Top Three Wilderness Years Stories/Events

What events or stories that happened or were released in the Wilderness Years were your favourites? For clarity, I count the years of 1990 to 2004 inclusive as The Wilderness. I accept that we had a brief respite in 1996, for one night only, so I think we have to exclude the TV Movie from these lists, but otherwise anything is fair game. All licenced or unofficial stories, books, audios count. (Yes, that includes Dimensions in Time, although it wouldn’t make my list). Let’s keep the list down to a short and sweet three entries, although you can double dip and make a second or third list if you like! I’m really interested to find out what people think and maybe your memories might jog mine, and remind me of something else that came out in that time!

Off the top of my head, my list would be:

  1. The Paradise of Death (1993). So lovely to hear Pertwee, Sladen and Courtney together again, and it was a genuinely enjoyable adventure that went out on proper BBC Radio! Such a shame it too years for the follow-up and a shame that if memory serves, it was a bit disappointing.
  2. Shakedown (1995, I think). An amazing achievement on such a tiny budget, made with actors with plenty of Who pedigree and written by the great Terrance Dicks. I think it was Michael Wisher’s last contribution to the Doctor Who universe. It wasn’t Doctor Who, of course. The closest it came was a mention of “a guy called himself the Dentist, I think”, and, of course, it included the Sontarans. It might not stand up to modern scrutiny, but it was so exciting to have at the time.
  3. Timewyrm: Genesis. Not that the story is particularly remarkable; it’s just that I found it in a bookshop when I was at a fairly low ebb. I thought Doctor Who was gone and forgotten. Then, suddenly, I could see that there were people who wanted to make it continue! And I loved that it picked up more or less right after Survival. It was broad and it was deep.

I could probably come up with plenty more, but I hope you get the idea. What helped you to keep the faith in the nineties or early 2000s? Or, if you’re too young to have been around then, what have you discovered from that period and really enjoyed later on?

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Oh what a brilliant idea for a thread. I’ll really have to give this one a proper think and come back later.

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Sadly, I haven’t really actually watched/listened to/read much in the wilderness years. I did watch the tv movie, but otherwise, I think by default, my list would be “The Curse of Fatal Death”.

Though, to be fair, I love all the casting for it, and actually would love more from each of the Doctors in it, and definitely the Master…

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First thing to come to mind is “Scream of the Shalka” - really wish we could have had more of that. Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi and an amazing control room.

Is just saying Professor Bernice Summerfield a stretch? Otherwise I would just take her first appearance in Paul Cornell’s Love and War. A time traveling archeologist? What a brilliant idea!

And then I think I would mention the BF audio “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor” - Nicholas Courtney back as the Brigadier and finally gets to meet the 6th Doctor, and being totally unfazed by yet another Doctor.

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Yes, a very good call. It very nearly made my list, too. A series of Unbound type stories based on the various options there would be very cool indeed!

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Shalka was great, and it was a shame that the production was somewhat overshadowed by the renewal announcement. It would have been amazing to get a series based on that TARDIS team.

I think Bernice Summerfield was one of the greatest things to have come out of the Wilderness Years. It’s so amazing that she continues to have great adventures.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is excellent for the reasons you mention. It was also just a great story and such an enjoyable listen. Good picks!

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It’d be a lot of fun. I feel like there was an implied season or two of 3rd Doctoresque Rowan’s Doctor vs. Jonathan’s Master adventures in there that I wish I could have seen.

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The Wilderness Years was when I became a fan. For me, it’s one of the most important times in my life. It was when I met and cemented many of my long term friendships; it was when I met my wife (who wasn’t a fan, but is now :wink: ).

I prefer the term, coined I think by Paul Cornell, that refers to this era as as The Rollercoaster Years because that is what it was.

From false starts like The Dark Dimension and the TV Movie, to weird additions like Dimensions in Time and The Curse of Fatal Death. From the Virgin New Adventures trying, sometimes too hard, to make Doctor Who grow up with the fans to the BBC Eighth Doctor adventures bringing in back in-house and calming things down, only to launch into ever-increasing flights of fancy. From Big Finish starting out with Bernice Summerfield and casting Lisa Bowerman allowing her to become cemented as a fan favourite, to launching proper Doctor Who with original cast. From DWM managing to keep the torch alive in a magazine dedicated to a show which wasn’t even on the TV.

