When I was 16, my life was all over the place. I was a senior in high school. My dad had moved to Arizona to prepare for us moving there when I graduated. Mom and I were selling things off and living out of boxes and cooking on a hot plate. I was depressed and trying to make it through before my desire to kill myself won out over my hope that moving would make my life better. My mom was crazy stressed from being apart from my dad and trying to get everything done.
Into this insanity came an Englishman in a ridiculous scarf.
Mom and I weren’t sleeping well so we often flipped channels looking for something to distract us late at night. One night, it was a strange sci-fi show on our PBS station. The effects were terrible, but this “Doctor” fellow was fun to watch and made us laugh, something we really needed.
Fast forward a few months, and I started college at Arizona State. I knew no one and felt very lost and alone. Walking down Cady Mall (the main drag on campus then), I saw various tables for groups looking for new members among the incoming students. One table had a “Save Doctor Who” sign and a crazy guy in a tree wearing a long scarf and drinking hot tea in the August heat. I signed their petition – the local PBS station was going to stop showing the show – and found out when they were having their next meeting.
You know how people talk about decisions that changed their lives? And how they could never have guessed when they made them what effect they’d have? This was that moment for me.
Everything good in my life has come from Doctor Who fandom. The Friends of Doctor Who (FoDW) may not have lasted long, but the effects on my life are still felt. Almost every friend I have, and my husband, can be traced back to me saying Yes instead of No to meeting those crazy college fans. I dated 2 guys and still have 2 close friends from that group.
So, Tom Baker was my first Doctor, and I will always have a spot in my heart(s) for him. My dad even got into the show and quite liked Leela – which may have had something to do with her skimpy outfit! I watched episodes with my new friends, learned the history and mythology of the show, and managed to deal with college classes at the same time.
Baker gave way to Davison and I sort of cosplayed Tegan because I had short hair and was the only one who could do an Aussie accent. I enjoyed the family feeling of that era – The Doctor was Dad, Tegan was Mum, and then the kids, Nyssa and Adric. Several of my friends hated Adric deeply and cheered when he was killed off. Nyssa and Tegan left, replaced by Turlough and the thoroughly-despised Peri. Then came Colin Baker and my fledging fanzine did an issue with every page in a different, bright color in “honor” of his coat.
Somewhere in there (1985), one of our people met a woman who was putting on a local SF convention called PhoenixCon. Our guests were Judson Scott (ST: Wrath of Khan), John Leeson (voice of K-9), and Louise Jameson (Leela). Louise ended up having to cancel and the convention was broke by the end of the first day, but it was an amazing experience for me as a 17 year old working behind the scenes. The woman putting on the con became a dear, close friend.
Events and time blur here, but later that year some of us went to CopperCon and met a bunch of high school Whovians and became friends with them. FoDW exploded due to interpersonal conflicts and I followed one person because I was in love with him. We made a group with the high school kids for awhile. One of those “kids” became my best friend and I met my husband through her college friends.
Doctor Who went on hiatus and we were furious. It came back and none of us were really happy with Trial of a Time Lord. Unfortunately, our PBS station chose not to show the 7th Doctor, so I’ve only seen a few episodes taped for me later by a friend in California, but I liked them.
Then the show was cancelled.
By then, I didn’t have a “group” anymore, but I had various friends, all but one of whom (nicknamed The Heretic) were Doctor Who fans, as well as fans of other SF&F. Good books were recommended, TV shows and movies watched, and conventions attended, but I was honestly a bit scared to try to be in a fan group again.
Years passed. I fell in love and moved in with him and eventually married him. We watched The X-Files and Babylon 5 and Buffy and Angel. An American Doctor Who movie came out and I was excited but then nothing came of it. More movies, more books, more TV. Hanging out with Pagans and playing D&D got added to my life. We went to our local comic conventions and life went on. I still loved Doctor Who, but it was now firmly in the “cancelled shows we loved” file in my mind.
Then, in 2005, we heard it was coming back.
Like most fans, we worried it wouldn’t be “right”. We worried they would screw it up. We worried, period.
We didn’t have cable at the time, so a friend recorded them for us.
To say I was blown away would be an understatement. It was all still here! Everything I loved, with better effects.
Whatever you want to say about Russell T. Davies, he gave me Doctor Who back, and I will be forever grateful to him for that.
We got cable and started watching on BBC America for ourselves. We had new episodes to talk about with friends! And our local comic convention started having a lot of people in Doctor Who themed costumes. A lot of *young* people! I was thrilled. In many ways, I feel like the new series has saved fandom by bringing in all these young people, especially young women. The Internet was feared to kill in-person fandom, but it just gave folks a way to meet up regardless of location. Now it keeps people connected when it isn’t convention season or when people can’t travel or whatever, and I think that’s awesome.
Doctor Who has been a part of my life for 30 years now and I can’t imagine my life without it. Thank you Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert. Thank you Barry Letts and John Nathan-Turner and all the other producers and directors over the years. Thank you Russell Davies and Stephen Moffat. And to all the companions, too many to list, but all beloved. And finally, a HUGE thanks to Bill Hartnell, Pat Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
It’s been a helluva lot of fun. I look forward to the next 30 years of my life with our show.