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Into The Hive Mind: The Fandom That Traveled Through Time And Space

Christine Bancroft |
April 10, 2013 | 4:56 p.m. PDT


I have a problem and it's all of this. Just. All of it. (Tumblr)
I have a problem and it's all of this. Just. All of it. (Tumblr)
Warning: While I'll do my best to avoid spoilers for NuWho, I cannot guarantee that this will be a spoiler-free piece.

In 2005, following almost a decade of airtime that was visibly "Who"-less, a new Doctor came upon the scene. 

As the Ninth Doctor, starting in 2005's "Rose," Christopher Eccleston brought back the semi-dormant franchise alongside showrunner Russell T. Davies and new companion Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, a plucky (if a bit wayward) shop attendant who finds herself a little unemployed when the Doctor has her job unceremoniously exploded in the very first episode. While the franchise had released material in the form of novels and radio programs, onscreen, it was nowhere to be found since Paul McGann's 1996 film "Doctor Who". 

Bringing back a fearsome (if not plasticky) foe last seen in Pertwee's 1971 episode "The Terror of the Autons", Nine and Rose together save London and, by the end of the episode, will find themselves traveling together once more. 

The Doctor returned in 2005, and we (I) haven't been quite the same since. Since the 2005 premiere, we have had seven series, three Doctors and quite a lot of shenanigans over the years.

Subject: "Doctor Who", 2005-present 

Typically called "New Who" or "NuWho", the 2005 reboot of the series features three Doctors played by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and currently, Matt Smith. The series is a continuation of the Classic "Who" stories, with both new and old villains, aliens and monsters and some recurring features. 

Taking place sometime following the so-called "Time War, which destroyed the Doctor's native planet Gallifrey and the whole of his race (as well as the Daleks'), the (Ninth) Doctor finds himself traveling and "working" alone, protecting various species all over the universe. Mostly Earth. Because when you can travel all of time and space, present day London is the place to be. 

I don't understand how his hair works. In this photo, it's positively benign compared to what it can be in the show. (Tumblr)
I don't understand how his hair works. In this photo, it's positively benign compared to what it can be in the show. (Tumblr)

As ever, he travels with a companion, of which there have been five (not including the "new" companion Clara, who has actually appeared in three episodes at the time this piece is written). In the first episode, he begins traveling with Rose Tyler, who, with a large contingency of fans, holds a special place due to the Doctor's fond relationship with her and the manner of her departure. Important features of her storyline include the phrase "Bad Wolf", arc words for series one, and the establishment and creation of the Torchwood Institute is a main characteristic of the series two episodes. 

"Torchwood," in addition, is one of the spin-off shows for the reboot of "Doctor Who," headed by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). Jack first appears as a rogue "Time Agent" in the series one two-parter "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances." This is a significantly more adult show, rather than the family-friendly (although typically fairly frightening) "Doctor Who."

In the third series episode "Smith and Jones," the (Tenth) Doctor meets Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), a medical student who, along with everyone else in the hospital at which she works, finds herself rudely uprooted from her native London and trapped on the surface of the moon. Note inclusion of the name "Saxon" both verbally and visually throughout this series, and Classic "Who" fans see the return of an old nemesis of the Doctor's, one who, after the Time War, strikes awfully close to his nonexistent home. 

Following the end of Martha's companionship, re-enter Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), a woman who had previously appeared at the beginning of series three, "The Runaway Bridge" as the titular character. Her character (my favorite companion, if I have to admit) is sarcastic, funny and refuses to put up with the Doctor's melancholy and moping, but still grounds him enough to keep him (for lack of a better word) "human", a trait which, throughout the reboot of the series, is contested. In Donna's arcs, keep an eye out for the "Medusa Cascade," missing planets and, later, quadruple knocks, which eventually lead to his "death" and subsequent regeneration at "The End of Time."

At the end of series four, the Tenth Doctor regenerates and a "new man" (in both face and personality, but not in memory) takes his place. Played by Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor meets young Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood) after he crash-lands in her garden, who introduces him to that series' running arc: the cracks in time and space, beginning with a crack running along her bedroom wall that opens a door to a different world. Other important features of this arc include references to silence and the Pandorica.

The TARDIS's ability to appear and reappear may be fascinating, but I'm 99% certain that Matt Smith's eyebrows have the same power. (Tumblr)
The TARDIS's ability to appear and reappear may be fascinating, but I'm 99% certain that Matt Smith's eyebrows have the same power. (Tumblr)
With a grown Amy (played by Karen Gillan), the Doctor is joined by Amy's fiancee and later husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), and by the mysterious time-traveling River Song (Alex Kingston), who first appeared in the two-parter "The Silence In the Library/Forest of the Dead" in 2008, during the fourth series. 

