Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityExtra1stNAIt’s a book Extra! Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Tansy as they discuss the very first Virgin New Adventures novel, Timewyrm: Genesys. It was the first time through for half of us, the other half of the Verities were revisiting it. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and may have a seriously high “ick factor”, we’re all pleased with the existence of the whole novel range. And we spend a good amount of time chatting about that as well.

Are you a fan of the NAs? Have you revisited them and discovered issues you didn’t see the first time through? Or did you never get into them in the first place? Let us know in the comments! We’re intensely curious about this!


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Comments on: "(Not) Fake Fanbooking" (27)

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek and commented:

    New Verity! About the very first New Adventures novel…

  2. Yeah, the first few of the New Adventurers are a bit too “WE ALL ADULT!!!”, much like the first series of Torchwood.(especially the first 2) They get much better after Paul Cornell’s book showed the other authors what they could do. I don’t remember the hit/loss ratio getting over 50% until book 8 or so.
    Outside of that, part of the love comes from the fact that this was the only Doctor Who that we had. Oh and I would highly recommend reading So Vile A Sin (the last book actually released) it is by Ben Aaronovitch and Kate Orman.

  3. Neil Ottenstein said:

    I never got into them in the first place. Love and War may be the only one I have read. I have enjoyed the Big Finish adaptations so far.

    • The Big Finish adaptations are fantastic – they spurred on my enthusiasm to track down the NAs I’ve always wanted to read, so now there’s a short stack on top of my already-massive to read shelf.

  4. Yeah, Timewyrm: Genesys seems to be widely agreed upon as not being that great. Poparena made a video which goes in-depth as to why that might be so. On the whole, I’m glad the range exists. Always nice to hear someone talk about a medium not often discussed when it comes to Doctor Who podcasts. 🙂

  5. I’m one of the “male fans of a certain age” and definitely identify this period, along with the 7th Doctor era, as my Who. It’s been a long time since I’ve read most of the books and I’m curious to go back and re-read with a more critical eye. There were definitely some problematic things that came up in the attempt to be edgy, or were just outright questionable choices.

    Tansy nailed so many of the things that were going through my head throughout this podcast. Genesis is definitely not representative of the whole line! Meanwhile, Kate Orman’s books are some of the best Who presented in any medium. I started with her book The Left-Handed Hummingbird when it was released and then circled back to other books throughout the series. She was one of the few writers who could make the space mercenary Ace character work. It was genuinely moving to see how Ace was written out in Set Piece.

    A few things I might recommend to someone curious about starting the books:
    1) Try the Alternate Universe series starting with Blood Heat and running through No Future. It plays into familiar elements from the series and for the most part stays away from the stuff that was called out as troublesome in Timewyrm: Genesis. Paul Cornell’s No Future has the absolute best bad joke in the history of Who.
    2) Try Human Nature by Paul Cornell. It’s the novel that originated the two part story adapted for new Who season 3. This is a lovely book about what it means to be the Doctor and the effects of war.
    3) Try the Missing Adventures! Most of the books were more true to their TV eras and shied away from the adult stuff in the New Adventures. Maybe avoid The Man in the Velvet Mask though. It’s one of those beautifully written pieces of prose that gets really icky

    • Yeah I think Erika in particular would enjoy the Missing Adventures. I still have a few favourites of these saved on my shelf – I got especially excited by Ben and Polly stories! And Gareth Roberts was wonderful in how he captured the Fourth Doctor and Second Romana dynamic – which of course is why he was brought in to novelise Shada decades later.

      • “The Murder Game” was my introduction to Ben & Polly in fiction. It made me want to track down anything that existed of their adventures.

        I’m midway through Gareth Roberts’ “The Well-Mannered War” at the moment and it’s magical. He was born to write that team. Next in queue is The Empire of Glass.

  6. keith say said:

    i think at the time we knew that allot of the NA’s were a bit dodgy but there was nothing else to feed the Who hunger! it did get a bit frustration that books sold under the Dr Who banner would hardly ever feature Dr Who! i really got into them when Cwej was introduced, as a gay man it was nice to have a fit guy in the TARDIS!

