Doctor Who-Dunit – An Introduction

On 23rd November 1963, a television series broadcast its first episode – the story of two teachers, who, worried about one of their students, follow her home and, rather than losing their jobs due to stalking a sixteen year old girl, end up being whisked away through time and space by a grumpy old man.Doctor Who

Compare that first episode (it’s getting a repeat this Thursday if you’ve never seen it) with the most recent iteration of the show and so much has changed. But you would never doubt that it’s the same show – not just the fact that that old blue Police Box is still there,  but the Doctor, despite wearing eleven different faces and sporting eleven different personalities, is still the same basic not-quite-human central character. And he’s as mesmeric as ever.

Um, hang on, why am I banging on about Doctor Who on a mystery review blog? Let me explain…

One of the reasons for the fact that the show is still going strong – let’s gloss over the hiatus from 1987 to 2005, excluding 1996 – is that the format is so fluid, it can embrace any sort of story, including the odd mystery as well. I’m not talking about which person who looks like Antony Ainley in make-up is the Master pretending to be, or why the Daleks have to shout Exterminate! ten times before they shoot anyone (maybe their guns have a sonically-charged power source?) but proper whodunit-style mysteries.

So I’m going to take the opportunity to spend this week on the blog as a thank you to my favourite television show. It is no small exaggeration that those Target novelisations of the old television stories – a time before video recorders, let’s remember – was my doorway into reading. So it seems entirely appropriate that this is where my own small 50th anniversary tribute will live.

So, brace yourself for some reviews, both televisual, audio and even a book or two (if the book I’m thinking of is as much a mystery as I recall), with Robots, both shiny and hairy, Unicorns, the first of the Time Lords and Jeremy Clarkson’s soulmate. And if anyone can suggest other attempts at a mystery (and I’ll freely admit one of those, often considered a mystery, is a utterly rubbish one), do let me know.


  1. Seconded.

    I find it really interesting reading about Doctor Who. It ought to be the kind of programme I’d love (I’m too young to have seen the original run), and overall I enjoy the new series, but I just can’t get into the older stuff. Maybe I’ve been watching the wrong episodes.


    • Well, I find it hard to watch the shows from about 1978 (later Tom Baker) – lack of budget, overly bright lighting, dodgy guest stars. I loved it at the time though, but now I’m much more likely to watch the older ones or listen to the always excellent Big Finish audios


      • Oh that’s interesting. I think almost all of the episodes I’ve seen are from that period. I’d like to listen to the Big Finish stories, because they seem to have high quality scripts, but they’re a bit expensive to take a punt on.


      • Most of Season 15 is pretty horrible; Fang Rock and Fendahl are terrific, but the other stories are bland sci fi with people running down corridors firing laser guns. And sometimes the corridors are made of CSO!

        But I like The Key to Time stories, and City of Death is wonderful. I’ve got a soft spot for The Horns of Nimon, which was the story that really hooked me – and which was quite scary for a seven year old!


  2. What about The Holy Terror? And I know it’s not strictly a Dr Who story, but … Death & Diplomacy? Which is brilliant, and written by Dave Stone, who wrote my favorite NA, Sky Pirates!


      • Ugh. The NAs veered too far into SF for my tastes and the Dave Stone book that I read (can’t recall which) was so far away from what I liked about Doctor Who, I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it. Not my cup of tea at all.


      • I’d give Ship of Fools a go, though. It’s a murder mystery set on a luxury spaceship, plays fair with the reader, has a clever solution – and is funny to boot. Has a spoof of Poirot and Bulldog Drummond. But, yes, I agree; Dr Who is at its best when it’s playing with ideas and storytelling, and not about mercenaries, Looms or physics.


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