Heidi Edmundson, a 26 year old Law school student; takes a break from her long rigorous study schedule by traveling worlds with pen and paper; she enters in a machine with an unnamed man traveling through time and space defeating evil robots and rescuing entire realms. She spends her free time watching Doctor Who, and with her “Sonic Screwdriver” pen in yield, will defeat this semester with ease and trust in the Doctor. Then, she goes back to studying for Law School; with the rest of her study group and schoolmates. Nobody knows what kind of adventures she has been on, only her fellow “Whovians”.
A “Whovian” is an individual who loves to watch Doctor Who, and participates in any small aspect of the appreciation of the show; and in turn knows more about it (its quirks and kinks) than someone who doesn’t watch the show. It is a group or “Fandom (people who share a common interest in a show)” that people can call themselves of recognize with and even participate in.
Doctor Who is a British television show depicting the many lives of “The Doctor” played by many actors spanning since the 1960’s. Each episode depicts a different adventure, as well as each different doctor depicts a different life they have lived. Most of the plot line is spent avoiding the evil “Daleks” or bad robots that wish to eliminate “The Doctor” perminately. For a while the show had an average views, but there was a brief period in the 1990’s when the show was on HIATUS, “to let fresh blood settle” HELF, a 26 year old male friend turned Whovian, enthuses.
Doctor Who actually started in Britain. Upon entering the shows brief break in the 90’s, the only culture whose’ ratings hadn’t dropped in views, was Britain. Grant, a writer of the “The Angriest” blog on Dr. Who, says “ever since the series was axed in 1989 for poor ratings […] fan’s look to any fluctuation in viewing numbers as a sign that their favorite television drama is in danger of getting axed.” Grant points out that in Britain, fans scramble to keep this show and its fandom afloat. It is a part of the core culture of Britain. “It started in Britain, and continues their too.” HELF and Eric ( a 26 year old co-worker) both unanimously agree. “Its fandom is the biggest [there].” Eric enthuses. “It’s what British people identify with.” Helf adds. When I asked if America somehow had latched on to this show and its fandom, Eric agreed with the trend: America assimilated to it.
Doctor Who is starting its 13th doctor, over 800 episodes. In an online interview with HELF, I asked if anyone could start watching the show whenever. “You can jump in and usually not worry about getting lost” he says. Don’t you worry about being totally confused, I ask Kassi, a close friend. “Not at all,” Kassi states, “each doctor “is of his own” just as each episode is, and if you know anything at all about which doctor you’re watching, you will be fine.” So nobody in this fandom has seen all 800 episodes, not including the unregistered episodes, I asked Eric. “Of course not!” Eric was flabbergasted when I even proposed the idea. Every single person I talked to, HAS NOT watched every single season, doctor, or episode there is. They do not watch every single episode; some might even miss a few and still be able to follow along. With so much to see and experience, what makes one pick out the gems and favorites?
Some people prefer to analyze the subtext of the show to find deeper meaning, to analyze who the doctor really is, and that’s how they connect to the fandom. When I asked a close friend and strong Whovian, Kassi, why she watched the show, I got a large emotional response. “[on Matt Smith, doctor 11] It takes me on an adventure with a man who never has the same face… he’s the very last… he keeps running…he can never escape it.” Kassi and I survived high school with each other, and little things like these shows and their characters helped. I’ve never seen this show personally, but opening up as a person and reflecting through personal experience and connection makes for a unique heartfelt part of the fandom. “Whenever you first start watching the show you give your heart to the quirky character.” Helf states [watches Matt Smith specifically]. You give a part of yourself as well as your experiences to such a show.
While many Whovians watch the show for connections, they also spread this along to friends and other possible watchers. Many Whovians tend to introduce each other to the show. Jennifer Bagley, 20 year old college student and friend, notes that because she started “watching it with her brother, [and] that doctor remains [their] favorite.” Jennifer values family over anything else. HELF states it was “bonding time with my dad, as he watched it when he was younger too.” This lead HELF to a closer relationship with his father. Doctor Who brings together all sorts of fans, respectively. Heidi correspondingly notes “I got interested through a friend who started with an episode to get the feel of what it’s about” and has been watching it ever since.
The show that fans introduced each other to was to the main re-boot of Doctor Who after its brief death in the 90’s. A re-boot happens when directors and owners of the show try to reintroduce the show at a later date or under different circumstances. From David Tennant the 10th doctor, to Matt Smith the 11th doctor; most current Whovians tend to watch the reboot, if only the reboot. Even more specific, the doctor they first started watching became their favorite. Kassi told me the eleventh doctor was her personal favorite as well as HELF (in reference to the quote on giving his heart to Matt Smith as a specific character).
Many Whovians and sources also favor as Whovians because of the setting and action itself versus just the doctor as popular belief states. Kassi told me “the sense of adventure in the story” is also what drew her in (in addition to the Doctor) and keeps her attracted to the show. Heidi told me she likes the show specifically because of: “The location of the TARDIS travels. The past, the time periods, the future… so visual.” Heidi is visually and mentally entrapped by Dr. Who’s setting, specifically the TARDIS itself. Heidi is also a huge creative writer who loves setting, especially the fictional idea of time travel itself. The setting is what really drew her in and she aspires to create worlds just like in Doctor Who. The weeping angels’ episode referred to on Visual.ly blog post “Time Lord Timelines” courtesy of Drew Skau, also offers an interesting statistic by showing that the episode is the most watched episode in the entire series, yet the doctor is barely in it. The dark setting and creepy angel statues what drew fans in.
There is no specific reason why all Whovians like the show. There are so many different explanations. Liking the show for all the same reasons is, according to Wil Wheaton,(referenced as a source in: “What’s a ‘real’ Whovian? Female ‘Doctor Who’ fans speak”, as a self-acclaimed prodigal nerd and Whovian); going against the “nerd” or fandom culture:
“It shouldn’t matter why you love Doctor Who. The simple fact that you love it should bind all fans together. But it would seem that there are those out there who think the reason they enjoy the show is the only legitimate reason to watch the show. This goes against the very core of geek culture, which is supposed to be a safe space for people to express their love of fandom.”
Sarahandjen, the authors of “What’s a ‘real’ Whovian? Female ‘Doctor Who’ fans speak” and avid fans of Doctor Who, reflect on Wil’s statement with strong agreement.
“Wil Wheaton has spoken out about what it means to be a nerd in today’s culture, stating, “So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be, and it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes you a nerd.””
What Wil and Sarahandjen are trying to state is what the entire fandom itself is.They are focused on the fact that Whovians, (not just nerds) are regular people in a “nerdy” labeled fandom. When I asked every single one of my sources, they all were quite careful about how they recognized as a Whovian. They felt they all were not “true whovians”. This is what sets the Whovian fandom apart from anyone else, they don’t feel they have to judge on who watches for what reasons and why.
What makes a Whovian a Whovian? A whovian is an average day individual, all with different lives and experiences. Some watch to relate, some watch for the entertainment. Yet, they all recognize themselves as avid fans at the end of the day. They may not watch all the episodes, they may not all watch the same doctor, and the all don’t really care or judge who watches and why, and if their reasons are important or not. No matter their own focus on the fandom, they all watch it because they are fans for their own reasons and that’s what makes a Whovian a Whovian.