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Literature / Doctor Who New Adventures

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"Full-length science fiction novels, stories too broad and too deep for the small screen."

After the BBC ended production of Doctor Who in 1989, the editor in charge of the Doctor Who Novelisations, Peter Darvill-Evans, realised he had access to loads of enthusiastic writers but was running out of serials to novelise, so he had the clever idea to ask for a licence to write new, original novels about the Doctor. Running from 1991 to 1997, this series of 61 novels focused on the continuing adventures of the manipulative Seventh Doctor and his companions. The series was released by Virgin Books and was given the umbrella title of "The New Adventures".

The Seventh Doctor initially travelled only with Ace, his companion at the time of the show's cancellation. They were soon joined by Bernice Summerfield, Adventurer Archaeologist, a more stable and experienced character compared to Ace, who allowed for greater Character Development. Other new companions included Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej, police detectives from the 30th century. Bernice (or Benny for short) became a Breakout Character and eventually got more spinoffs than can be sensibly listed, the most well-known of which is her own ongoing Big Finish audio series.

The ability to tell a story in 300 pages with an effectively unlimited "special effects budget" allowed the writers to provide deeper, more thought out stories along with more than a few story arcs, both universal and character-based. The novels were deliberately aimed at adult readers, rather than the family-friendly aim of the TV series, and did not shy away from depicting sex and violence. The stories expanded upon the Seventh Doctor's penchant for playing people-chess with both enemies and friends, and gave it realistic consequences.

From 1994 onwards, the New Adventures were accompanied by a sister range of novels entitled "The Missing Adventures", which adopted similar principles to the New Adventures: longer, usually Darker and Edgier novels aimed at more adult audiences. This series included Doctors One to Six, with each monthly novel starring a different Doctor and companion(s). The first of these, Goth Opera, was a direct sequel/prequel (let's just say "timey-wimey" and leave it at that, yeah?) to Blood Harvest, a New Adventure published the same month. One of the later ones actually featured the Seventh Doctor and his companions appearing (both of these novels, curiously enough, starred the Fifth Doctor), but they were for the most part stand-alone, although certain characters and concepts naturally mixed together.

In 1997, the success of the TV movie in the UK resulted in the BBC taking their licence for original Doctor Who fiction in-house, meaning the end of New Adventures starring the Doctor. BBC books began the Eighth Doctor Adventures, which took the principles started here and just went ballistic applying them to the relatively blank slate that was the Eighth Doctor. However, the New Adventures continued as novels starring Bernice Summerfield until the end of 1999.

Several early Big Finish Doctor Who episodes, sometimes marked "Side Step", take place in the New Adventures continuity. In 2012, they began adapting pre-existing novels (from this and the Doctor Who Missing Adventures) to audio too, beginning with Paul Cornell's "Love And War". Then, in 2018, they brought the whole series full circle by announcing new New Adventures, bringing back Yasmin Bannerman and Travis Oliver as Roz and Chris to write new and original stories set in the NA era.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of the New Adventures. They were the only period in the series' history when a spinoff medium was considered the "real" Doctor Whonote , and brought in a whole generation of creative figures that are still around today. When the TV series was revived, it took plenty of cues from the New Adventures. Russell T Davies recruited several notable New Adventures writers that also had television-writing experience - in fact, every writer in the first series was also a Virgin veteran (with the exception of Robert Shearman, who was a playwright and Big Finish writer). One story in particular, Human Nature, was adapted for television by writer Paul Cornell (becoming the only pre-existing story to ever be directly adapted for television).

Character-specific tropes are here (for the Doctor), here (for Ace), here (for Benny) and here (for Roz and Chris).

Recap page is here, but it needs a lot of filling in.

This series provides examples of

  • Adaptation Expansion: Shakedown, by Terrance Dicks, is an expanded adaptation of the licensed direct-to-video film of the same name, also written by Terrance Dicks, and featuring the Sontarans and Rutans. The video isn't long enough for a novel (and doesn't have the Doctor or his companions in it, as the aliens were licensed directly from Robert Holmes' estate), so the novel is in three sections: an adventure with the Doctor and his companions that sets up the events of the video; the novelisation of the video; another adventure with the Doctor, his companions, and the characters from the video that ties everything up. One consequence of this structure is that the first section changes the context of some of the events, and something that seemed like a happy ending in the video isn't in the novel (but it gets sorted out in the third section, so that's okay).
  • Aesop Amnesia: It seems like there's a few times over the course of the books where the Doctor learns that he has to stop treating his companions like pawns and resolves to mend his ways — only to start treating his companions like pawns again, usually in the very next book.
  • All Theories Are True: Pseudoscience ideas like 90% of Your Brain and Pineal Weirdness are used as plot hooks in several of the novels.
  • AM/FM Characterization: Ace is a fan of Happy Mondays and has a poster in her room. In Happy Endings, the Doctor remarks that he could hear The Stone Roses or "World in Motion" by John Barnes every time he passed the room.
  • Amusingly Awful Aim: Future police officer Roz Forrester's inability to hit the proverbial side of a barn is mentioned in multiple novels.
