time Lords; when the TV series returned, it did the same thing.
The Expanded Whoniverse has branched in diverse ways into separate fully licensed and semi-official sub-continuities, divided (in some cases) by the BBC's copyright restrictions, further complicated that no one person, including the BBC, owns all the rights to the monsters and characters which have appeared in the Whoniverse. Sometimes they acknowledge each other, sometimes they ignore each other, Depending on the Writer. Those who expect consistency, or even, in some cases, sanity, will find themselves sorely disappointed.
The comics started off in the Silver Age, with a strip in the British TV adaptation anthology comic TV Comic. This ran from 1964 to 1979, with a break during 1971-3 when the Doctor Who strip appeared in a sister title called Countdown and later TV Action, aimed at a slightly older audience. However all these strips were definitely commercial publications aimed at a child audience, and the stories featuring "Dr. Who" and his companions (who in the early days were entirely different from the TV characters, due to the publishers only paying the fee to use the Doctor himself) reflected this. Apart from sharing very basic elements, they didn't have much in common with the television series. At one point, the Doctor joins forces with Santa Claus to battle an evil wizard and save Christmas.
The "modern" comics (in the minds of fans), though, started with the comic in Doctor Who Magazine in 1979. By and large, the DWM comics have tended to reference their own sub-continuity more than other media. However, during the early 1990s, they shared the same continuity as the New Adventures; in the mid-90s, around the time of the TV Movie, they made a break with the novels' continuity by killing off the Doctor's companion Ace as a teenager after the books had shown her age, turn into a Nineties Anti-Hero and finally leave the Doctor for good.
Meanwhile, American comics company IDW picked up the licence for US Doctor Who comics, reprinting the Doctor Who Magazine run from the beginning as Doctor Who Classics, producing their own one-shots and miniseries, and eventually launching their own separate ongoing series. In 2012, IDW published the Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover miniseries Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation².
(IDW's issues are officially No Export for You to the UK, for licencing reasons, although it's easy to find the TPBs in comic shops.)
Some comics works
- The Dalek Chronicles. This comic ran in the Gerry Anderson-linked anthology title TV Century 21 from 1965 to 1967, featuring the Daleks in general and the Emperor Dalek in particular as the Villain Protagonists, killing and destroying everything in sight. This strip owed its existence to the fact that Terry Nation personally owned the copyright in the Daleks and initially licensed them separately. For its time it was distinctly Darker and Edgier than the main Doctor Who strip, and was partially written by the first script editor of Doctor Who, David Whitaker. It has a much higher reputation among fans than the early Doctor Who strips, and parts of its content undoubtedly influenced plots and Dalek characterisation and tech in later TV stories, such as the Emperor Dalek and, of course, the storyline about the nonconformist (though still violent) hippy Dalek who decided to go against the Emperor and defend pretty things—to the death! The later ones actually have some excellent artwork by Ron Turner.
- Abslom Daak Dalek Killer: A Barbarian Hero In Space, doubling as both Space Opera and a partial Deconstruction of Anti-Hero tropes. It starred a rather dim-witted Ax Crazy/Ineffectual Loner on a perpetual Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Daleks, who had exterminated his lover, a Rich Bitch Fallen Princess (literally a princess, too). After her extermination she ended up un-alive in a cryo-chamber. He lived during the same 26th century time period as Bernice Summerfield, and met her a couple of times.
Tropes used in the comics
- See our Doctor Who Magazine page for tropes used in their specific comics.
