The Virgin New Adventures were a series of Doctor Who books that began in 1991 and ran until 1997. Written by virgins, for virgins, as the name suggests. They were started by a British writer called Peter Darvill-Evans and published by Virgin Books.
Known for darker, mature (and occasionally violent and/or sexual) content including drug use, explicit language and looms.
The first four books form a quadrilogy dealing with the Timewyrm and the next three books form a trilogy called Cat's Cradle. From there they spiral off in all sorts of directions, introducing Benny along the way.
Though they used some established Target authors like Terrance Dicks and John Peel and even got some then-current writers from the show like Marc Platt, Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch, the VNAs are best known for publishing future NuWho-ruiners like Russell T. Davies, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts and Paul Cornell (in some cases for the first time).
Reading Guide Edit
Books 1 to 4: Timewyrm. Skip the first book. It's shit, and you'll be worse off for reading it. If you don't have time to read them all, at least go for Revelation. Genuinely GOAT book, even compared to books outside of Doctor Who.
Books 5 to 7: Cartmel and Platt come back to write the Cat's Cradle arc, except it's not really an arc but just three books with the same name. And Cartmel's book is part of another trilogy anyway.
Books 8 to 9: Nightshade's okay I guess, but Love and War is where the VNAs become more than just tie-in books to a dumb British show.
Books 10 to 12: Tryouts, where a handful of authors try to pitch their new companion in case Benny didn't work out. From Lethbridge-Stewart's black descendant, to turtles, to William Blake. They all failed, so...
Books 13 to 17: Ace is now an edgy mercenary who hates the Doctor. None of the books here are well-remembered or anything, but they're okay for a read.
Book 18: Something about Cybermen. So out of place that most of the main cast don't show up. Eh.
Books 19 to 23: Alternate Universe arc. Ace slowly learns to like the Doctor again. Almost all of the books in this selection are must reads.
Books 24 to 35: The Doctor and his companions now feel like a family again. But then a member of the Doctor's literal family shows up, and non-Cabbagepatch Sherlock pops in. Ace's character arc doesn't really progress in most of these, but it all pays off in Set Piece.
Books 36 to 38: Just Doctor and Benny again. First two books are skippable, but Human Nature introduces Wolsey, so you have to read that one, even if you already watched the Tennant version. Especially if you watched the Tennant version, because it'll be fun to detect all the differences between the two.
Books 39 to 49: Timecops Edition. The TARDIS gets to have too many people on occasion. But it's still cool. Just War and The Also People must read. And be sure to read Cold Fusion from the Missing Adventures since it takes place around this period.
Books 50 to 55: The default book cover is changed because this is when the VNAs get really VNA dark, and when they start upping the continuity wank. You'll need to watch all of Classic Who several times over to get the plots to the VNAs from this point on. And this is where RTD writes his first Who story, so read that to see how much of it passes onto NuWho.
Books 56 to 60: Okay, they get too VNA dark. So much that the Doctor Who logo is removed from the cover design. Characters from the books and the show get killed off, in often undignified ends. The Doctor seems more distant even compared to all the stories before, as if he knows he'll become Eight soon. You can tell many of the writers were angry that the McGann movie sucked, and are channeling that rage into their prose. Still GOAT though, even if Eternity Weeps is hit-or-miss. Sucks that Lungbarrow costs a fortune to physically own, and Big Finish will probably never adapt it.
Book 61: The epilogue to the VNAs as well as a pilot to the Benny books. Much more grounded compared to the last books, but it's still interesting because of Parkin.
And so on: Virgin loses the rights to the Doctor, so Benny Summerfield now takes the helm. Because they had to compete with the EDAs, the Benny series always felt like it was lacking a purpose or a main allure now that they were no longer the official source for the Doctor's latest adventures. Oh well, this run is still worth looking in to for Walking to Babylon and Dead Romance.
I Don't Want to Go!: Then when the BBC made the Past Doctor Adventures, Seven was of course featured. Some of the writers tried to pretend the VNAs never happened, some didn't and freely made references to all types of Virgin shenanigans. Algebra of Ice is the closest to feeling like a VNA though.
We go on and on and on and on and on...: And then Big Finish got their hands on Seven, where once in a blue moon, they would release an audio that took place during the New Adventures period. Most of them aren't really that good though, and make you wish they'd just do more Hex stories instead. But at least the Novel Adaptations are good.
Why they died Edit
BBC took back the publishing licence after the TV Movie hype made them realise there was profit to be had. Gatiss described this as an "absolute scandal." The Beeb then continued doing
pretty much exactly the same thing Virgin had been doing.
At the time Virgin had been releasing one New Adventure and one Missing Adventure a month - the New Adventures featuring the current Doctor (Seven) and the Missing Adventures featuring all the past Doctors. After the Beeb jewed the licence back BBC Books started releasing one Eighth Doctor Adventure and one Past Doctor Adventure a month - the EDA featuring the current Doctor (Eight) and the PDAs featuring all the past Doctors.
Real original Beeb. They even nicked a bunch of the same authors too. But I suppose, if it ain't broke...
Some GOAT stories, some shit ones. Same ol' Doctor Who.
They're VNA level dark.
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BBV • Big Finish Productions • Comics • Death Comes to Time • Dimensions in Time • Doctor Who Magazine • Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords • Lost in the Dark Dimension • Reeltime Pictures • Scream of the Shalka • Shalka Doctor • TV Movie • The Curse of Fatal Death • The Stranger • Virgin New Adventures