DOCTOR WHO, the classic British scifi television series, recently celebrated 48 years since its first episode. I recently re-read Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who By The Women Who Love It and it got me thinking about what makes Doctor Who so special, and what makes MY Doctor Who experience into something distinctly mine.
Any fan of the show can tell you that the Doctor isn’t just one man traveling through space and time, though he is that too. Part of what has allowed the show to maintain continuity over a nearly 50-year run is that the Doctor and his friends change as time progresses. Literally, they become different people. The ability to reboot the entire cast is actually written into the show’s own mythology. The Doctor’s friends, the people he travels with (also known as the Companions) get replaced as their characters grow up, fall in love, find a place to settle down, or get left behind by the Doctor. He changes too, from one actor to the next, as the show’s writers get a chance to kill him off in new and interesting ways.
Don’t worry, he regenerates. Then we get a new Doctor, and the show gets to live on.
The Companion I keep coming back to, the one I didn’t think of as the Doctor’s pet or love interest or child – who was just, honestly, a companion, is Ace. As much as I love the new version of the series, and was especially fond of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, for me the best iteration of the Doctor will always be Number Four. Tennant’s doctor is so similar to the kind of guy I used to fall for (and I’m not saying that’s good or bad – it’s probably both, in a weird, sexy, terrible sort of way) but Tom Baker’s Doctor made me feel that my hope and optimism were qualities to be cherished instead of mocked. That no matter how bad life got, if I wanted to wake up each morning and find the beauty in it, I could do that. A lot of people tried to tell me that life wasn’t worth being optimistic about, over the years, and I had the Fourth Doctor to tell me they were wrong.
And Ace? She was enthusiastic, brutally honest, adventurous, and blew things up. What’s not to love?
The fact that this campy, funny, brilliantly low-budget (and did I mention, British?) science fiction television show has inspired different people to love it in so many different ways is exactly what’s being celebrated in Chicks Dig Time Lords. Editors Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea gathered together a wonderful collection of essays, each written by a woman who loves the show. Each essay explores a different part of the fandom that surrounds DOCTOR WHO. Whether you’re a fan since you first saw it as a child, or you joined the club after seeing the series reboot, or you’re more enamored of the fans than the show itself, there’s probably an essay that reflects your love of DOCTOR WHO. They have pieces by writers, artists, fangirls, actresses who appeared on the show (either the televised version or the very popular series of radio shows), and costume designers, to name a few.
There’s even a contribution by Carole E. Barrowman, sister of John Barrowman, who plays the dashing omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness – a character who so blossomed on the show that he got his own spinoff, TORCHWOOD.
Amongst my favorite essays were Seanan McGuire’s “Mathematical Excellence: A Documentary”, where she talks about firmly believing that DOCTOR WHO was a documentary (based on a slight misunderstanding of what exactly got aired on PBS). McGuire’s childhood love shaped her view of the world in a way that isn’t too different from my own experience, and it was lovely to read a piece I so immediately understood.
“We’ll Make Great Pets”, by Elizabeth Bear, talks about the difference between a noir and a clair universe, and should be read by just about everyone, not just WHO fans. “Marrying Into the TARDIS Tribe”, by Lynne M. Thomas, shows that it is possible to convert a loved one into the fold, and Tara O’Shea’s “The Tea Lady” is a great introduction to ways in which fans can give back to the actors who brought the show to life. I also have to recommend “In Defense of Smut”, by Christa Dickson, because … well, you’ll see when you read it.
If you’re a fan of the show, read this book. If you know someone who is a fan of the show, buy them this book. If you know someone who doesn’t quite understand why you’re a fan of the show, hand them this book and politely suggest they read it. Maybe they’ll find their special own way to love DOCTOR WHO too.
Full list of essays included in this book:
- We’ll Make Great Pets, by Elizabeth Bear
- Time is Relative, by Carole E. Barrowman
- Being Jackie Jenkins: Memoirs from A Parallel Universe, by Jackie Jenkins
- My Fandom Regenerates, by Deborah Stanish
- Adventures in Ocean-Crossing, Margin-Skating and Feminist-Engagement with Doctor Who, by Helen Kang
- What’s a Girl To Do?, by Lloyd Rose
- An Interview With India Fisher
- Costuming: More Productive Than Drugs, But Just as Expensive, by Johanna Mead.
- Girl Genius: Nyssa of Traken, by Francesca Coppa
- An Interview With Sophie Aldred
- Rutle-ing the Doctor: My Long Life in Doctor Who Fandom, by Jennifer Adams Kelley
- Marrying Into the TARDIS Tribe, by Lynne M. Thomas
- Torchwood Babiez in “Behind the Scenes,” by Tammy Garrison & Katy Shuttleworth
- The Digging Chick, by Lisa Bowerman
- The Tea Lady, by Tara O’Shea.
- Hopelessly Devoted to Who, by Jody Lynn Nye
- Two Generations of Fangirls in America, by Amy Fritsch
- Mathematical Excellence: A Documentary, by Seanan McGuire
- The Fanzine Factor, by Kathryn Sullivan
- An Interview With Laura Doddington
- Renaissance of the Fandom, by Liz Myles
- If I Can’t Squee, I Don’t Want to be Part of Your Revolution: Crone-ology of an Ageing Fangirl, by Kate Orman
- Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Have We Really Come That Far? by Shoshana Magnet & Robert Smith?
- Traveling with the Doctor, by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Martha Jones: Fangirl Blues, by K. Tempest Bradford
- In Defense of Smut, by Christa Dickson
- Regeneration X, by Catherynne M. Valente