  • And I Must Scream: The Room With No Doors has multiple examples:
    • The "room with no doors" of the title refers to a mental cell where the Doctor fears his seventh incarnation's personality will be imprisoned once he regenerates into the Eighth Doctor. The New Adventures novels postulated that the Doctor's previous selves continue to exist and be aware in his own subconscious, able to interact with each other and observe the current incarnation's activities; the Seventh Doctor's mind had imprisoned the Sixth Doctor's personality for fear of it becoming too unstable and corrupting him, but faced that fate himself for nevertheless becoming dark, manipulative, and serving the greater good at the expense of his friends and innocent lives.
    • The macguffin of the novel turns out to be an lost cryogenic suspension pod containing a telekinetic alien. His abilities are unusual even amongst his own species, and freezing him for his own protection has unwittingly accelerated his mental processing to over 4,000 times normal as his brain became superconducting, which also hugely amplifies his abilities. The Doctor's recurring nightmare of the room with no doors is actually an echo of the alien's experience of being trapped in the pod.
    • The Doctor himself is at one point buried alive by people who believe him to be dead. When he regains consciousness he directly invokes this trope by realising where he is and trying to give "one little tiny scream... but I can't open my mouth".
  • And This Is for.../Arson Murder And Life Saving: In Infinite Requiem, when one of the characters realizes the full extent of the Doctor's manipulative plan, she knocks him to the ground, saying "This is for using me!" Then she kisses him, saying "And this is for saving our lives."
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Some of the Eternals (beings considered Sufficiently Advanced even by Time Lord standards) have taken the role of Anthropomorphic Personifications. The main ones seen in the books are Time, Pain and Death; the Doctor is Time's Champion.
  • Arcadia: Deceit mentions a human colony named Arcadia which was designed to embody the trope.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: The Library of St John the Beheaded, which collects books containing information for which The World Is Not Ready. In future-set stories, it has been succeeded by the Braxiatel Collection, which collects artefacts from many worlds for which the galaxy is not ready.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Joel in the Return of the Living Dad and The Room With No Doors, both by Kate Orman, is a sci fi geek and fan of Professor X (the Show Within a Show with suspicious similarities to Doctor Who) who travelled back in time and found himself helping at a halfway house for stranded aliens and the like.
  • Author Powers: Conundrum features a return to the Land of Fiction, where the Master of the Land has Author Powers over everything that occurs.
  • Back for the Dead: Eternity Weeps, which can't make up its mind whether it's a homage to the Third Doctor era or a ruthless deconstruction, brings Liz Shaw back just so it can kill her off horribly.
  • Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: While the TV show's implications about Ace's sexuality are... confused (if you're very generous, the intent is that she's bi; it's probably more accurate to say her preferences were entirely Depending on the Writer), the lesbian subtext is rather spectacularly contradicted in the books.
  • BBC Quarry: Lampshaded in Return of the Living Dad, where the Doctor comments that Earth is special because he has been to countless other planets, and most of them look like gravel pits.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Akhenaten helped Ace escape Ancient Egypt, while Benny went on an expedition with Vivant Dominique Denon, father of modern archaeology (Set Piece).
    • William Blake travelled with the Doctor (The Pit).
  • Beige Prose: The Pit is written entirely in this. A good example comes early on, when a police officer goes from looking over the horribly mutilated corpse of a teenage boy to wondering what his wife's going to cook for dinner, with no change at all in the writing style. What might have come across as a nice bit of black humour in the hands of another writer instead just seems like a bizarre tonal shift.
  • Big Bad:
    • The Timewyrm in the first story arc.
    • The Monk from the TV series for the Alternative Universe arc.
    • The Psi Powers arc has the Brotherhood, ultimately led by the Grandmaster.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The novels added numerous odd details to the list of how Time Lords aren't really all that much like humans.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: In Head Games, this is basically the problem with Dr. Who, the Doctor's counterpart from the Land of Fiction (essentially based on the Doctor from some of the early real-world comics). While Dr. Who is intended to be the hero, he is incapable of acknowledging the moral greys in any situation, defining something based on whether it is right or wrong. He destroys aliens threatening humans just because they look like monsters even though the aliens are the planet's oppressed native population, condemns the Doctor as "evil" for destroying an alternate Earth (Blood Heat) and allowing a solar system to be destroyed (The Pit) when the Doctor only did that to preserve the universe and the Web of Time respectively. Dr. Who is finally stopped when he attempts to kill Queen Elizabeth II, defining her as the representative of the poor state of the modern British government when she herself has done nothing wrong.
  • Black Bug Room: In The Room With No Doors, the eponymous Room (which the Doctor starts dreaming about being trapped in) functions as a Black Bug Room for the Doctor, although its actual origin and purpose turns out to be something quite different.
  • Boggles the Mind: Played with in Conundrum: The Doctor and another character play a game of Scrabble in which every word is significant. The Doctor immediately points to this as a sign that their actions are being controlled by an outside force.
  • Bouquet Toss: SLEEPY ends with a wedding at which the bouquet is caught, to her obvious surprise and alarm, by Bernice. In the novel immediately following, she falls in love and decides to leave the TARDIS and get married.
  • Brain Uploading: In Cat's Cradle: Warhead, a villainous Mega-Corp is experimenting with brain uploading on behalf of a consortium of rich clients seeking to cheat death.
  • Breakout Character: Bernice Summerfield proved so popular that when the publishers lost the rights to the Doctor, they made her the main character of the series instead.
