BBC Books was the book publishing arm of BBC Enterprises/Worldwide from the 1980s until 2006. In that year, it was sold to the Ebury Publishing division of Random House. It published a wide range of non-fiction books based on many BBC properties, but its only long-form fictional output was related to Doctor Who and Torchwood.
Though BBC Worldwide is now only a minority shareholder, its brand identity survives through its prominent logo on book covers.
BBC Books' association with Doctor Who began in 1996 when it obtained the rights to publish a novelisation of the 1996 TV movie. At this time, however, Virgin Publishing had the licence to publish original and adapted Doctor Who fiction, a licence it inherited when it took over Target Books in the 1980s. Following the publication of the telefilm novelisation, however, it was announced that Virgin's licence to publish Doctor Who fiction would end in 1997. Thereafter, Virgin continued to publish Doctor Who-related works for several more years, although its writers were constrained from using characters and concepts that had originated on television. Consequently, Virgin stopped featuring the Doctor and concentrated instead on exploring the Bernice Summerfield character they had created.
In 1997, BBC Books launched two lines of books: the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA), featuring new adventures with the Eighth Doctor (the equivalent of Virgin's New Adventures line, which in turn switched to focusing on the character of Bernice Summerfield), and a second line, the Past Doctor Adventures (PDA), which chronicled the adventures of the first seven incarnations of the Doctor, much as Virgin's now-defunct Missing Adventures line had.
The first EDA to be published by BBC Books was Terrance Dicks' The Eight Doctors, whilst the first PDA was Keith Topping and Martin Day's The Devil Goblins from Neptune. Many authors who had contributed to Virgin's novels continued to write for BBC Books; initially the NA and MA continuities were discounted, but over time the lines became blurred in that regard.
BBC Books subsequently adapted another Virgin concept when it launched Short Trips, a series of short story collections featuring all eight Doctors, akin to Virgin's Decalog line. Only three volumes of Short Trips were published before BBC Books ceded the line to Big Finish Productions.
Between 1997 and 2005 more than 100 original novels were published by BBC Books under the EDA and PDA range. Also published during this time was a novelisation of the webcast Scream of the Shalka. BBC Books also began publishing non-fiction books based upon the franchise, such as a collection of scripts from the Tom Baker era.
New Series Adventures and Torchwood
With the return of Doctor Who to television in 2005, BBC Books decided to retire the EDA and PDA lines and move into a new venue of publishing: shorter, hardcover books, based upon the adventures of the new Ninth Doctor. The unnamed line, which has subsequently come to be known as the New Series Adventures, debuted several months before the EDA and PDA series ceased publication. In 2006, the New Series Adventures began featuring the Tenth Doctor, as well as launching an annual series of paperback novellas, Quick Reads, and original novels based upon Torchwood. In 2008 BBC Books partnered with BBC Audio to release original stories for audio, read and performed by series cast members. The first of these was Pest Control and these releases have continued into 2011.
A new line of novels based upon the Eleventh Doctor launched in 2010, and after a hiatus of two years new novels based upon Torchwood began to appear in 2011. BBC Books ended its exclusivity of hardcover releases by issuing the new Torchwood books in paperback and also beginning to issue paperback editions of Eleventh Doctor novels. However, the Quick Reads series ended after the 2010 release.
In 2010, BBC Books began an annual series of "deluxe" standalone novel releases, aimed at an older readership and featuring "name" authors. The first of these was PROSE: The Coming of the Terraphiles by noted fantasy writer Michael Moorcock issued in October 2010; a second, PROSE: The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett is scheduled for release in fall 2011. A third, The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter, is scheduled for a 2012 release, but will feature a past Doctor (see below).
Return to past Doctors
The decision to no longer publish novels featuring past Doctors after 2005 was controversial, although Big Finish Productions kept Doctors One through Eight in print in its Short Trips books until they were lost the license to publish print Doctor Who fiction in 2009. This led to speculation that BBC Books, perhaps in relation to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the franchise, might begin publishing new works featuring past Doctors.
Further speculation arose when BBC Books announced in early 2011 that in July 2011 it would be republishing new editions of six early Target novelisations. These books featured the original Target cover art and with new introductions by the likes of Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies and Neil Gaiman. A second series of six additional titles was released in July 2012.
In March 2011, BBC Books announced that Gareth Roberts had been commissioned to write a novelisation of the unfinished Fourth Doctor story, HOMEVID: Shada for publication in 2012, indicating that issues that had prevented the Douglas Adams story from being adapted in the 1980s had been resolved (though as of August 2011 the imprint has not indicated whether novelisations of Adams' other stories, TV: The Pirate Planet and City of Death are planned).
In the summer of 2011, Stephen Baxter, another noted SF writer, announced on his blog that he had been commissioned to write The Wheel of Ice, a 2012 release that will feature the Second Doctor and mark BBC Books' return to publishing original works based on pre-2005 Doctors. Baxter's announcement was followed on 21st July 2011 by BBC Books announcing that Alastair Reynolds has been commissioned to write a Third Doctor novel, Harvest of Time, for publication during 2013.
Possible future releases
Following the broadcast of his well-received episode TV: The Doctor's Wife, Neil Gaiman indicated an interest in possibly expanding the story for a novelisation. During the summer of 2011 there were reports that Gaiman and BBC Books were in discussions regarding this, but as of August 2011 no announcement has been made as to whether this will happen.
It also remains to be seen if the Baxter and Reynolds novels (coupled with the novelisation of Shada) signal a long-term return to publishing past Doctor stories by BBC Books, or if the imprint intends to republish more Target-era novelisations as the anniversary approaches.
As of mid-2011, BBC Books continues to make its Doctor Who releases available in permanent physical print form and has yet to release any exclusively in temporary e-book form (though most releases are available in that format). It remains to be seen if the precedent set by the digital-only release of two Sarah Jane Adventures novelisations in late 2010 will carry over into future Doctor Who releases.
BBC Books also publishes non-fiction and reference works based upon the series, including a collection of shooting scripts from the 2005 series, and in 2008 it published Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale, a massive (512-page) collection of production-related e-mails by series executive producer Russell T Davies; an expanded paperback edition with an additional 300 pages of material was published in January 2010.
BBC Books Doctor Who Fiction Lines
- BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures
- BBC Past Doctor Adventures
- Short Trips
- BBC New Series Adventures
- Quick Reads
- BBC Torchwood novels