  7. I am a female fan of the New Adventures, and to a lesser extent the BBC 8th Doctor Adventures. I was in college when the NAs started, and still nascent in my feminism, but I definitely remember beeing skeeved out by Timewyrn: Genesys. If Exodus hadn’t been so entertaining, and Revelation so groundbreaking, I probably would not have continued with the series. As it was, I read the NAs religiously, and the 8DAs in a more haphazard fashion, concentrating like Tansy on the authors I had a good track record with.

    I would encourage you all to read the whole 4-book series. Paul Cornell’s Timewyrm: Revelation is in many ways still my favorite thing he has written for Doctor Who (tied closely with Human Nature, the book).

    I will add that the 7th Doctor is my least favorite from the classic series, and I particularly disliked his manipulative nature. This ebbs and flows throughout the NAs, and I feel that some authors (especially Cornell) tried to course-correct a bit, only to have the next author ramp it back up. Despite any dissatisfaction I felt, I remained loyal to the books because they were all we had. I never got on board with Big Finish due to several factors, one being that I was more interested in the continuing story and not past Doctors, another being that they were too expensive for me at the time. The books remained a cheap fix and I was invested in them until the end.

    • If anything I’m most skeeved out by how UNSKEEVED I was when reading these books when I was 13. The same is true for other works I read and enjoyed then. Oh, 90’s you were so problematic, and I was SO unquestioning.

      I’m working on making sure that my daughters have a better sense for what is creepy/inappropriate/manipulative male behaviour. At the moment we’re watching How I Met Your Mother which comes with a lot of “you know THAT’s really not an OK attitude, right?” and she’s all “Duh, Mum.” So much smarter and more cynical than me, it’s a great relief!

      • I can’t help but provide editorial commentary with my girls (and stepsons), too!

        I was about the same age and stage of feminist progress as Felicity when I read the NA; I only got through a few of them, arguing all the way with my best DW friend about the skeeviness (and whether his potential future wife would want to work outside the home. Anyway.) I like the MA a lot more, when I got hold of some of those, but I didn’t really hunt them down, I stuck mainly to the Target novelisations and what videos I could get hold of. I had some nasty encounters with male fans of a certain age at DWAS events, and gave up, in the end on seeking out other fans. It’s been so strange to hear voiced so many of the thoughts I had about DW and fandom over those years. Great, too, of course!

  8. Many thanks for this. When the show was cancelled I went on to other things, even though I’d read the Target novelisations of the older stuff exhaustively; I hadn’t been terribly impressed with the last few years of the show, and this was a potential new expense. I suppose that makes me Not a True Fan: I was pre-disposed to dislike them, and when the first one was clearly going ADULT that just put me off more.

    I think Flanders and Swann said all that needed to be said about gratuitous smut in order to be “adult” (in their song P** P* B**** B** D******).

    I did give some thought to getting hold of the New Adventures when I did my re-watch of the original series, but I looked at the number of books and the number of interleaving series (and should one include Big Finish as well?) and gave up.

  9. Dorothy McShane (not really) said:

    I was a female fan of the NAs, because they were my DW fix during the Wilderness Years, they were books (possibly silly reason, but hey, books!), they had the Seventh Doctor and Ace (a Team TARDIS that I loved despite fandom telling me I shouldn’t)… they maybe wouldn’t appeal to me as much now, although I think that some, such as Left-Handed Hummingbird, still would.

    I was never able to get into the Eighth Doctor books; I hated the 1996 McGann Movie (despite McGann himself), hated the sound of Sam Jones (who probably was Rose before Rose existed), most of DW fandom by that point, and… just no, still can’t get myself to read them.

    Sigh. I notice that Erika doesn’t like lots of Hartnell, doesn’t like Pertwee, doesn’t like McCoy, dramatically proclaimed that “Face the Raven” made her “shake with rage” and almost never watch DW again, and every time she says this sort of thing, I wonder what she does like and how she married a guy who seems to be a weirdly relaxed, accepting fan who likes most DW eras. I’m just over the “special, delicate flower” aspect of fandom.

    • That last paragraph is appallingly rude. For shame.

      • Yeah, what Liz said. When we mention our personal lives (as they relate to our Doctor Who consumption) on the podcast, it’s an expression of trust in our listeners, and comments like this are very unwelcome.

  10. My only NA I’ve read I think is Khursal (sp?) which had werewolves in it. I think i was mildly shocked at the time but lined it. It was recommended by a friend with a complete book collection. I’ve read more EDA, but mostly just the Faction Paradox stuff. Although i will now have to read Lungbarrow as well, having just listened to the book club podcast on it from your recommendation.

