By: Matthew Barber 
23 February 2001


          The Time is Three O'clock in the morning.
          It is dark and foggy. In the street we 
          hear the striking of a nearby clock.  A 
          policeman approaches holding out his 
          torch to see where he is going.  He stops 
          and turns round to examine the written 
          notice on the gates: 'I. M. Foreman - 
          Scrap Merchants, Totters Lane.' The 
          policeman pushes through the gates and as 
          he walks away they slowly swing open. The 
          camera slowly pans round the junk-yard, 
          finally coming to rest on a police box, 
          from which comes an eerie humming sound, 
          suggesting hidden power.[1]

     On the 23rd of November 1963, the first episode of the BBC's
new science-fiction series _Doctor Who_ began.  It starred
William Hartnell as an eccentric, alien scientist who travelled
through space and time in a police box with a succession of
companions.  The series ran on BBCl until 1989, by which time
seven different actors had assumed the lead role, several
producers had been and gone, and a vast fan-base had been built
up.  It is the purpose of this essay to find out why it was taken
off air after so long, to assess the fans involvement with that
event, and in doing so to unravel just what it means to be a fan
of _Doctor Who_.  To do this, it will be necessary to first
summarise what a _Doctor Who_ fan does to make he or she
different from the average viewer.  When this has been done, the
involvement of the fan on the series will be studied from two
different aspects.  Firstly, the effect of the fan on the series
indirectly will be considered, in other words where there is no
interaction between the makers of the programme and fans other
than ideas and concepts.  Then the direct involvement of the fan
will be considered, when fans become part of the series
production team.
     Before considering any of these things, however, it may be
useful to clarify certain points regarding the question.  These
include a definition of just what a fan is, a brief look at what
constitutes a failure in terms of a television series and a
summary of some relevant facts concerning the series itself.
     During this essay, it will become clear that _Doctor Who_
can be divided into various sections and periods.  In order to
understand what these mean, it may be worth noting how the series
is arranged.  The smallest unit _Doctor Who_ may be broken into
is the episode.  This is a weekly instalment lasting around
twenty-five minutes generally ending with a cliffhanger.  A story
may be comprised of anything between two and fourteen episodes,
although both of these are unusual; it normally averages out at
around four.  A collection of stories then build up a season,
that is a batch of stories made in one go, generally this works
out to be one a year.  The series may then be divided either by
the producer, or the lead actor, both of whom change
occasionally.  Both of these conventions will be used in the
following study.
     It now may be useful to briefly list the ways in which a
programme such as _Doctor Who_ could be assessed by the company
which produces it, and then to suggest why these ways may
influence the programmes failure.  Primarily, the results of
these assessments indicate the series' popularity.  Therefore, a
programme becomes a failure when it becomes unpopular.  However,
the term unpopular may have several meanings within the context
of a television series.  The first, and most widely recognised
are the audience ratings, a measure of the number of people
watching the programme compiled by means of a sample taken by the
Broadcasters' Audience Research Board or BARB.  It is this figure
that is the most immediate indication of popularity and it is
also one of the easiest ways of assessing the instant reactions
of the viewers.  It is the simplicity of the figures which lead
to them being published in newspapers when channels claim a
ratings victory, as indicated in this article from the Sunday
Times on the 27th of December 1998:

          BBC claims festive ratings victory

          The BBC took the lion's share of viewers 
          on Christmas Day with seven of the top 10 
          programmes... _Men Behaving Badly_ and 
          _Eastenders_ each had 13.9m viewers, 
          followed by _Coronation Street_ with 13.5m.

     As in the above article, the BARB figures may be collated in
order to calculate the share of the audience among the channels,
and so is ideal when channels such as BBC and ITV fight for
popularity.  Although the BARB figure comes from the programmes
themselves, the ultimate collection of figures are generally used
to indicate the success of the companies producing the
     Although the BARB figures are simple and quick to interpret,
there are several drawbacks in using them to indicate the failure
of an individual series.  The figures depend as much on what are
on the other channels as to the actual merit of the programme,
and so as a critical measure, they are flawed.  The figures are
also easily manipulated by the channels: for example the number
of people videoing the programme is measured by BARB but tends to
be either included or excluded depending on the discretion of the
     Despite these drawbacks, it is the BARB figure that will be
referred to in this study when an indication of non-fan
popularity needs to be considered.  This has been done simply
because the figure is quantitative as opposed to the other, more
arbitrary assessments.
     Another important reaction to a television programme is the
media criticism after the transmission.  Unlike the BARB figure,
this is not reliant on whatever other programmes may be on at the
same time, nor is it generally an indication of the success of a
particular channel.  Instead, the media critics judge the
programmes on their own merits.  The problem with these
assessments are that they do not necessarily reflect the opinions
of the audience in general, instead they are written subjectively
by people employed to criticise and so may have a different
agenda to the average viewer.
     One reaction to a programme that stands between the BARB
figure and the media criticism, is the audience research report,
where the viewer is invited to make his or her criticism known on
a particular programme.  These coupled with television reaction
programmes such as the BBC's _Biteback_ and _Points of View_ and
Channel Four's _Right to Reply_, are more constructive than the
BARB figures and give a wider reaction than the media criticism.
     The channels that produce the programmes pay attention to
all of these factors when considering such things as schedules,
length of seasons and the commissioning of other similar series. 
It should be noted, however, that these reactions are often
affected by each other, and only together form a true measure of
a series popularity.