In the sixth series, we have "silence will fall" once more, which is unresolved from series five, continuing to be a major element of the plot; continuing, we have the identity of River Song, and the ultimate question in the universe acting as recurring elements. 

Currently, in the seventh series, we have the departure of Amy and Rory Pond-Williams ("The Angels Take Manhattan") and the introduction (and re-introduction) (and another re-introduction) of Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), whose mystery—or rather, just what the hell she is—seems to be the continuing arc for the majority of series seven. 

With hundreds of characters, several of them returning multiple times over the course of the reboot, these are the main companions featured throughout the series. But because of the sheer number of temporary or short-term companions featured in the episodes, I'll limit to those who are considered the "main companions" of NuWho. 

Fandom: Whovians

Currently, the "Who" fandom refers to itself as Whovians, a name that was first heard in American in the 1980s. Started by the "Doctor Who Fan Club of America" and its newsletter, "The Whovian Times", it was not typically used by international fans outside of the States until the reboot, where its use has since become more popular. This has become now the more-accepted name amongst active fans; it is, at least, the most common word I've heard used, especially in the press.

Although I've heard "Wholigans" as a suggested alternative. Maybe on rowdy Saturday nights after a few rounds of the "Doctor Who" drinking game, perhaps.

The show has a large worldwide contingency; while it is very popular within the U.K. since its start in 1963, its international reach is fairly vast. In Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada, there have been tens to hundreds of informal local fanclubs and numerous conventions, whether they are part of larger, multi-fandom cons or "Who"-specific conventions. 

Fandom activity: Creating fan societies, fanzines, fanwork (including radio, video and music), attending conventions, taking classes at universities about the show, going to exhibits, writing or acting on the show.

The "Doctor Who Appreciation Society" (DWAS) was founded in England and succeeded its predecessor, the "'Doctor Who' Fan Club" and not only had a running fanzine (then, the "Tardis", now, a monthly magazine called "Celestial Toyroom"), but helped the BBC with the documentary "Whose Doctor Who" and organize the first "Who" convention in Aug. 1977. The DWAS is currently headed by honorary president (and Sixth Doctor) Colin Baker, and not only continues to publish its magazine and organize conventions, but also produced audio plays ("Cosmic Fugue" and "Cosmic Fugue 2") in 1995 and 1998. 

Additionally, the longest running tie-in magazine for any television show is the "Doctor Who Magazine" (DWM), which was first published on Oct. 17, 1979. Because of its relationship with the show's production team and the BBC, it is considered an official source of information, and tends to look into the work behind-the-scenes and often features interviews with actors, crewmembers and writers. 

Like many other sci-fi subjects, the fanbase is very convention-oriented. In the United States, there are four main "Doctor Who" conventions, the closest of which being Gallifrey One, held in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Chicago TARDIS, Hurricane Who (in Orlando, Fla.) and dozens of smaller conventions attract "Who" Fans. Multi-fandom conventions, including TimeGate Atlanta and the New England Fan Experience (Boston), and especially the San Diego Comic Con, which often features panels with castmembers and writers of the show. Cosplay is extremely popular amongst fans, and there are some damn creative outfits inspired by inanimate objects, including the TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, the Sonic Screwdriver—all of it. 

For those living in Los Angeles, Gallifrey One is extremely popular and generally well-attended. If you were hoping to get tickets for next year's con, though, you're out of luck—tickets are already out. Wonder-Con, another Los Angeles-based fan convention is not strictly Whovian-related, but it is popular with Whovians in the area. And if you're looking for fandom merchandise, you might have some luck checking out Whimsic Alley, a fandom merchandise store specializing in "Harry Potter" merch, but will be hosting the Time Lord's Costume Ball this Saturday, April 13. 

Fans often create their own works; WrightsProductionYT, between 2005 and 2009, created unofficial episodes on Youtube; others have created similar unofficial or tribute episodes. Audio productions and radio dramas were written, unlike many other fandoms, which were less likely to have radio-based material. Additionally, fan music has been written since 1964, with some of the most famous being the song "Doctorin' the Tardis" by The Timelords (otherwise known as The KLF), which reached the top of the UK music charts in 1988. 

One of the most popular since the reboot is the "trock" ("Time Lord rock") band Chameleon Circuit, comprised of popular Youtube vloggers, currently consisting of Alex Day, Charlie McDonnell, Liam Dryden, Ed Blann and Michael Aranda. They work with DFTBA Records, a record label created to allow Youtube musicians to release music, founded by Alan Lustufka and Vlogbrother Hank Green. They have two released albums, "Chameleon Circuit" and "Still Got Legs", the latter of which charted at #23 on the Billboard Heatseekers. 

