The Dying Days was the final release of the Virgin New Adventures line of Doctor Who novels and the only one featuring the Eighth Doctor. After this novel was published, Virgin Books forfeited the rights to produce novels featuring the Doctor to BBC Books. This marked a transition to a new series of novels featuring Bernice Summerfield as the main character while BBC Books made their own series of novels featuring the Eighth Doctor.
The Dying Days of the Twentieth Century
On the Mare Sirenum, British astronauts are walking on the surface of Mars for the first time in over twenty years. The National Space Museum in London is the venue for a spectacular event where the great and the good celebrate a unique British achievement.
In Adisham, Kent, the most dangerous man in Britain has escaped from custody while being transported by helicopter. In Whitehall, the new Home Secretary is convinced that there is a plot brewing to overthrow the government. In west London, MI5 agents shut down a publishing company that got too close to the top secret organisation known as UNIT. And, on a state visit to Washington, the British Prime Minister prepares to make a crucial speech, totally unaware that dark forces are working against him.
This time, the Doctor is already too late.
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- Eighth Doctor
- Bernice Summerfield
- Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
- Alexander Christian
- Winifred Bambera
- Edward Greyhaven
- David Staines
- Eve Waugh
- Raymond Heath
- Timothy Todd
- Seventh Doctor (dream sequence)
- Lord Greyhaven makes a deal with the Ice Warriors which enables them to invade the United Kingdom.
- Bernice is staying at the Doctor's house in Kent after getting a lift there with Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart and aM!xitsa.
- The Brigadier reminds Bambera that he is still technically retired, despite being the figurehead of the anti-Martian/Greyhaven rebellion.
- At the Queen's re-coronation, the Brigadier points out the Fourth Doctor, Romana II and K9 to Doris.
- Bernice knows how to isolate electrics from the fuel supply of a 20th century helicopter.
- Bernice excavated Mare Sirenum on Mars when she was twenty-four. This established her reputation as an archaeologist.
- Benny receives a letter (from 2593) offering her the Edward Watkins chair of archaeology at St. Oscar's University, Dellah.
- The Brigadier met the Eighth Doctor in Hong Kong in 1988 when they discovered the secret of the Embodiment of Gris.
- Bernice's 20th century knowledge speciality ranges from 1963 to 1989.
- Veronica Halliwell is Director General of MI5.
- Bernice can speak Martian.
- UNIT has a branch in Paris called NUIT.
- UNIT in the past has dealt with attempted invasions by the Bandrils and Drahvins without the Doctor's help.
- The Martian Communicators Guild is an Ice Warrior organisation.
- Water is a source of great wealth on Mars.
- The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to reflect an Ice Warrior's sonic blast.
- After being blown out of the Ice Warrior's War Rocket, the Doctor creates several balloons to slow his descent out of bin bags, curtain rings and a cannister of helium.
- The Brigadier kept Bessie in mothballs for the Doctor.
Cultural references from the real world
- Benny looks at a John Smith and the Common Men album when she and the Doctor are searching Todd's flat.
- Bruce Springsteen is the American President.
- This is the Eighth Doctor's only appearance in the Virgin New Adventures book series, with his first line being "Sorry I'm late. You wouldn't believe the state of the traffic around the Horsehead Nebula", and his last line being "What would that-" before he is interrupted by Bernice's kiss.
- Although officially the final release of the Virgin Doctor Who New Adventures line, it was in fact not the last to be published. Due to production delays, a novel featuring the Seventh Doctor that had been intended for release several months earlier, So Vile a Sin, was not published until a month after this novel came out, making it, technically, the final Doctor Who NA release.
- Rather than using the McCoy era Doctor Who logo on the spine, or the later New Adventures logo intended for the Summerfield novels, The Dying Days features the Virgin Books logo on the spine.
- Prior to the release of The Company of Friends, the novel held the distinction of featuring the only appearance of Professor Bernice Summerfield with the Eighth Doctor for over ten years.
- Virgin would continue to publish The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield. The Dying Days ends leading Bernice to her new home at the University of Dellah.
- This novel was the first to be re-released by BBCi on the official Doctor Who website in ebook form, accompanied by extensive notes and commentary from author Lance Parkin and new illustrations by artist Allan Bednar. It became inaccessible in 2010.
- At the Mars landing party there are a few notable guests: Jeremy Paxman, Richard Dawkins, Chris Evans, Gillian Anderson, Richard Branson, Alan Yentob, Emma Peel and Lalla Ward (who appears as herself and "in character" as Romana II at the end of the book).
