Fans, eh?



TV At what point did you decide that you were a Doctor Who fan with a capital F? This question won't necessarily be relevant to everyone reading this, although given that I have some clue as to this blog's constituency or at least the three people who've been sticking with it during the silence (Hello Twitter followers), it's perhaps not entirely off piste. Go on, when? If asked, I always give the answer that it's when the Eighth Doctor met Charley in Storm Warning, which allows me to bore people off about how good the Big Finish audios are.  But in truth it had been brewing for a while between visiting the exhibition at the Dapol Factory in Llangollen and then watching or listening to as much material as was available between UK Gold recordings by a relative and borrowing BBC audio books from Liverpool libraries.  Pop culture fandom is really something which creeps up on you, something speaks to you about it which makes you then in turn want to talk about it with other people.

Doctor Who's fandom was impossible to miss as a concept, partly because it seemed like a logical  progression given both Star Wars and Star Trek had them too, but it was really in the pages of the party circular that the extent of it, the mass, became most obvious, not to mention subsequently the web, notably Outpost Gallifrey (ask your Dad).  But it's not until reading Paul Cornell's anthology of fanzine extracts, Licence Denied that I really understood the longevity and depth of it.  Suddenly I realised that the authors of all those books I'd glanced at in Waterstones and even bought, weren't just for hire but had long been fanatics of the series.  The acknowledgements page alone is a who's question mark cover tank-top of everyone you probably follow on social media.  My key take away, other than that Graham Williams the producer of some of my favourite stories was hated in the late 70s, was that these were my people and still are.

Which is why the new Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition, The World of Doctor Who, is such a joy.  Effectively an update of the Cornell book, twenty years on with less in-jokes and inevitably a greater sense of optimism, it charts the chronology of TARDIS followers from the 60s through to the present day, stopping off in between to provide potted histories of conventions, fanzines and fan productions (licenced and otherwise) usually with the kinds of technical details about organisation, production and distribution that we adore.  Given that I missed almost all of this before the pre-internet 00s, all kinds of mini-controversies are finally explained -- Ben Cook's interview with Keith Miller cheerfully watching water flow under the proverbial until it flows into a valley drawn on pavement of London's South Bank.  It also says something about this longevity that contributors to Paul's book also turn up here in a paid gig.

It's also a reminder that fans, especially of a programme with this longevity and who are the reason it literally still exists, have always had a sense of entitlement.  For some this manifested itself in them actually taking control of the series, of the narrative, and for others it's been to scream at those same people for not making the version which is in their heads.  There's a brill cutting from Doctor Who Bulletin in which Ian Levine remonstrates about the state of the show in the latter parts of the JNT era, despite the fact he was a "consultant" only a couple of years before.  Seeing some of this writing, I've wondered if my own caustic reviews, especially of Capaldi episodes don't have a similar invective tone.  But even if that's true, for the most part its because I want the series to be the best it can be and keep to its core philosophies.  Well that and trying to be funny even if that's an endeavour for which I rarely succeed.

The closest I ever got to writing for a fanzine was Behind The Sofa, the group blog which ran for five years in the last decade (yes, sorry, BTS died eight whole years ago) otherwise I've generally squeed all over this place. I've always been slightly (slightly?) reticent about networking with other fans offline.  Despite what everyone says, I'm especially scared about attending a convention in case seeing or meeting stars or creators of the show compromises what's otherwise been a relatively solitary relationship between me and the show.  If someone has an off-day, I'd be afraid that it'd change how I enjoy the text.  But this magazine's made me wonder - would it be so bad to be able to go to a place and meet people who actually share my interests, where I'd have something in common with everyone there and actually understand the reference?  Would I have to cosplay, or would a Clayton Hickman t-shirt do the trick?

This special is a reminder that despite also enjoying film and considering myself a Shakespeare "fan", this silly old series is the one thing I can't stop returning to.  Apart from it being amazing even when it's rubbish, the stuff of it, the everything, the immensity, that it has all of these facets, that you can love all of it and some of it and yet still consider yourself part of the tribe and that its originating "studio" only partially has any control over this is what makes it pretty unique.  That's why when older fans lose their temper about the youngsters (or whatever patronising phrase they've chosen this week) not really understanding what the show is about or its history, it's a collective act of amnesia of how they originally approached the series.  Those youngster are the franchise's future and the reason why it'll still be going after we've all had our ashes scattered from a TARDIS shaped urn at Wooky Hollow.  If the show has to have taught us anything, it's that embrace change protects its future.

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