Without an ongoing series, Doctor Who fandom has turned to itself to find new sources of interest: professionally written novels, fan fiction, telesnap reconstructions, audio adventures, video productions, reference books, and endless discussion (including this Guide). So where is all this leading us? What's the state of Doctor Who fandom and how long will all this last?
Note: Longer essays, as well as shorter, are acceptable in this category.
The articles in order of posting:
When I considered who I should invite to pen the
first article on Fandom itself, I couldn't think of anyone else but the
man who helped revolutionize the distribution of the fan-made audio
soundtracks of the lost stories and later the telesnap reconstructions.
Before Robert Franks, there were plenty of jokers who wanted $20 for a
questionable copy of The Smugglers.
Now, we can get a copy of any lost story in near pristine quality at cost
and save our money for the BBC video releases. If anyone deserves the
first shot at the podium, it's Robert.
What is Fandom and what does it mean to me? by Robert D.
When I considered who I should invite to pen the first article on Fandom itself, I couldn't think of anyone else but the man who helped revolutionize the distribution of the fan-made audio soundtracks of the lost stories and later the telesnap reconstructions. Before Robert Franks, there were plenty of jokers who wanted $20 for a questionable copy of The Smugglers. Now, we can get a copy of any lost story in near pristine quality at cost and save our money for the BBC video releases. If anyone deserves the first shot at the podium, it's Robert.
What is Fandom and what does it mean to me? by Robert D. Franks12/3/98
When Daniel asked me to write the first article in this series, I jumped at the chance. I sometimes wonder if I love fandom more than Doctor Who itself. He wanted to examine how, without a current series, fans have relied on themselves to keep their favorite series alive. I couldn't agree more.
I can quote the night I "became" a fan: October 16th, 1982. The serial on that night was The Brian of Morbius, but that didn't matter. I had seen Doctor Who before, but this was the night I realized that I liked this show and I wanted to find out everything I could about it. I remember the next few years devouring facts as soon as I could get my hands on them. To me this was what being a fan meant at the time, piecing together a puzzle to form the big picture of the whole series.
It wasn't easy. At the time the stations across America were airing the series in a haphazard manner. This meant that my local affiliate showed Logopolis about two weeks before Robot. Talk about confusing. I still have the first episode guide I ever saw. After harassing the program director at the local station, she sent me some photocopies of a list. The picture was starting to take shape.
I started to read the novelisations and Doctor Who Magazine. Then on a fateful day in 1985, I got the news: the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee serials were coming to America. I had to wait patiently for months for my PBS station to get to that first Hartnell serial. I sat down, or more accurately tried to sit down as I was bouncing off the walls, to watch An Unearthly Child. Forty-five minutes later I was wondering what all the fuss had been about. I mean the first 30 minutes had been great drama, but I sort of lost interest in the plight of the cavemen.
This is when being a fan started to change for me. My general knowledge was nearly full, so where did I move on from there? Organized fandom.
I went to my first science-fiction club meeting in late 1984, but my first real convention was 1989. It was a crowded Ramada in Columbus, Ohio. I met John Nathan-Turner and Terry Nation. I know I was supposed to be impressed. I wasn't. I then attended my first Visions. I was meeting the stars from the show, but more importantly I was meeting other fans. I could compare notes, really talk to someone else about this series I loved so much.
I should point out at this point that normally I avoid discussing Doctor Who in public. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because once I've started, it's hard to get me to shut up. I figure that most people don't want to hear why I like this show and what I think about it. So getting involved in fandom gave me that release.
Then came a long period which I call the Great Rest. Almost all fans experience to one degree or another: a period where you feel you've seen everything and there is nothing new to do. I had this ailment between 1992 and 1995. What happened then you ask? Rather simple really: the Internet.
I browsed the web first and discovered news and information that fueled my interest again. Then one of the most important discoveries of my life, I met Andrew Cloninger. Andrew and I shared an interest in early Doctor Who, and more importantly he had new Who. Or rather new Who to me in the shape of audio recordings of missing stories. My interest had been rekindled and I eagerly listened to each new tape.
The next important introduction I had was to Richard Develyn. Both Richard and Andrew were a new kind of fan I had never met before. They wanted to get the best they could offer and share it with fandom. The concept bowled me over and I immediately jumped in headfirst. By nature, I'm a generally generous person. I wanted to share all these great audios with friends and Richard was even producing telesnap reconstruction-- something I had thought about, but hadn't been able to do yet.
