For several years, I was one of the local stars (God help the locals) of PBS pledge drives at a network affiliate in the southerly states of America. That was where I first encountered Doctor Who. More to the point, I encountered its fans.
On the Saturday night of my emcee duties, our phone banks were manned by the desperately devoted teens who watched the show with its awful MOOG-wheedling theme song (we played it a lot to trigger donations) and that infernal business about the flying police box you had to call a TARDIS or be laughed at for showing your Who-ignorant butt.
One of my duties as local star was to explain to our viewers that TARDIS stood for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space”–and to assure them that important concepts about the space-time continuum might be quite close to us as we yammered on about all this. The Beeb had been pumping this stuff into Her Majesty’s living rooms since 1963, you know, 30 years before the Maastricht Treaty. It’s a wonder Europe let them in, let alone out.
The Whovians taught me a lot about entertainment cults, although “cult” is too harsh a word for these kids. They were unfailingly sweet, thrilled, painfully awkward misfits. Most of them could drive a phone and take the pledges coming in, but that was about it. I’d catch glimpses on the monitor of myself in the studio, resplendent (shut up) in my tuxedo, interviewing ardent young citizens dressed in lots of cookware from their mothers’ kitchens.
In this era, stage fright still existed. It took nerve for our strange youths to face the lights and my microphone to tell us how much Who meant to them.
Many of these kids, you could tell, were cripplingly unpopular at school. Or simply invisible. And Who gave them a place in the universe. A place on a live PBS broadcast. We talked about their love for K9, the show’s endlessly annoying mechanical dog. More donations poured in from more misfits watching at home with cheese graters attached to their belts.
These were magnificent, brave young Time Lords and Companions, driven home after the show by the concerned parents of socially challenged children.