  • Captain Space, Defender of Earth!: The Highest Science has the Doctor discover a triangular video cassette showing "Captain Millennium" battling "Libida, Queen of the Virenies", which he considers to be So Bad, It's Good. (And when it ends on a cliffhanger with the Captain's assistant being threatened by an evil robot, he concludes it's "almost like real life, in a glamorized sort of way".)
  • Cartwright Curse: Ace, continuing a trend from the TV series.
  • Catchphrase: "Hello, I'm the Doctor and this is my friend [companion's name]", to the point that later novels started lampshading and playing with it.
  • Character Development: Following on directly from the TV series, the Seventh Doctor goes from a manipulative clown to a terror who breaks people and even destroys planets to fight the evil he encounters.
  • Circuit Judge: The Adjudicator in Lucifer Rising.
  • Colon Cancer: The initial strategy of giving each story arc its own explicit title had results like Doctor Who: The New Adventures: Timewyrm: Genesys and Doctor Who: The New Adventures: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Several of the authors have gone on record as doing this.
    • Paul Cornell imagined Benny Summerfield as being played by Emma Thompson. (This gets a shout-out in The Dying Days (not by Cornell, but by Lance Parkin, see below), where she's at a cocktail party in 1990s England and has a confusing conversation with a woman who has mistaken her for somebody else.)
    • Lance Parkin reportedly casts Ian Richardson in nearly all of his novels; this is most obvious in The Dying Days, where Lord Greyhaven bears a striking resemblance to Richardson's most famous real-life role, the politician Francis Urquhart in House of Cards.
    • Another author who does it a lot is David A. McIntee. The villains in White Darkness are Hammer Horror stalwarts Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt. The ultimate villain in First Frontier is Basil Rathbone.
    • Sherlock Holmes, in the Intercontinuity Crossover All-Consuming Fire is also Basil Rathbone, at least on the front cover. On the cover of Happy Endings he isn't (reportedly the cover artist was explicitly instructed not to, possibly because the novel also features the villain from First Frontier), but Watson is Nigel Bruce.
  • Colour Coded Eyes: The novels tended to make much of the Seventh Doctor's grey eyes, presumably as a way to contrast his characterisation as The Chessmaster with his previous incarnations.
  • Continuity Nod: NA writers loved to take moments from Classic Who and play with them. For example: the moment in "The Happiness Patrol" where the Doctor talks a sniper out of shooting him. If that speech ever gets quoted in a New Adventures novel, the Doctor is about to get shot.
  • Continuity Porn: Return of the Living Dad, published near the end of the run, basically exists to tie up the novels' largest remaining loose end, and also ties off a bunch of smaller loose ends that Happy Endings missed, all the way back to a What Happened to the Mouse? question from the second story arc.
  • Crossover: Abslom Daak, the Dalek Killer from the Doctor Who Magazine comics, appeared in Deceit. (As a rule, NA characters used to appear in DWM rather than the reverse.)
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Andrew Cartmel's three novels, which featured a continuing storyline, were Warhead, Warlock, and Warchild.
  • Cyberpunk: Many of the writers of the NAs were heavily influenced by Cyberpunk and many of the purest cyberpunk DW stories are found in this range. Specific examples include Transit and the War trilogy.
  • Darker and Edgier: Famously so. The first handful of novels took things a wee bit too far, with a lot of gratuitous sex, violence and foul language, but the series later found its feet.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: In Blood Heat, the Seventh Doctor finds himself in a universe where Earth is ruled by Earth Reptiles, and learns it all started when the Third Doctor was killed during "Doctor Who and the Silurians".
  • Deadly Graduation: No Future features a U.N.I.T. soldier who had to do the puppy version (with a rabbit) when she was training for the British Army. The Brigadier's reaction to learning about it is that the people who trained her were bastards.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Seventh Doctor and his Manipulative Bastard/Chessmaster ways. Much of the series touches on the fallout of the Doctor's less than spotless ethics and how people... "appreciated" it.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: GodEngine traps thirtieth-century cop Chris Cwej in a Martian military base, upon which he promptly proceeds to wreak mayhem using a strategy his partner informs us is officially known as "The McClane Protocol".
  • Disappeared Dad: Benny Summerfield's father, who went Missing in Action under circumstances that resulted in him being branded a coward and traitor. The truth of his disappearance was ultimately revealed in the shamelessly titled Return of the Living Dad.
  • Discontinuity Nod: In Head Games, the Out of Character Dalek Attack video game was a cathartic daydream, and the "Doctor Who" stories in TV Comic only happened in the Land of Fiction.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Over the course of the books, Seventh did quite a few morally questionable things, which would leave him wondering just how close he was to going over to The Dark Side. He got put through the proverbial grinder quite a few times in the course of events. Ace's parental issues had been established in the TV series, but in the books, the Doctor arranged the death of her current boyfriend, causing her to leave the TARDIS for several books and come back a hardbitten mercenary who took a long time to reconcile with the Doctor. Bernice had many issues, mainly relating to her childhood involving an interstellar war, a dead mother and a Disappeared Dad. Roz was seriously unlucky in love; she killed her first partner — a man she loved deeply — when she found out he was corrupt, then got it wiped from her memory by the Big Bad. Another of her love interests turned out to be a murderer; Roz being a By-the-Book Cop, this did not sit well with her. About the only one who was left untouched was Chris... up until Roz died, anyway, after which the novels made up for lost time.