When Richard said he could use some help I said to count me in. Very soon after we started to collaborate on the Telesnap Reconstructions. It was great to see these stories come back to life with my help, but the greatest joy was in sharing this with other fans. All of a sudden I had more and more people that wanted to talk about Doctor Who.
The third person who changed my thoughts about fandom was Bruce Robinson. Bruce lives in Australia and I in America, but you'd never find two more devoted friends. We share not just our love of Who, but everything that a friendship is supposed to be. We talk for hours on the phone, and then realize after hanging up we forgot so many things we have to write a ten-page e-mail. Our desire to rekindle the early eras of Doctor Who in so many fans has taken off.
We now co-edit a bi-monthly newsletter, work together as part of a team effort to reconstruct the missing stories and have even started to learn that our knowledge of Doctor Who, which we thought was complete years ago, is only just starting. We've been privileged to meet others who share our interest and our generosity has been rewarded many times back to us.
So what does fandom mean to me? Friends! Some near, some far away, but all working together to preserve and carry on whether we have a current series or not. We will keep the series alive all by ourselves.
Michael Hickerson, the Guide's Missing
Adventures and Reference Book editor, has a quality that I admire: when he
writes a review, he notices the details that most people, especially
myself, overlook. If reviews are to be judged by their insightfulness,
Michael's will be considered among the best.
The Dedication of Fandom by Michael Hickerson
Michael Hickerson, the Guide's Missing Adventures and Reference Book editor, has a quality that I admire: when he writes a review, he notices the details that most people, especially myself, overlook. If reviews are to be judged by their insightfulness, Michael's will be considered among the best.
The Dedication of Fandom by Michael Hickerson14/3/98
I am rapidly approaching a point in my life when I will have been a fan of Doctor Who longer than I've not been a fan of the show. And to be quite honest with you, it's a staggering thought. It's been over a decade since my father flipped the TV set over to KTEH, channel 54 and suggested I give this Doctor Who show a try. It was a warm, summer Monday evening and it was part one of Time Flight.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, this was long before I discovered the Internet and an on-line community of fans who had a wide range of views on the show and what it could and should be about. It was long before the BBC saw fit to release the series commercially on video and the only access you had to previous stories at times was the Target novelizations (which were readily available at just about any Waldenbooks in large quantities) or the Jean-Marc Lociffier's program guide.
And since I discovered Who in my early teens, a lot of friends and family members thought it was just a stage and I'd just outgrow it and move on to other things.
I have to tell them, it's probably not going to happen any time soon.
See, back then, I was a lone fan. Yes, KTEH had the local fan club, but at that time I wasn't old enough to drive myself to meetings and my parents weren't too thrilled at the prospect of spending an entire Friday night, sitting around discussing Who. By the time I was able to drive, I had moved away from the KTEH area and had to limit my Who watching to the once a week showing of my local station, WETA, that didn't have a fandom base as KTEH had. So, for the first couple of years of my famdom, I was pretty much isolated except for the snippets I got from Doctor Who Magazine.
Which in a lot of ways, was a great windfall for me. I was able to have time to see the entire series through several times and form my opinions of what the best and worst stories were, which Doctor I preferred, and much, much more, before I ever discovered an on-line community of fandom who is just as devoted and dedicated to the show (if not more!) than I am.
And what have I found in my discovery that there are other fans out there besides myself?
1. Doctor Who is a rare show that inspires instense devotion. It is a rare thing to discover what I call as casual Doctor Who fan-- namely, one who can take or leave the show. I have known a number of people over the years who professed to watching the show for a time but then giving up when the local PBS station dropped it and never really thinking about it again. Usually, though, I find that if you discover the show and allow it to become a part of your life, you will never be quite the same. I am not saying you'll be like me and tape every episode you can, trade for bootlegs of lost adventures, harass you local bookstore for the latest novels, and much more, but for the most part, once you become a fan, you're one for life. It's like a marraige-- 'til death do us part.
