To give perhaps the best ‘flavo[u]r’ of who we are and how we do things, we’ve decided to hand over to long term collaborator/fan Charles Illumination to explain –
“WHO” WE ARE
Anyone who has been involved in Doctor Who fandom cannot fail to be struck by the diversity of its membership. The show appeals to the young, the old, and everyone between; to men and women (ditto), to Northerners and Southerners, Europeans (for the moment), one or two people from Australia and even (whisper it softly) Americans – NB There are rumours also of fans who are true Aliens – including small furry creatures from the Crab Nebula. The appeal extends also to both rich and poor – albeit, perhaps in an attempt to promote equality and inclusion (and other principles the BBC holds dear), most fan events include a Dealers’ Area, a brief visit to which will convert swiftly the former into the latter! Below, I’ve tried to identify the common link, that unique something, that defines the archetypal Doctor Who fan:
The obvious first step is to assume that I, myself, am a typical fan (although my unnatural love of condensed milk might make this a rather wild assumption) and, from that starting point, to delve into my inner psyche. This has proved to be a somewhat uncomfortable experience, but I did find the biro that I lost last week… it was down the side of the couch that I use for my meditations. I did also manage to construct the following list of reasons why I, personally, am a Doctor Who fan, and tried to extrapolate them out across fandom as a whole:
- A love of the BBC television series Doctor Who – this is, of course, rather obvious and, to be honest, I thought I might be on to a winner with this first factor. But then I considered the many fanzines and blogs I have read over the years which are pretty much cover-to-cover lists of what is wrong with the programme; packed with long boring reviews of stories that the writer doesn’t like or impenetrable features explaining why so-and-so’s contribution to the programme was a load of mouldy cabbage. And then I relived the long evenings in the convention bar with the fan who has the one line put down for each story. First you try him on the classics: Pyramids of Mars you suggest, “A bit dull really” he replies. The Caves of Androzani? – “A bland political drama”. Earthshock? – “Lacks tension”. So then you try some of the more ‘odd-ball’ stories, the ones that stretch the show’s format (although your companion argues that they really indicate that they are the product of (1) a producer who didn’t know what he was doing, (2) an overworked script editor’s propensity for the sherry, (3) a director not doing his job properly, (4) a scene-shifters dispute, or a combination of them all). You try The Mind Robber – “Lightweight fiction”. The Happiness Patrol? – “Superficial candy floss”. Ghost Light? – “Darwinian Claptrap”. Finally you try some of the older stories that even you only remove from your DVD shelf occasionally. The Web Planet? – “Boring”. The Dominators? – “Boring”. Warriors of the Deep – “Deeply boring”. No, not all Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who.
- Identifying with the Doctor as an ‘outsider’ – So Doctor Who fans are rebels? Doctor Who fans fight the system? Yes, of course they are – and do – they just choose to do it while waiting patiently in line in convention queues. The only time that the Doctor Who fan is an outsider is when a group of friends start explaining why they prefer Star Trek, Eastenders, ‘Strictly’, or Love Island. And what does the average Doctor Who fan do in that situation? Do they leap to the defence of their favourite programme? Or do they change the subject?
- A desire to dress up in silly costumes – Admit it, when you see someone with their Tom Baker scarf around their neck, you think to yourself “I wish I had one of those; I’d be really warm in the Winter”. So why don’t you have one? Each Christmas your great aunt gives you increasingly bad taste sweaters that she knitted herself and which you never wear. You know that if you had a word with her she would knit you a long scarf in any colours you suggested. She probably wouldn’t be content to stop at a mere 18 feet. The truth is that you’re afraid to wear one. So most Doctor Who fans don’t have a desire to dress up in silly costumes, unless jeans and T-shirt constitute a silly costume.
- A fascination with the back of sofas – Initially I was tempted to think that there was no mileage in this hypothesis; after all, when did you ever see someone hiding behind the sofa at PANOPTICON? Equally, when did you ever see a sofa in the main hall at PANOPTICON? In fact the only sofas to be found in the hotel are in the bar… So does this account for why so many Doctor Who fans spend the weekend there? When you see a Doctor Who fan partially collapsed and apparently trying to crawl behind the sofa, is this merely a drunken stupor, or something much more? I tried one final test of this hypothesis. I asked a wide variety of fans what the back of their sofa actually looked like, and not one of them knew!
- A deep, insatiable lust for K9 – After a little bit of research, I have come to the conclusion that I am alone in my fantasies. At least if I ever meet K9, I might be in with a chance of a snog.
- Kate Bush – A little bit lateral, perhaps, but think it through. How many Doctor Who fans do you know who don’t have a copy of ‘The Hounds of Love’ or ‘The Whole Story’? How many conversations have you had with strange people at conventions who are sure that such-and-such a story is based on Kate Bush lyrics? Try out the theory now; just say to the next fan you meet “It’s in the trees… It’s coming” and see if they just stare at you as if you’re a mad fool, or if they just give a nod in acknowledgement that everybody quotes the introduction to ‘The Hounds of Love’ all the time. I believe that there are subliminal messages recorded in all Kate Bush’s music that make you want to watch Doctor Who. Further, I intend to prove that BBC Television, and more recently BBC Studios, have paid Kate to put these messages in her music. I believe that the real reason for the delayed original release of the Paul McGann TV Movie was that (the then) BBC Worldwide hadn’t persuaded BBC Radio to play enough Kate Bush songs in the month before, and they wanted a week of intensive Bush oldies on the radio to ensure that it would sell. It may be difficult to prove, but I know the truth is out there…