And all the ‘not-quite-Doctor-Who-but-almost’ projects from BBV and Reeltime and the likes - some of them brilliant, some of them howlingly bad (have you seen Soul’s Ark?!?!)

I bloody love the Wilderness Years so picking three is frankly impossible but this is where my gut is going to go (and then I’ll be back with ‘oh and I need to add’ posts later.

  1. 10th Planet signings - So much of my Wilderness Years was centred around the 10th Planet shop in Barking. They had numerous signings for all sorts of merchandise and, in particular, had a close relationship with Big Finish so a lot of releases were launched there and they even had an exclusive cover for Caerdroia. I met so many Who alumni at 10th Planet - and spent so much money!! But it was also where we would go as a friendship group and we’d finish the signing and troop across to Wimpy for lunch. They really were some of my happiest times.

  2. The TV Movie - I know it, at the time, went nowhere, but it was positively thrilling to watch the TV Movie and thrill at how good Paul McGann was as the Doctor. That version of the theme tune is still one of my absolute favourites and even though we had to wait a number of years for it to become reality, it is right and proper that McGann is very much now a ‘proper’ incarnation of the Doctor and not just the George Lazenby of Doctor Who as he was often labelled.

  3. Loose Cannon Reconstructions - I don’t know when I first started getting these but having this gateway into missing stories was magical. And this was in the days before they were all available online and you had to send off blank VHS cassettes. I used to print off the covers from talented artists online and they sat proudly on my shelf alongside all the official VHS releases. I never actually got the full set but it was brilliant to be able to ‘watch’ these lost stories. Ironically, I now struggle to watch them without falling asleep but that’s more to do with my age than they’re quality!

And I also agree with everything that’s already been cited.

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Just did a search for Soul’s ark as I’ve never heard of it before, the premise actually sounds good. Plus Carole Ann Ford, Colin Baker and Wendy Padbury in a horror sci-fi setting! It can’t be that bad can it?
Anyways, it’s on YouTube so I guess I have to watch it :grin:

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I’ve not seen Soul’s Ark, but, yes, there were certainly some dodgy products out there! I think you summed the years up very well with the term Roller Coaster. I don’t remember Paul Cornell coining that term, but you’re right that there was a lot of up and down about them! There was a huge outpouring of creative energy towards keeping Doctor Who alive and sometimes it went a little over the top, but it was always exciting.

I was a dub site for Loose Cannon for a while. I had to stop because my VHS players kept clogging up! I loved the ingenuity around the various reconstructions and was so heartened when I learned that there were audio recordings of every missing episode.

it is great that Big Finish added so much to Paul McGann’s outing as the Doctor. He was amazing in the TV movie, but he’s equally good, if not better, in the audios.

It was indeed the best of times and the worst of times in that we didn’t have the parent show, but we had so much stuff that was almost it.

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As someone who didn’t live through this period (well I was born in it, but I wasn’t a Who fan until the 2010’s), I’d have to say, barring the tv movie, that my favorites would be (1) the launches of the original novel lines, (2) Death Comes to Time, and (3) the introduction of Hex into Big Finish, as his audio tenure provided one of the best eras of Who in any medium!

(In retrospect it is very obvious that I love the McCoy era from this lol)

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Thanks so much for sharing these. It’s very interesting to view this period through the eyes of someone who became a fan after it. You’ve also reminded me of just how much stuff was produced in the wilderness period. It truly was a fertile time! I wish we’d seen more of the televised McCoy era. It was very intriguing and I can understand why you love it so much.

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I became a fan in 2005 so I totally missed the Wilderness Years, but in my quest to consume everything Whoniverse related I’m having a blast with the novels and the Big Finish audio adventures so far.

I can’t say which is my favourite for a few years yet when I’ve done them all :smile:

But I’ll say that as disappointing as it must have been for fans that the show was cancelled, I don’t think it would ever have gotten so big or so diverse if the show had stayed on air, so it’s bittersweet!

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Absolutely - I fully believe we wouldn’t have the show we currently have if it wasn’t for the Wilderness Years.

