The times we met the Doctor – and so did you (part one)

Dear Blog Readers,

What you are about to read below is not your usual blog post. It was designed as a panel for a convention. And it will not be any panel but a special panel about Doctor Who. Something that combines our knowledge of the series, the meetings on the Who fan circuit and all those crazy happenings that make us feel like we have been characters on the show itself. It has a lot of anecdotes and should be treated in a tongue in cheek manner. We did this panel to inspire other fans to share their own stories. We had to separate it into two instalments, because the text is so long – we were afraid you will be bored to eternal sleep. In this instalment we will cover three sections: who are Whovians, what can happen if you encounter people with strange names, and we will tell you about the music with Who references. Our encounters with the Doctor (in his 12th and 7th reincarnation) and the monster stories will be added at a later stage.

We hope this will make you giggle a couple of times.

***

The times we met the Doctor – and so did you.

We had this panel idea for a very long time. Actually, we have decided to hold it off for a year, just to write down all weird moments and observations. As aloof as it may sond – we will here argue that Doctor Who universe is very real, and The Whovians are not just fans – they are a noble race of fearless and unstoppable time travellers in their own right.

We don’t know a person that wouldn’t want to jump in a time machine to see other worlds. Compared to the Doctor’s, our lives seem routine and boring. But perhaps we are already on our biggest adventure; we just haven’t been paying attention to the signs. Maybe the Time Lord is not the only one blessed with privilege of travelling though time and space and living out various reincarnations. What if our paths have crossed and we have already met the Doctor and his allies and enemies? We want you to decide if this is possible, but before we lay out our evidence, let us pen few paragraphs about the Whovians.

***

Whovians – impossible time travellers.

For fifty years, one TV series raised generations of nerds, geeks and sci-fi fans. It became a cultural phenomenon, instantly recognized and immersed in national consciousness just like tea-time, tabloid press and Buckingham Palace. Hiding behind a sofa when Daleks appear on screen is an experience that binds entire generations. All it took to win minds and hearts of millions of people on Earth was one Doctor, sonic screwdriver and a police box.

Fans of Doctor Who series – known as Whovians – are peculiar. They are dedicated to the point of obsession and follow all plots and nooks of the saga with great interest. Even the most obscure characters on the show will have their fans and detailed biography. People often refer to different reincarnations of the main protagonist as “their Doctor”. If you don’t believe us how dedicated Whovians are – let us tell you this. David Tennant (10th Doctor) and Peter Capaldi (12th Doctor) became actors because they were following the show since early childhood. Legend says, both had replicas of TARDIS in their bedroom. Peter Capladi sent regular letters to Doctor Who Magazine and made fanarts. Steven Moffat (writer/producer) used to write Doctor Who fan-fiction. Another writer on the show Russel T. Davies kept a Doctor Who diary where he noted reviews of the episodes.

How do we know all those things? Didn’t we mention that we are Whovians? We have it all memorized! You can even ask us for co-ordinates to Gallifrey and how to pilot a time machine. No problem. 🙂

Being around devoted fans is an experience in itself. Whovians don’t act like your regular fandom. They read a lot of unusual books: encyclopaedias, scientific papers on quantum physics, pulp novels from the 30s, fairytales…They often discuss odd topics like paradoxes, monsters and parallel universes during mundane activities (morning bus ride to work suits perfectly) and have an interesting way of putting things. If they don’t like you – they will call you a “little Dalek”, if they find a subway carriage overcrowded, they will complain loudly that it is not bigger on the inside. Their dress code is out-worldly: scarves that are half a mile long, combat shoes or converse shoes worn with a suit, hats, trench coats with cat emblems, entire wardrobe that seems to be transported from Victorian era (and who said it isn’t?). Whovians tend to be wary of their surroundings – for some strange reasons they will stare at statues of angels or keep out of shadows if in a library.

Whovians are restless dreamers that yearn for travels and adventure. They are curious like kittens, open minded and they expect the unexpected. They throw themselves head first into action, maybe that is why they find themselves in situations that sound like scripted by Steven Moffat (or David Lynch). If you are a fellow fan, you will know what we are talking about. There are days when you turn around because you are sure you hear the sound of oncoming TARDIS or your instincts tell you that the Doctor himself just passed you by in the crowd. Or you are certain that something is manipulating the time votex and things are just not right. Whatever this may be, each Whovian has multiple anecdotes of this sort that range from bizarre to blood chilling.