     Now that the methods of assessing a television programme
have been described, it is necessary to define exactly what is
meant by a fan in terms of the televsion.  To do this, it may be
useful to consider what other people's perceptions of the fan
     The media's attitude toward fandom is generally a negative
one.  In newspapers, fans are often presented as either
introverted individuals or hysterical, violent crowds.  The view
of fans and the nature of being a fan is therefore as an
obsessive admirer of a popular culture such as television, music
or sport.  It is necessary first to consider this statement, and
assess exactly what it means by "obsession" and "popular
     Obsession indicates an unusual degree of interest in
something.  The media suggests that fans allow their interests to
dominate their lives, even to lead their lives through it.  At
their extremes, obsessive fans are presented as dangerous,
psychotically disturbed people, a view stemming from individuals
such as Mark Chapman who killed John Lennon, and John Hinckley
who tried to gain the attention of Jodie Foster by shooting
Ronald Reagan.

          Stardom creates more for fans than 
          personifications of their wishes; it 
          creates expectations. The Hollywood 
          beauty must remain beautiful, the 
          fighter must not give up the fight. 
          When these expectations are not met, 
          most fans are simply dissapointed.  But 
          those with a tenuous hold on reality 
          find it especially threatening when 
          stars who personify their dreams turn 
          them into nightmares.[3]

Where "normal" people and fans vary is that when the music is
stopped or the television is switched off, normal people are able
to forget about what they have seen or heard, whereas fans
indulge themselves further.  This view may suggest that fans
simply think about what they have seen or heard rather than using
culture as pure escapism.  It is suggested that a fan's
obsessions extend beyond his or her interests, however.  The
media's view of fans does not stop at a consideration of the
fan's relation with the interests, but makes a judgement
concerning the fans psychological state,

          These are but a few instances of fandom 
          in extremis.  Psychologists will tell you 
          that, in each case, the pop star was being 
          used as a cipher, a convenient and safely 
          inaccessible device for filling a gap in 
          some disturbed person's life.[4]

The idea of obsession is a feminine one.  The word conjures up
images of screaming, hysterical crowds at Beatles concerts or
teenage girls fantasising about pop idols and is historically
linked with ideas of demonic possession.  The media therefore
finds the idea of someone with an obsession, not only childish
and underdeveloped, but also, not quite masculine.  The view of
fans dressing up in the outfits of their idols, in long scarves
or as Klingons, for example, is seen as being almost akin to
transvestism, and is treated with the same dismissive attitude.
The idea of popular culture as opposed to high culture is also an
arbitrary one.  Popular culture seems to be a label for recent,
mass-produced art forms, such as rock music or television.  The
dividing line between these and forms such as poetry, novels or
the theatre may be that high culture is generally taught in
schools, colleges and universities.  The reason the term is
arbitrary, however, is that the boundaries between high and
popular culture are constantly shifting.  For example the novels
of Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy may in their day have been
thought of as popular culture, but are now considered to be in an
elite category, things to be studied.  Even the pinnacle of
today's high culture, Shakespeare, was not originally considered
to be only for the educated, on the contrary, the Globe would
have been filled with illiterate masses of people, indulging in
what we would call popular culture.  It is therefore inaccurate
to judge something as popular culture, simply because it has not
been raised to the ranks of the schools' syllabus or the
university reading lists.
     Fandom, however, does tend to concentrate around the areas
that are labelled as popular culture.  This not only raises
questions demanding a comparison between academics and fans, but
is another indication of how fans are created within the
framework of the media.  One possible reason why fandom bases
itself within mass-produced culture such as television and music
may be because these invite fandom.  That is, within the
universal nature of their distribution, these forms open
themselves up for discussion and dissection,

          Fandom is a common feature of popular 
          culture in industrial societies. It 
          selects from the repertoire of mass-
          produced and mass-distributed 
          entertainment certain performers, 
          narratives or genres and takes them 
          into the culture of a self-selected 
          fraction of the people.[5]

