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Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival

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1986-08-17 Spokesman Review.jpg

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They came by the hundreds. from as far as Seattle, Portland and Lethbridge, Alberta. Nobody came from outer space. although several looked like they might have.

Some wore T-shirts and jeans; others favored more flamboyant garb. Seventeen-foot-long scarves, floppy hats and brightly colored vests were much in evidence. But every one of the 300 to 400 people who invaded the Sheraton-Spokane Hotel on Saturday had one thing in common — they loved "Doctor Who," a British science-fiction TV program that has been on the air 23 years.

Never heard of it? Don't worry. "Doctor Who." which airs locally every Saturday night at 10 on KSPS-TV, is what is known as a cult show — ignored by many and adored by few.

Every so often, those few hold conventions such as this weekend's "Timefest '86." At such gatherings the fans do more than celebrate the program, they dissect it, reveling in the minutest of minutiae and the most trivial of trivia.

How many other fans. of whatever program, can name all the script editors the show has ever had?

"Who are the Sontarans constantly at war with?" British actor John Levene, who played Sergeant Benton in the series in the early '70s, asked during the trivia contest. "The Rutans!" a fan called out triumphantly.

Six "Doctor Who" actors, as well as producer John Nathan-Turner, were on hand Saturday.

Only one of the actors, Anthony Ainley, still appears in the show, but the fans didn't seem to mind. Besides, to a true "Doctor Who" fan, past and present are just two sides of the same coin.

"One of my friends told me about all the people coming, and it sounded like fun," said Zen Faulkes, a student from the University of Lethbridge. "The stars and the guests are the nicest group of people you'd ever want to meet." The stars, most of whom haven't been involved with the program in years, spent much of their time signing autographs, answering questions about the show in panels and chatting with fans.

Levene, who now owns a production company called Genesis Communications, said he still enjoys being recognized by "Who" fans.

"The people who recognize you want to talk to you, and it makes you feel warm," he said. "I know they're talking to me because of what we generate. The leaders of 'Miami Vice' wouldn't get the same reaction because it's an instant thing. What we have is something lasting."

What exactly is "Doctor Who," anyway? A good question. particularly since even the show's most devoted fans have trouble explaining it.

"I remember seeing it for the first time." said Lee Withers of Connell, Wash., "and when it was over I said to myself 'What the hell was that I just saw, and when is it on again?'"

The Doctor (true fans never call him Doctor Who) is a Time Lord, one of a race of incredibly intelligent and powerful beings who comes from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor left Gallifrey many centuries ago, tired of its sterile lifestyle, and now roams the universe in his TARDIS, a craft that can travel through time and space even though it's shaped like a British police call box.

Among his many other special abilities, the Doctor can regenerate his body when he is near death, allowing another actor to take over the part.

Take those basic ingredients, stir in some witty writing and strong character development, and you begin to approach the secret of "Doctor Who's" success.

"I really like it because it's a release," said Rhonda de Vriendt, 23, who drove from Portland for the convention. "It's unique. It lets your mind work and be creative."

"It's unusual," said Withers. "It's not exactly science fiction. it's not exactly comedy, but it's a blend of everything. The Doctor is an unusual TV hero because he doesn't resort to violence, he uses his intelligence to get things done, and he's not infallible."

Withers was selling "Who" posters and TARDIS beach towels in the dealer's room, another highlight of the conventions.

A dedicated fan could browse through hundreds of "Doctor Who" books (including "The Doctor Who Cookbook"), pick up a soundtrack album or two, or buy a T-shirt from the heaps on display.

But mostly the fans gathered to share their love of the program, a feeling that some of the Britons might have found a bit overpowering.

During one of the panels, a fan asked producer Nathan-Turner whether the Doctor and his arch-enemy, the Master (played by Ainley), were brothers.

"Who knows?" he replied, drawing a few groans. "I think we try to pin everything down too much. I rather like the fact that over everything there is this giant question mark."

One question mark Saturday involved money. Attendance at the convention was lower than expected and there were reports of financial problems, but organizers declined comment.

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.: DeSilver, Drew (1986-08-17). Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival. The Spokesman-Review p. D4.
  • MLA 7th ed.: DeSilver, Drew. "Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival." The Spokesman-Review [add city] 1986-08-17, D4. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: DeSilver, Drew. "Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival." The Spokesman-Review, edition, sec., 1986-08-17
  • Turabian: DeSilver, Drew. "Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival." The Spokesman-Review, 1986-08-17, section, D4 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_fans_cross_time,_space_to_attend_festival | work=The Spokesman-Review | pages=D4 | date=1986-08-17 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 August 2020 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who fans cross time, space to attend festival | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_fans_cross_time,_space_to_attend_festival | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 August 2020}}</ref>