Tropes used in Doctor Who Adventures
Two color, relatively high budgeted Doctor Who film adaptations, Dr. Who and the Daleks (based on the Season 1 Dalek debut story "The Daleks") and Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (based on the second Dalek story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" from Season 2) came out in the 1960s. The films, starring Peter Cushing, shortened and dumbed down the stories, meaning that they cut out much Padding, but simplified the themes, softened the characters and overall made things Lighter and Softer. The Doctor underwent Flanderization into a human Absent-Minded Professor literally called Dr. Who who had invented a time machine called TARDIS (no "the"). His grand-daughter Susan was de-aged to prepubescence and Barbara and Ian were changed from teachers to Doctor Who's grown-up elder grand-daughter and her incompetent Plucky Comic Relief boyfriend. The second film replaced Barbara and Ian with Doctor Who's niece Louise and Tom Campbell, a bumbling policeman who anticipated a couple of TV companions by stumbling into TARDIS thinking it was a real police box. Needless to say, they occur in a Alternate Continuity from the series. At least one official prose spin-off short story has been published featuring the movieverse characters. Bernard Cribbins, who played Campbell, later played Wilfred Mott in the TV series forty years later. Steven Moffat, current showrunner of the main series has cited the movie Daleks as inspiration for the Dalek design of series 5.
Tropes used in Doctor Who films
In the 1980s, Canadian company Nelvana planned to produce an animated Who series for American network CBS, which fell through. Early concept art for the series featured a Doctor who bore a striking resemblance to Egon Spengler, from The Real Ghostbusters.
About a decade after Doctor Who went off the air, BBCi started experimenting with the series, doing webcast dramas with animated elements - most notable of these is Death Comes to Time, set in an apparent Alternative Continuity. It ends with the Doctor (seemingly) Killed Off for Real, and might have paved the way for a series Revival (with another Time Lord now having assumed the place of the Doctor), but that didn't happen. They also did an adaptation of aborted TV story Shada, with the Eighth Doctor taking the place of the Fourth, and an original Sixth Doctor story, Real Time.
BBCi eventually did an full-on animated webcast for the fortieth anniversary in November 2003, Scream of the Shalka, which featured a Ninth Doctor played by Richard E. Grant. The TV series' return (announced two months earlier), however, meant the Shalka Doctor got overwritten in continuity. It also had a Cameo by a now somewhat well-known Who fan who basically insisted on having a part written just for him after hearing about the production from down the hall. Little did we know...
The series' return saw animated Who finally make the jump to TV in 2007, with The Infinite Quest, a 13-part serial featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha, broadcast as part of the BBC kids' series Totally Doctor Who. It was followed up in late 2009 with the CGI-animated serial Dreamland, featuring Ten solo with 'guest companions'. Initially, it was shown on digital and online, before appearing on BBC Two.
Tropes used in Doctor Who animation
- Back from the Dead: The Master, in Scream of the Shalka.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The giant aphids in The Infinite Quest.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The list of the Doctor's "outstanding convictions" in The Infinite Quest.
- Does Not Like Guns: The Richard E. Grant Doctor.
- Historical In-Joke: Several, in Scream of the Shalka.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: The Shalka, and their mind controlled humans, in Scream of the Shalka.
- Our Wormholes Are Different/Black Holes Suck: The billion-world Shalka Confederacy can turn an orange wormhole into a blue black hole with lightning storms at a moment's notice. The black hole also appears to have "settings".
- Psychic Nosebleed: The Shalka's sonic abilities.
- Technical Pacifist: Lampshaded by the Richard E. Grant Doctor, when he refuses guns, but then goes on to kill thousands.
During the 70s and 80s, in the days before video took off, the way to catch up on previous Doctor Who stories were the novelisations from Target Books, which retold (and frequently expanded on) the stories on TV.
Almost every story from the classic series got a novelisation, with the TV Movie's being done by BBC Books; the five that didn't get one (The Pirate Planet, City of Death, Shada, Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks) received fan novelisations courtesy of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club. Shada eventually received an official novelisation by BBC Books in 2012, written by Gareth Roberts. However, there've been no official novelisations of the new series' stories, and it looks unlikely there will be.
