I'm old enough to have watched the first broadcast of the very first episode of Doctor Who in November 1963 - and to have watched it again when it was reaired the following week. I never got involved with Doctor Who fandom, however. This is the story of how that began.
A HISTORY OF DOCTOR WHO FANDOMThe very first episode of Doctor Who had a viewing figure of 3.5 million Since then its regular weekly following has grown to over 13 million. Strangely, it has taken nearly thirteen years for an active 'fan club' to come about But The Doctor Who Appreciation Society was not the first grouped-fandom following the programme has had.
Although most devotees of the show are unaware of it, Doctor Who fandom has been around since the end of the Troughten era, 'though not really getting the kickstart it needed until the appearance of an advert for 'The Doctor Who Fan Club' appeared in the sci-fi orientated comic "Countdown". Keith Miller, the President then, and now, of the DWFC had only achieved this enviable position several months earlier after applying to join the DWFC via an address acquired from the BBC. The person in charge then had given up the club through illness and Keith offered to take over.
He commenced publication of the DWFC newsletter which took off to a shaky start, but improved somewhat when the BBC Doctor Who Office took over the printing of it. The newsletter, that was to run for 23 monthly or bi-monthly issues, sadly lacked any contributions from members, and did not even have a letters page. Also, because of the complicated mailing system involved (ie: magazines from the BBC to Keith, and then distributed from him) DWFC Newsletter always appeared late. Towards the end of it's run the newsletter was appearing about three times a year, and in it's final year just once!
Towards the end of 1973 the Jon Pertwee Fan Club hit the scene, pioneered by Stuart Money and photographer Brian Smith. Brian had, in fact, been sending photos to the DWFC for some time following a promise by Keith that he would be producing a properly printed photo special. It never materialised.
The Jon Pertwee Fan Club Newsletter was similar to that of the DWFC - eight duplicated pages of A4 size and although it was about Jon Pertwee, it was very much Doctor Who orientated. Stu Money had been Jon's choice for DWFC President as he felt that Keith Miller dwelled too much on previous Doctors.
With a huge influx of members following publicity by Tom Baker early in 1975, Keith enlisted the help of two aides, both from London, to send out the newsletters. They were Jan Vincent Rudzki and myself, who were not to meet until January of 1976.
In fact, all either of us ever did was help send out one edition of the newsletter, as that was all that turned up. Meanwhile a professional magazine, "World Of Horror" had begun, and was printing much-wanted Doctor Who photos. It was also promoting 'fanzines', amateur publications written and produced by fans. It was in May 1975 that a small advertisment for 'TARDIS - the Doctor Who Phenomenon Newsletter' - appeared. Seventeen year old Andrew Johnson had produced what was to be (to qote a well-known phrase) 'manna from heaven' for Doctor Who devotees.
I met Andrew a month or so later at a comic convention in London, and it was there that he told me he could no longer produce TARDIS (of which only the first issue had appeared) and would I like to take over? So I did. Andy brought out issue two in November 1975 and issue three followed from me in mid-December.
TARDIS became monthly and one of the writers in the second issue got in contact with me - Jan. It was rather odd to find out we were the two people 'helping out' with the fast disappearing Doctor Who Fan Club.
Jan was President of the Westfield College Doctor Who Appreciation Society and we thought it would be a good idea to extend this out through Tardis, nationally.
When Keith Barnfather and Jeremy Bentham contacted us with their own ideas and offers of help we were able to launch the public Doctor Who Appreciation Society simultaineously in TARDIS #7, the first issue of CELESTIAL TOYROOM and a phone-in show on LBC.
Meanwhile the Doctor Who International Fan Club had been launched by Brian Smith with its journal, D.W.I.F.C. Magazine. Publicity via BBC Enterprises and the Doctor Who Production Office helped both Club and our own Society and new members simply flowed in. Some months later, last year, Brian came to the DWAS with the suggestion of combining forces. All thought it was a good idea as it would bring more facilities into use and therefore extend the Society and its services. Thus the new Doctor Who Appeeciation Society was formed, and then announced in TARDIS #10 and CELESTIAL TOYROOM #3.
The Doctor Who Fan Club had been dormant for over six months when DOCTOR WHO DIGEST appeared. To date all three issues have been late. Although claiming to be the magazine of a fan club there seems to be little other activity than this.
In December of last year Brian Smith decided, reluctantly, to close down his Scottish Office. This was due to his hospital radio work and his job.
CELESTIAL TOYROOM is, after issue six, to be edited by a newcomer to the DWAS executive, Richard Leaver. The layout and form will probably be changing. Keith Barnfather will then be moving to the new Overseas Dept.
The Science Fiction Dramatics Organisation began producing Doctor Who plays for charity early last year and has played to large audiences at every production. It's latest 'The Threat Of The Leviathans' has been a great success, due mainly to the efforts of Mark Sinclair, Julian Chapman and Philip Collins. The SFDO is now affiliated to the DWAS and we'll keep you informed of any further activities that are planned. It's good to have Doctor Who being dramatised on the stage as well as being supported by active fan clubs.
A new fan club has emerged during the last few months called the Friends Of Tom Baker. Although, strictly speaking, it's mainly concerned with all Tom Baker's acting roles, it still devotes much of it's recourses to Doctor Who. The FOTB have produced two newsletters and an independent publication TIMELORD. The FOTB is run by Susan Moore, Liz Hart and Linda Williams.
Over the last year the DWAS has produced twelve issues of TARDIS, five of CELESTIAL TOYROOM, the Daleks/Cybermen Special, from Jeremy and this DWAS YEARBOOK from Keith. The artwork for nearly all of these publications has been done by Stuart Glazebrook, our Art Departmeet, to whom many thanks are due.
In addition to our publications the DWAS has held two evening meetings, organised by the Westfield College DWAS. The first, in June, was a three hour question and answer session with the ex-writer and series-editor Terrance Dicks. The second was in October when a thirteen-minute extract from the original TV story 'Daleks Invasion Earth' (part 2) starring William Hartnell. Also shown were a number of slides and some silent extracts from later series.
Plans by the DWAS this year include a mini-convention for about two hundred people. We hope to show episodes from Doctor Who and have displays and discussions with people from the series. More later. TARDIS this year will be titled TARDIS '77 and will be published at six-weekly intervals. CELESTIAL TOYROOM under its new editor will go out with it. The Reference Department will be producing more STINFO files and photo offers will continue as advertised in TARDIS or CELESTIAL TOYROOM. As ever, see TARDIS for farther details.
We hear that the DWFC are also planning a convention. We wish them well.
Doctor Who fandom has had its first really active year. Let's hope 1977 will be just as successful.
- Gordon Blows, DWAS YEARBOOK 1976.