  • Eats Babies: The villains in St. Anthony's Fire. One of them offers the Doctor a candied baby cheek, which he politely declines.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Several, including guest appearances by Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian creations. A few novels suggest this also applies to the Time Lords and the Doctor too.
  • The Empire: The Earth Empire of Chris and Roz's era (the 30th century) is a nasty piece of work — a xenophobic, expansionist gang of plunderers.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In The Dying Days, the Doctor arranges one of these for the alien warlord who has taken over Britain and declared himself King. After tricking him into breathing in helium the Doctor then displays the whole conversation as a giant hologram in the sky with the villain's (squeaky) rant broadcast all over the world.
    The Doctor: I think you've just made your abdication speech, Your Majesty.
  • Everybody Is Single: The decision to give ex-companion Bernice Summerfield her own spin-off series — in which, as lead character, she would be expected to participate in romantic-interest subplots — led directly to the messy collapse of her marriage, which upstaged the violent deaths of a tenth of the Earth's population. This, less than a year after an entire novel was devoted to the wedding and much effort was expended in assuring readers that it was Happily Ever After-type True Love.
  • Everybody Lives: Played with in SLEEPY, where the Doctor explicitly challenges himself to save the day without anybody dying: "villains, innocents, everyone". He almost manages to pull it off.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Being a non-regular in a Jim Mortimore novel is an almost certain death sentence. (One of his novels has the last surviving member of the supporting cast eaten by a gratuitous giant lizard on the second-to-last page, just in case the readers thought he was going soft.) And given his penchant for massive cataclysms, you're not even safe if you stay off the page; just being on the same planet as a Jim Mortimore plot is a hazard to life and limb. Or in the same solar system. Or, in one memorable instance, the same universe.
  • Exotic Entree: In St. Anthony's Fire, the Big Bad offers the Doctor candied baby cheeks.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Subverted in Blood Heat; after bringing peace to the Alternate Universe where the action of the novel takes place, the Doctor reveals that because it's an artificial timeline generated from the 'real' universe, it's siphoning energy from the 'real' universe that will cause the original one to end billions of years prematurely unless he destroys it. This does not stop him from feeling great guilt at the very real lives he is being forced to end in the Alternate Universe, nor his companions from angrily lashing out at him for this when he tries to justify it with this trope for their sake. Later novels in the series reveal that an old enemy of his created the artificial universe precisely to put the Doctor in this position.
  • Explosive Decompression: In Lucifer Rising, a man explodes into pink snow when he can't fully close his helmet before the Space Elevator he's in ruptures.
  • Extinct in the Future: In the 30th century depicted in So Vile a Sin, many iconic animal species are extinct. Specific mention is made of a project to resurrect the African elephant through genetic engineering.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Jason Kane was abducted by aliens at the age of fifteen and didn't see another human being for over a decade; it didn't crimp his social life one bit.
  • Famous Ancestor: The Forrester family take great pride in being able to trace their ancestry back to Nelson Mandela. One of the short stories establishes that this is a myth, their ancestors merely lived in Nelson Mandela House
  • Fantastic Honorifics: At least one novel uses "Trau" (Mr) and "Krau" (Ms), which originally appeared in the TV story "The Caves of Androzani".
  • Foregone Conclusion: So Vile A Sin features the death of Roz Forrester. Because the novel's release was delayed because the author's hard drive crashed halfway through writing it, readers already knows this from "later" novels. As there was no point trying to make this a twist, the finished book begins with her funeral.
  • Future Imperfect: Happens a lot with future archaeologist Bernice Summerfield, who sometimes gets to catch out her contemporaries on historical events, and sometimes gets caught out herself on things she thought she knew about the 20th century.
  • Future Music: In The Highest Science, trends in 22nd century music (and associated subculture) are explicitly organised by the record companies, and one character is considered weird for continuing to listen to a genre that's been declared Last Season. "Headster" music is the equivalent of pseudo-deep, drug-based psychedelia, whereas the current trend is "Freakster", which seems more like bubblegum pop.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: In The Room With No Doors Joel explains to a 17th century Japanese warlord how to turn a loom into a calculating engine. He's surprised at how quickly the warlord catches on, and comes up with uses for computers that Joel thought he'd have to lead up to.
  • Headbutt of Love: The Doctor and Benny instigate a headbutt of love mutually in SLEEPY during a point where they're both busy worrying about each other, and it's almost too adorable for words.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Nietzsche quote appears independently in more than one novel, usually in reference to the Doctor's manipulations.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: In-universe. In Lucifer Rising, a historical drama about the Ice Warrior invasion of 2090 features a "handsome young museum curator", who is presumably meant to be this guy.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: White Darkness uses spelling as a distinguishing feature: American soldiers who don't know what they're talking about refer to "voodoo" and "zombies", native Haitians and the Doctor talk of "vodoun" and "zombi". Mind you, despite the author Showing His Work there's still an evil voudon priest who actually worships the Great Old Ones...
  • Horrifying the Horror: In Love and War, the Doctor describes himself to his new acquaintance Benny as "what monsters have nightmares about".
  • Hostile Terraforming: In the Alternate Universe in "Blood Heat", the Silurians are converting Earth's environment back into a state resembling what it was like during the Earth reptiles' prehistoric reign. They've re-introduced extinct animals and plants into the ecosphere (including mutant fruit which humans find inedible), and they're heating up parts of the planet whilst converting deserts into rainforests.
