In thinking about the Matthew Sweet article I posted in another thread today, which draws a direct throughline from "Survival" to "Rose" (to be fair, the booklet blurb on the region 2 DVD also drew this conclusion a few years ago), I thought I'd open a can of worms and ask this:
Are the "wilderness years" being shortchanged in hindsight, even by fandom?
It's difficult to explain to those who weren't "active" from 1990 through the first half of 2003 (prior to the announcement of the new series), but "back in the day" (God, am I really that old?), the New Adventures novels were a big deal. A huge deal. They carried forward the Doctor-as-manipulator-even-at-Ace's-expense theme, advanced the mythology, and gave us stories like Human Nature (in its original, vastly superior and more affecting form, IMHO).
The BBC novels took over and I didn't quite latch onto them in the same way, but it's hard to argue that they didn't advance the mythology, especially where the eighth Doctor was concerned. Who among us didn't go wide-eyed at the first mention of Gallifrey's destruction in the new series, daring to think that maybe, just maybe, the books were being taken on board as part of some big master timeline? As it happens, John Peel's vision of the destruction of Gallifrey was different from RTD's, but for a moment, it almost seemed to all line up. The BBC books also gave us an intro story for Mel, an "official" acknowledgement of the Season 6B theory, and a plausible exit for the sixth Doctor - more plausible, at least, than a bump on the head.
And somewhere in there we got Big Finish, reminding us just how brilliant Doctor Who was off the printed page. By returning to the original four-episode format of the show, and yet bringing us stories that were surprisingly modern, I still feel in my gut that Big Finish may have been the tipping point that set things in motion for the current TV series to happen. It's sadly been marginalized by the TV series' return - witness the sea change in the McGann stories, from four-roughly-25-minute-episode stories to a format that more or less humps the leg of the current single-rapid-paced-episode TV format. And yet the new series displays some obvious Big Finish influence (i.e. a healthy portion of its stable of returning writers, and even whole stories or at least story concepts). I personally don't think Big Finish gets the credit it deserves for taxiing the TARDIS down the runway to get ready for takeoff again.
And let's not forget the various fan-produced video productions of the 1990s - Wartime, Downtime, Shakedown, the Auton trilogy, etc. etc.
Any thoughts? Are any or all of these things simply stuff that kept the hardcore fans from baying at the moon for years on either side of the TVM? Or are they vital parts of the history of the show that are unjustly overlooked in the official record?