Accepting, for now the media view of fandom, it is necessary to
alter the statement "popular culture" from the previous
definition, changing it to mass-produced culture.  The idea of
academics as fans will be discussed at a later time.
     It may now be useful to expand the journalist's view of
fandom, one that reflects some views expressed by the non-fan
public.  The reason this needs to be tackled first is because it
appears that the journalist's view of fandom is actually the one
that defines it.  The term "fan" suggests a criticism.  All
though now the popular use of the word has moved away from its
derivation, "fan" still echoes back to "fanatic", not only
emphasising the view that fans are obsessed people, but
indicating a darker side of obsession.  "Fanatic" suggests a
degree of psychological dysfunction within the person.  Why,
then, have fan clubs, fan-magazines and fans themselves so
readily adopted that title?  One possibility is that it is simply
a useful label to apply to themselves.  Owing to a lack of any
other names, the group has launched upon the one known by a wide
variety of people through the media.  Another reason, however,
may be contained within the psychology of fans and fandom.  Fans
do not tend to be unhappy about being labelled as fans.  Instead,
they revel in their obsession and would readily agree that their
interest in various texts is unusual.  The media presentations of
the fan are of the "other", that is, of a group of people
completely different to the journalists and their non-fan
readers.  Fans are shown to be unstable, abnormal, and unusual. 
Fans, however, trying to gain recognition and a culture of their
own use this view.  Fans agree with this view that they are
different from the average person, but in a positive way.  An
analogy may be found in the acceptance of the gay community of
the term "gay" or even "queer," both originally conceived as
derogatory terms.
     The fan then, accepts the label and even uses the press
coverage to emphasise his or her individuality.  Parallels may
also be made with the deaf community.  Deafness is seen among the
hearing as a problem, a disorder.  The deaf, however, see their
community as having a distinct culture, shown by their aversion
to "cures" such as the cochlea implant.  They see the device as
forcing the deaf community to give up sign language, a factor
that defines their culture.  In a similar way, fans claim a
culture of their own.  To do this, however, they must be more
than simply observers, they must in some way interact and
creatively expand upon the interests they have.  Fans of
television series such as _Doctor Who_ do not necessarily just
watch it repeatedly.  Through criticism, fan-fiction and
interaction with other fans, they expand the series.  To do this
they create their own language and rules as to which particular
stories are good and which are bad.  The fans' ideas do not
necessarily sprout from the series, but rather attach themselves
like limpets to the series culture, and feed off the source
material, using this to expand the fan-culture.  To do this, the
source material must have a certain quality: it must be readily
available, and open to expansion.  _Doctor Who_ succeeds in both
these roles by being a national television programme, also
available on video.  The series is a long running one, so the
amount of source material is vast.
     The fan studies a particular cultural object, attempting to
amass a definitive amount of information.  In doing so, they
expand the universe of the object they are studying,
subtextually, contextually and intertextually.  This definition
though could also apply to a person studying Shakespeare or
Chaucer.  Essentially, academics show the same, obsessive traits
as fans, but the areas they tend to study are more often
considered worthy.  The University environment in which they
work, and the qualifications they have gives them authority in
front of the same journalists who criticised the fan attitude. 
In this way, the label of fan could be seen as a class or
educational one, once the fan reaches the level of university
student they are qualified to be a fan.  This may be the
wrong attitude for journalists to take - especially when social
acceptance within a fan group is universal.  Being a fan is not
being in a select group, but ]ournalists suggest that being a
"worthy" fan should be.
     The irony of the situation is that journalists have created
the concept of fandom.  Without the media's adverse reaction to
the obsession of the fan, fan groups would not exist.  What the
fan has done, however, is to use the label positively and to make
it acceptable to be a fan.

          The line between fandom and the academy
          is breaking down as more of us aca-fan 
          become visible within academic fields 
          (anthropology, sociology, media studies)
          which allow us to study our own fandoms. 
          Academics are more willing to "out" 
          themselves as fans than they were before 
          and to acknowledge their own subjective 
          experience in their writing.[6]

Academics such as Henry Jenkins make it possible to be a fan
without being condemned as unworthy.  Jenkins uses phrases in
this interview, referring to academics "outing" themselves, the
term being derived from the public admission of homosexuality. 
The links between the sexuality and fandom, such as the general
impression of fandom being a feminine occupation has not only
increased the stigma of fandom in the press, but have also
emphasised the idea of fandom operating against adversity.  The
notion that a culture is at its most exposed during times of
conflict applies in this situation.  Fandom strengthens its
culture and society through the act of fighting against the press
and journalists.
     The term "fan" is slightly ambiguous, therefore.  Derived
from adversity and created by people hostile to the very idea,
fandom struggles for defining limits.  When referring to a fan
within the study, the violently obsessive such as Chapman and
Hinckley will not be implied, but rather a fan similar to the
academic, someone who is interested, perhaps even obsessed, in a
subject, but in neither a healthy or unhealthy way.  The fan may
very well be a concept produced by the ridicule within the
newspapers, but it has grown and blossomed into something more
individual, normal and worthy.


     _Doctor Who_ rocketed into popularity during its second
story, "The Mutants" by Terry Nation.  The Daleks, which featured
in this story, were the first images of _Doctor Who_ to capture
the imagination of the viewers.  It may be said, that from that
second story, the series had a loyal base of followers with fan
tendencies.  After "The Mutants," _Doctor Who_ not only became a
part of people's lives, but also a programme with the potential
to have a fan base.  _Doctor Who_ became a cult show.
     An important factor in the definition of a fan, however, is
in the way he or she interacts with other fans.  So, therefore,
it was not until the formation of the national Doctor Who
Appreciation Society, the DWAS, in the mid-seventies, that fans
found a voice and began to have the potential to influence the
show.  In 1976, Jan Vincent-Rudzki, the DWAS president, wrote a
review of the then recent story "The Deadly Assassin":