  • Humanoid Abomination: One of the authors (specifically, Dave Stone) liked to hint that Time Lords are incomprehensible multi-dimensional entities bearing no more resemblance to the humanoids the audience knows than Jim Henson to Kermit the Frog. The idea doesn't seem to have caught on, though.
  • Hurt/Comfort Fic: A recurring theme, particularly in the novels of Kate Orman; two novels (Orman's Set Piece and Paul Cornell's Human Nature) have chapters actually titled "Hurt/Comfort" (chapter 15 and chapter 5 respectively).
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: The Time Lords, in the elaborate backstory for Gallifrey developed over the New Adventures, are all sterile and reproduce with Looms. The Doctor was Loomed but is a special case—it's heavily implied that he is a genetic reincarnation of the Other, a major Gallifreyan historical figure from before the species went sterile, which is why he has a belly button.
  • In Medias Res: Set Piece begins with the Doctor already held prisoner by the big bad, with a flashback later on to explain how that happened.
  • Inspiration Nod: The Pit is an attempt to do a novel in the style of Tim Powers, and the MacGuffin in one subplot is a volume of poetry by William Ashbless, the fictional poet who gets namechecked as a Creator In-Joke in each of Powers's novels.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: White Darkness has the Doctor meets the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: Set Piece begins with the Doctor already held prisoner by the big bad. His repeated attempts to escape are told from the point of view of another prisoner. It turns out her memories are being extracted by the big bad in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the Doctor; she doesn't survive the process.
  • Invisible President: The identities of the US President and the British Prime Minister are kept vague in The Dying Days.
  • Julius Beethoven da Vinci: In Birthright, the villain is an immortal searching for the TARDIS. At various points in time he was Thomas the Rhymer, John Dee and the Count of Cagliostro.
  • Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge: The Library of St John the Beheaded collects and stores forbidden texts (both in the sense of banned-by-the-mundane-authorities and in the sense of Knowledge For Which The World Is Not Ready). It's definitely got the isolated or hazardous location part of the trope down pat; on Earth, it was hidden away in The City Narrows, and in The Future it will be located on an asteroid as part of the Braxiatel Collection, which stores texts for which many worlds are not ready. In principle, it's an aversion of the usual some-things-man-should-not-know corollary: the founder believed that all knowledge is useful if handled carefully, and potential researchers are vetted very carefully before being offered access to the collection. (The Doctor, of course, holds the first ticket the Library ever issued.) In practice, though, pretty much every time it's appeared in a story it's because somebody's found a way to use information from the Library to cause trouble.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: In Eternity Weeps Benny greets her (soon-to-be-ex-)husband Jason with a "Summerfield combo," which apparently involves "a two-minute French kiss immediately followed by a straight left to the jaw."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The final book, The Dying Days, includes a conversation between two fans about the final movie of a famous sci-fi franchise, and the fact that because it was the final one the audience for once couldn't be sure that the main characters had Contractual Immortality. The relevance to the main characters of The Dying Days is obvious and entirely deliberate.
  • Lemony Narrator: Conundrum has a Lemony Narrator who turns out to be a character in the story and a Reality Warper whose narration is causing the narrated events to occur.
  • Light Is Not Good: Played with; while still on the side of the angels, the Doctor was depicted as far more of a ruthless Anti-Hero than he had been during most of the TV series (even the TV incarnation of the Seventh Doctor wasn't quite the manipulative Chessmaster with an Omniscient Morality Licence that the novels made him, although the seeds were there). To juxtapose against his darker character, his standard costume became a cream / off-white suit.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
    • No Future takes its title from the punk anthem "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols.
    • So Vile a Sin takes its title from a line in Henry V, which is quoted as the novel's epigraph.
  • Living Mood Ring: In Legacy, the alien ambassador from Alpha Centauri is usually green, but changes colour in moments of high emotion.
  • Living Ship: Several of the novels offer hints that the TARDIS itself is alive. The "Cat's Cradle" arc establishes that at least part of it is Organic Technology (and that things can go badly wrong if the organism is contaminated).
  • Lovecraft Lite: Several of the novels use Lovecraftian elements, and they're all inevitably Lovecraft Lite, sometimes to an eye-rolling extent. One of the more self-aware is All-Consuming Fire, which alternates the narration between a Public Domain Character 19th-century guest, who finds the experience full of incomprehensible strangeness and mind-scarring horror in classic Lovecraft fashion, and the Doctor's companion, who's much more blasé about the whole thing. ("Rugose alien monstrosities? What, again?") The final self-aware touch is that the monster is only pretending to be a Great Old One for the cosmos-cred; it really is Lovecraft Lite.
  • Memory Gambit: In Set Piece, the Doctor wipes his mind of his plan to stop the Big Bad, so that the Big Bad can't work it out. Unfortunately, he also has to wipe his mind of the trigger to restore his memory.
    Ace: You've finally done it. You've even bamboozled yourself.
