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The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection

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1982-10-16 Sun Biloxi.jpg


ETV telecast has loyal fans with Coast TARDIS

Why anyone would watch Dr. Who is beyond me.

The hero is bug-eyed and curly-headed. He's blatantly chauvinistic and has no interest in women. The plots are a bad mixture of Star Trek and The Munsters (lots of robots and vampires).

The special effects are somewhat less than special.

Is this any way for a hit television show to be run?

Yep, say fans. They've got a newly formed fan club, the Companions of Dr. Who, that's the fastest growing science-fiction organization in South Mississippi. They say that the show may be lousy, but it's fun.

Dr. Who is an import of the British Broadcasting Corp., shown in America by public television stations. (The show airs weekdays at 6 p.m. on Mississippi ETV and Saturday at 10 or 10:30 p.m. on WYES in New Orleans.)

Michelle Sandusky, president of the Gulf Coast TARDIS, said that although the show has been in production overseas for almost 20 years, it was just recently brought to America to cash in on the success of Star Wars. Michelle says it's been an instant hit wherever it's been shown.

Most of the club members say they accidentally flipped channels one night and got hooked. It's addictive, they say. One girl explained that she watched it once, hated it, and has tuned in every night since then to see if it's as bad as usual.

The premise of the show is that the title character is an observer of the universe, forbidden to interfere. Dr. Who is a renegade "Time Lord" who steals an intergalactic time machine (a TARDIS, which, by the way, stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). He has little or no control over his destinations and so becomes involved in all sorts of interesting situations.

The Doctor has no magic powers save that of regeneration. His ability to live many lives has enabled the show to run through five stars. With each new actor, Dr. Who's personality changes radically.

In 19 years, the Doctor has gone from a crotchety, senile oldster to a prancing dandy to his newest version, a preppie. Theoretically, the show could run forever.

Originally, it was a children's program about history. The show then attracted an adult audience and switched to science fiction.

Its beginnings as a children's program gave the Doctor many easily recognizable features. He always wears a long, multi-colored scarf and a floppy-brimmed hat.

Devotees on the Coast were for several years deprived of an outlet for their mania, until January, when a science-fiction shop owner in Biloxi asked some of her customers to a meeting. Eighty showed, and the Companions of Dr. Who, Gulf Coast TARDIS, was born.

The membership is as diverse as can be. Students and servicemen tend to comprise a majority, but teachers, lawyers, doctors, and scientists are included too.

Their age tends to fall in the 14-30 range, but exceptions are more than welcome. Some "Whoies" bring their children. Two-year old Robin

Duval's first word was "Doctor." Some members in the New Orleans chapter are in their 70s. Michelle says that the "Whoies" have nothing in common but a passion for the show. They're normally shy, reserved people, she says, but when they get together, "we go crazy."

Their Sunday afternoons are occupied by raucous meetings that can run up to six or seven hours. They watch videotapes of their favorite episodes, read each other's stories, and buy and sell original artwork. Their video library includes tapes even the BBC doesn't have.

Many companions devote their talent, either literary or artistic, to the club's magazine, the Time Log. Printed in the magazine are plays by the members, trivia, puzzles, and news.

They write all the material, edit, and print on their own printing press. It's hard work, but Michelle says that it's invaluable business experience.

Just about anyone can get his or her item published in the magazine, so artwork ranges from honest but amateurish to exquisitely detailed.

Stories that make it in can be character studies or intricately plotted mysteries. All of this work, of course, focuses on the Doctor.

Some of the works printed in the magazine reached the attention of the show's producers in England. And at a recent science fiction conference, club members were able to swap ideas for future stories with the head writer for the show, Terrence Dicks.

Why does a TV show command this kind of devotion? Some members gave reasons.

Christine Perry, 20, a pretty blond writer, says she enjoys the show's brand of humor. "It's campy, a spoof." she says. Kathy Woodrum, an 18-year-old student, agrees. "It's off-the-wall, sometimes not very good, but it's so much fun!"

(In one show, upon observing a disembodied hand creeping across a room, the Doctor remarks in a cockney accent, "It's not as 'armless as it looks.")

Cheryl Duval, an artist, casts her vote for Tom Baker, who plays the Doctor. "He's so sexy!" she said.

Whatever their reasons for watching, the Companions have gone to bat to see the show stay on the air. They answer phones at public telethons. They say that "Whoies" were responsible for almost $13,000 in donations at the last telethon.

Dr. Who clubs have sprouted throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia, where Whoies radio their meetings across miles of bush country.

That's devotion. And it won't go unrewarded. With the Doctor able to live forever, they could be fans for life.

Caption: Above: Michele Sandusky, portraying Dr. Who, talks with other members of the Coast Tardis at a recent meeting of the group. Left: Tom Baker, who plays Dr. Who in the Mississippi ETV and WYES series.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Toups, Desmond (1982-10-16). The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection. The Sun (Biloxi, MS) p. Marquee, p. 26.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Toups, Desmond. "The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection." The Sun (Biloxi, MS) [add city] 1982-10-16, Marquee, p. 26. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Toups, Desmond. "The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection." The Sun (Biloxi, MS), edition, sec., 1982-10-16
  • Turabian: Toups, Desmond. "The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection." The Sun (Biloxi, MS), 1982-10-16, section, Marquee, p. 26 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection | url= | work=The Sun (Biloxi, MS) | pages=Marquee, p. 26 | date=1982-10-16 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Coast 'Dr. Who' connection | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 December 2023}}</ref>