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Absolutely. It’s as if the Wilderness Years were really 16 years of continuous development of the new show. It gave new writers their first starts. It provided the opportunity to test new formats and directions for the show. Some of these worked and were subsequently weaved into the new series. Some of them were less successful, but were interesting and intriguing in themselves. It gave an opportunity to test these ideas with a mostly sympathetic audience before the glorious relaunch!

There was a lot of disappointment during that era, but it really did mean that when the show came back, it had been well and truly worked out.

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This is so, so difficult! It absolutely has to be the novels first; without them, Doctor Who wouldn’t exist as we know it today for a myriad of reasons, many mentioned here. It probably also helps that I think they’re (generally, on the whole) quite good.

Second, Big Finish - bringing so many actors back to the show. RTD was right to defend them when the show came back.

Thirdly, overall, because it happened everywhere - finally letting fans do the show, making it their own and carving out, as a collective, what stuck, and what didn’t. It’s a real shame they don’t have that power - or something like it - today.

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Ah you see this is where I strongly disagree. The worst thing possible would be for the fans to have any power nowadays. The hyperbolic reactions to what ends up on screen are enough to prove that.

But there wasn’t even a ‘collective’ during the Wilderness Years. There was, for the books, for example, the ongoing ‘rad vs trad’ debate.

Certain fans emerged with creative control greater than the majority - Russell, RTD, Briggs, Moffat, Gatiss but even among those there are very different approaches to the show.

One of fandom’s worst characteristics is the belief that there is any sort of group think or received wisdom about the show. The reason it is still here 60 years later is because, even in the Wilderness Years, it never pandered to any one sort of fan. The trads got some stuff and the rads got stuff too. That’s still true, to an extent, nowadays.

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There is a distinction between TV professionals who were or are fans and fans who would want to control the way the TV series goes. Some of the current TV pros got their early opportunities in the New Adventures, but there’s every chance that they might have got similar chances outside of Doctor Who. It did seem like fans of the show ended up in charge, but it wasn’t all the fans; it was a few who were also making headway writing soaps or other key TV drama. If those same people were trying to get started these days, it’s true that they wouldn’t be able to break into writing for the TV series, but they sure as heck would be trying to get into writing for one of the daytime soaps or other gateway opportunities that still do exist these days.

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Sure, but to be fair, those opportunities are diminishing - especially in the UK, where most ‘new’ writers are found. Shows like Doctors and Holby City are ending, Hollyoaks is cut down to three episodes…

The problem for me is that Doctor Who continues to lack opportunities for new writers to write licensed fiction (and non-fiction!) ; you have the Paul Spragg Memorial Trip, and that’s it to my knowledge? I think some of the shortlist was reused, but even then, it’s still not enough. For me, I believe one of the biggest mistakes of New Who is cutting down that access - something like the Short Trips doing a collection of new writers again would be a brilliant idea!

And, in the main show, prospects are in a weird place. RTD’s comments about young writers a year or so ago, maybe two (which baffle me, given the tone of some of his recent work, lol) don’t make their opportunities seem bright.

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Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear - I don’t mean that Doctor Who was clearly made as one by the collective - I enjoyed seeing the different veins of fandom which ran with certain things, certain priorities and certain consistent motifs etc., such as rad and trad! I think that allowing one man to have (theoretical - I’m sure he isn’t personally signing off everything!) total control over the show’s vision is a bad thing. Even during the books, there were several editors, who would allow views which disagreed with those to go ahead. I realise it’s a difficult line to walk, but that today doesn’t mean allowing media which ‘decanonises’ or refuses certain eras (the Timeless Child etc. happened, no matter what anyone thinks, for instance), but rather allowing fans to write pieces which don’t have the same priorities again - not decanonising per se, but perhaps ‘ignoring’ (for want of a better word) eras which they don’t want to bring into their work, if that makes sense?

Of course, I am aware times have changed. There’s a main show watched by children, the BBC is much more interested in how their content is used, how their brand/licensing is used, etc. etc. but I do still believe there is wriggle room here - bring the book range back, expand the authorship in Big Finish (I’m aware they’re starting to try and do that), to name a few! Expanded media should be expanded and a little bit ridiculous!

I am aware that all kinds of fan content are made - I’m about to read Seasons of War! - but they obviously don’t get the same attention or promotion as licensed content. I have a feeling I am still wording my views poorly…

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