  • Mercy Kill: In So Vile a Sin, the Doctor is called on to do this to the Empress of Humanity, who is being kept on artificial life support in inhumane conditions as the Empire's figurehead. This complicates his mission, since he has to get on with foiling the villains while also being pursued by the authorities for murder.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: The "terrorists sneak specially-designed weapons through the metal detector" trope is played with in Theatre of War. In the future, everybody uses rayguns, and the security checkpoints are designed to detect their energy sources; the assassin walks straight through carrying, concealed but otherwise unmodified, a perfectly ordinary 20th-century gunpowder handgun taken from a museum.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: In her first appearance, Benny tells the Doctor, "Surprise is my middle name. Bernice Surprise Summerfield. My poor Mum wanted to hammer the point home." It is subsequently established that this is literally true.
  • Midair Repair: In The Dying Days, the Doctor — five minutes above London, downward bound and accelerating — builds a parachute out of a helium tank and the contents of his pockets.
  • Missed Him by That Much: In Birthright, the immortal villain has spent centuries trying to get hold of the TARDIS, and repeatedly showing up in places where it has been sighted just after it dematerializes.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • Canterbury Cathedral is destroyed in Warlock.
    • In No Future, terrorists (in an alternate timeline) bomb Big Ben.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: The mythology of Gallifrey features a group of male scientists (led by Rassilon) and a group of female witch-priestesses (led by the Pythia) struggling for control. Rassilon won, and went on to found the Time Lord society. Different novels offer different opinions on whether this was good or bad.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: The Doctor is often described as having an uncanny strength, and the grip of a bear, when need be. He's 5'6" and of a small build.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The villain of Return of the Living Dad is from a species that the series had previously used solely as bumbling comic relief; being fed up with never being taken seriously forms a significant part of his motivation.
  • Myth Arc: Concerning the Doctor's true identity and the murky origins of the Time Lords.
  • The New Adventures
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Ace was definitely upgraded into a mild example of one of these, going from a messed-up-but-exuberant school-girl with a taste for explosives into a hardened grim-and-gritty battle-suit wearing gun-and-explosive toting space marine. The other companions could touch on this trope as well, particularly Roz, certainly in comparison to the Doctor's previous companions.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Adjudicator Roz Forrester, a black woman who is totally prejudiced against aliens, but also one of the few Adjudicators in Spaceport 5 who actually makes any effort to help them.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Every. Single. Celebrity in Tragedy Day. For example, a boy band called Fancy That.
    • Briefly done for a quick gag in Legacy. The Encyclopedia Exposita is The Rough Guide to Federation Tourist Traps written by Krymson LaPlante. At the time of publication, The Rough Guide To... had just become a TV series presented by Magenta Devine.
    • No Future, set in the 1970s, features an unnamed BBC producer who has a beard, wears a Hawaiian shirt, and in the course of his few lines manages to hit every catchphrase and cliché associated with the bearded, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner.
  • No Navel, Novel Birth: Time Lords are constructed by machines and so lack navels. The Doctor is an exception.
  • Non P.O.V. Protagonist: The writers' guidelines included an explicit rule forbidding writers to show what was going on inside the Doctor's head, to keep an element of mystery about him; his actions were always to be seen through the eyes of his companion or another character. Conundrum lampshades this, as what starts out as Omniscient Third Person Narration is actually the Master of the Land of Fiction, and the fact his omniscience stops at the Doctor's mind (and only the Doctor's) frustrates him.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In No Future, the Vardans and the Meddling Monk shake off several decades of being considered hapless comic relief villains.
    "For do not the greater powers of the universe tremble in fear and cry out in terror at the very name of the Vardans?!"
    "The Vardans?" Benny frowned. "I think you'll find that your enemies tremble with mirth and cry out things like 'Oh good, it's only the Vardans, thank goodness it wasn't somebody serious like the Daleks'."
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Forrester and Cwej
  • Ominous Owl: Spooky owls crop up a lot in the novels written by Paul Cornell.
  • Omniscient Morality Licence: The Doctor frequently claims that his role as 'Time's Champion' gives him the right to play with people's lives as if they were pawns — he can see how time is supposed to function and is engaging in his chess games for the greater good of all. Naturally, the people whose lives he's playing with tend not to find this justification very convincing.
  • Organic Technology: The TARDIS, at least in part. The "Cat's Cradle" arc has the Doctor needing to replace the organic material that the TARDIS uses for calculations that are impossible on conventional computers. Unfortunately, this renders it vulnerable to certain kinds of infection...
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Subverted in Sanctuary:
    '[The Doctor] is very much like the owl, I think,' said Guy, half to himself.
    'Wise, you mean?' Benny had heard several people comment on such a likeness. Perhaps it was his eyebrows and keen gaze.
    'What has wisdom to do with owls? He is comfortable in the darkness, as they are, and I think he is equally as adept at hunting down prey in cold blood.'
  • Pardon My Klingon: After some early unsuccessful experiments with real swear-words, the series stuck with this, most commonly using the future-swear-word "cruk".
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: As part of the series' quest for "maturity", teen companion Ace left the series in Love and War and rejoined a few novels later as an adult. (Yay, time travel.)
  • Poke in the Third Eye: In one of the novels, the Doctor has been keeping snooping telepaths out of his head via Psychic Static for most of the book. He finally resorts to this after a direct attack. Cue one catatonic would-be attacker.
    The Doctor: She wanted to see what was on my mind. I'm rather afraid I let her.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Chelonians, who appear in several novels, are a heavily militarised race of hermaphroditic cyborg turtles, at least when they appear on the page — we're told that eventually they get a more enlightened leadership and dedicate themselves to flower-arranging instead.
