Share and Follow
Christmas Eve. Stolen babies. A birth secret… It didn’t take long for bells to start ringing for fans who are familiar with the very first long-form prose Doctor Who adventure written by showrunner Russell T Davies for Virgin New Adventures: Damaged Goods.
Damaged Goods (1996)
Damaged Goods is a cracker of a Who novel. More Torchwood than NuWho in tone (and more Trainspotting than Torchwood, to be honest), it’s an adult story set in a grittily realist English council estate in 1987. Written by Davies a decade before he, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter brought the show back to the BBC, it features the Seventh Doctor alongside prose companions Roz and Chris, and was adapted in 2015 into a Big Finish audio adventure starring Sylvester McCoy.
Centring on “The Quadrant”, a sci-fi-appropriate name for a group of tower blocks in the fictional Red Hamlets estate, Damaged Goods features a large cast including the Tylers – not Rose and Jackie this time but Winnie, Bev, Carl and Gabriel –, their neighbours, drug-dealing gang leader “The Capper”, and the wealthy but deeply troubled Jericho family.
A dangerous new drug infected with ancient Time Lord creation known as “N-Forms” is sweeping The Quadrant and has taken possession of a recently deceased criminal. Meanwhile, a powerful psychic force on the estate is getting stronger and drawing together elements that will reveal a shameful secret from a decade earlier. It’s an emotional and dark story with classic RTD characterisation, in that even the smallest roles come alive, and the human side is equally or even more prominent than the sci-fi side.
There are no massive spoilers here, for anybody who’d like to seek out the story and enjoy it with the revelations intact, but be warned if reading for the first time that this really isn’t the same family-friendly world as the post-2005 TV show. There are drugs, sex, violence, alcoholism, self-harm, physical child abuse, suicide, homophobia, and more.
Indeed, Davies reportedly stopped the novel being reprinted in the run-up to the 2005 revival for fear that it could convey the wrong impression of his new Doctor Who, and described it thusly in a piece looking back at his gay Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk (which – for Easter Egg fans – included a copy of Damaged Goods tucked away in the set of Doctor Who fan Vince’s bedroom) in The Guardian in 2003: