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Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World

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What did Frazer Hines wear under his kilt? In what year was Sarah Kingdom called the top space agent? Which show featured the Great Vampire?

On a recent Saturday, 20 individuals at the Main Library downtown racked their brains for answers to such trivia questions. Their goal was to accumulate the most Jelly Babies, soft, chewy candies. (The answers: khaki shorts, 4000 A.D., "State of Decay".)

The occasion was a meeting of the Charlotte chapter of "Friends of Dr. Who," a statewide club that honors Dr. Who of the BBC science-fiction television series that bears his name. But only a few of those who turned out actually were members; most were newcomers.

Regulars range in age from 12 to 34, and all idolize Dr. Who, time lord from the planet Gallifrey. In North Carolina, the club has 500 members.

Broadcast by the BBC in England, the Dr. Who series is picked up by PBS in the United States and airs weekdays at 11 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. on Channel 58 and 17 in Charlotte.

What's its appeal? "I'm a sci-fi nut. I'm fascinated by time travel, and I've done some sci-fi writing on a free-lance basis," said Skip Tennent, an operating room attendant at Gaston Memorial Hospital.

Local chapter president Kathy Davis, in customer services at North Carolina National Bank, is also a "Star Trek" fan. Her interest in Dr. Who was sparked by the Monty Python-type humor of actor Tom Baker, the most popular Dr. Who among Charlotte fans. "It's off-the-wall humor, the kind I like," said Davis, 29. "It was absolutely love at first sight."

Said Bobby Padgett, 19, of Gastonia, "You can sit back for 30 minutes and it's pure fantasy." Padgett, a UNC student, began watching his senior year in high school. "Since then, I've read just about anything on Dr. Who I can get my hands on."

The monthly meetings are free-form, consisting of gossip about the actors in the series, news of BBC actions concerning the series and videos of "Dr. Who" episodes.

At the recent trivia game, many participants demonstrated detailed knowledge of the show and collected Dr. Who's favorite candy, Jelly Babies, as points. A peaceful fellow, the Doctor believes that offering candy can sometimes defuse a violent situation. The winner, with 22 Jelly Babies, was 12-year-old Chris Spencer, who likes the show because, "Well, the Doctor's a neat guy."

Dr. Who is a neat guy. He rejects the noninterference policy of his planet and roams the universe, with assorted companions he meets along the way, fighting evil and oppression. Six actors have played the Doctor in the show's 22-year span.

Dr. Who, so-called because he never divulges his name, gets around in the TARDIS, standing for Time and Relative Dimensions In Space. This vehicle can visit any planet at any particular time in the planet's history. From the outside, the TARDIS is permanently fixed in the form of a Metropolitan Police Telephone Box (due to a malfunction in the chameleon circuit, which scans the landing site and alters the exterior to blend with the surroundings).

The Charlotte chapter of "Friends" is growing, with new people showing up at each meeting, said Sarah Lawrence, 16, who handles advertising for the club. "The fans are out there, it's just a matter of reaching them," she said. Attendance depends on what episode is being shown, said vice president Jimmy Moore, a student at CPCC. The average attendance is 25.

"A lot of people turn on the TV and watch five minutes and say, 'Oh, that's stupid,' because of the BBC's special effects," said Lawrence. "You see this space ship with strings holding it up, and you're trying not to ask stupid questions like 'what do you mean it's a police box?' But if you sit and watch it, it's easy to get hooked. It's an intelligent show."

They're not alone in their interest. The phenomenon is found across the nation. There are Dr. Who posters, yo-yos, buttons, books, magazines, records, T-shirts, mugs, duffel bags, a Dr. Who game and more. Not to mention Bassett's Jelly Babies, a candy that originated in Britain.

According to a Dr. Who documentary made two years ago, there are 100 million viewers worldwide, 14 million in England and 10 million in America.

The largest Dr. Who organization, separate from "Friends," is "The Dr. Who Fan Club of America," with 30,000 to 40,000 members worldwide. It sends a 20- page monthly newspaper to members, sponsors conventions and sells around 150 boxes of Jelly Babies a month at $3 for a 4-ounce box. The candy isn't available in Charlotte stores, Moore, 19, said.

It is the show's Buck Rogers-type appeal and the cliff-hanger ending of each episode that at tracts fans, according to Moore. He likes the title character because "the Doctor is an eccentric and a nonconformist."

When the BBC stopped filming episodes, outraged fans complained. Filming will resume in January, reports the Dr. Who Fan Club's June newsletter.

That seems only right to Who fans. Said Moore, "Any show that lasts 22 years - there's no reason why it can't run another 22."

IF YOU'RE GOING: The next meeting is Aug. 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the downtown branch of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public library, 310 N. Tryon St. For more information, call Jimmy Moore, 394-2835 from 3-8 p.m. daily.

Spelling correction: Sara Kingdom

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  • APA 6th ed.: Lai, Zona (1985-08-13). Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World. The Charlotte Observer p. 4B.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lai, Zona. "Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World." The Charlotte Observer [add city] 1985-08-13, 4B. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lai, Zona. "Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World." The Charlotte Observer, edition, sec., 1985-08-13
  • Turabian: Lai, Zona. "Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World." The Charlotte Observer, 1985-08-13, section, 4B edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World | url= | work=The Charlotte Observer | pages=4B | date=1985-08-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=8 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Friends of Dr. Who Members Find Sci-Fi Character Out Of This World | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=8 December 2023}}</ref>