Doctor Who fandom

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Fans line up for autographs at the 2006 Gallifrey One convention. Guests, left to right at table: Noel Clarke, Nicholas Briggs, Rob Shearman, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

The long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who has developed a very large, loyal and devoted fan base over the years.

Doctor Who fans are sometimes referred to as Whovians, or simply as the Doctor Who fandom.[1] The usage of "Whovian" was restricted to fans in the United States during the 1980s, when the Doctor Who Fan Club of America (pronounced by members as Dwifca – now defunct) published the Whovian Times as its newsletter.

An early use of 'Whovian', outside of the 'Whovian Times', is from Flaming Carrot Comics issue number 19 (circa 1988), when Flaming Carrot leads a combined group of Trekkies into rebellion.

Fan organisations[edit]

Doctor Who fans in Britain have had a formally recognised organisation – the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (or DWAS) – since the late 70s. It has thousands of members and enjoyed an ongoing relationship with the classic series and later with BBC Worldwide.

The Oceanian Doctor Who Fan Club was founded soon after DWAS, in 1976, to galvanise resistance to the responsibilies and decisions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to cease broadcasting the Doctor Who series (and was ultimately successful in having the decision overturned). The club president also edited Zerinza the club fanzine, until 1986. In the 1990s the club was renamed several times, today being the Doctor Who Club of Australia (or DWCA) which publishes a newsletter, "Data Extract".[2]

In the 1980s, some US fans staged "Save Doctor Who" publicity campaigns, trying to urge their local television stations to keep airing the show.

The North American Doctor Who Appreciation Society was founded in the 1980s and served as an umbrella organisation for dozens of local fan groups throughout the continent. Its demise in the early 1980s led to the foundation of the Doctor Who Fan Club of America, and later the Friends of Doctor Who. FDW ended unceremoniously in the mid-1990s, and since then, American Doctor Who fandom has been served mostly through local fan clubs.

The Doctor Who Information Network (DWIN) was founded in Canada in 1980 and continues to serve fans in North America. It was one of the first Doctor Who clubs in North America, and is the longest running Doctor Who club on the continent.[citation needed] DWIN supports the monthly Toronto Tavern fan gatherings. DWIN also sponsored several local chapters throughout Canada.

Also in Canada is the Doctor Who Society of Canada (DWSC), a social network for Whovians of all ages whose community focuses on social interaction, intelligent exchange and commonality. The DWSC launched in 2011 and provides monthly social gatherings, online community forums and have been featured prominently at Toronto area Fan Conventions including Fan Expo, as well as Montreal & Ottawa Comic Con. The DWSC has launched its own Doctor Who Festival on 17 November 2012 – REGENERATION – and is branching out into local chapters across the country including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Kitchener/Waterloo.

The New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club (NZDWFC) was founded by Scott Walker and Andrew Poulson in 1988 and remains the country's major fan support group. They continued to run the club until 1991. The club puts out a fanzine, Time Space Visualiser (TSV), twice-yearly.

In 2012, The Doctor Who Fan Groups Google Map project was set up with the aim of making it easier for UK-based Doctor Who fans to find a local fan group and, in turn, to help local fan groups to find new members.


At Doctor Who conventions, some fans cosplay as their favourite Doctor Who characters. Here, a fan at the 2006 Gallifrey One convention cosplays as the Fourth Doctor.

Many Doctor Who conventions are held worldwide. The very first in 1977 was organised by The Doctor Who Appreciation Society and that event continues in the United Kingdom as the long-running (though occasional) PANOPTICON; usually held to great fanfare, including marking the series' fortieth anniversary. After many years in hiatus, Panopticon has returned! Other popular conventions of the past include the Manchester-based Manopticon, now back again and holding events in London and the Swindon-based Leisure Hives and Honeycomb. More recently, the company 10th Planet has held conventions such as Bad Wolf, Dimensions and Invasion. Wales-based Regenerations has had great success of late, as have other signing events held on the Strand by London-based Scificollector. The Doctor Who Appreciation Society has re-established itself as an event organiser too, and whilst Panopticon, a name still associated with the Society, has not been held since 2003, other brands, namely 'Time' and 'Doctor Who Unleashed' are well known in the market.

