Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Doctor Who: Celebrating 50 Years of Fandom Documentary Review


Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

Doctor Who fandom is a strange thing. Rarely united in opinion, the fandom contains everyone from older classic Who fans to the younger generation of fans who grew up with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, or even Matt Smith. This documentary, by FTS Media, examines the evolution of the fandom from tiny conventions to national events - but is it successful?

The doc is somewhat refreshingly light on the celebrity faces - classic companion Louise Jameson is there, along with Rob Shearman, writer of Dalek, allowing it to focus mainly on the subject of the documentary first hand - the fans. There's a good mix of fans on display here - young, cosplaying fez-wearers to those who grew up with the show in the Eighties - there's even an interesting anecdote from an extra from Rise of the Cybermen. This variation helps to show just how far Doctor Who reaches, and the sheer scope of the fandom as it is today.

Fandom often gets a bad reputation from certain people - but this documentary is a firmly positive, affectionate look at how Doctor Who brings people together, allows for creativity, and most importantly, provides enjoyment for all ages - the young and the old. The documentary looks thoroughly at both the classic, 'wilderness' and revival eras, but never differentiates the eras, tying in nicely with the '50 years' theme and hammering home that Doctor Who is just one show.

While it's mainly centred on the fans and their experiences, the doc also provides some interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Louise Jameson and Robert Shearman - Jameson isn't shy to touch on more controversial areas like her tense working relationship with Tom Baker, while Shearman guides the documentary through the 16-year period between 1989 and 2005 when Doctor Who was off-air - an interesting era that gets a detailed look here, emphasizing how Doctor Who was kept alive by its fans. The focus is still firmly on the fans, however, meaning that the documentary isn't drowned out by a heavy celebrity focus. 

The documentary can be a little too afraid to truly innovate - what's done here is done very well, but it never entirely carves its own path and can often feel rather familiar to some. It shows flashes of risk, but often plays it safe - however, that's not too bad a thing, as it remains entertaining throughout.

Overall, Celebrating 50 Years of Fandom is an affectionate, thought-provoking look at how Doctor Who fandom has changed over the years, and the life-changing impact the show has had on so many lives. It might be a touch familiar to those who have seen similar documentaries, but it's a well-made production that certainly deserves a watch.

Thanks to FTS Media for providing a review copy of the documentary. Celebrating 50 Years of Fandom is available now on DVD/Blu-ray and to download.

Visit their website: www.ftsmedia.co.uk