These are ours stories; we hope that they will entertain you.

***
Nomen Omen – it’s all in the name

On his adventures, Doctor meets all sorts of unusual characters. They represent all possible races, social classes and occupations, some of the characters also come up with extraordinary names. Fellow traveller and a Time Lady – Romana`s full name is Romanadvoratrelundar. Vile and infantile breed of Slitheen (also known as Raxacoricofallapatorians) have a proud history of having absurdly long surnames such as “Blon Fel Fotch Pasameer-Day” or “Glune Fex Fize Sharlaveer-Slam”. To know somebody’s name is a true power. It can give you a hint of the bearer’s origins or intentions and perhaps that is why Doctor never reveals his own name even to the closest allies.

We have crossed paths with several individuals with truly exotic names. An unsuspected observer would think that it was a case of having eccentric parents but we are Whovians and we can read between the lines. One time at work we dealt with a customer named “Asterios”. Pretty poetic unless you know Greek – then you would know this means “Ruler of The Stars” or “Of The Stars”. Not only it was a clear indication that the person was an alien but also showed he held a high status in the Outer Space. Rulers of the Stars – how many races would fit the description? Only the powerful Time Lords themselves. If we wanted to dig deeper, Asterios was known to be a god of rivers to the ancient inhabitants of Earth. River, a Time Lord – you know where this is going 😉

On another occasion we ran into a whole family waiting for an appointment to a GP. The kids were named Andromeda, Medea, Cassandra and Iason. The mother was Helena (and she was suspiciously beautiful). We weren’t sure if the family was on their way to Hogwarts or Camp Half Blood, but knowing the Greek mythology (and the turbulent history of the original characters) we decided to keep our distance. You can never be too careful when meeting strangers with strange names, especially if they could have come from another fandom (apologies to Rick Riodan and JK Rowling).

Situation looks a bit different if you are the one with an unusual name. So, if you have been named “Attilla”, “Achilles” or “Cleopatra” then it is possible that you are an echo of your former self from a different time line or you have jumped into somebody’s life stream and there are million copies of you throughout the universe.
But don’t panic, you are not the only one. Something similar happened to Doctor’s own companion Clara Oswald when she tried to save the Time Lord from evil Great Intelligence. Having multiple versions of yourself has advantages – no matter the space and time, you are guaranteed to always meet a familiar face.

***

“You are not alone” – meeting other Whovians

One observation rings true when you travel – nothing stands out in the crowd like the things that remind you of home. You may find yourself in the busiest street in a foreign land and once somebody starts speaking your own language, you will hear it. Don’t ask us how – but this is how it works.

Many people meet their neighbours or even relatives in the most unlikely places – when on holidays far away from home or during delegations abroad. Or they strike a conversation with a complete stranger only to discover they have mutual acquaintances. Then they joke the world is small. However truth is quite opposite – the universe is infinite and it is constantly expanding. And yet something brings us all together.

We are not sure if even the Doctor could explain this mystery. But to be honest – isn’t it wonderful to meet souls that are alike? How terrifying and lonely it would be if we were truly alone in the universe? Doctor knows this pain very well – he had spent three reincarnations believing he was the last of the Time Lords until The Face of Boe revealed that to be a misconception.

For Whovians, it is relatively easy to meet their own. In the age of merchandise, conventions and fandom – you have a good chance to run into a fellow fan almost every day. We have lost count how many times we’ve seen people wearing Doctor Who tees on the streets. We have attended sold out premiere of “Deep Breath” (first episode of series 8) with thousands of other fans and managed to meet up with Steven Moffat face to face twice. Nothing out of ordinary.

And yet, we had some encounters with other fans that were so unique and unexpected that they could be a part of Doctor Who episode.

The other day Mal nearly fainted after she went out to pay her Internet bill. High blood pressure ain`t no fun. She would be laying face first in the mud outside Marks & Spencer if not an elderly gentleman who grabbed her and took back into the Internet shop. First thing he did was to sit her down and take her pulse. The conversation was something along those lines:

Mal: Call the ambulance.