In Australia a variety of events (half day "parties," or full-scale conventions) have been organised, many "Whoventions" being held in Sydney by the Doctor Who Club of Australia, and by some other clubs in various states. The high cost of travel and small population base makes it hard to pay for many of the stars, so many events have been organised at short notice during any visits by a star, or other person linked to the show, such as Jon Pertwee (1980), Peter Davison and Janet Fielding (both 1983).

North America's first events were based in Los Angeles in 1979 and 1980 with Who One (featuring Tom Baker). Soon followed an enormous convention heyday during the 1980s in the Chicago area with the Spirit of Light events, which attracted many thousands of fans due to the show's popularity on public television, and Creation Conventions held in various cities (and including other science fiction shows' merchandise and programming as well). In the late 1980s other events such as Omnicon and Megacon showcased the classic series. The 1990s saw a decline in major events, though Chicago featured the relatively large-sized Visions events throughout the decade, and the popular Gallifrey One convention began in Los Angeles. As of 2015, Gallifrey One and the Chicago TARDIS convention (Visions' successor) continue, with the addition of Georgia's WHOlanta (formerly TimeGate) in Atlanta (begun 2005), Florida's Hurricane Who (begun 2009), Alabama's Con Kasterborous (begun 2012), New York's L. I. Who (begun 2013), and the annual Sci Fi Sea Cruise featuring Doctor Who guests departing from different ports each year. Startup events exist in the form of CONsole Room in Minnesota, (Re)Generation Who in Maryland, Time Eddy in Kansas, and WhoFest in Texas.


Perhaps the first form of organised fan activity was around fanzines – unofficial, homemade magazines celebrating the series. Generally these were typed, with hand-drawn illustrations, with the occasional photograph, and were usually photocopied or duplicated in small quantities. In the 1970s there were some early fan activities in Britain, with associated fanzines. One of the first such "'zines" was published by Keith Miller in Edinburgh, at first it was roughly produced, but by the mid-1970s was improved by the switch to photocopying. By about 1975 new staff at the BBC office reduced such help, and Miller's 'zine and associated club were to fade away quite quickly.[citation needed]

Perhaps the "second generation" of such fanzines could be said to be formed around 1975–76, such as TARDIS, around which the DWAS was organised. In Australia, the national Doctor Who Club was similarly established around the 'zine Zerinza in 1976 (to 1986). A quarterly magazine called The Whostorian was published in Newfoundland in conjunction with the As Yet Unnamed Doctor Who Fan Club of Newfoundland (AYUDWFCON).[3]

Other zines from the first decade of fandom included Gallifrey, Oracle, Skaro, Shada and Frontier Worlds. Some information on a few of these can be viewed at fan website Nith Circle of Hell.[4] When the publication of the novelisations was in its infancy (only three being available until the mid-70s, and reference books were either awful or out-of-print, much of the content of the first fanzines was devoted to documenting plots and characters, some interviews, news, book reviews (once Target started a regular schedule), letters, fan fiction and art.

The growth of the merchandise range lead to Marvel's Doctor Who Weekly (later Doctor Who Magazine – DWM).[citation needed] Initially the reference materials were largely reissues of the work done by Jeremy Bentham for DWAS (itself usually reliant on BBC plot outlines). The Weekly was not always very good, and with so many pages being dominated by poor quality US-style comics (few having any of the "flavour" of the British series), meant it was less of a rival to fanzines than at first appeared. But the switch to a monthly format saw it become an increasingly professional rival with better production values than the fanzines could afford. Also the DWM was to be a better source of reference, regular interviews, news from the studio, and with more time being spent preparing each issue. The large array of Target novels, reference books, and start of home video-recording on a big scale by the late 1970s, meant that fanzines shifted focus somewhat. Change was also be to the leading fans growing older, leaving school or university, and so having (sometimes) more money for printing, and higher expectations. As a result, editors began to concentrate more on opinion – fan reviews of stories, debate, and letters. Many of the writers were now graduates, some in media studies, or even working in the BBC itself. In these pre-internet times, most fanzines had active letters pages, which were the main conduit for debate around Doctor Who, especially with a wide geographical spread of so many fans. The need to find new, original content meant that fanzines began to look closer at the series, subjecting stories and characters to ever-deeper analysis, providing detail and discussion unavailable through more "official" channels.