          What must have happened was that at the 
          end of "Hand of Fear" the Doctor was 
          knocked out when the TARDIS took off, 
          and had a crazy mixed-up nightmare 
          about Gallifrey.  As a Doctor Who story,  
          "Deadly Assassin" is just not worth 
          considering.  I've spoken to many people, 
          many of whom were not members, and they 
          all said how this story shattered their 
          illusions of the Time Lords, and lowered 
          them to ordinary people.[7]

It is significant that in his review, Rudzki used non-fans as an
authority.  He states that the story is bad, and that this view
was substantiated by people who are not members of his
organisation.  This review was written by a fan, for fans, so the
fact that Rudzki felt the need to support his claims is odd and
may something about fans in general, or at least in 1976.  If
fans need to refer to non-fans for authority, it may be that they
believe, as the media often does, that they are to obsessed to
criticise subjectively.
     As a whole, this review may be seen as pivotal in the
relationship between _Doctor Who_ and its fans in that it may be
seen as being one of the first examples of a fan making his
criticism of the series heard by others.  As president of the
DWAS, Rudzki acted as spokesperson for his society, as well as
making his own, very personal views known.  This review is an
important one and will be studied in more depth later, but for
now, it is example of what happens when a fan group as large as
the DWAS is formed.  During the seventies and eighties,
communication within the group was restricted to letters sent to
its magazine _Celestial Toyroom_ and meetings of local groups of
fans, venues which were advertised in the magazine.  This meant
that interaction between fans was done through the executive body
of the club.  Therefore, the attitudes of fandom at the time
tended to be the result of a hierarchical system.  In this way,
stories were categorised by the direct influence of the
"executive" fans.
     This meant that before the introduction of videos, and with
the lack of repeats on the television, fans who had not seen
certain stories relied on hearsay and the views of fans perhaps
more interested with the continuity and the history of the
programme than the style and the narrative.  During the time it
was transmitted, British _Doctor Who_ fans, therefore were found
in one major group, the DWAS.  Communication between fans was
limited, the internet was not being used extensively so
disscussions and arguments took place within small local meetings
and through the letters pages of the various magazines and
     The following sections will concentrate on two aspects of
Doctor Who fandom; the construction of continuity and the
criticism of the series.  These are not the only perspectives a
fan would observe the programmes from, however, in terms of their
influence within the show, it will become clear that they are the
most important.


     Fans spend a great deal of time discussing and studying the
texts and part of this involves criticising and cataloguing. 
However, fans also endeavour to expand the texts beyond what is
immediately apparent.  It is from this desire that fan-fiction
and especially the idea of the intertextual history of _Doctor
Who_ stems.

          Many fans, though, like to think that
          _Doctor Who_ stories fit into a 
          consistent framework.  They draw links 
          between the separate stories and try 
          to explain away the discrepancies that 

_Doctor Who_ is a series of stories not generally linked by plot
but by its main characters.  What fans often do is to produce
links between the stories where previously there were none.  To
do this, several things must first happen.  Initially, each story
must be given a date.  Sometimes this is easy, the year being
mentioned within the plot, or even suggested by the title in
stories such as "100,000 BC" or "The Reign of Terror."  Then the
stories must be gathered into some form of chronological order. 
This means that the history of the universe according to _Doctor
Who_ is at variance to the real history.  _Doctor Who_ fans have
even created a name for this other universe: the "Whoniverse."  
Fans spend a great deal of time arguing over stories that do not
immediately indicate a date.  These debates can go into an
enormous amount of detail.  For example in the first
episode of "100,000 BC," the date relies on a piece of writing in
the background:

          Dating "100,000 BC" - The Doctor has 
          left the Hand of Omega at the funeral 
          parlour for "a month" before 
          "Remembrance of the Daleks," suggesting 
          that the first episode is set in late 
          October.  The year "1963" is first 
          confirmed in the second episode, "The 
          Cave of Skulls."  Ian Chesterton's 
          blackboard reads "Homework - Tuesday."

     Lance Parkin uses two distinct methods to date "100,000 BC"
on a Tuesday in late October 1963.  He begins by linking this
story, shown in 1963, with one shown in 1989, "Remembrance of the
Daleks."  Despite the time difference in transmission, Parkin has
no qualms about doing this.  In fact, "Remembrance of the Daleks"
refers in detail to the earlier story and also contains several
visual references and subtle in-jokes.  This demonstrates the
fans desire to ignore the reality of _Doctor Who_ as a television
programme.  By ignoring the transmission dates and their order,
the stories may be disassembled and woven together in a more
satisfying, inter-textual chronological sequence.  For the
purpose of his pseudo reference book, Parkin avoids references to
_Doctor Who_ as a television programme as this would devalue the
whole exercise.
     The second dating method Parkin uses is deductive and
lateral thinking.  In the episode, Ian Chesterton, a teacher,
stands in front of a blackboard that reads "Homework-Tuesday."
Parkin reasons that the day is unlikely to be Monday as it would
be unusual to set homework with one day to complete it.  Parkin
assumes it is more likely to have been set a week in advance. 
The flaws in Parkin's reasoning are apparent but unimportant. 
The final date is not most important factor in his examination,
but rather the processes used in achieving it. Parkin uses a
detail placed by the designers to indicate the setting is a
school, not as an oblique reference to the date.
     The second thing Parkin does in his book aside from
cataloguing stories into date order is to produce sub-sections of
individual histories of races and characters.  For example,
Parkin collates stories which mention the human paramilitary
organisation UNIT, and includes them separately in an appendix:

