I’ve moved house a couple times in the last few years, and wherever I hang up my hat I keep something I like to call the “wall of fame.” It’s a display of my signed Doctor Who fan memorabilia, and yes, I am more than a bit sad. But it’s very important to me, and I like having it on the wall where I can look at it. At the moment, it has two signed photos from John Barrowman (the first a publicity shot from when I wrote to him in 2007, the other a postcard from the Robin Hood panto of this year); the watercolored first plate of series 3 Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones paper dolls that I gave to David Tennant but he returned for some reason, with his signature on it; a newspaper clipping J gave me last year of David Tennant in a Tom Baker-style scarf; a signed programme from the 2007 Dylan Thomas Society Birthday Luncheon where Russell T Davies was the guest speaker and some photos from that event (the caption has RTD thinking, “Damn, I should have hired Leslie to write Series 4”); a Torchwood series 1 postcard I “borrowed” from the BBC lobby in Llandaff (the caption has Jack wondering, “Where can I find a decent cuppa in Cardiff?”); a series 3 Doctor/Master postcard, from the Doctor Who Exhibition in Cardiff Baby; the cover of TTZ2; and a lovely Colin Baker collage signed by the man himself, gotten for me by my assistant editor Lori (I would have the programme from Little Shop of Horrors signed by Sylvester McCoy but I gave that to my mom).
I’m sure you know that I love Doctor Who. I love it a lot. I could chart this fondness from childhood like so many other fans, and the fact I was inculcated with the show from birth onwards. The case-in-point, I suppose, is that I still quite like “Time and the Rani.” Everyone else thinks it’s a terrible story, and there are a lot of things wrong with it. Still, I know all the scenes, dialogue, nuances, special effects, music by heart, so it’s inconceivable for me not to dote on it. (I think J has a similar thing going with “Remembrance of the Daleks,” which he knows in frightening detail, but in his defense it’s an inarguably strong story.) I could also probably go into psychoanalytic detail about why it, like a few of my obsessions that have lasted my whole life long, fascinates me to such a passionate degree.
The point is, it’s impossible to be a “Cranky” Yank Doctor Who fan in Britain. You walk into shops and see Doctor Who birthday cards for five-year-olds. In Marks & Spencers, your friends can get you Cybermen bath salts and washcloths for Christmas. The Doctor Who Annual is in every bookshop window. Small children can be heard in snippets of conversation talking about Daleks or Slitheen. You can debate with your friend’s 11-year-old about the Pertwee era and how it fares against the example of David Tennant. You can go to the Doctor Who Exhibition because it’s within practical distance of you (especially if you’re in Wales). RTD is a well-known name and Swansea-ites are justifiably proud of him, and very proud of Torchwood. You can find Jelly Babies in every corner shop. You can see old police boxes in London and even the specific Doctor Who one in Earl’s Court. You can go to whole shops full of themed merchandise. (There must be comparable places in the US but I wouldn’t know where to find them.)
It wasn’t always like this—the cult status described by J in his article in TTZ5 makes it perfectly clear how un-cool Doctor Who was for years. Still, at least if you dressed up in a sweltering coat, hat, and long scarf as I did one summer in a sci fi costume contest, people would probably know you were supposed to be Tom Baker. It’s changing in the US, though, as Doctor Who has gained the respect and status its writing has always suggested it deserve. But I do recommend any fan, if they are able to, to visit Britain for an experience of how truly ubiquitous the show can be over here. Maybe, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll even see it in live broadcast.