2. We will never, ever agree on anything. I will tell you right here and now that Sylvester McCoy is my favorite Doctor and Curse of Fenric is my all time favorite story. I've got my top ten classics of Who, my ranking of Doctors, and my list of those stories I'd just as soon forget about. And here's one thing I'm wiling to bet-- yours may have a few similaries but they are most likely extremely different. And the best thing is that for the most part, we can all agree to disagree. I will defend my favorites to my last breath and I hope you would do the same. But in the end, we remember that the thing that bonds us all together is that we love this show. Any other differences are pretty much irrelevant.
3. Our battlecry is, "Yeah, but it had some great stories." The standard non-fan response when a person finds out who watch Doctor Who is that "Oh, that's the show with the cheezy effects." And let's face it, they are pretty bad at times. But it's not the effects that draw us together-- it's the intelligence of the stories and the characters we've come to know and love. As George Lucas once said, "Special effects without a great story are just special effects. It gets boring after a while." I think that pretty much sums up Doctor Who. It's not the effects that we are passionate about. If that was it, we'd all be regular contributors to discussion of Jurassic Park or ID4. Instead, we are drawn back to the stories-- even those we've seen so many time we can recite the dialogue to them!
4. Even though there was no rigid continuity in the series, we are determined to find it! I love the debates about the exact nature of the Dalek time-line and how each story fits into the overall picture. Or better yet, are the faces in Brain of Morbius actually previous incarnations of the Doctor? Or if the Doctors can meet without a major explosion, why did the temporal discharge occur when the two Brigs met in Mawdryn Undead? These are the bread and butter for endless debate as we try to find an overall picture and continuity for the show. We will never find one, but the quest is the thing.
5. We're all hoping that certain stories resurface. The initial excitment over finding the complete Tomb of the Cybermen a few years ago led to speculation that other lost stories might turn up again. So far, they haven't seen the light of day, but you never know. And how many times have we heard the story that the BBC has unearthed the final episode of The Tenth Planet and are ready to rush it to video? We cling to the hope that in the not too distant future we can see these stories again. Whether or not we'll ever get to see them is another question. But we take hope that if Tomb was out there, so could such classics as Fury from the Deep or Evil of the Daleks.
So, where does the fandom go as we approach the turn of the century?
To be quite honest, I don't know. On one hand it looks bleak for adding new fans due to a lack of availablity of the shows on broadcast TV or cable stations. After the great interest roused by the telemovie last year, it seems the excitment has waned a bit. I continually try to get new fans into the show, but it's a daunting task. But one that when it pays off is well worth the effort.
As for the fans that are already there, it looks brighter. The BBC books continue the traditon of the Virgin novels, giving us new and intresting tid-bits to discuss. And the advent of video release of the show assures us that we will, at least for now, have access to the series beyond our well worn copies of the stories we know and love. In the same way the Star Trek novels kept the Trek fandom alive and kicking, I hope these books will keep Doctor Who alive and well.
It will certainly keep things lively....
Robert Smith? Indeed! His reviews in the Guide need no introduction: they speak for themselves in the quality of his criticism and the clarity of his expression. As with Michael, I count myself lucky to be able to work with Robert on this Guide.
Fandom by Robert Smith? 22/3/98
Fandom. What an inventive, invincible species. Only a few decades since they sat around collecting Terrance Dicks novelisations and learned to write fanzine articles. Puny, defenceless geeks. They've survived hiatus, cancellation, death, disappointment and false hope. They've survived in-fighting and the end of the television series. And now, here they are, out among the internet, ready to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable.
I am constantly amazed by fandom's ability to survive. You'd think that without a television series, the fans of Doctor Who would have simply packed up and gone away. And perhaps any normal person would. But Doctor Who fans are something special. When the show that had sustained us for so long finished, we didn't simply sit back and let it go. Instead we wrote letters, petitioned the BBC, supported attempts at a revival. And when it became apparent that if this were going to succeed, it was going to take time, we did something extraordinary. We took the show, or rather the series, and made it our own.
Nineties fandom is a very strange beast. With a single telemovie and a questionably-canonical thirteen minute sketch as the only onscreen material to support us, we've gone and turned Doctor Who into such a thriving enterprise that even the BBC wants it back. Not by becoming television producers (although it took the talents of self-confessed fan, Phil Segal, to overcome the enormous obstacles in the way of getting Who back on the air), but by becoming writers and buyers of books, creaters of telesnap restorations, producers, writers, directors, actors and scriptwriters of fan videos and a hotbed of continual discussion, analysis and re-examination of the entire concept of Doctor Who on the internet. We've seized the new technology and turned it to our advantage, so that now not only authors, book editors and music composers read our discussions, our web pages and our story rankings, but so do the actors themselves (Peter Davison admitting to such a habit at Visions 97).
As part of local fan groups in Australia, I would get my fandom fix once, maybe twice a month. This was amazing. I found people who liked the show almost as much as I did, who were irreverent about it, who made fun of it, who talked about it incessantly, who had lives apart from the show and ultimately loved it to death. At first I was worried about getting to know these people better. I too had something of a life apart from the show and I was worried that my supposed expertise on all things Whoish would be shown up if I had to talk about it more than twice a month. Little did I realise what was around the corner...
The net is an amazing place. Sometimes I simply can't believe I can spend hours every day talking about the most incredible minutiae, examining and re-examining the thematic flow of season 21, behind the scenes production of season five, external and internal effects on the series, from the details of the running times of the episodes in 1964 to the amazing revelations in the latest NA. I'm not sure what surprises me most: that I care so much or that the series is so complex to support such an analysis.
Fandom has matured very noticably since the television series ended. We've grown up, but in doing so we've realised that it's okay to enjoy childish things. Our critical faculties are so much more advanced now that we've had time to stand back and examine the series, take it apart and find out what makes it work. And more importantly why it works for us. Amazingly, the concept of Doctor Who is so flexible and so strong that it can not only survive this, it can actually thrive. The NA's have swung Doctor Who in new directions, giving us Who for the nineties that was, nevertheless, still Who (the greatest compliment I can pay to the NA's). And who, for the most part, was responsible for the success of the books? We were.
Not just the "we" who wrote the books, although the contributions of fan authors who contributed to the series cannot be undervalued. However, it is the "we" who buy the books, who allowed Virgin to produce a runaway success in the middle of a world recession, who showed the BBC just how successful the books could be that they took the series back. We're the ones who caused The Dying Days to sell more copies than that year's Booker Prize winner. We're responsible for the continual success of Doctor Who. It's a good feeling, isn't it?
This article first appeared on the Floor Ten Audio Productions site, of which Howard Richardson is one of the main crew. Howard expresses some views on Doctor Who that need to be heard and debated, and he does so directly and honestly. Can't beat that.
The Current State Of Doctor Who by Howard Richardson 1/4/98
I'll start by saying this: the current state of Who is abysmal. I've been a lifetime fan of the show (as are most of us), (almost) never missing an episode since the late Tom Baker era, but in the last decade changes have been occurring that I find worrying. For too long now Who is being spoiled by two groups of fools - the don't cares and the care-too-muchs.
The first category are the ones who are basically out to make a quick buck - BBC Worldwide, Fox, all those band-wagon jumpers who have written books on every conceivable aspect of Who, from what the script editor's daughter has for tea to how many times the word 'pants' is used in the Hartnell era (not nearly enough, some would argue!)
This is of course understandable, but lamentable. Who couldn't exist without funding and merchandise, I wouldn't suggest otherwise, but an unfortunate logical progression of the money-making scheming is that the people in charge know more about business than Who.
The second category are that new generation of sad fans who cling so tightly to the programme that they cannot see its faults - the tragic, self-proclaimed aficionados of all things who-ish, who get up-in-arms the moment anyone suggests that the Fox movie was crap, that the quality of McCoy's acting is very inconsitant, that perhaps Weng Chiang wasn't all it's cracked up to be or that Keff McCulloch's version of the theme wasn't very good (things that seem only too obvious to me!) They're only my opinions, but I can back them up - I don't instantly assume that because it's Who, it must be good. They defend Who to the hilt with the most convoluted logic, and insist that it must change to become successful in the future... and anyone who doesn't agree with them can't be a "true" Doctor Who fan!
Unfortunately now Who has become largely property of this sad fanatical minority. Whereas once the whole of Britain would share in the enjoyment of the programme, tuning in regularly to see those golden moments of genius with Tom Baker, Who seems to be sole-property now of a few fanatics, who want to take it off in "new" directions and most likely see it turned into some abominable Star Trek-style adult soap-opera (for let's not pretend that most American Sci-Fi series are anything more than soap operas set in space, however entertaining one may find them.. - but that's quite another issue!)