          _Doctor Who_ fans have attempted to pin 
          down the dates more precisely on a 
          number of occasions over the years, but 
          the results have always been hotly 
          contested.  As successive production 
          teams came and went, a mass of 
          contradictory and ambiguous evidence 
          had built up.[10]

     By linking these common stories together in a chronological
framework, Parkin succeeds in making the history of the _Doctor
Who_ universe more detailed and therefore more realistic. 
The case of UNIT, however, throws up another complication. 
Stories may not only be elusive and ambiguous about their dates,
but may even contradict situations and events that have occurred
previously.  This contradiction is understandable when the
production teams general approach to the series is taken into
account.  They are not expecting _Doctor Who_ to be examined as
closely as it has been by fans, therefore they do not generally
give a great deal of care to the detailed continuity that fans
place in such high esteem.  An example of this occurs during the
story "Mawdryn Undead" transmitted in 1983.  The plot is set in
two time periods: 1977, during the Silver Jubilee in England, and
1983, the then present day.  The problem in the dates is that
during the 1977 scenes, a recurring character, Brigadier
Lethbridge-Stewart, is shown to have retired from active duty in
UNIT and is working at a school teaching Mathematics.  This date
directly contradicts evidence from stories in the 1960's and 70's
that suggest he definitely did not retire at this point.  To most
people, the actual programme makers included, this would appear
to be a minor inconsistency, easily ignored.  However, to fans,
it become a glaring error that threatens to break up the, until
then, relatively neat continuity.

          The inclusion of the Brigadier actually 
          gives rise to perhaps the most hotly 
          debated and criticised aspect of the 
          story - that the dates specified in it 
          are completely at odds with the fairly 
          well established time frame in which the 
          UNIT adventures of the second, third and 
          forth Doctors' eras took place.[11]

Fans, then, seem to have a need to catalogue and list _Doctor
Who_ stories in an order other than the transmission dates. 
The ways they do this include criticising and ranking the stories
and the extrapolation of groups of stories by the same author or
director.  The concentration on continuity and the consideration
of a form of internal history within a series seems quite unique
to _Doctor Who_ fans.  This is because of the nature of the
programme.  The main character in _Doctor Who_ is a
time-traveller.  The exceptional duration of the series has meant
that the Doctor has visited many different times, so connections
and crossovers are almost inevitable.  While fans of series such
as _Star Trek_ have written histories of the universes in which
their particular series are set, most do not have the ability of
_Doctor Who_ to transcend the transmission order and therefore
have the constant reminder of the series being just a television
programme.  The varying time aspect of _Doctor Who_ has meant it
is possible to link directly stories from 1963 and 1989 together. 
The question still remains, why do fans feel the need to
catalogue these links, and why do they consider them to be so
     The relationship between fans and the programmes they watch
goes beyond simple enjoyment.  Being a fan is not just a case of
watching and rewatching, but is more interactive.  Fans have a
need to expand the programmes beyond television and to make them
special, perhaps even a way of life.  By constructing a
metahistory above the transmitted sequence, fans strengthen the
continuity of the programme as a whole.  In the case of _Doctor
Who_, this is even more successful as it forges links which
connect stories across the decades.  In other words, fans
construct histories of their programme in order to make it more
real, in order to make it stand out from other television series. 
In this way, the process may be seen as a psychological one.  It
is possible, however, that another reason for this practice
     Fandom's status as a subculture is a precarious one.  Its
existence relies on a series produced and distributed by non-fans
which in turn is held in judgement by a company seeking not fans,
but the mainstream audience.  Therefore, fans create their own
texts, based on the original series.  This is most clearly
manifested in fan-fiction; spin-off stories not regarded as being
part of the canon of the television series.  Continuity and
constructed histories may simply be another example of this need
for the subculture of fandom to have a text that they may possess
rather than simply feed off.


     Another important aspect of _Doctor Who_, and indeed any
other fan group, is criticism.  In the case of _Doctor Who_,
reviews have shaped opinions on stories, writers and, sometimes,
even producers.  This criticism means that the success of _Doctor
Who_ may be charted by some other means than audience ratings or
television critics, the fans' conception of "successful" is
sometimes at odds with both of these.  In this section the aim is
to examine the changing face of fan criticism, and then to try
and see why fans have a need to criticise the very thing that
they idolise.  For the first of these points, it is necessary to
return to a piece of criticism written in 1976 by the then DWAS
president Jan Vincent Rudzki,

          Few Who stories go very much against what 
          has been done before, but recently this 
          has changed.  First, there was "Genesis of 
          the Daleks," then "Revenge," "Morbius," 
          and now "Deadly Assassin," or rather 
          "Deadly Continuity."[12]