As technology developed, so did fanzines. A move from photocopying to offset litho printing in the early 1980s allowed the bigger selling fanzines to improve print quality, although lower-circulation titles continued to use photocopying for many years after this. Bath-based Skaro was one of the first fanzines to be professionally typeset, but that was virtually the exception as this was such an expensive process. The 1970s–80s fanzines were all produced well before modern, affordable, home computers with crisp laser printers made the revolution that was desktop publishing. Most were produced under difficult conditions, and early editors had to do everything by hand, all their own typing, with no spell check, meaning correcting mistakes was a nightmare, and final lay out could take days, if not weeks.

The mid-1980s has been described by some fans as "the golden age of A5 fanzines", as this period saw an explosion of activity, particularly in the UK. Although the enthusiasm of some editors could not be matched by their resources and many fanzines failed to see a second issue, some of the most popular zines appeared then, including Queen Bat, Chronicle, Star Begotten,[5] Paradise Lost, Spectrox, Black and White Guardian, Cygnus Alpha, Five Hundred Eyes,[6] Eye Of Horus[7] (in print between 1983–85 and online since 2004) and Purple Haze (edited by Steve O'Brien, later of SFX Magazine).

Format seemed to play a disproportionate role in how a fanzine was perceived, with divisions appearing between the cheaper-looking A5 fanzines and the glossier, more professional A4 "pro-zines" such as The Frame and Private Who. The news-zine Doctor Who Bulletin (DWB) later named Dreamwatch Bulletin) managed to straddle this divide, sometimes controversially, combining a professional A4 magazine format with some of the anarchism and disrespect for authority of the underground. The BBC's discontinuation of the series, and ratings decline, meant that many titles faded out unless backed by a large club.

To a large extent, today fanzines have been replaced by websites, podcasts and discussion boards, but a few do still exist. Many of them are published by fan clubs including the DWAS zine Celestial Toyroom, (which was launched in 1976 and has been published continuously since then, making it the oldest surviving Doctor Who fanzine in the world,[8] the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club zine Time-Space Visualiser (TSV) which has been in existence since 1987, the DWIN fanzine Enlightenment which has been published six times a year since 1983, and Data Extract launched by the Doctor Who Club of Australia in 1980. Other individuals and groups still produce fanzines. Black Scrolls was the first prozine to offer a multimedia CDROM on its cover in 2005, featuring interviews with actors, Who-related art, a back issue archive and an alternative voice-over commentary for one of the episodes and the distinction of being professionally printed and entirely in colour which was a modest success that ran for eight issues between 1993 and 2005. Doctor Who Fanzines FANWNAK and Vworp! Vworp! are among the full colour A4, printed fanzines available today[when?], as well as others such as Panic Moon, The Finished Product which are smaller sizes and black and white. Many fanzines still take the time-honoured route of printing and distributing their zine by mail, but many now distribute their fanzine as downloadable and printable PDFs such as Planet of the Ming Mongs[9] and "The Terrible Zodin", finally removing what was often the main cause for a fanzine's closure, the cost of printing and distribution – but in so doing also losing the appeal of a unique hardcopy publication, and therefore the only true identifier of a 'fanzine'. It's likely that as this trend increases new terminology will replace the term fanzine, which is already archaic and out-of-place in online contexts.