There was a format. Who never needed spectacular effects, sex-interest, bizzarre camera-angles, horror-film shock tactics or big-name stars. It survived on ingenuity, humour, subtle gesture and suggestion, dedication and that essential air of mystery. It was all worthwhile for those magic moments when doors slid back to reveal hidden control rooms, evil villains unmasked themselves for the first time or that monster unexpectedly emerged from a warehouse or quarry somewhere obviously just outside of Croydon. It worked. For more than twenty years, it worked. Why does it need to be altered or "updated" by bringing in new history and canon, making the Dr "dark" or highlighting minority or 'PC' issues concerning gays (link to article on Kate Orman's page), racial minorities, feminist issues, drug abuse; etc.?
Let me just answer those obvious retorts so we can
get them behind us -
NO: I'm not homophobic/racist/misogynist (I have many close friends who are gay/of ethnic origin/female/drug takers, and have never discriminated against anyone on such grounds. Live and let live, I say.)
NO: I'm not opposed to sex in Who because I'm a sad anorak who's never even kissed a girl, let alone slept with one! (I've had normal relationships with normal girls since a normal age, the same as anyone else!)
NO: I'm not a sad Young-Conservative-type who opposes change per se. (I'm actually rather liberal-minded! Peace, man!)
I just believe Dr Who should be kept the way it is. If you want to make it a vehicle for gay-rights or equal oppotunities for women, then fine - these causes deserve attention. Just don't call it Doctor Who.
The argument for such elements runs something along these lines: since feminism/race issues/homosexuality/drugs/sex/abuse etc. are part of everyday normal life, why not reflect this realistically in Who?
It would be a fair point, were there not a tradition of 30 years of setting aside reality instead of highlighting it. I mean, if we're seriously to consider realistic inclusion of so-called 'PC' issues, should we not also consider that the Dr is himself highly suspect, seeing as he travels alone with a variety of very attractive young women and occasionally young boys. Should not every right-minded thinker be calling out "pervert" and insisting that he be put on lists of suspected paedophiles?
Seeing as the Doctor is now half human apparently (which seemed pretty obvious to me anyway from his conduct, whether or not the point offends your sense of canon) he doesn't even have the defence that he is "alien" and therefore our normal sexual rules wouldn't apply to him. In fact, were he not to make a move on any one of those assistants thoughout his many hundred years of life, we might also conclude that the Doctor was gay himself. What red-blooded half-human hetrosexual could really resist making a pass at Leela dressed in leathers or Peri in one of her clingy leotards?! Certainly not me (and I'm only quarter-human)!
Of course such speculation is spurious, because the issue was never raised. And WHY? Because our everyday reality has always been kept at a safe distance in Who, and should continue to be, IMHO!
There'll always be a market for original-style Doctor Who. Sure, changes occurred with every new actor or producer, but the ethos remained constant, and that's what mattered. With the right backing behind it, I'm certain it could rise to the fame it enjoyed in the Seventies. Why try to go that bit further and make it appeal to a mainstream sci-fi audience by compromising a tried and tested formula?
Who was ever about wobbly sets, cliched lines, quirky humour and a shoe-string budget. That was was set it apart from the rest - the stories simply had to be good or it would have just gone under like any other second-rate sci-fi programme. But to class it as "sci-fi" is to limit it (and this is the main mistake my care-too-muchs make)! To take it off on an agenda of "adult" sci-fi is to deny all other aspects of the programme. Who wasn't just a sci-fi series, it was theatre, a childrens' programme, a detective series, mystery, horror, period drama... so much more. Let's not justify liking Doctor Who in terms some allogorical, philosophical or moral fable, or try and pretend it is ground-breaking science fiction - moments are, but the vast majority isn't. Just enjoy it for what it was - damn good TV for kids of all ages!!
So now you see where our audio plays are coming from. Yes - they're written totally to a cliched format, but one I know us old-school fans will like. If you don't like them, then fine - pop off and visit Kate Orman's site or something - I know she has plenty of alternative ideas! But for those of you who like their Who unadulterated, we hope we are providing some enjoyment for you! (Why, even the acting is of such low standard as to be authenic!!)