In 2010, the Doctor Who fanzine Vworp Vworp was launched. An impressively ambitious celebration of Doctor Who Magazine and its associated comic strips, its fourth issue is due in 2021. In the meantime, here’s a short feature I wrote for Issue 1, very much in the spirit of Wiffle Lever To Full!. Thanks to editor Colin Brockhurst for allowing me to replicate it here:
THE FANDOM MENACE
By Bob Fischer
I remember the first time I became truly concerned about Doctor Who continuity. It was in the Middlesbrough branch of British Home Stores, on Saturday 7th July 1984. My Mum was wandering upstairs towards the gentlemen’s trouser department, on a mission to provide my Dad with a brand new set of chocolate-brown slacks (“I got you these Geoff, the arse is hanging out of your old pair”), and I was tagging behind in a world of my own. Probably Gallifrey or Mondas, but with an outside chance of being Zeta Minor.
My nose was stuck, predictably, in Issue 91 of Doctor Who Magazine. Which was one of the more savoury places to put it in mid-1980s Middlesbrough. Specifically, it was the Matrix Data Bank that had dragged me away from the bespectacled Mrs Slocombe lookalike helping my harassed-looking mother flick through a rack of neatly-folded acrylic menswear. Fifteen years before widespread internet access, this was the only repository of knowledge available to curious young Doctor Who fans keen to discover who played the fourth Dalek on the left in Episode 2, Scene 21 of ‘Day of The Daleks‘*. We’re still talking about the Matrix Data Bank here, by the way, not the menswear department of British Home Stores. They had a working knowledge of the early Troughton years, but nothing more comprehensive than that.
(*This is, of course, a trick question. There are only three Daleks in the entirety of ‘Day of the Daleks’)
The question causing the revolution in my head was asked by ‘reader Matthew Carter’ and went like this…
“In ‘The Five Doctors’, the first Doctor is in the TARDIS and asks which regeneration Davison is. The latter replies ‘Fourth’ and the first exclaims ‘So there are five of me now’. How did he know Davison was the newest?”
And the Matrix Data Bank, amazingly, didn’t know. “I like that, Mr Carter,” came the reply. “That question shows that people watch the programme and care about it enough to ask such things. I applaud your powers of observation, it proves you have acute hearing and eyesight. This waffle proves I haven’t the foggiest idea what the answer is and that I’m quickly moving onto the next question…”
My jaw hit the floor and bounced back up from my Start-Rite trainers. The Matrix Data Bank had been defeated!
“Mum,” I barked, tugging manically at her handbag strap and waving the magazine before a startled-looking Mrs Slocombe. “You know in ‘The Five Doctors’ when the First Doctor comes into the TARDIS and Peter Davison tells him he’s the Fifth Doctor, yeah? Well how does the First Doctor know that’s the latest incarnation? Eh?”
“You what, sweetheart?”
“In ‘The Five Doctors’, the First Doctor knows that the Fifth Doctor is the latest one without even asking, he just knows. How? How did he know that the Sixth Doctor wasn’t wandering about somewhere? Or even the Seventh or Eighth? He couldn’t possibly have done! Could he? Surely?”
“Erm… £7.99… sorry, I’ll write you a cheque… erm… well, there hasn’t been a Seventh and Eighth Doctor yet, has there?”
“No, but the First Doctor wouldn’t have known that. As far as he was concerned, they might have been taken out of their time lines with all the others…”
‘I suppose so. Now, what are we getting for tea tonight? Fishcakes again, or do you want pies from Newboulds?’
It really wasn’t good enough. I thought about this question all the way down to Middlesbrough General Hospital, where my Gran was recovering with stoic dignity from her latest failed hip replacement operation. The sun hammered relentlessly through the window and wilted a vase of pale pink chrysanthemums, balanced on the bedside table next to a copy of Woman’s Weekly. My fortysomething Mum and her 74-year-old mother nattered warmly and patiently about weather and fishcakes and trousers. I sat on a wobbly stool, reading my Doctor Who Magazine and picking idly at a box of Terry’s All Gold.
I’d been a regular Doctor Who viewer for five years by this stage, ever since Episode 1 of ‘Destiny of the Daleks’, but – if I’m honest – all I’d really done was that… view. I never thought about the stories at all, I just watched them, went along with them, and acted them out in the playground on a Monday. They were all – naturally – brilliant, and even the ones that weren’t quite so brilliant were only slightly less brilliant than the really brilliant ones. But now, suddenly, I realised it was possible to think a little bit deeper about Doctor Who. A whole new world of potential opened up in front of me, a world of exciting conversations about the Time Lord regenerative process and discussions about whether or not Alpha Centauri had a willy.
I had become, in a nutshell, a fan. And it’s a world I still inhabit now, frequently idling away the wee hours of the morning on a myriad of internet forums, debating the finer points of Gallifreyan physiognomy and putting “Alpha Centauri’s willy” into Google Image search (with, frankly, inconclusive results). And I’m sure I can trace it all back to that fateful morning 25 years ago. So thankyou for that, Doctor Who Magazine.
Incidentally, the answer to Matthew Carter’s question is simple… in ‘The Five Doctors’, the First Doctor knew that the Fifth Doctor was the newest because Davison was the Doctor that had arrived there in the TARDIS. All the others had been lifted from their time streams.
I’d like to say that my Mum piped up with this, suddenly and violently in the living room four days later, making my Dad drop a fishcake into the crotch of his brand new trousers. But she didn’t. It actually appeared in the Matrix Data Bank a full four months later, in the December issue, by which time I’d changed schools, my Dad had changed his trousers, my Gran had left the hospital, and – let’s face it – I’d forgotten all about it. But it was nice to have this little gap in Doctor Who continuity finally filled and – with my new fandom gene finally sated – I slept a little easier in my top-level bunk bed that winter.
Until the next issue brought up the thorny issue of UNIT dating. That’s still keeping me awake at nights if Matthew Carter is out there…
The Vworp Vworp website is here: