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Doctor Who fans are sometimes referred to as Whovians. The usage was more common among 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 and Whovians into rebellion.
Doctor Who fans in Britain have had a formally recognized organization – 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 Australasian Doctor Who Fan Club was founded soon after DWAS, in 1976, to galvanize resistance to the decision 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".
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 organization for dozens of local fan groups throughout the country. 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. 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 and Wizard World. The DWSC has launched its own Doctor Who Festival on November 17, 2012 - REGENERATION - and is branching out into local chapters across the country including Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Kitchener/Waterloo.
The New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club (NZDWFC) was founded by Scott Walker and Andrew Poulson in 1988 and continues to remain 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.
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. Other popular conventions of the past include the Manchester-based Manopticon 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 2010, Gallifrey One and the ChicagoTARDIS convention (Visions' successor) continue, with the annual Sci Fi Sea Cruise featuring Doctor Who guests departing from different ports each year. In addition, Massachusetts' New England Fan Experience (formerly United Fan Con) hosts guests from the series; and startup events exist in the form of Georgia's TimeGate Atlanta (begun 2005) and Florida's Hurricane Who (begun 2009).
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.
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).
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. 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). 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, Star Begotten, Paradise Lost, Spectrox, the Black and White Guardian, Cygnus Alpha, Five Hundred Eyes, Eye Of Horus (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, 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 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.
Like other shows which have developed a large following (Star Trek, Star Wars, Blake's 7 just to name a few), 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. Like other fan productions, though, the legality of such unofficial productions is highly questionable. But this has not stopped fans from making their own brand of Doctor Who.
Unlike productions based on other genre, Doctor Who fandom create not only video, but also audio drama as well, audio drama being much more mainstream in the UK where Doctor Who is made by the BBC.
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 licenced 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.
Many fans put a huge amount of work and effort varying from animation to live action films. A lot of them use antagonists from the real show, like Cybermen and Daleks, and attempt to remain within continuity.
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. Both Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies and Coupling creator Steven Moffat were lifelong fans of the series, and both in turn became head writer, or showrunner of the revived series in 2005 and 2010 respectively. 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. 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.
Celebrity fans include Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Prince of Wales, comedians Frank Skinner, Jon Culshaw, Scott Adsit, David Walliams, Mitch Benn, Peter Kay, Mark Gatiss, Stewart Lee, Dom Joly, Matt Lucas, Chris Addison, Rufus Hound, Toby Hadoke, Wil Anderson, Chris Hardwick; actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Evans, David Hewlett, Stephen Fry, David Duchovny,Tom Hanks , Eric McCormack, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Wil Wheaton, Bill Hader, Rob Lowe, Anthony Stewart Head, David Jason, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Scott Bakula, Noah Wyle, singer/songwriter Marc Almond, Will Arnett and Elizabeth Hurley; Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini, Firefly creator Joss Whedon, voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, horror writer Stephen King, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson, graphic novelist and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, DC Comics writer Sterling Gates, 'Starman' writer James Robinson, comics columnist Rich Johnston, horror novelist Brian Keene, comics author Grant Morrison, film director Edgar Wright, playwright Mark Ravenhill, Star Trek star Patrick Stewart, Valve Corporation CEO and co-founder Gabe Newell, boxer Mike Tyson and science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. Tenth Doctor David Tennant has repeatedly said that he has wanted to play the Doctor since he was a little boy, and has appeared in numerous Big Finish audio plays. Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi is a fan and has been since he was a teenager. John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood, is also a longtime fan. Craig Ferguson of the Late Late show is also a major Doctor Who fan. Rick Riordan is also notably a fan of the show, having referenced Daleks in his newest book, The Serpent's Shadow. British director Ben Wheatley, who was hired to direct episodes of series 8, is also a fan.
Peter Jackson and George Lucas are fans of the series. Steven Moffat states that Steven Spielberg "knows and admires the show", although Lucas states Spielberg is a fan of the original series and believes there's a lot of things missing to the new series that made the old one so great.
From the world of sport, cricketers Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch, footballer David Beckham, and from the music industry US heavy metal band Slipknot, guitarist Brian May of the UK band Queen, Oasis member Noel Gallagher, The Smiths vocalist Morrissey, Omar & Cedric of At the Drive-In/The Mars Volta, Jamie Lenman of UK band Reuben, Matthew Bellamy of the UK band Muse, Welsh hip-hop band Goldie Lookin Chain, Jon Spencer of the US garage rock group Blues Explosion, Florence Welch lead singer of the British indie pop band Florence and the Machine, singer Dionne Bromfield, pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, Paul & Phil Hartnoll of UK techno duo Orbital, singer and actress Toyah Willcox, singer Meat Loaf. UK heavy metal band Iron Maiden are also fans of the show, using an image of the TARDIS on the covers of both the Wasted Years single and their 1986 album Somewhere In Time, an album on which the theme of time is used throughout. South Park co-creator Trey Parker who has put several references to the show in several South Park episodes.
The son of Rowan Williams, the 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. Novelist Michael Chabon is a fan of the series and has written about raising his family as Whovians in his non-fiction collection Manhood for Amateurs (2009).
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.
In 1985, charity ensemble Who Cares? released a single inspired by Doctor Who 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.
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 and, as with The Go-Go's, was Mankind's first and only single. Released by Pinnacle in 1978, the song peaked at Number 25 in the UK Singles Chart.
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. 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. 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.
Another way fans voice their opinions on the show is through regular podcasts.
A growing number of individuals and groups have produced their own websites as well. Some with various forms of entertainment, news, and methods of communication (like a chat system).