     "The Deadly Assassin" was transmitted in 1976 during a
popular season of _Doctor Who_ both critically and in terms of
audience.  It concerned the Doctor returning to Gallifrey in
order to prevent his archenemy, the Master, from taking control
over the Time Lords' power.  Written by Robert Holmes it
presented the Doctor's home planet in a way greatly at odds to
what had been described before.  Rudzki disliked it mainly for
this reason.  As mentioned previously, fans have a greater regard
for continuity than other critics.  Rudzki is a prime example of

          The Time Lords would have their own 
          history completely documented.  After all, 
          they can look back at time, so what's all 
          this nonsense about myths?  And surely 
          somebody would have wondered what that 
          lump and two holes in the Panoptican floor 

     Interestingly, when criticising, Rudzki uses the same method
that Lance Parkin used when writing _A History of the Universe_. 
Rudzki looks back at previous, related stories such as "The Three
Doctors" and "The War Games" and uses them as a basis for his
criticism of "The Deadly Assassin."  When he has done this, he
picks on small details such as set designs that were utilised
previously to date the story to use as the elements of his
dissection.  As mentioned before, Rudzki's review was an
important and influential one, and yet, ironically, it is now
used as an example of how fans' views change:

          The Deadly Assassin is, all things 
          considered, a truly remarkable story, 
          as Jon Blum argued on an internet 
          newsgroup in 1997: "There's a tremendous 
          sense of pacing to the first episode - 
          it actually takes place on quite a small 
          canvass, just a few sets, but everything 
          about the writing and direction is 
          calculated to make the story barrel along.

     When, in June 1998, _Doctor Who Magazine_, the only magazine
of this subject sold nationally, ran a poll of all the _Doctor
Who_ television stories, "The Deadly Assassin" was placed 11th
out of 160.[15]  It is clear that a massive shift in fan attitude
has occurred between 1976 and 1998.  One reason for this is that
between then and now, several stories have depicted Time Lord
society in a way similar to that in "The Deadly Assassin."  In
the 1983 story "The Arc of Infinity," for example, an almost
identical situation occurred involving a renegade Time Lord
attempting to gain control of Gallifey's power.  While today "The
Deadly Assassin" rewrote the concept of the Doctor's origins, in
1976 it corrupted them and presented the Doctor's home planet on
a par with Earth when it came to moral degeneracy and greed.  In
the case of "The Deadly Assassin," it is not just time which has
healed wounds, but seventy stories shown subsequently on
     "The Deadly Assassin" is not unique in fans' changing
attitude.  Several stories when shown in the late eighties were
at first considered poor, cheap and overtly humorous but are now
thought intelligent and well plotted.  This situation of looking
back favourably on past stories is not unique within _Doctor Who_
fandom, however.  When _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ was aired
in America many _Star Trek_ fans referred to the series of the
1960's as 'classic' _Star Trek_.  Very rarely has a _Doctor Who_
story been instantly labelled as 'classic'.  One reason for this
is that fans look on stories in their relationships to the series
as a whole.  As when constructing histories, fans see the
influence of a story over the ones that follow it, or even
preceed it, as important.  Therefore, a story will be highly
regarded if it changes or affects the series.  "The Deadly
Assassin" changed the perception of Time Lord society whereas
"The Arc of Infinity" merely repeated and emphasised this view. 
"The Deadly Assassin" came 11th in the DWM poll, "The Arc of
Infinity" came 117th.
     Therefore, time changes the fans' perception of stories in a
way other than the psychological notion of a "Golden Age," where
the perception of things in the past is more favourable.  By
looking back over the series, it is possible to pick landmark
stories which have added significantly to the canon of _Doctor
     There is a question that must be asked if fan criticism of
_Doctor Who_ is to be fully understood.  Namely, why they do it?
Why do fans criticise something they have devoted themselves to
following?  This answer will be necessary when considering how
the production team adapted to accommodate the fans later in this

          Organised fandom is, perhaps first and 
          foremost, an institution of theory and 
          criticism, a semistructured space where 
          competing interpretations and evaluation 
          of common texts are proposed, debated, 
          and negotiated and where readers 
          speculate about the nature of the mass 
          media and their own relationship to it.[16]

     Henry Jenkins suggests that organised fandom needs two
aspects to maintain its existence: theory and criticism.  He
indicates that just as fandom needs its facility to expand its
text beyond what is seen by the average audience, it also needs
to be able to step back and pass judgement on it.  The question
still remains as to what purpose this serves within fandom. 
     Criticism fills a psychological hole left by the immersion
within the series that is brought about by the examination of
continuity.  In essence, the fan does exactly the opposite to
what he or she did when constructing an extra-textual
chronological framework.  Whereas this practise appeared to deny
the concept of _Doctor Who_ as a television programme, criticism
revels in it.
     The act of writing about _Doctor Who_ critically, disengages
the fan from the series and provides for the fan relief from the
accusations of total escapism.  By stepping back from the series
and recognising its flaws, the fan gains credibility and shows
him, or herself, as being rational and magnanimous.
     However, just as the construction of an overlaid history
provides the subculture of fandom with their own text, the
criticism of _Doctor Who_ may be said to provide them with their
own language,