900 years of time and space and I've never met someone who wasn't important (also known as "Good People to Know"): Know the Doctors and companions, generally; writers Russell T. Davies (series one through four), Steven Moffat (series five on); famous Whovians include Craig Ferguson, the Queen of England, Neil Gaiman, Simon Pegg, Chris Hardwicke (who runs the BBC America show "The Nerdist" and the podcast of the same name)…If I were to list every single famous person who has ever mentioned he or she enjoys "Doctor Who", I would never sleep again. 

Need some help? The Doctor is in: TV Tropes, the official sites for New and Classic Who, the TARDIS Wikia, r/DoctorWho, r/Gallifrey, the Tumblr tag, thefandom.net official page, Doctor Who OnlineEye of Horusdoctorwhofandom.net and pyrodian.net's informational page, which has links to databases. If you're bored, I would recommend checking out the (totally not spoiler free) Paint Doktah Who Tumblr because it's stupidly funny.

Tidbits, vocab and some running jokes:  

The Ninth Doctor thinks that people who skip him are foolish indeed. Look at that sass. How could you want to miss out on that? (Tumblr)
The Ninth Doctor thinks that people who skip him are foolish indeed. Look at that sass. How could you want to miss out on that? (Tumblr)

Don't skip Nine. I don't know why, but people like to skip the Ninth Doctor. If you skip Nine, you miss out on plot, the beginning of Rose (not to mention the whole damn reboot of the series), the start of Jack Harkness and a veritable surfeit of unimaginable Eccleston sass. 

However, if you're trying to influence a skeptical someone to start the series, most people tend to recommend standalone episodes, like "Midnight" or "Blink", because they're good for easing people into the style of "Doctor Who" without overwhelming them. 

The Tenth Doctor's suit was brown if he was traveling in the past and blue if he was traveling in the future. In series five and six, the Eleventh Doctor's bowtie is red if he is in the past and blue in the future.

When the Eleventh Doctor appears in "The Big Bang" with a fez and a mop, it is a nod to the Seventh Doctor's episode "Silver Nemesis", who, whilst rooting through the Queen's treasure store, finds a fez and a holds a mop out in front of his face like a mustache. 

At this point in the series, the Doctor's age is estimated to be around 1200; or rather, it was suggested as such in "A Town Called Mercy". 

The show seems simple enough a premise to those who watch it, but trying to explain the show to those who have never heard of or seen it is nearly impossible. (Hence, this article.) A common phrase amongst Whovians is: "Never apply logic to 'Who'", quoting Matt Smith.

Sometimes, you'll see actors or actresses appear as completely different characters in different episodes. For example, Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond in the fifth, sixth and seventh series, appears in the series four episode "The Fires of Pompeii" as a soothsayer. Sometimes they make mention of it with some off-hand excuse ("my cousin!", says Martha Jones). Just…pretend it was someone else. 

I'm not really sure I know how to describe this. Either way, the show's creators have kind of run with it, including other variations of the Doctor in some media. (Tumblr)
I'm not really sure I know how to describe this. Either way, the show's creators have kind of run with it, including other variations of the Doctor in some media. (Tumblr)

In "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic" (yeah, that's right. I'm going there), there is a pony that looks suspiciously like what David Tennant would look like if he were a cartoon pony (stay with me) and has an hourglass cutie mark. The pony is now called Doctor Whooves. 

The Doctor has never been a ginger and it's a very sensitive topic for him. 

If you can make any puns with time, the word "who" or, if you're discussing Daleks, "exterminate", please do. They say puns were once considered the highest form of comedy. 

Keep an eye out for "Doctor Who" references in other shows and films, especially in other cartoons, like "South Park" or "The Simpsons". 

This show is replete with Noodle Incidents. I can't guarantee that they'll be spoiler free, but if you'd like to check it out, you can look here.

If you would like to taste a Sonic Screwdriver, you can check out The Way Station bar in New York City.

I've also heard that fish fingers and custard isn't actually that bad. If I didn't have a fish allergy, I would tell you myself. Instead, you should totally trust hearsay, try it out and report back to me.

But first, don't blink.  

And count your shadows. 

And above all, don't let the Tenth Doctor (human version or otherwise) eat pears. He hates pears.

(For a more complete listing of running jokes, check out my favorite TV Tropes page of all time.)

May all of your adventures be wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey and enjoy your travels through space and time. As for next week's column, it's a surprise, in that I have no idea. A surprise for everyone, including me.

Columnist Christine Bancroft can be reached here or found on Twitter here. She spent most of her high school senior year trying to reference "Doctor Who," most of the time, unsuccessfully. 



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