In the early 1990s, after Doctor Who had gone off the air, Virgin Publishing's New Adventures novels filled the gap. Choosing to aim for an audience of 25 and up fans and readers of Science Fiction (versus targeting a younger, less reverent demographic, as they also considered), they made both the Doctor and the tone of the Whoniverse more Grimdark. They also made the stories a bit harder on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness (the television series had gone in that direction anyway). The novels (more because of the creativity of the fans-turned-authors Running the Asylum than by Executive Meddling) riffed over each other's contributions. Future Show Runner Russell T. Davies contributed one of the novels, Damaged Goods. Other writers for the New Adventures would later write for the new series. The penultimate New Adventures novel (before it changed its format and concentrated on the Doctor's companion), Lungbarrow, by Marc Platt, also went into the Doctor's secret Backstory, hinted about onscreen.
The Missing Adventures, starring the first six Doctors, later appeared using the same format.
A series of short stories anthologies featured the Doctor and his companions, also published by Virgin was the Virgin Decalogs. Notably, Decalog 3: Consequences contained "Continuity Errors", later head writer's Steven Moffat's first contribution to the franchise.
Then the series, in effect, bifurcated. After Virgin lost their license following the TV Movie, the New Adventures evolved (by design and with the groundwork laid by writers and editors) into a Doctor-less Spin-Off series still set (nominally) in the Whoniverse starring ex-companion and Adventurer Archaeologist Bernice Summerfield (not owned by the BBC), with the odd Writing Around Trademarks and Lawyer-Friendly Cameo when needed. Under the auspices of Big Finish, the series still continues.
The Eighth Doctor Adventures continued on, this time published by the BBC. The authors really had a field day with the Eighth Doctor, who had only appeared in the Made for TV Movie. Since his run in the TV series was so short, nearly all of his adventures had to be shown in the Expanded Universe, in the novels, audio plays and comics. General consensus says that both book series took place in the same universe, though some writers disagreed. At any rate, the Eighth Doctor novels started off Lighter and Softer then before and then got Darker and Edgier again and engaged in heavy Story Arcs leading to (arguably) Continuity Lock Out and eventually Cosmic Retcon, which in turn led to... etc., etc.
The BBC also did their own Past Doctor Adventures range, featuring the first seven Doctors. They continued what Virgin did with short fiction in the Short Trips series, which was later published by Big Finish.
With the revival of Doctor Who, the books changed format completely. The New Series Adventures featured the current TV Doctor and aimed themselves towards a more general and kid-inclusive audience. The Past Doctor range was dropped in 2005, shortly after the debut of the new series, and will be revived with "Harvest of Time" in 2013, an 8-year release gap. These new books appear to be in continuity with the TV series, being referenced (in Boom Town and The End of Time Part One) in the TV show itself.
Spin-offs originating in the books
- Bernice Summerfield: 26th century (later 27th century) Adventurer Archaeologist (and, these days, single Action Mom to her half-human son) who had traveled with the Doctor in the New Adventures novels. She's from an Earth colony destroyed when the Daleks attacked it, killing her mother. Currently having adventures in audio and novel form; one of the expanded universe's most successful spin-offs.
- Faction Paradox: An Evil Counterpart (or more precisely, Chaotic Neutral counterpart) of the Time Lords who use Temporal Paradoxes as a weapon. Introduced in the Eighth Doctor Adventures published by the BBC, they spun off into their own series of novels, comics books and audios in which various Diabolical Mastermind types square off against each other. This sub-universe seemed to have died, though is now putting out books and audio adventures again after a change of publisher. More adult Speculative Fiction, this sub-universe engages in Black and Gray Morality, Evil Versus Evil and Mind Screw at regular intervals. Also much cheeky use of mainstream Whoniverse continuity.
- Iris Wildthyme: Rogue Time Lady, voiced by Katy Manning in the audios (she played the Third Doctor's companion Jo Grant in the classic series), whose TARDIS looks like a red double-decker London bus, smaller on the inside. She actually originated outside the Whoniverse in a few Magical Realist novels by Paul Magrs and got transplanted into it.