  11. Have to agree on all counts. To me, Peel’s insistence on noting female nudity was very creepy. I also didn’t like his characterization of Ace. To me, it felt like early Season 25 Ace with way more complaining than I could ever expect from her.

  12. Dangfish said:

    I was very excited when I realized you were finally devoting an entire show to one of the novel ranges! Unfortunately, my excitement did not last. I fear that listeners unfamiliar with the new adventures series will come away from your podcast with the impression that the books are sexist drivel and not worth bothering with. It is a shame that you chose to focus on the one book in the entire 61 book series that arguably IS sexist drivel! Timewyrm:Genesys is certainly not representative of the majority of the books in this fine series.

    • This is the trouble with starting with that one, and we’re well aware of the issue – but this is our year of Firsts so it fit the theme to start with that one! I’m hoping to reread and talk about some of the other books over the year, so we get a bit more balance… and maybe find one to recommend to Erika or Deb that I genuinely think they will like!

      • I think one of the great things about the discussions you’ve been having about the diverse media available is that you’ve suggested different starting points for different perspectives. “If you like X, try Y, but if not, then how about Z” is fantastically helpful. It’s useful that each of you has different favourite media. 🙂

  13. Francis said:

    I was another listener who was REALLY EXCITED when I realised you would be talking about the New Adventures, and then REALLY MORTIFIED when I realised which book you would naturally, as a part of the year of firsts, be reading…..(much as I hoped you might cheat a little in this context, and maybe read the first actually good New Adventure, or the first New Adventure written by friend-of-the-show-Paul-Cornell, or anything other than Genesys really).

    For that reason, it was great to have Tansy be the Voice of Context when discussing the awfulness of Genesys, to point out that while it represented some of the worst impulses of the range (especially in the early days), it wasn’t representative of the series as a whole, and certainly not the best it had to offer.

    Loved listening to the episode though, especially once it branched out to consider NAs not written by John Peel…….and there were two particular thoughts that were sparked by your conversation.

    The first was that the awful “we’re writing adult stories now, so the women aren’t wearing tops and agency is for dudes” approach that permeates Genesys and crops up again (although to a lesser degree in most instances) in other early books was, to the best of my memory, pretty much gone after the first year or two of the NAs, at which point the books entered one of the more progressive eras of the show (so much so that Lawrence Miles loved to harp on about the supposedly woolly-liberal-thinking of the NAs as compared to the hard-nosed realism of his own (also very good) books), including in their approach to gender and sexuality. And while, as (I think) Liz pointed out, a lot of that progress in the later books had to do with the fact that they had introduced the wonderful Bernice to serve as the principal companion for most of the run, and the arrival of the great Kate Orman, I think the most significant factor was probably that midway through the range Peter Darrell-Evans (who, if Deceit is anything to go by, had a bit of a blindspot when it came to such gender issues) stepped down as the editor and handed the reigns over to Rebecca Levine, who was in charge for the last 3-4 years before the license got snatched back by the BBC. And, as I listened to the episode, I suddenly thought – hang about, wasn’t she actually the first woman show-runner since Verity Lambert? I kind of think she was! And, to my mind, with the latter half of the NAs she presided over one of the greatest runs of Doctor Who stories out there. So, all hail Rebecca, the heir to Verity’s throne (I am aware that this might be a slightly controversial statement, even to those who like the NAs)!

    The second thought, which came when the crew mentioned the end of the very last NA – Bernice jumping McGann – was that that moment actually served as a great counterpoint to the crassness that Genesys started the NAs off with. What better representation of how much the series transformed itself from its dire beginnings than that, having started with a male author blatantly ogling a naked Ace, it ends with (it can be implied) great sex, initiated by a woman, with the Doctor?

    All in all – great episode, especially for how it dusted off the memory of so many beloved books. Shame about the one that you had to actually read – but I really do hope you do some more of the books on the podcast in the future (some of the better ones, hopefully!).

  14. I was a huge fan of this book range (and the Missing Aventure books). Granted I have not re-read them in a decade or more, so who knows how well they would hold up now. Here is some perspectives from someone (male) who was in their mid teens when these books started coming out.