The man: No need, I’m a doctor.

Mal (cynical): But not the one I was expecting.

The man (with a laugh): Judging from your age, your doctor is called Smith.
Mal: No, Tennant.

The man: Mine was Pertwee, such a gentleman, all reason, no whining. But he passed away many years ago…Who is now in regency?

Mal: Doctor Capaldi.

The man: Ah yes, should be all right. You need to drink more, you are dehydrated. And go and see a GP.

He went away after a while. When Mal was able to stand on her feet, the shop girl asked her where she could find Doctor Capladi. Mal told her he was only taking the best before she continued on her way home.

Again, if you are the fan of the series, this conversation makes perfect sense, but a word of explanation to those who are not familiar with the Who saga. When the man introduced himself as a medical practitioner, Mal responded in a witty way that he was not the doctor she was expecting. This was a direct reference to the words of Ninth Doctor (Paul McGann) from the episode “The night of the Doctor”. Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor), David Tenant (Tenth Doctor) and Peter Capladi (Twelfth Doctor) are actors who portray the Time Lord for the younger generations. Jon Pertwee was Third Doctor and was mostly known by the older audience. Mr Pertwee sadly passed away in 1996. There is also ongoing gag in the series that Doctor takes only the best as his travel companions.

Sometimes, you meet fellow Whovians by sheer accident. But on occasion they appear by themselves, like it was scripted. On October 19, 2013 Rita attended Doctor Who 50th Anniversary celebrations in Hereford, UK. One of the guests was an amazing artist Mike Collins. Rita had a long discussion with Mike and bought one of his prints for a common friend – writer – Helen Stringer. On November 30th, 2014 – a whole year later – Mike Collins found himself visiting Malta for Malta ComiCon. Guess who showed up at his table, all looking mysterious and smiling like a sphinx. Yes, Malicia. Mike just returned from a quick brunch and was hard at work sketching for people. But from time to time he would look at Mal (who was silently standing in a corner) with a strange glare. When he was finally done with all the sketches, he gave Mal a nod to which she replied: “Do you remember me?” It took him about few seconds to proclaim “Ah, we’ve met in Hereford! Your friend Helen was a science fiction writer”. But then he looked at Mal again, smiled to himself and corrected his statement – “No, I have met your sister. You darling are the evil clone”. Mal had a good laugh but was quite impressed that Mike was able to tell us apart (consider the fact that our own mother can’t tell which is which when we are on the phone). The whole scene gathered quite a crowd who were equally amused with a story of comic artist meeting twins in two different countries in a span of a year. But then the crazy thing happened. Mobile phone rang and it was Rita on the line. Before Mal knew it – Mike Collins was reaching for the phone to say hi to the other twin. The crowd was roaring with laughter while Malicia’s ears were crimson red. Rita was confused while Mike had a highlight of the day.

That morning Mike Collins sketched a small drawing of Peter Capaldi (as 12th Doctor) and it was one of the few remaining items on his stand. Malicia grabbed the sketch before anyone noticed and it now forms our collection of Doctor Who memorabilia.

The Hereford encounter with Mike Colling can be found here:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/doctor-who-50-years-celebration-in-hereford/

***

Listen! – The music of Who

Main theme from the series is one of the most easily recognized pieces of music in the history of television. It is also one of the very first pieces of electronic music ever created. It was composed by Ron Grainer and arranged by Delia Derbyshire in 1963 at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Delaware Road, London. Just imagine – it’s been in use for five decades. Since the Doctor Who series revival in 2005, the soundtrack duties fall on Murray Gold. Each Reincarnation and each Companion (and some monsters) in the show have their own individual theme and the soundtrack albums are released regularly. Three Doctor Who themed orchestra concerts have taken place as part of The Proms festival at the Royal Albert Hall in London (2008, 2010 and 2013 respectively).

Doctor himself is extremely fond of music. Second Reincarnation (played by Patrick Troughton) carried around a flute, while Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) composed a whole symphony in an episode “Music of the Spheres”. During a visit to the Rings of Akhaten, Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) met and helped young girl named Merry Gejelh (Emilia Jones) to defeat a memory parasite. The song performed by Merry is recognized as a highlight of seventh series.

