Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Suzanne Says… Once Upon A Fan


Once a Whovian always a Whovian? I’m really tempted to agree with that statement, mostly because being a Whovian requires a lot of time investment (and yes, let’s say it: quite a financial investment as well).

Aren’t the fans from the early hour lucky? Not only did they watch Doctor Who when it was originally aired, including all the missing episodes, but they also witnessed the growth of a phenomenon.

I consider myself a “young” fan, because it’s only been a decade since I discovered Doctor Who, but even back then, I felt overwhelmed when I saw everything I had missed. I had 40 years of episodes to catch up with, not to mention all the books (Target Novels, Virgin…) to read and the audiobooks to listen to. People don’t realise how a fan’s life can be stressful sometimes.

A freshly converted Whovian in 2017 would have 50 years of show to discover and that is quite something. It requires some organisation to decide where to start. The obvious choice would be to start from 1963 like I did, and walk through the series until today. This is a nice journey since it allows seeing the evolution of the show and the Doctor. To think that children grew up with Doctor Who.

The beauty about Whovians is that their age ranges from “mature” to “pre teenager” (there are even some younger fans around). The phenomenon is quite intergenerational. Children from 1963 are now grownups who had kids on their own and even have grandkids. It’s not a coincidence that one of the first questions a Whovian asks to another one is:
Who is YOUR Doctor?
A neophyte could easily misunderstand this question as “who is your favourite Doctor?” when it’s a way to know to which generation you belong to. Like Railwaymen, Whovians have their own vocabulary. Only a Whovian can understand what “Blue TARDIS” means for instance!

The intergenerational aspect is quite important in the Whovian community as many “young” Whovians rely on “older” Whovians’” experience to advise them on where to start when it comes to step into the extensive whoniverse. I still remember when I first decided to listen to Big Finish audiobooks a year ago. I had this extensive catalogue at my disposal and I couldn’t decide which episode to pick first, so I asked an “older” Whovian for advice and he helped me take the first step into that universe.

With a community as extensive as the Whoniverse, Whovians have helped spread the phenomenon and it’s not surprising that words such as “Dalek” or “Tardis” would find their way into the English Dictionary.

Fans have a real influence on a show’s future. First, they saved Doctor Who, thanks to their involvement in the Whoniverse. Think for instance about Mark Gatiss who was very active as a fan of the show before he actually ended up working for it; and what about Peter Capaldi who was an enthusiastic Whovian himself. There are many examples of fans who used their creative skills to keep Doctor Who alive. It’s only fair that they would be the primary target of any commercial/advertisement campaign. Let’s just remember how the announcement for the coming 13th Doctor has been orchestrated. Teasing has become the keyword when it comes to attract fans’ attention. And it works. Becoming a fan is now a much less innocent process than it was decades ago. Now, we are driven to become fans. It’s subtle, but it’s there. It’s an evolution of sorts. Oh, and let’s also remember what I wrote last week about internet and social media’s influence. It goes both ways: Whovians can more easily connect with others and share information about their favourite show, but it is also used as a commercial/advertisement tool.

I think that we can all agree that Doctor Who is not just a TV show but that he is also a societal trend which makes it fascinating on a sociological level. After all, we are dealing with a science fiction program here, and science fiction is often considered a lesser genre (both in literature and in television). And yet, you won’t be called a “geek” if you say that you love Doctor Who. No, you will be called a Whovian, a more positive and fashionable title. And as I write these lines, I wonder. Is there such a title for Marvel fans? Am I a “Marvelian”? Or just “Marvellous”? It’s no coincidence that I would compare Doctor Who and Marvel’s universe since there are quite some similarities in the way both BBC and the Marvel company deals with their fanbase. There are similarities in both universes too, but that’s a different story for another day.