          There's only one proper character 
          (Richard Mace), which gives Peter 
          Davison and Michael Robbins the space 
          to turn in a pair of lovely performances. 
          The end result is a stylish slice of 
          pseudo-historical nonsense.[17]

     The important phrase to note in the above criticism of the
1982 story, "The Visitation," is the term "pseudo-historical."
This refers to a story set in Earth's past which contains
elements of science fiction in the form of an alien or alien
technology.  The phrase seems to be exclusive to _Doctor Who_
criticism and joins others such as "purely historical,"
containing no Science-Fiction elements, "oddball," a story that
simply refuses to fit into any suitable genre description and, as
mentioned before, "classic," a story the surpasses all others.
     Criticism supplies _Doctor Who_ fans with their own
language, a discourse.  As with the construction of its own text,
the language gives the subculture of the _Doctor Who_ fan extra
stability through a community.  The fans can feel like they are
part of a select club when they understand these secret and
obscure inter-textual references,

          But how, then, is "discourse" key to 
          more than a politics of abstract games? 
          The answer lies in the materiality of 
          discourse.  That is "discourse" makes
          possible disciplines and institutions 
          which, in turn, sustain and distribute 
          those discourses.[18]

Fan critics use these terms, and the language is absorbed into
the culture and writing of the fan group in general.
     Now that the two main occupations of the _Doctor Who_ fan
have been discussed, it should now be possible to apply the
findings to the series.  As previously noted the following two
sections will look at two types of fan involvement with the
series, from the outside and from the inside.


     It is now necessary to concentrate on one particular period
of _Doctor Who_, to try to assess how fans and fandom affected it
indirectly, and contributed to the eventual removal of the
     To start, an appropriate period must be chosen.  With the
ultimate objective in mind, it would be sensible to look in
detail at the final period during which _Doctor Who_ was shown. 
An appropriate set of parameters therefore may well be the
arrival of the final producer of _Doctor Who_, John
Nathan-Turner, in 1980 and the transmission of "Survival," the
last regular television story in 1989.
     John Nathan-Turner became the producer of _Doctor Who_ at
the beginning of season eighteen in 1980 and immediately the
series saw a change.  The previous season in 1979 had shown a
tendency to lean more towards humour than drama.  This mostly due
to the influence of the then script-editor, Douglas Adams and the
fact that the early Tom Baker stories such as "The Deadly
Assassin" and "Genesis of the Daleks" were heavily criticised for
their violent and graphic content.  John Nathan-Turner wished to
reverse the increasing emphasis on humour and move _Doctor Who_
more towards serious drama, whilst avoiding the excessive horror. 
Nathan-Turner also began what producers before him had been
reluctant to do, he started to acknowledge and respond to the
fans.  In this section, Nathan-Turner's policy regarding fandom
will be investigated using a selection of important stories from
his nine years as producer. Also an attempt will be made to
suggest why the producers before him were reluctant to indulge
the fans.  To do this, what has been stated about fans previously
will be applied to the stories to see what within these stories
might be construed as "fannish." With all this in mind, it might
then be possible to assess the involvement of the fan from inside
and outside the series in the final failure of _Doctor Who_.
     In an interview in the _Doctor Who Magazine_, John
Nathan-Turner's predecessor, Graham Williams commented on the
attitude of fans and fandom during his years as producer:

          Someone asked me recently if I felt 
          that the amount of flak I was getting 
          from the fans was justified, but I 
          was - and still am - absolutely
          unaware of what I'm supposed to be 
          coming in for at all whilst I was 
          producing, it seemed there was more 
          interest in the programming than ever 

     During his time producing _Doctor Who_, Graham Williams
moved away from what fans regarded as "good" _Doctor Who_. This
can be summed up in a story such as "Destiny of the Daleks."

          Despite some interesting visuals,  
          "Destiny" has a tacky, inconsequential 
          feel that comes from a decade of 
          having its best jokes sneered at.  
          After a while it becomes difficult to 
          work out where Nation's plot ends, and 
          Adams' scriptediting, complete with 
          Hitch-Hickers in-jokes, begins.[20]

     "Destiny of the Daleks" is not considered by most fans to be
"good" _Doctor Who_.  It opens with the regeneration, the renewal
and change of a Time Lord's body, of the Doctor's companion
Romana.  Normally when a regeneration occurs within the series it
is presented as a traumatic, physically draining experience. 
Indeed most of the Doctor's regenerations see him taking the next
story to recover, evident in both "Castrovalva" and "The Twin
Dilemma."  Romana's regeneration is presented in a different,
more comical light:

          The opening scenes of "Destiny of the 
          Daleks" get the new season off to a 
          shaky start, Romana's regeneration - 
          in which she "tries on" a number of 
          unsuitable bodies before settling on 
          the Lalla Ward version - being very 
          much played for laughs.[21]

