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Guess Who's coming to town

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One of the good doctors will appear in D.M.

By Kyle Munson

Closet Whovian

Many viewers probably missed a major news bulletin last week, but at least 114 Iowans were rejoicing over it.

Bill Albert, 40, of East Amana was among them. When he isn't building refrigerator doors for Amana Appliances, he's president of UNIT — the Universal Network of Iowan Time lords.

Let's temporarily put the alien notion of time lords aside to focus on UNIT — an Iowa club for fans of "Doctor Who." the curious and campy science-fiction TV series produced for 33 years (1963-96) by the British Broadcasting Corp. and seen in syndication on Iowa Public Television.

The 114 members of UNIT —call them Whovians" — were giddy last week when the BBC announced that it was in the early stages of producing a new "Doctor Who" series set to premiere in 2005.

They'll have even more to celebrate when the sixth Dr. Who, Colin Baker, make an appearance Dec. 5 at an Iowa Public Television fund-raiser at the Des Moines Botanical Center.

When it all began

The first episode of "Doctor Who' aired in black-and-white on Nov. 23, 1963 — the day after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and a lisle more than two months before the Beatles would touch down at New York's JFK International Airport and spark Beatlemania in America "Star Wars" and 'Star Trek" still reign supreme among sci-fi geeks in the United States. but Whovians prefer their more eccentric, English brand of galactic adventures. thank you very much. "The character of the Doctor is closer to the Lone Ranger than he is to Captain Kirk" of "Star Trek.' Albert said. 'He's as there on his own doing what he thinks is right."

The title character is known only as the Doctor. He's a rogue time lord, one among an alien race of super-beings from the planet Gallifrey.

Time lords are able to occasionally "regenerate" their bodies, taking on a new physical form much like a changeling that allows them to live for hundreds of years. Humans have one heart: time lords have two. Cats have nine lives; time lords have 13. Most important, time lords travel with ease through all of time and space. each in his/her own marline called a TARDIS — short for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.

Most TARDIS models are able to change their appearances when they land on a given planet, to blend into the surroundings. But the Doctor travels in a broken TARDIS that's forever stuck in the form of an old "police call box."

No boundaries

The Doctor boldly goes where no one has gone before, just by fumbling through the past and future and from one galaxy to another, picking up hunt. and alien sidekicks along the way.

"Because of its nature, ('Doctor Who') doesn't really have any boundaries," Albert said.

The Doctor's periodic "regenerations" offered the perfect formula for longevity: Eight actors to date have portrayed the Doctor on television with no awkward explanations needed

Last weekend, it was party time for Whovians at the HIV studios in Johnston.

"Doctor Who" airs on the network as part of its "Science Fiction Saturday Night" cluster of programs, and the members of UNIT volunteered to answer phones last Saturday during IPTV's September pledge drive.

Lars Pearson, an Iowa native raised on a horse farm near Story City, was brought in as guest host because of his Who credentials: He now lives in New Orleans and has written three guide books about the Who universe, called the "I, Who" series.

Albert was also at IPTV, along with his vice president of the Universal Network of Iowan Time Lords, Jeremy Bement, 33. He's manager of Mayhem Collectibles in Clive.

Bement got hooked on Who in the mid-'80s, thanks to a high school friend as well as IPTV broadcasts of the show.

"I think it is the most dynamic program that has ever been devised," he said.

Bement said "Doctor Who" also holds the Guinness Book record for the longest series of books based on a single character — more than 400 titles and counting.

Lots of spin-offs

Just like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek," Who random is fed with endless spin-off tales in print, on audio dramatizations animated shows, etc. Al this ephemera only proliferated after the TV show's cancellation in 1996.

The Universal Network of Iowan Time lords formed in 1998 after half-dozen Whovians, including Albert and Bement, began trading e-mails online and finally decided to meet. That first meeting was in 1999 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, where the group today is holding a convention called "Exiled in Iowa 9: Monsters, Robots and Time Lords.'

"We became a community a couple years ago, more than just a fan group," Bement said. "It's more friends than fans in a lot of cases." Anybody who has glimpsed "Doctor Who" on IPTV likely has seen Mike Frisbie of West Des Moines floating cross-legged around the TV screen, speaking from behind his white beard He's a Des Moines radio veteran who now works full-time at Borders Books and Musk in West Des Moines. He's been host of IPTV's sci-fi programming for about a decade.

He says "Doctor Who" has "taken on the aura of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It attracts a very specific and very vocal audience. It's kind of fun to play with those folks a little bit."