Doctor seems to have a lasting influence on many professional musicians as well. Ambient duo Orbital released a mix of Who main theme in 1996 hoping it would be used in the planned series with Eight Doctor (Paul McGann). In 2010 Orbital performed this song alongside with Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) at Glastonbury Festival:

Members of scandalous KLF also mixed the main theme and went on to chart with the single “Doctorin` the Tardis”. For the occasion they renamed themselves as “The Time Lords”. The video to the song is just an eye candy with a Dalek and a car that was introduced as “Ford Time Lord”.

British rock band Supergrass paid their tribute to the series and the Doctor in their 1997 song “Sun hits the sky”. The chorus incorporates famous introduction line: “I am a Doctor” and there is a cartoon of a medial person on the single cover.

If you consider yourself a Whovian, you must have blasted those songs on a regular basis, or they cheered you up when you heard them in public while going about your business. We have to admit, we haven’t found the reference to the series in Supergrass song until very recently (we must have been drunk back in the 90s) and once we got it – it was on a public bus. We have been on our way from the office and had a very fascinating conversation about what to have for dinner, when this song came on the radio. The bus driver must have been a big fan of the band, because he pulled the volume to 11. So here we were deciding between a potato salad or fish and chips when the line “I am a Doctor” hit us. We just went silent for a minute, looked at each other and other passengers thinking “Did we just hear Supergrass singing about a Time Lord?” Obviously since we are both very much in the spirit of John Peel, we had to consult Wikipedia and YouTube at home to double check. We were right; there was a direct reference in the song. Dinner could wait.

Another time we had this strange feeling like being on a set of Doctor Who, complete with a soundtrack, was when shopping at a local supermarket. It is a very cinematic feeling, when you enter a shop and hear a song called “Exterminate”. You never know from which aisle a Dalek will pop up and the invasion will begin. The song in question is a single by Snap! with the vocals of one and only Niki Harris. We love Niki and follow her since the late 80s when she was touring with Madonna (you can see her in video to “Vogue”). Niki issued two singles with Snap! between 1992-1993: “Exterminate” and “Do you see the light (looking for)”. Check her video below and tell us if she doesn’t look like an Empress of the Daleks?

Let us remain with Snap! for a minute longer. In 1995 they teamed up with vocalist Paula “Summer” Brown to record their third album “Welcome to tomorrow”. Second single from that album was named “The first, the last eternity (till the end)”. Set in New York in the 30s, it shows Summer as a comic femme fatale travelling between pages like she is travelling between parallel dimensions, calling out to people to follow her into the eternity. She rocks a beautiful red dress and her hairdo is immaculate. Now if you ever seen Professor River Song (Alex Kingstone) on the Doctor Who series, then you will be having déjà vu when watching the video. Remember the video was filmed fifteen years before character of River Song was even created. Strange coincidence or perhaps Paula Brown reincarnated into Alex Kingstone at some point in the last decade? 😉

You may argue that a song called “Exterminate” is rather easy reference to the Doctor and we will agree with you. But sometimes a song you have heard millions of times will catch you off guard. Both Rita and I are dedicated listeners of Absolute Radio and been so for over a decade. When we say dedicated, we really mean it – we are listening to it from Malta, despite the fact that their international broadcast was cut off two years ago (guys, please reconsider your policy regarding international online listeners!). One day at work, Mal was listening to Absolute and Dionne Warwick “Whisper in the dark” came on. This is one stunning love ballad off the album “Friends” released in 1985. Now imagine sitting in an office with your headphones on and singing along, only to realize the lyrics go “Travel with me through time and space”. Just like this, a simple song turns into something completely different. An invitation into the TARDIS? You look at your colleagues and they seem completely oblivious to what just have happened. You may brush it off as mere accident, but can you truly rule out the possibility that you have just received a message from the Doctor?

***

This makes the end of the first installment of the panel.

Should you have any comments or perhaps your own stories to share, let us know! We will gladly add and expand this panel with stories of ours or other fans.

Please come back as the second part will be posted quite soon. Until then, keep cool and have your eyes opened. This is a strange world we live in.

Mal+Rita

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