DOCTOR WHO IS SPECIAL (Part II)

DOCTOR WHO & FANS SUPPORT EACH OTHER!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Doctor Who fans helped each other hang on during the pandemic; we were just following the fine example set by the folks who make the show. For me, it all began with Jodie’s message to the fans (in character as the 13th Doctor) reassuring them that they would get through this and urging them to “listen to the doctors.” While it was comforting for the young fans for whom it was obviously intended, the thought behind it was also heartwarming for the older ones.

Chris Chibnall continued to boost our spirits by posting a message on the BBC’s website at the start of the original lockdown: We’re living through some strange times right now. With people staying home, and families stuck together, I thought maybe a few little presents from Doctor Who might help. Something to read, together or alone. New treats, from the people who make Doctor Who. We’ll try and post things here once or twice a week…

Stay safe,

Chris X

True to his word, over the next few weeks the site featured new short stories from Russell T Davies, Steven Moffatt, Paul Cornell, and others.

Emily Cook of Doctor Who Magazine started “watch-alongs” of Doctor Who adventures. The BBC’s Doctor Who family quickly added their support, with writers, actors, and even showrunners supplying tie-in mini-sodes, animations, or short stories for the viewings.

Doctor Who extended its support beyond its fans. During The Big Night In (a special night of programming to “celebrate the acts of kindness, humour, and the spirit of hope and resilience that is keeping the nation going during the…pandemic”) ten actors who had portrayed the Doctor recorded a “thank you” for the NHS and frontline workers.

Several Doctor Who-related organizations not officially associated with the BBC also made material available to fans for free. Big Finish Audio provided “lockdownloads” for fans in April of 2020. Conventions made videos of past events accessible online. A quick search of YouTube turned up hours of mini-sodes, specials, interviews, and other material, some fan-made.

With such selfless examples, how could we not strive to be kinder to each other by creating sources to help fans through the self-isolation of that first year?

Our own Bob Brinkman had the brilliant idea of publishing the temporary fanzine Tales from the Matrix during the pandemic. He took on the massive job, with impressive results, while continuing to produce the Gallifrey Guardian. This led to a collaboration between DWCA members who had launched DR Productions Audio, which provides a showcase for fan audios and podcasts. Some of the stories in Tales from the Matrix were chosen to be adapted for audio. It was, as Bob referred to it, “the fruit of the multi-club associations forged during COVID.”

We, along with other fan clubs such as the Prydonians of Prynceton, began making much of our content available to non-member fans. GoG Blog posts were made that included trivia contests, instructions for crafts, and links to sites with more ways to pass the time in lockdown. No Doctor Who fan with internet access could complain of having too little content (from around the world!) to occupy their time. [My favorite link was to the “Homemade Who” video compilation.]

While keeping each other busy was helpful during times of social isolation, sincere and caring messages of encouragement gave us the strength to do what was necessary. Quite a few from the Doctor made it into the GoG Blog. The tagline on one of my early COVID-related posts was, “Until next time—stay strong, stay safe, and STAY HOME!” A rare personal note was included in my News column for the April 2020 issue of the Gallifrey Guardian: I know it’s rough out there right now, but we have a chance to save the world just by staying home! 

From Arthur’s Lord President’s column December 2020: On the Wholiday season, it’s all about the Fam. As we eagerly await a new adventure with the Doctor’s Fam, we must make a sad necessary change this month, for the safety of ours. Due to concerns of COVID 19, GoG cannot meet in person this month…A huge THANK YOU to everyone, for sticking with us…By blood or not, face to face or virtual, Fam is precious. Any way you can be with family, enjoy the season. And the Doctor, of course. A phrase that really touched me came from Bob, also referring to the cancellation of the WHOliday Party: “While we understand that many of you may be disappointed, we are missing one another now, so that when we gather next, noone will be missing.”

Was there a moment during this ongoing crisis when you were lifted up by the outpouring of love and support shown by the Doctor Who community? Share it with fandom; you might help someone else who needs a lift right now.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who attends our meetings for being responsible and understanding, and helping to keep us all safe.

NEXT TIME: Charitable Who

(…and because this post seems a little too sentimental, here’s some fun–a link to a costume contest judged by Jodie Whitaker and David Tennant in June of 2020 from The Late Late Show with James Corden.)

‘Doctor Who’ Cosplay Contest w/ Jodie Whittaker & David Tennant – Bing video

WHY DOCTOR WHO IS SPECIAL (Part I)

For a while now (well, over a year—I’m the ultimate procrastinator!) I’ve wanted to blog about what makes Doctor Who different from other shows. It’s not just that the main character changes regularly into another person, or that conflicts are usually solved without the hero resorting to violence, or that the time travel format allows for a wider range of storylines, from straight historical to the wildest sci-fi. I’m thinking more of the community of people involved, both in front of and behind the camera (or the desk), and even the fans themselves. A recurring theme of both primary actors and visiting guest stars is how welcomed they feel.

Jodie Whittaker, on filming during the pandemic: …what was immediately reassuring is as soon as you got on set, no matter if the logistics or the face of the show seemed different because of masks and all of that, all of the heart and all the love was still there and it was still great fun. We were able to be safe as we could be and as caring as we could be and not lose the atmosphere on the set. It was such a pleasure to be around people, so I was delighted!

Jacob Anderson (Vinder from Flux) asked the difference between Doctor Who and other sets he’d been on: It actually feels like walking into somebody’s family home. Everybody knows and cares about each other and you can tell that this is a group of people who have spent a lot of time with each other and would choose to continue to. There are some people who have been working on the show for fifteen years and you feel that, but you can also feel Jodie and Chris’ influence on the environment.  It’s just a really welcoming, comfortable, warm place to work. 

He went on to talk about the fans: I tend to hide a bit whenever there’s any type of announcement but in the immediate announcement I saw some really nice “Welcome to the family” type tweets from Whovians, “Welcome to our crazy family, it’s going to be an adventure!” I really appreciated that and thought it was really nice.

Adjani Salmon (Nick from Eve of the Daleks) from an interview: It felt like we were welcomed into a family… The entire Doctor Who clique is like a family and a unit. It feels like a family working together and when we were in a high pressure environment it was still this synergy of everyone working and moving and getting it done. 

And in a Tweet: Working on Dr. Who was like going to a friend’s house for the holidays. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.

The cast also seems great at keeping their spirits up and being responsible while working through the pandemic. No whining, no complaining, just acceptance of what must be done. In an interview with the Sunday Times last year, Jodie said: We’ve had to be very cautious with filming because we have a duty of care to everyone involved. Things are slower but it hasn’t dampened our energy on set. Everyone’s in the same boat: the world has to carry on during the pandemic while managing the risk.

[Previous comments of Jodie’s regarding the COVID crisis have appeared on this blog; see last year’s January 14 post.]

NEXT TIME: How the Doctor Who community supported each other during lockdown.