Hence Frisbee, who doesn't even consider himself a Whovian, enjoys writing au of his own material to introduce the Who episodes.

A Dr. Who visit

Whovians in Iowa can continue on their emotional high for thermal two months The BBC's announcement of the resurrection of Who will be followed in December by another landmark event.

The first visit to Iowa by one of the actors who has portrayed the Doctor. The sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, the featured guest Dec. 5 at an IPTV event in Des Moines. Bement said most of his vacation time is spent traveling to "Doctor Who" conventions around the nations having the time lord hit Des Moines is an extra treat.

Meanwhile, Albert also waiting for Who news of another sort. Last week, he submitted his own original novel based on the series to BBC Books, which regularly solicits manuscripts. He wrote daily for 31 weeks and amassed 80.000 words. It's titled "Gallifrey."

"The Doctor comes across a woman who goes by the name of Gallifrey," Albert said. "Is she a lost time lord? Is she something else? Is she a human who has really great potential? It's about her search for her."

Who knows if this Iowa Whovian himself will realize his dream and become part of the Whoniverse.

Time will tell.

Caption: Getting around: The time lords in "Doctor Who" travel in phone booths similar to those used in London for calling the police.

Caption: Arriving soon: The sixth Doctor Who, Colin Baker, is scheduled to be the featured guest Dec. 5 at an Iowa Public Television event in Des Moines.


The character has been portrayed by no fewer than eight actors since 1963, each of whom left his own stamp on the role.

1. William Hartnell, 1963-66

A stately elder Doctor. kind of like a doting grandfather escorting you around the universe.

2. Patrick Troughton, 1966-69

Introduced a little buffoonery to the character, played a recorder and wore curious disguises.

3. Jon Pertwee, 1969-73

The athletic Doctor with curly white hair and an itch for flashy vehicles and gadgets, sort of the alien cousin to James Bond.

4. Tom Baker, 1974-80

Generally acknowledged as the most beloved, successful incarnation of the Doctor. Think Hawkeye Pierce as an Englishman, with a long wool scarf.

5. Peter Davison, 1982-84

The youngest Doctor thus far in the series added an idealistic streak, as well as some of the action-adventure swagger of the Pertwee era.

6. Colin Baker, 1984-863

His insanely garish wardrobe shocked even longtime viewers. Began his run with a darker personality. bordering on unstable.

7. Sylvester McCoy, 1987-96

Added an air of mysticism to the Doctor, shading in biographical details while pulling traits from previous incarnations

a. Paul McGann, 1996-2001

After the TV series was canceled in 1996, McGann was enlisted to portray the Doctor In a more romantic, swashbuckling mode fora TV movie

9. Who knows? 2005-?

The BBC has confirmed that a new Doctor Who series is being prepared for 2005. but no actor has yet been selected to play the Doctor.

Who's on TV

The next showing of "Doctor Who" on IPN will be at 11:35 p.m. Oct 11.

Coming up

WHAT: "Exiled in Iowa 9: Monsters, Robots and Time Lords," a Universal Network of Iowan Time lords convention, with everything from trivia games to DVD screenings

WHEN: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. today

WHERE: Cedar Rapids Public Library


WHAT: IPTV Celebrates Dr. Who's 40th anniversary with Colin Baker, Dr. Who from 1984 to 1986

WHEN: 8-11 pm. Dec. 5

WHERE: Des Moines Botanical Center, 909 E River Drive

HOW MUCH: One ticket with a $90 membership pledge to IPIV. Two with a $150 membership pledge

Who's on the Web Home of the Universal Network of Iowan Time Lords The BBC's official "Doctor Who" Page Home to Outpost Gallifrey, a comprehensive, unofficial fan site (named after the Doctor's native planet) Where to get information on Chicago Tardis 2003, the fourth annual Dr. Who convention, sponsored by Alien Entertainment. Nov. 28-30 at Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights, Ill.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Munson, Kyle (2003-10-04). Guess Who's coming to town. The Des Moines Register p. 1E.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Munson, Kyle. "Guess Who's coming to town." The Des Moines Register [add city] 2003-10-04, 1E. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Munson, Kyle. "Guess Who's coming to town." The Des Moines Register, edition, sec., 2003-10-04
  • Turabian: Munson, Kyle. "Guess Who's coming to town." The Des Moines Register, 2003-10-04, section, 1E edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Guess Who's coming to town | url= | work=The Des Moines Register | pages=1E | date=2003-10-04 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Guess Who's coming to town | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>