BBC Books was the book publishing arm of BBC Enterprises/Worldwide from the 1980s until 2006, when it was sold to 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, the Virgin New Adventures range stopped featuring the Doctor and concentrated instead on exploring the Bernice Summerfield character they had created.
In 1997, BBC Books launched its Doctor Who series of books. With few exceptions, BBC Books followed the precedent set by Virgin's New Adventures and Missing Adventures lines by releasing each month one book featuring the Eighth Doctor and one book featuring a prior Doctor. To parallel the branding division between the VNAs and VMAs, fans divided BBC Books' Doctor Who series into the "Eighth Doctor Adventures" and "Past Doctor Adventures".
The first novel to be published by BBC Books was Terrance Dicks' Eighth Doctor story The Eight Doctors, accompanied by Keith Topping and Martin Day's Third Doctor tale The Devil Goblins from Neptune. Many authors who had contributed to Virgin's novels continued to write for BBC Books.
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 in their Doctor Who range. They also published two novelisations: the aforementioned adaptation of the Doctor Who TV film, and an adaptation 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 called by fans 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 continued until 2017.
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 The Coming of the Terraphiles by noted fantasy writer Michael Moorcock, issued in October 2010; a second, The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett, was released in 2011; a third, Dark Horizons by Jenny Colgan, was released in 2012; and a fourth, Engines of War, by George Mann, was released in 2014 and featured the War Doctor rather than the incumbent Eleventh Doctor.
Return to past Doctors
The decision to no longer publish novels featuring past Doctors after 2005 was controversial, although Big Finish Productions kept stories featuring the First eight Doctors in print in its Short Trips books until they 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, Shada for publication in 2012, indicating that issues that had prevented the Douglas Adams story from being adapted in the 1980s had been resolved. This was followed by a novelisation of a second Adams story, City of Death, by James Goss, released in 2015.
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 featuring the Second Doctor, marking BBC Books' return to publishing original works featuring "Classic" Doctors. Baxter's announcement was followed on 21 July 2011 by BBC Books announcing that Alastair Reynolds had been commissioned to write a Third Doctor novel, Harvest of Time, published in 2013. This was followed by the Fourth Doctor novel The Drosten's Curse, by A. L. Kennedy, in 2015. These novels have followed the format of the "deluxe" New Series Adventures, with "name" authors and an extended page count, to suit older readers.
Across the seventh series of Doctor Who, BBC Books released three novellas, entitled The Angel's Kiss, Devil in the Smoke and Summer Falls, which were initially made available exclusively in digital form, but were later collected in the physical release Summer Falls and Other Stories. Across 2014, a new series of short stories entitled Time Trips were released as e-books only, but were collected into a single volume in 2015. As of 2020, BBC Books continues to make its Doctor Who releases available in physical print form, and has yet to release any exclusively in e-book form.
BBC Books also publishes non-fiction and reference works based upon the series, including a collection of shooting scripts from the 2005 series and 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 fiction lines
- Doctor Who