  • Purple Prose: Dave Stone's Signature Style.
  • Pyramid Power: In SLEEPY by Kate Orman, the planet Yemaya has pyramids that seem to focus psychic powers, with a Continuity Nod to the Osirians (the Ancient Astronauts who influenced the Egyptians in "Pyramids of Mars") and the Exxilons (Space Mayincatecs from "Death to the Daleks"). This is partly because her previous two NAs, which happened to be set in Mexico and Egypt respectively, had both had a pyramid on the cover and she wanted to maintain the theme. (Her fourth NA, Return of the Living Dad, is largely set in a New Age bookshop/café called The Pyramid.)
  • Rank Up: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart gets promoted to General at the end of The Dying Days.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The murder investigation in Lucifer Rising. The murder occurred in a facility with a futuristic surveillance system that makes only a basic record of what happens, relying on computer extrapolation to fill in the details when it's played back. It becomes both sides of a Rashomon Style dispute about what really happened in a certain conversation, producing two different extrapolations in which the speakers perform the same actions and say the same words, but the way they do it makes the difference between the version where one speaker was trying to help the other and the version where he was deliberately making matters worse.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: In No Future, a (female) soldier tells Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart how, before her secondment to UNIT, part of her training was to raise a rabbit, and then kill it. At the time, she thought she didn't mind, now she was a warrior (although she does mention crying herself to sleep later that night). The Brig's training makes her realize she did, and he tells her "Then they were bastards, Tennant, to order you to do that. What were they?"
  • Residual Evil Entity: A theory comments that the evil energy entity in Nightshade might be the degraded remains of the monsters of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures book Venusian Lullaby.
  • Retroactive Preparation: Subverted in one novel. The Doctor walks up to a fridge, and proclaims "This fridge will be full of delicious food: in the future I will travel back in time and put it there." He opens the fridge; it's almost empty. "I forgot," he adds.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: In Theatre of War, Bernice grows increasingly frustrated at a super-computer's inability to reconstruct what a ruined Roman-esque amphitheatre would have looked like before it fell into ruins. Turns out that there never was a real amphitheatre, it was built as a pile of ruins as part of a trap.
  • Rule #1: A character-defining moment in Set Piece, calling back to the Rule #1 moment in "Dragonfire" (where the Doctor said there were three rules for travelling with him, but couldn't think of a third one so said they'd work that one out later). Ace, seemingly left with no choice but to kill the Doctor to save the universe, flashes back to this conversation (and occasions when the Doctor had to make similar decisions) and decides that the third rule — her rule — is "No-one deserves to be sacrificed".
  • Running Both Sides: In Toy Soldiers, there's a war where it turns out that both sides are being run by the same supercomputer, which had set the whole thing up because it had heard somewhere that periods of conflict often produce flowerings of creativity.
  • Secondhand Storytelling: Theatre of War has plot-relevant Conversational Troping regarding the use of this in stage plays, with particular reference to a famous play about a group of soldiers who meet up after a battle and tell each other what just happened.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In No Future, set in the 1970s, the Doctor watches part of an episode of Professor X, the in-universe equivalent of Doctor Who; the actor playing the Professor is not explicitly identified, but is clearly Frankie Howerd in the same comic mode as Up Pompeii.
    • According to Godengine, the standard Adjudicator method for a single person to take over a building occupied by the enemy is known as the McClane Protocol.
    • In Love and War, Ace acompanies New Age Traveller Jan on a cyberspace-enhanced Vision Quest, in which they meet The Trickster. Ace starts to identify who she sees him as, but gets interupted. However his cry of "You wouldn't let it lie!" and later comment "That's a Diana and Trickster sword" makes it pretty clear he's Vic Reeves.
    • A Long List of the aliens and time travellers and others aided by Isaac's organisation in Return of the Living Dad includes several shout outs, since the guy delivering it is a geek:
    Joel: We get all kinds. ETs, mutants, strays, greys, LGMs, BEMs, UNIT deserters, Striebs, dweebs, Stepford Wives, Midwich Cuckoos, missing persons, faraway people, peepers, buzzers, hoppers, hitchers, Leapers, Sliders...
    • Joel also compares his own Ascended Fanboy situation to the guy in the second panel of this What's New? with Phil and Dixie strip.
    • On his return appearance in The Room With No Doors, Joel automatically responds to the question "What do you want?" with a forceful "Never ask that question!", followed by an embarrassed retraction and a more serious answer when the person he's talking to completely fails to get the reference.
  • Show Within a Show: "Nightshade" (an Expy of Quatermass) and "Professor X" (an Expy and Affectionate Parody of Doctor Who itself).
  • Signs of Disrepair: One of the early novels, Cat's Cradle: Warhead, reveals that the Doctor owns a house in England, which he uses as a base in that and several subsequent novels when he has to stay in one place for a long period. It's on Allen Road, and it's a running gag that some unknown person has vandalised the nearby street sign so that it reads "ALIEN ROAD" instead.
  • Smart Gun: A subplot in Cat's Cradle: Warhead involves a police officer field-testing an experimental smart gun, which has a status display screen and proves to be able to target and fire itself. It is eventually revealed to have a complete personality created by Brain Uploading another police officer, and various quirks it displayed through the novel were attempts by this personality to communicate beyond the limited repertoire of gun-related information the gun's systems were designed to permit.
