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Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong (1990)

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Ran with sidebars on page G2 headlined "Dr. Who fans get magazine, pen pals -- and upset by errors" and "Why has who lasted so long? 'The premise is so brilliant'

It's a wet, bleak Saturday afternoon in the Seven Dials district of central London. A freezing wind is racing down St. Giles High Street, and the the rain is pelting down mercilessly.

But while most pedestrians scurry for cover, the ribbon of black umbrellas outside the cafe keeps getting longer. The lesson is obvious: not even the beastliest British weather can deter Doctor Who fans from turning out.

Inside, the line moves past a long table littered with photographs, souvenir books and other paraphernalia of the longest-running television adventure series in the English-speaking world.

And at the far end, sits a wiry bearded figure in heavy sweater and denims. He's Sylvester McCoy, who three years ago became the seventh person to play the Doctor and who is still trying to adjust.

McCoy is signing his name to everything from photographs to souvenir books to record albums. He's posing for photos. And he's maintaining a cheery chit-chat with fans.

Available to fans

The latter come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and they're still pouring in at 5 p.m. McCoy and producer John Nathan-Turner, a cheerful chap who's sporting a Doctor Who T-shirt, have been there since before one.

This sort of thing happens whenever members of the Doctor Who team make themselves available to fans of the BBC program, which began life in 1963 and is now sold to 67 countries around the world. It will be well after six before the last autograph is signed.

So what's it like being part of a cult phenomenon?

"Tiring," chuckles McCoy. "My writing hand's still working, but I think my brain is gone."

Gesturing at the commotion, he adds, "This is amazing. I don't think I'll ever get used to it really. I mean -- we were supposed to be done two hours ago."

Not that he minds, however.

"Oh I like the detail of that outfit," he exclaims to one teenager who's arrived in a typical Doctor Who garb complete with battered straw hat and flowing scarf. "The tie's great as well."

"Can I take your photo?" the teenager asks. "Sure, flash away," grins McCoy. The camera flashes, the line starts moving again, and the Doctor faces his next fan.

"I try to find something to say to everyone," he says cheerfully. "After all you owe it to them when they've queued up for such a long time."

And he stresses that today's turn-out is the mere tip of the iceberg.

"You should see the mail I get. I've had to get a secretary to help me out, which makes me feel a bit guilty. I try to read every letter I receive, but I wish I had more time to sit down and reply to them all, but it's impossible. If I tried to do that, no one would get an answer."

Then, he adds: "And we get a lot of letters from Canada."

Canadian Who fans have long been able to view the series on the various Public Broadcasting Stations. But lately, the good doctor has received a further boost thanks to Canada's YTV network which last autumn started showing all 564 episodes in consecutive order on weekday afternoons at 4, starting with the original black-and-white instalments from the early 1960s. In addition, McCoy's latest series is being aired Saturday at 5.30 p.m.

Doctor Who first zoomed on to British TV screens in November, 1963, and suffered terrible ratings for its first episode because it coincided with the Kennedy assassination. But a repeat airing a few days later won instant converts and a few episodes later, the introduction of the Doctor's arch enemies, a species of gravel-voiced robots known as the Daleks, made the series a hit.

The character who now enjoys an international audience of 110 million is a mysterious Time Lord who shuttles through time and space, battling monsters and solving galactic crises.

Doctor Who's mode of travel is called TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) and it's far removed from the Starship Enterprise. One cannot imagine Star Trek's self-important James Kirk travelling about in the battered old police telephone box that -- thanks to jammed circuits back in the 1960s -- now houses TARDIS.

Perfect vehicle

But it's a perfect vehicle for the eccentric Doctor in his various incarnations. The late William Hartnell was the first to play him back in 1963, and he was followed by Patrick Troughton (1966-69), Jon Pertwee (1970-74), Tom Baker (1974-81), Peter Davison (1981-84), Colin Baker (1984-1986) and, since 1987, Sylvester McCoy.

The BBC creators came up with a brilliant device to explain the various doctors. As a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, he's an advanced super being with a 60 degree body temperature, two hearts, a bypass respiratory system -- and 13 lives. That means the Doctor can regenerate his body. Each time this happens there is a regeneration of body and mind -- and a change in the actor playing the part.

"The stories can go anywhere and be anything," explains McCoy, who when he's not filming Who keeps busy in live theatre. "It's like changing the guard at Buckingham Palace -- it keeps recharging itself -- which means it goes on and on. And of course, for an actor, the series offers a wonderful character part.

"And what's my doctor like? He's multifaceted really. He has a kind of comic front that hides a steely personality. He hates injustice and I think he'd be a member of Greenpeace if he were allowed to be political."

But one aspect never changes. "The villains are just as foul as they've ever been!"

Illustration

Color Photo; An alien priest is typical of the kind of creatures the Doctor encounters traveling through time and space Seventh doctor: After three years, Slyvester McCoy is still trying to adjust to the role Jon Pertwee, the third doctor, is stalked by a villainous Dalek

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Portman, Jamie (1990-04-21). Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong. Ottawa Citizen p. G1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Portman, Jamie. "Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong." Ottawa Citizen [add city] 1990-04-21, G1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Portman, Jamie. "Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong." Ottawa Citizen, edition, sec., 1990-04-21
  • Turabian: Portman, Jamie. "Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong." Ottawa Citizen, 1990-04-21, section, G1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Move_over_Trekkies,_the_Doctor%27s_TV_series_is_still_going_strong | work=Ottawa Citizen | pages=G1 | date=1990-04-21 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 April 2017 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Move over Trekkies, the Doctor's TV series is still going strong | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Move_over_Trekkies,_the_Doctor%27s_TV_series_is_still_going_strong | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 April 2017}}</ref>