- Time Hunter. The adventures of two time-travelling private eyes, first introduced in a Telos novella.
Tropes used in Doctor Who books
- See our Doctor Who Novelisations, Virgin New Adventures, Virgin Missing Adventures, Eighth Doctor Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures pages for tropes used in those ranges.
- Alternative Number System: It's never mentioned in the books themselves, or the series, but the "Gallifreyan numerals" used on the spines and chapter headings of the New Series Adventures are in base 7.
- Cargo Cult: In the Eleventh Doctor novel Night of the Humans, the Doctor and Amy Pond find themselves on a giant space junkyard in the year 250,339. They find a primitive group of humans living in the shadow of the Tower of Gobo, the hulk of a spaceship of the Gobo Corporation (or Gobocorp) that crashed there thousands of years ago. The humans are the descendants of the surviving crewmembers, having regressed into savagery. They worship Gobo, the clown mascot of Gobocorp proudly painted on the side of the ship, as their deity, believing him to have created them on Earth (yes, they believe they're on Earth) and who will eventually take them away to the mythical land of El Paso.
Doctor Who started venturing into original audio stories back in the 1970s, with Doctor Who and the Pescatons, a Fourth Doctor story on vinyl LP. The 80s saw Sixth Doctor story Slipback on Radio 4, while the 90s saw two new Third Doctor stories, The Paradise of Death (for Radio 5) and The Ghosts of N-Space (for Radio 2).
In 1995, Big Finish started a series of audio plays based on New Adventures star Bernice Summerfield. In 1999, they got the license to produce new audio Who stories which continue to the present, involving Doctors Five through Eight. The Fourth Doctor joined the lineup come 2012. They also do a Lost Stories series, adapting unmade stories from the original TV series. Big Finish can't legally use elements from or mention events in the new series because of BBC Audio (see below), though the occasional sneaky reference snuck its way through.
BBC Audio, meanwhile, have been doing original audio books featuring the current TV Doctor, and recruited Fourth Doctor Tom Baker to do several series of audio plays for them.
- Sarah Jane Smith: Yes, another spinoff with everyone's favourite intrepid journalist, though Darker and Edgier than the others. Two series of audio adventures, set well between K9 & Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
- Dalek Empire: Four audio play miniseries revolving around the Daleks' invasion of our galaxy (after events in the main audio series gave them their own to play with). Without the Doctor around to handle things, the series sits comfortably on the cynical side of things. Also features appearances from a certain poofy-haired Scottish bloke and Mickey Smith's badass cousin.
- I Davros: A Start of Darkness story for Davros.
- U.N.I.T.: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Cyberman: Two audio play miniseries (again spun off from a story in the main line) involving a Xanatos Gambit aimed at, what else, taking over the galaxy.
- Gallifrey: Four series of political intrigue on Gallifrey, the Doctor's homeworld, with more on the way. Stars Lalla Ward as Romana II (now Lady President Romana), Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as the two K-9s.
- Doctor Who Unbound: A short series of Elseworlds and What If stories starring actors who hadn't played the Doctor before. (Except for Michael Jayston as the Future Me Scares Me future alternative Doctor, who had originated on television in "The Trial of a Time Lord" story arc.)
- The Companion Chronicles: Former companions and friends recount unseen adventures with the Doctor.
- Jago And Litefoot: The further adventures of Those Two Guys from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang".
- Kaldor City: Stories set in the culture seen in the Fourth Doctor serial "The Robots of Death". Either an Intercontinuity Crossover or proof that Doctor Who and Blake's 7 take place in the same universe. An earlier Past Doctor Adventures novel, Corpse Marker, by former Who writer and Blake's Seven script editor Chris Boucher had already crossed this over. In fact, these act as loose sequels to that novel. These have more grounding in the Whoniverse than the B7 universe, though, and featured the surprise return of an old baddy.