  • Space Police: The Adjudicators.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: The Doctor's conversation with Centcomp in So Vile a Sin. The system wasn't designed to have a voice of its own, so it speaks "in a jarring mix of words, snipped from media sources".
    'I,' she said, in the voice of a little girl. 'Know,' said a deep-voiced man with a Southern accent. 'You,' said an elderly woman.
  • Starfish Aliens: Many, many examples.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: So Vile A Sin begins with a one-page prologue entitled "The Body on Page One", in which one of the Doctor's companions is killed, then flashes back to show how and why it happened. The death had originally been planned as a surprise ending, but the book was delayed (Ben Aaronovitch's computer crashed) and books with the character already dead were published first, so the book was rewritten to go the Foregone Conclusion route.
  • Story Arc: Four major ones:
    • The Timewyrm quartet: Timewyrm: Genesys, Timewyrm: Exodus, Timewyrm: Apocalypse and Timewyrm: Revelation.
    • The Cat's Cradle trilogy: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, Cat's Cradle: Warhead, and Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark.
    • The Alternate Universe cycle: Blood Heat, The Dimension Riders, The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Conundrum and No Future.
    • The Psi-Powers arc: Warchild, SLEEPY, Christmas on a Rational Planet, The Death of Art, Damaged Goods and So Vile A Sin.
  • Stylistic Suck: Some of the less believable elements of Eternity Weeps; especially the outdated theory of the moon being a companion body that was captured by the Earth's gravity, and the notion that respected archeologists in 2003 would mount an expedition to find Noah's Ark. According to Lawrence Miles, Jim Mortimore (a good friend of his) intended the book to mimic the style of the Target novelizations of the Pertwee stories. Let that sink in for a second...
  • Super Wrist-Gadget: One of several useful tools Ace gains during her Plot-Relevant Age-Up.
  • Temporary Love Interest: The Doctor is mostly immune, but all the companions get it to some extent.
  • The Trickster: In Love and War, the 25th century New Age Travellers have a trickster god they just call the Trickster. During Jan's vision quest, he appears to Jan as "Arlan Jardolz, the Betalan comedian" and to Ace as Vic Reeves.
  • Token Romance: Show Within a Show version, in Lucifer Rising. Benny watches a holodrama based on the events of "The Seeds of Death". This has grafted on a romance between Professor Eldred (who has become thirty years younger) and Gia (The Spock).
  • Trapped in TV Land:
  • A True Story in My Universe: Lucifer Rising mentions a holodrama Very Loosely Based On the events of "The Seeds of Death", with no mention of the Doctor and his companions, and a Token Romance grafted on.
  • Tuckerization: Happened a lot. Take a random book and compare the names of minor characters with the rec.arts.drwho folk namechecked in the acknowledgements.
  • The Tunguska Event: Is given an SF explanation in Birthright.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Many of the "earth-bound" stories took place in this vague era, a few years ahead in order to allow for some fantastic elements, but not far enough to be unrecognisable. Iceberg (published in 1993), for example, went to great lengths to give background and character to the far future world... of 2006!note 
  • Two-Headed Coin: In one novel, the Doctor pulls a fifty pence piece out of his pocket and tosses it to make a decision. As he puts it back in his pocket he notices the other side also has a picture of the Queen, only she's grinning.
  • Verbal Tic: Keri the Pakhar in Legacy, yeah?
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In-universe in Lucifer Rising; there's a reference to a holodrama based on "The Seeds of Death" which is only recognisable by the character names, awash with Adaptational Attractiveness and Token Romance, and doesn't mention the Doctor's involvement at all.
  • Visions of Another Self: In So Vile a Sin, the reality-warping effects of the villainous plot have the side-effect that alternate versions of the Doctor keeping popping up for a few moments and then disappearing, including a version of the Doctor who chose to stay on Earth after his exile ended (who still in his third incarnation, though much aged). The Doctor also encounters a version of Chris who chose to stay home and not travel with him.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The primary antagonist in Return of the Living Dad.
  • Wetware CPU:
    • Parodied in SLEEPY, where the Mad Scientist who has built a telepathic AI insists that neural nets are completely unnecessary. Apparently one of his rivals tried to create an intelligent computer by hooking a cat's brain to a mainframe, and got "a computer that wants to play with string and sit on your newspaper".
    • In So Vile a Sin, the Centcomp system that oversees the interstellar Earth Empire turns out to have a human being built into its heart; the Doctor is led to this discovery by a series of events arranged by Centcomp itself, which has deduced his existence from the data it processes and wants him to come and rescue her.
  • We Will Not Have Appendixes in the Future: Chris and Roz, who are from the 30th century, have no appendices.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Doctor really goes overboard with the people-chess, and more than a few people make a point of how little they appreciate being treated like a pawn. In fact, Ace's main arc involves her lashing out at him because of this.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The Left-Handed Hummingbird features a detective whose parents apparently thought it would be a good idea to name him Hamlet Macbeth.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The seven-dimensional Legion, introduced in Lucifer Rising, aren't even contiguous in three dimensions.
  • Zeerust: A lot of the novels heavily engage with Cyberpunk technologies, plots, settings, characters and themes, to such a degree that at times they might as well have "this was published in The '90s" stamped on every page.

Alternative Title(s): Virgin New Adventures