Books One of the inherent problems with being a retrospective fan, or someone who’s returning to Doctor Who after an especially large gap, isn’t just the volume of stories to potentially catch up with, but actually being able to access them.
If they’re audio stories, that’s generally easy. Anything produced by Big Finish under the Doctor Who license is still available from Big Finish and AudioGo have a pretty good track recorded of releasing and re-releasing on cd and download even material originally released on cassette, even as part of the compilation Tales from the TARDIS (here, here).
But the books? Good luck. A search through eBay reveals a few of them, and a glance at the adverts in Doctor Who Magazine suggests there is some old stock available, but it’s not everything. Some texts are being republished as ebooks, but again there’s no particular strategy to this.
The prices, oh, the prices. Like comics, Doctor Who on the page has largely been an ephemeral work, and publication schedules, popularity and essentialness mean that some books are a couple of pounds but many are, really, really expensive, especially the Virgin publications from the 1990s.
Which makes the process of constructing collections of these books, to some extent reconstructing history like the eponymous antagonist of Stephen Marley’s 1995 novel Managra, a near impossibility. Or at the very least a deeply involving project.
For those of us without the funds, it’s a case of scouring charity shops and second hand book emporiums, glancing along shelves and hoping to spot the familiar spines, checking our lists, because we’re the kinds of people who carry lists of these things in our pockets to see if we already have them. Most often we do. Sometimes, oh sometimes …
The process has been made even harder since the show returned because there are so many of us doing the same thing, or less likely to part with our collections for nominal prices or to simply give them away to charity. Plus most of the Who books in these shops now tend to be nuWho spin-offs. Which we still buy anyway if we need to. We have lists of those too.
I found my copy of Managra in the second-hand bookshop on Mount Pleasant in Liverpool in the early noughties. As you can see from the photos its seen better days, its previous owner having decided to “protect” it by wrapping it in cellotape.
On the inside front page it’s been priced at £2 in pencil. A bargain. Though it’s worth noting that they’re going for an average of about £4 on ebay now which is nearer to the cover price. Not all of the Virgin Missing Adventures are that cheap.
Incidentally, I have read Managra, I read it when I bought it so my memory of its receded in the excitement of watching the new series. My plan is to read my way through all of these missing adventures from Virgin and the BBC knitted together with the TARGET novelisations in chronological order when I have them all, one grand project leading to another.
“When I have them all.”