- Benny's knowledge specialty of the 20th century actually ranges from 1963 to 1989, a reference to the period of the TV series' original run.
- When Xznaal is seen from the point of view of Greyhaven, the Doctor, or Benny, the pronoun Parkin uses for Xznaal is "he". From anyone else's point of view, Parkin refers to Xznaal as "it", as in "Xznaal moved its scaly body".
- The human names are also written (when viewed from the Ice Warrior's point of view) as they would pronounce them, such as Gerayhavun/Greyhaven, Xztaynz/Staines.
- Philip Segal reportedly stated that a big alien invasion couldn't be done on the TV movie's budget because of the cost of multiple prosthetic costumes and the cost of showing a full alien invasion. The Dying Days features an alien invasion with three Ice Warriors; there are never more than two Ice Warriors in a room together throughout the book.
- The book's concluding chapter ends with Benny initiating a sexual encounter with the Doctor, a first for the franchise in any licensed media. Debated for many years by fans, the event was again referenced in the Big Finish audio drama Benny's Story, furthering its controversy.
- The book was notable for not having the Doctor Who logo anywhere on the cover, spine or interior, due to Virgin not having the rights to the logo introduced for the Eighth Doctor (the rights to which were owned by BBC Books) and not wanting to use the Seventh Doctor's logo; Virgin Publishing's logo was used instead. In addition, the title Doctor Who appears nowhere on the back cover or interior pages until one gets to the copyright page. There is also a brief mention on an acknowledgements page.
- The book concludes with the afterword, "The End and a new beginning", signed by the editors of the New Adventures line, acknowledging this as the final Doctor Who novel and promoting the start of the Virgin Bernice Summerfield New Adventures line.
- Parkin later released his original epilogue to the novel as a "final chapter" to the novel in 1997.
- The novel's title was inspired by the lyrics of Gladys Knight's License to Kill.
- Parkin would create an "alternate ending" to this novel of sorts with his short stories Worm and Fishy Business, published in 1998's Perfect Timing and 1999's Perfect Timing 2, respectively. Both stories portrayed an alternate timeline where the Doctor and Benny became lovers and continued to travel together for years following the Martian invasion. Benny would be seen pregnant in the Doctor's memories in Parkin's The Infinity Doctors.
- The Doctor regenerated in TV: Doctor Who.
- The Doctor delivers Benny to Dellah, setting up the events of PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!.
- The Brigadier refers to debriefing Jo Grant after the events of TV: The Curse of Peladon.
- Kadiatu and aM!xitsa last appeared in PROSE: Happy Endings.
- Benny asks how Martians can invade Britain now while she also has Martians at her wedding. (PROSE: Happy Endings).
- In TV: The Christmas Invasion there is question of whether or not aliens are Martians and confirmed not to be the case.
- Benny previously met the Brigadier in PROSE: No Future, and, from his perspective, would later attend her wedding in Happy Endings.
- Previous Mars missions are mentioned, including the meeting of the Ambassadors. (TV: The Ambassadors of Death)
- The Doctor states that he left Chris on Gallifrey. (PROSE: Lungbarrow)
- Chris Cwej returns in PROSE: Deadfall.
- Bambera first met the Doctor in TV: Battlefield.
- The fictional book-within-a-book Who Killed Kennedy is mentioned, as are its authors James Stevens and David Bishop. Supposedly, UNIT altered the dates within the book to change them from the actual dates. Stevens is said to have "gone to ground", referring to his disappearance in January 1996. On that occasion, he travelled back in time to Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy) On the other hand, Bishop is mentioned as still being in London.
- In TV: Aliens of London / World War Three the public are again given practically unquestionable knowledge of aliens existing and (again) it is seen as a hoax.
- The Doctor's house first appeared in PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Warhead.
- Veronica Halliwell originally appeared (and died) in PROSE: System Shock.
- Susan was listening to John Smith and the Common Men in TV: An Unearthly Child.
- The Master previously stole the Nestene energy unit from the National Space Museum. (TV: Terror of the Autons)
- Ashley Chapel Logistics (PROSE: Millennial Rites) and I2 (PROSE: System Shock) are amongst the companies that supplied parts for the Mars Probe.
- Christian attempted to get in touch with the Brigadier via his daughter, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. (HOMEVID: Downtime, TV: The Power of Three)
- PROSE: Christmas on a Rational Planet is the first novel to mention a re-coronation of the Queen. However, this was actually a reference to the presence of a King in TV: Battlefield and the Golden Jubilee of a Queen in PROSE: Head Games.