Many professional Doctor Who writers, for both the current TV series and the books, began their careers writing for fanzines, including Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman, Matt Jones, Marc Platt, Gareth Roberts, Clayton Hickman, David Howe and Stephen James Walker.

Fan productions[edit]

Like other shows which have developed a large following, Doctor Who also has groups of fans developing their own productions based on the show, the most notable is the uncompleted 1996 Devious for having the last acting appearance of Jon Pertwee and featured as a special feature on The War Games DVD.

One of the most significant fan groups producing dramatised stories were Audio Visuals, who distributed their works on audio cassettes during the 1980s. Many involved in this group would later form the commercial company Big Finish Productions and be licensed by the BBC to produce official Doctor Who stories for a retail market on audio CD. Several of these productions were later broadcast by BBC Radio.

Another fan group, The Doctor Who Audio Dramas, has produced their own version of the show since 1982 and has been running for over 38 years uninterrupted. (Longer than the uninterrupted BBC version of Doctor Who.) A number of their writers and actors have been professionals or gone on to professional work.

Celebrity fans[edit]

The series has a devoted global following of people from a range of backgrounds.

Some fans have ended up working creatively on the television series. One of the most prominent examples is the creator of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the late Douglas Adams, who wrote or co-wrote several television scripts (The Pirate Planet, City of Death and Shada) and was script editor of the original series' seventeenth season. Adams had been a fan since the first season, and made two attempts to pitch a script for Doctor Who in the early 1970s before his first serial was commissioned.[10] Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies, Coupling creator Steven Moffat, and Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall were all lifelong fans of the series, and all in turn became head writer, or showrunner, of the revived series in 2005, 2010, and 2018 respectively. Chibnall's fandom extended to an appearance, as a representative of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, on a 1986 episode of the BBC feedback show Open Air, in which he was critical of the ending to The Trial of a Time Lord, the 23rd season of Doctor Who.[11]

Other celebrity fans have donated to the show in alternative ways. For example, the Panini publication The Complete Seventh Doctor (p47) lists singer Bob Dylan as a "great fan", such that he permitted his music to be used in the opening moments of season twenty-five without royalty. (Although Dylan's music was not in the event used). William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times newspaper from 1967 until 1981, publicly declared his enjoyment of Doctor Who on an edition of the BBC's current affairs series Panorama in 1980.[12] Prompted by this, the actor and dramatist Emlyn Williams admitted in the pages of The Times that he too was a keen follower of the series.[12]

In 2013, King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort (the then Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, respectively) visited the Doctor Who set in Cardiff. Charles had met Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith and stated to him that he had been a big fan of the show since he was 15.[13]

List of celebrity fans[edit]

Additionally, the son of Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury), is a fan and Williams invited Richard Dawkins to Lambeth Palace; in part because Dawkins's wife, Lalla Ward played the Fourth Doctor's companion, Romana.[38]

List of celebrity fans who have appeared in episodes[edit]

Additionally, Tenth Doctor David Tennant has repeatedly said that he wanted to play the Doctor since he was a little boy, and had appeared in numerous Big Finish audio plays both before and after his casting as the Doctor. Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi is a fan and has been since he was a teenager.[44]

Music inspired by Doctor Who[edit]

Since the show's debut, various musical groups and artists have been inspired to write music either about or relating to Doctor Who. The first known example was the song "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek", the first and only single released by British band The Go-Go's. The song was released in December 1964 and distributed through Oriole Records, but did not make the UK Singles Chart.[45]

The first single about the show to make the UK Singles Chart was "Dr. Who" by Mankind. The track was based on the Doctor Who theme music in a disco style and was Mankind's first and only charting single(follow up 'Chain Reaction'was a flop). Released by Pinnacle in 1978, the song peaked at Number 25 in the UK Singles Chart.[46]

In 1985, charity ensemble Who Cares? released a single protesting at the BBC's decision to place Doctor Who on hiatus for 18 months, entitled "Doctor in Distress". The single was released in aid of Cancer Research, and featured various Doctor Who cast members (such as Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Anthony Ainley), as well as contemporary musicians (Bucks Fizz, The Moody Blues and Ultravox). As with "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek", the single did not make the UK Singles Chart.[47]

The most famous example of Doctor Who-inspired music is "Doctorin' the Tardis" by The Timelords (a pseudonym for the ambient house and situationish act The KLF), which reached Number One on the UK Singles Chart in 1988.[48] The song's lyrics referenced the Daleks and the TARDIS, and its melody was based largely around the show's opening theme.

