Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Doctor Who Fan in America

It has never exactly been easy being an American Doctor Who fan. My first contact with the madman in a box came as PBS—a government subsidised channel that airs many BBC programmes—was attempting to capitalise on the popularity of Monty Python reruns by showing Doctor Who, starting with the gloriously scarved Tom Baker years. It was magical, albeit confusing. They didn’t necessarily air the serials in order, so one night you might see episode three of  Ark In Space and the next night it might be episode one of  Hand Of Fear. But it didn’t matter, I knew I was on to something.  Plus, it was a show about time travel, so jumping around like that always kind of felt right.

Well, flash forward twenty years into the future (should be easy enough, this is a show about time travel) and it’s become a little easier to watch the Doctor in all of his incarnations. There have been episodes available to purchase on one home video incarnation or another for a good fifteen years now. I’ve spent six months doing absolutely nothing with my Netflix account except attempting to watch all the existing serials in order. I’ve just finished up Jon Pertwee’s run (I admit, I sent back Hartnell’s The Web Planet before it was done, I just couldn’t handle it anymore…)

But this year was going to be different. This was the year that the BBC decided Doctor Who was going to take over the American airwaves. Shows were filmed here, the stars of the show could be found on American talk shows for the first time. Hell, we were getting promos on BBC America before they were aired in the UK! The buzz on the internet leading up to this season was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I spent many a night furiously defending my ideas about what this season was going to hold with users on message boards from all across the globe. Finally, the BBC confirmed what had been rumored for months, that the season premiere would air in the States just mere hours after it aired in the UK. Brilliant! Someone had finally realised just how small the internet has made the world. A good half of the people I follow on Twitter I follow because of some sort of Doctor Who connection. So for the first five weeks of the season, as soon as it hit 1pm on the East Coast of these United States, I was in Twitter and internet lockdown. I wanted nothing spoiled, so I would avoid all media until I had a chance to watch the episode (which admittedly is usually the Sunday after via iTunes).

But then the unthinkable happened. After airing The Rebel Flesh last week, there wasn’t going to be a new episode of Doctor Who until June 4th! So while all of my friends in the UK are probably finding out all of River Songs secrets as the first half of this season comes to some magnificent, cliff-hanger type wibbly wobbly conclusion, I won’t even know what happened to the Gangers yet! Why has BBC America decided to do this? Today, May 28 is the Saturday before Memorial Day, which is the unofficial start of summer. They felt like ratings would slip because people are going to be outside at picnics and ball games and whatever else Americans are supposed to do in the summer time. So if this is the year that Doctor Who was going to take over America, then let it be so! Have faith that it is taking over, and people will stay home to watch it. Or they wont. It’s not like these episodes won’t be aired over and over during the summer until the series returns in September. So while everyone else is watching Doctor Who from behind the couch, too scared to look at the television screen I’ll be tip-toeing around the internet, looking at my computer monitor with my fingers over my eyes for weeks in an attempt to remain spoiler free.

John Newcomer
Follow me @thejohnisjohn


  1. As a fellow American, it irks me that a show that celebrates diversity, understanding and the coming together of different, warring peoples and species STILL insists on portraying Americans as villains in most episodes. We are often shown as violent (Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon), greedy (Dalek, Sontaran Stratagem), or freakily annoying (I'm looking at YOU, Peri!). Can we please show some NICE Americans? Preferably some more like the folks who love the show on THIS side of the pond.

  2. ...and I acknowledge that both Canton and Captain Jack are both examples of "nice" Americans, but as a whole, Americans seem to be portrayed as vapid, hostile, greedy and violent. Perhaps my personal perception filter is letting me down, but it does feel that way sometimes.