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The freedom offered by the printed word has allowed some of Doctor Who’s most advanced and spectacular visions of the future.
Tony Masero’s cover art for The Also People (1995) by Ben Aaronovitch shows the Doctor (as played by Sylvester McCoy) enjoying a cup of tea in the Worldsphere.

Unlike television producers and comic-strip artists, prose writers don’t need to worry whether vast, epic depictions of futuristic societies can be achieved on a tight budget or timescale. So it’s hardly surprising that, through the years, some of Doctor Who’s most dramatic future worlds have appeared in print.

Sometimes, as in Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (first published in 1964), an author will revel in material that wasn’t achievable in a tiny studio at Lime Grove. Here, David Whitaker explores the amazing technologies available in the TARDIS, which seem in the main to involve machines that make Ian Chesterton the most well-groomed man in outer space. More interestingly, Whitaker’s description of the TARDIS crew’s exploration of the Dalek city reveals the Daleks’ rarely acknowledged interest in culture, with a huge, domed observation hall containing strange Dalek sculptures.

The first completely original Doctor Who novel (or rather, at 46 pages, just a novella) was Doctor Who and the Invasion from Space (1966). In this, the Doctor rescues the Mortimer family from certain death in the Great Fire of 1666, prior to landing amid a vast fleet of planet-sized spacecraft that are evacuating the entire population of Andromeda, led by a godlike computer called The One. The Andromedans’ spacefaring society is self-sufficient, floating among the galaxies in huge space arks, immune from disease and want.

The vast bulk of the book – which, though uncredited, was reportedly written by JL Morrissey – is a dialogue between the Doctor and The One in which it explains it created the androids to live off heavy elements found in stars. Much of the prose is beautiful, including descriptions of our galaxy as a vast cloud of planets and suns of which the Doctor knows only a fractional part. Sadly, there’s a serpent in this paradise: to maintain the perfect society, The One must eat up entire solar systems for fuel – and with Andromeda’s supply soon to be exhausted, its gaze has turned to the Milky Way. In its depiction of a utopian society built on an ugly secret, Doctor Who and the Invasion from Space has a lot in common with contemporary TV stories such as The Ark and The Savages (both 1966) – and indeed with several episodes of the original Star Trek.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who’s predictions of the future have depicted the destruction of planet Earth and the ultimate collapse of the universe. Alien superpowers have subjugated star systems and galactic empires have fallen, leaving only a few witnesses to the end of time itself. This lavish publication sets the TARDIS co-ordinates for a journey into this dangerous realm, exploring landmark episodes and meeting the talents who brought them to the screen. Packed full of exclusive features, including a wealth of previously unseen images, this is the essential guide to the series’ greatest futuristic adventures.