Tropes used in Doctor Who audio plays
- See our Big Finish Doctor Who page for tropes specific to that range.
The Whoniverse has also appeared in many other formats.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
- The Curse Of The Daleks. A stage play serving as an Interquel between the first Dalek story, "The Daleks", and their second, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". (The earlier The Dalek Chronicles comics had done the same.) It did not feature the Doctor or any of his companions.
- Doctor Who And The Daleks In The Seven Keys To Doomsday, a stage play with a long title, a fake Doctor (the real Fourth Doctor had yet to appear on television) and also Daleks. And, as you would expect, the Seven Keys to Doomsday.
- Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, a musical! With singing! And Daleks and Cybermen teaming up! And real Doctors! (Though not in the same production.) And Margaret Thatcher! (Or at least an actress playing her.) It came out in the 1980s. The Daleks and Cybermen did not team up with Margaret Thatcher. Even Evil Has Standards.
- After the cancellation of the original Doctor Who series, a number of semi-pro direct-to-video licensed videos like Wartime, Downtime and Shakedown: The Return of the Sontarans, among others, came out. Some even starred actors from the series. Shakedown was also integrated into the New Adventures continuity (and Downtime into the Missing Adventures). Note that these didn't feature the Doctor—they only had the rights to the monsters and companions.
- In the 1980s, FASA released a Tabletop RPG (imaginatively called The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game), marred by poor research, which unintentionally generated Fanon. FASA put out several supplements, along with two choose-your-own-adventure books. Virgin Publishing (the publishers of the New and Missing Adventures lines of novels) did a second RPG in the 90s, called Time Lord. A third game from Cubicle 7, Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, came out in winter 2009.
- The Make Your Own Adventure With Doctor Who series (Find Your Fate in the US), six choose-your-own-adventure books with the Sixth Doctor released in the 1980s by Severn House (UK)/Ballantine (US). BBC Books did their own choose-your-own-adventure books for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors with the Decide Your Destiny books.
- Computer games of varying genres:
- Doctor Who And The Mines Of Terror (a platformer)
- Dalek Attack (another platformer, featuring an Out of Character Seventh Doctor shooting and blowing things up with his sonic screwdriver and grenades)
- Destiny Of The Doctors (in which you play a jellyish-esque creature who must rescue the first seven Doctors from the Master)
- A Tenth Doctor Top Trumps game
- All the minigames on the BBC's Who website.
- The Adventure Games, which are a set of episodic adventure games with the Eleventh Doctor, headed by Charles Cecil and developed by Sumo Digital. Said to be part of series 5 and 6, four were released in mid-to-late 2010 and one was released in late 2011.
- Doctor Who: Worlds in Time, an MMO in which time is breaking apart (again), and the Doctor is recruiting a vast network of assistants to help find and repair damaged patches of time, and defeat the alien menaces that plan to use the situation for their own benefit. Each assistant gets their own sonic screwdriver.
Tropes used in other Doctor Who Expanded Universe media
- Exposition Fairy: Amy falls into this role for much of City of the Daleks.
- Continuity Nod: In City Of The Daleks, the Doctor mentions meeting yetis, dinosaurs and giant rats in the London Underground.
- Cursed with Awesome: Due to the destruction of the human race in 1963 in City of the Daleks, Amy is slowly fading from existence. While this is certainly a bad thing, it also affords her occasional invisiblity, which can come in quite handy during stealth sequences.
- Gotta Catch Em All: The Adventure Games features a card collecting sidequest, in which you find and collect various cards featuring the Doctor's allies, his enemies, incarnations of the Doctor himself, and different flavours of Jellybabies.
- If you noticed that three of the five are Douglas Adams stories, you're right. Adams wouldn't allow others to novelise his scripts, and--notorious procrastinator that he was--never did them himself. (Also, with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy having taken off in the meantime, Target Books was no longer able to afford the advances he commanded.)