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Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who

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1987-02-09 Tampa Tribune.jpg


TAMPA — "Doctor Who" survives on the fringes of American television. The 24-year-old British science-fiction series began as a low-budget Saturday afternoon serial on the BBC and emerged as a high camp experience on PBS stations throughout America.

It is an acquired taste. The story involves the adventures of an alien scientist, Doctor Who. He travels through time and space, conquering strange creatures. I think there was one episode featuring an alien made from old vacuum cleaner parts.

The show is short on special effects and long on tongue-in-cheek dialogue. Some viewers don't get it. Others find it a lofty, esoteric experience. I've heard from intellectuals who found heavy meaning in the stories. And then there's my 5-year-old, who laughs at the goofy-looking costumed creature of the week.

"Doctor Who" has achieved cult status in the more than 100 countries where it has aired. In America, fans call themselves "Whovians." They love "Doctor Who" the way a Trekker loves "Star Trek."

Cristy Strong, of the Tampa Bay Timelords fan club, said, "It's lofty, and then sometimes it gets so pokey, it's a lot of fun. I like the offbeat sense of the program."

Strong, 25, is one of some 75 Bay area Whovians who meet once a month to talk about the series and upcoming Whovian conventions.

"We have members between age 15 and the mid-50s — everyone from young professionals to high school students," she said.

A good many of those Bay area Whovians turned out Saturday and Sunday to see a traveling "Doctor Who" exhibit at the Unversity of South Florida. The exhibit contained memorabilia from the series and was accompanied by Peter Davison, a British actor who played the title role in the early 1980s.

Davison is equally famous in this country and England for his role as Tristan in the beloved BBC series "All Creatures Great and Small."

That 41-episode series, which has repeated at least eight times on Channel 3, was based on James Herriot's tales of the struggles of a small-town veterinarian — portrayed by Christopher Timothy — during the 1940s.

Davison's character was the younger brother of a veterinarian played by Robert Hardy. Davison said he'll be going back before the cameras in March to shoot 10 more "Creatures" episodes. The new shows will pick up the characters in 1949. American viewers may have to wait at least two years before those episodes work their way over here.

Meanwhile, "Doctor Who" continues at 11 week nights and 10 p.m. Saturdays on WEDU, Channel 3. The series is on its fourth set of repeats.

"It has a loyal following but, it's not as big as it used to be ... say back in 1983, when we showed the Tom Baker episodes," said Channel 3 program director James Stasko

Baker was the fourth actor to play the character. He played the role for seven years and was magnificently campy. He left the role and has tried to run away from the character ever since.

"I didn't want that to happen to me," Davison said. "I planned ahead and quit after three years. I think Tom wanted to put some distance from himself and the role."

Davison added that in Great Britain, where Baker was just another actor in a long line of Doctor Whos, the viewers weren't so shocked to see the character change. In America, the Tom Baker episodes aired first, and Baker made the strongest impression.

Davison hasn't retreated from the role. He enjoys coming to America to attend Whovian festivals such as the one in Tampa.

He said fans sometimes "ask complicated questions about specific episodes" that he can't answer. The trips to America give him and his

American-born wife, actress Sondra Dickenson, a chance to visit relatives and see the sights — this time with their 2-year-old daughter in tow.

Channel 3's Stasko said the series has its place locally, averaging about 10,000 viewers a week. That's not tremendous when one realizes that there are more than 1.14 million households in the Channel 3 viewing area.

However, Bay area Whovians have come up with cash during local pledge drives, which has helped keep "Doctor Who" on the air.

Spelling correction: Sandra Dickinson

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  • APA 6th ed.: Belcher, Walt (1987-02-09). Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who. The Tampa Tribune p. 1-D.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Belcher, Walt. "Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who." The Tampa Tribune [add city] 1987-02-09, 1-D. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Belcher, Walt. "Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who." The Tampa Tribune, edition, sec., 1987-02-09
  • Turabian: Belcher, Walt. "Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who." The Tampa Tribune, 1987-02-09, section, 1-D edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who | url=,_that%27s_who | work=The Tampa Tribune | pages=1-D | date=1987-02-09 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who loves 'Who'? Many, that's who | url=,_that%27s_who | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 April 2024}}</ref>