As well as both Mankind and The Timelords, many other acts have incorporated the Doctor Who theme music into their own compositions. British rock band Pink Floyd briefly used the theme during their 1971 single "One of These Days", which featured a Doctor Who-related music video. The theme music has also been covered by several other acts, such as Orbital, while other bands such as Coldcut have featured samples of the theme.

Comedian and singer Mitch Benn's 2002 album Radio Face features a song entitled "Doctor Who Girl". The song talks about how the singer would like to find a girlfriend who is like the female companions of Doctor Who.

Since the series' renewal on BBC, a genre has developed under the name 'Trock' (a term created by YouTuber and (at the time) unsigned musician Alex Day, aka Nerimon), meaning Time Lord Rock.[49] Propagated mainly via the internet on sites such as YouTube, Trock songs include references to the show's theme tune, as well as characters and plots from the show. The band Chameleon Circuit produces music exclusively relating to Doctor Who, and in addition to general fandom songs, has episode-specific songs like 'Kiss the Girl' and 'The Big Bang 2'. They have a fast-growing online following, and as of 2011 have released two albums: Chameleon Circuit in 2009, and Still Got Legs in July 2011, both on DFTBA records. Still Got Legs charted on the Billboard Heatseekers chart at #23.

The industrial/EBM band Rotersand also features themes related to Doctor Who. Mainly the song "Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy" using Dalek soundclips.

Hard rock band Anno Mundi's 2011 album Cloister graveyard in the snow features a suite entitled Gallyfreyan's Suite, divided into three sections: Journey to the 4th Dimension, Tardis and Time lord.

In 2013 the musical group Legs Nose Robinson became a varied all in house musical style Trock band, recording albums, touring fan conventions. Their all self made videos have gained over 375,000 views on YouTube.[50]

TV series[edit]

"Whovians" is an Australian comedy panel, chat show hosted by Rove McManus, who engages with a team of four Whovians or superfans of Doctor Who to analyse, critique and unravel the mysteries of the show.[51] The first show screened on Sunday 16 April 2017 at 8.30pm AEST on ABC2, as a companion piece to the first episode of Season 10 of Doctor Who which had just screened on the ABC.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Data extract : Australasian Doctor Who newsletter – National Library of Australia".
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  29. ^ Mlyner, Phillip (19 November 2013). "Illustrator Jenny Parks Turns TV Characters Into Cats". Catster. Lumina Media. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
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  32. ^ Butler, Dan (16 December 2014). "11 Famous Faces You Never Knew Were Doctor Who Fans – 10. Patrick Stewart". What Culture.
  33. ^ Brown, Brigid (June 2017). "'Star Trek' Star Wil Wheaton Has a 'Doctor Who' Run-In with David Tennant at Awesome Con". BBC America.
  34. ^ Matheson, Whitney (15 November 2010). "A chat with ... director Edgar Wright, part two". USA Today.
  35. ^ "Noah Wyle: I had a Doctor Who scarf as a teenager". 4 August 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  36. ^ "the-blue-box-podcast-1728051/episode-311-paul-drapers-top-five". starburst magazine.
  37. ^ "The Fascinating Story of How Delia Derbyshire Created the Original Doctor Who Theme". Open Culture. 7 January 2016.
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  43. ^ Moab is my Washpot. Stephen Fry. p224-225. 2004 Arrow Books reissue
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External links[edit]