    First, as many say above, in the 90 (and in the States at least) in terms of new Doctor Who content, this was it. Even the video range had barely taken off yet, so for a lot of us all we had were tapes of the show from PBS or the Target novels. Except for the last few 7th Doctor novels, most of the Target Books are written for fairly young readers (which doesn’t imply readers of any age can’t enjoy them). So with the NA books you definitely got a series that could appeal to a larger audience in both that it was new stories and not for kids. This was especially appealing to someone of my age, not so much the addition of sexual themes, but more complex stories then the “monster of the week” wanting to take over the Earth. Also, things happened to characters and there were consequences that stretch through the series, with little reset occurring between the end of one book and the start of the next. This was a major aspect in growing the story of Doctor Who up. Maybe the reason it was decided to make the series more grown up was that the “family friendly” tv show had just recently failed?

    In any rate, I read through all the NA and MA books. I wouldn’t claim they are high prose, they probably fall into either a good, bad, and ugly categories. I do remember getting lost by the continuity of the range in the later books. There are definitely some I would like to revisit and many I have forgotten all about (probably luckily). I would recommend the rest of the Timewyrm series to get to Revalation, that’s worth a read.

    Final note, maybe read these books the same way as people treat the “dodgy” special effects of the classic series. Acknowledge the shake bits but don’t let it ruin the story

  15. Terrence Keenan said:

    Another great podcast. The New Adventures (and some of the EDAs) attempted to be adult in a very 90s way, by including sex and swearing, instead of actual adult themes and concepts.
    There’s more misses than hits in both book lines. However, the good novels still hold up.
    I’m appreciative of all your viewpoints, especially when they make me think about preconceived notions (though I’m not a fan of Kate Orman & her novels – sorry Tansy). It’s one of the many reasons why I’ve been a Verity fan since day one.

    Terrence Keenan.

    PS: my favorite novels are from Lawrence Miles, who really did interesting things with the mythos and characters.

  16. Spindlemere said:

    I really enjoyed this podcast – thank you for cheering me up after a really cruddy week.

    I have mixed feelings about the NAs. There were some excellent ones (I have fond memories of Nightshade, The Highest Science, Conundrum and Theatre of War) and the completist in me still feels guilty for abandoning them halfway through, but too many of them just didn’t feel like Doctor Who at all.

    As for Timewyrm: Genesys, the 1990s for me was spent on a spectrum that began with “Wow, a Doctor Who book that’s longer than 128/144 pages! This is the best thing ever!” and ended with “I have a nagging but persistent feeling that this may just actually be really rather bad…”

  17. Thanks to all of you for taking the plunge and covering the books, although I’m sorry that it had to be this (highly problematic and unpresentative) one.

    I was unable to afford the books at the time they were coming out and was only barely aware of them, although I was still picking up the Target novelisations. After reading library copies of the first seven books, I didn’t get back to them until 2000, the year when Australia’s UKTV channel began showing all of the episodes from the start, in order, on a nightly basis. I used this as an excuse to begin tracking down as many of the books as I could and inserting them into the viewing order. As a consequence I ended up reading all of the Missing Adventures (Virgin) and all available Past Doctor Adventures (BBC) before I read most of the original New Adventures series. (I started reading the Eighth Doctor Adventures with the beginning of the amnesia arc, which seemed an appropriate jump-on point, only catching up on the earlier ones after finishing the New Adventures.)

    Because of this idiosyncratic reading order, I was jumping all over the place in terms of the authors’ artistic development, frequently reading some of the awkward earlier works after their more polished later works. While there was a high variation in level of quality, I still strongly believe that there were many more successes than failures, and some of them still rank among my favourite Doctor Who works. Although I never bought into the “rad vs trad” argument about the books, or the need to take sides between books and audios, I generally found them to be a more satisfying experience than Big Finish’s output (which I do still enjoy!), simply because of the different things that books and audio dramas are able to do.

    In the spirit of Verity, it’s worth noting the female contributors to the range:

    Virgin brought us novels by Kate Orman (one of the best authors of the range) and Rebecca Levene (whose tenure as an editor was also a significant influence on the level of quality in the line).

    BBC Books brought us more novels by Kate Orman (yay!) along with Natalie Dallaire, Jacqueline Rayner (better known for her Big Finish work), Lloyd Rose (another favourite), Kelly Hale (who also wrote an award-winning feminist Holmes novel) and Mags L. Halliday (also great).

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