     Instead of being a dark and mysterious event, Romana
regenerates in a very minor, light-hearted scene.  The fans main
objection to this atypical regeneration is with the story's
deliberate break from the continuity they fight so hard to keep
and chronicle.  This does not mean that the scene or the story
are poor, only that they break with tradition.  It might be said,
however, that this is exactly what "The Deadly Assassin" does, so
why is one now revered and the other hated?  The answer to this
question lies in the story's use of comedy and lack of drama. 
"Destiny of the Daleks" changes the previously stated rule of
_Doctor Who_ in an unnecessary and inconsequential way whereas
"The Deadly Assassin" dramatically and suddenly alters the
previous continuity to give the series a darker, more violent,
edge.  The fans' differing opinions toward the two stories may be
explained by their desire for the programme to be seen in a
serious light.  Fans tend to campaign against the view of _Doctor
Who_ as a children's show, and so tend to prefer the more adult
content, whether it manifests itself in violence or in a complex
message behind the narrative such as political allegory.
     Fans blame Graham Williams for making _Doctor Who_ humourous
and bringing it closer to what might be called
light-entertainment as opposed to serious drama.  This criticism
was not necessarily justified as at that time, Williams was
having his arm twisted by the BBC after complaints made about his
predecessor Philip Hincholiffe's predilection for gothic-horror
based stories.  Williams was requested by the BBC to introduce
more humorous situations.  This goes some way to explain the
opening scenes of "Destiny of the Daleks," the introduction of
the second dog shaped computer K9 in "Invasion of Time" and the
cameo appearance of John Cleese in "The City of Death."
     When John Nathan-Turner became producer in 1980, he
recognised the increased humour and shared the fans distaste for

          I'm a great admirer of Douglas Adams' 
          work and I loved the radio series of 
          _The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy_,
          but much of his humour was inappropriate 
          to _Doctor Who_ as I saw it.  Tom 
          certainly liked it and Graham seemed to 
          enjoy some of it, but I hardly liked any 
          of it.[22]

     Nathan-Turner removed what he called "undergraduate" humour
from the series and attempted to return it to a more serious
form.  Recognising that any science fiction made after 1977 would
generally be compared with _Star Wars_, he also granted a greater
share of the budget to the effects and overall style.  He
intended to avoid the more fantasy based storylines that had been
common during the William's years as producer.  To do this he
employed as his script-editor Christopher H. Bidmead:

          Bidmead was to recall later, "Barry and 
          John explained to me that the original 
          premise of _Doctor Who_ back in 1963 was 
          to get children excited about the idea 
          of science... that science was a way of 
          looking at the world through which you 
          could achieve things.[23]

     John Nathan-Turner's first season therefore had at its
centre a core of realistic science.  It dealt with theoretical
physics in "The Leisure Hive" evolution in "Full Circle" and
thermodynamics in "Logopolis."  This realism; fantasy based on
contemporary scientific theories, appealed to fans in that it
lent the series an air of authenticity.  It was hoped that
_Doctor Who_ would begin to be respected as something other than
a piece of light-hearted children's escapism.  In actual fact
much of the hard science that Bidmead claimed to add to the
series merely functioned as a source for long, complex and
plausible sounding explanations as opposed to a realistic
scientific base.
     It cannot be said, however that this is an example of
appeasing the fans.  There is no evidence in these stories that
John Nathan-Turner was thinking of fans when he decided to add a
more realistic edge to the series.  On the contrary, his desire
to do so can be seen simply as a need to make a fresh start and
to disassociate himself from previous producers.  The fact that
"Full Circle" was written by self-confessed fan, Andrew Smith, is
an incident that will be discussed later when considering the
direct influence of fandom on the series.
     The first real evidence that John Nathan-Turner recognized
_Doctor Who_'s fan base was when he became a consultant on the
_Doctor Who Magazine_ and even ran a column for a number of
issues.  This was an unprecedented move but again may be answered
by an explanation other than fan appeasement.  As well as
introducing a harder, more stylistic angle for the series, John
Nathan-Turner also forged links with the press to a degree that
producers before him had not.  It began when Nathan-Turner leaked
information regarding Tom Baker's successor, suggesting that he
might be a she:

          As Nathan-Turner later said of that time, 
          "I am a great believer in publicity.  I 
          wouldn't go quite as far as to say there 
          is no such thing as bad publicity... but 
          I would do whatever I could to keep the 
          show in the public eye.[24]

     Nathan-Turner used the press and publicity more than any
other producer before him, so his acting as consultant for the
_Doctor Who Magazine_ may just be another example of this.  
To say that John Nathan-Turner immediately began to produce
stories for fans therefore would not necessarily be true.  
However, as the years went by, Nathan-Turner gradually became
integrated into the fan community, and this may be reflected in
the stories produced.  It now may be useful to cite some examples
of these stories and to explain what makes them fan orientated.
     After his first season as producer John Nathan-Turner
succeeded in changing _Doctor Who_ sufficiently to be able to
call it his own programme.  The lead actor changed from Tom Baker
to Peter Davison, new companions were brought in and the general
visual style of the series improved while the stories became more
     One change that may have been influenced by fan opinions was
the increased use of the history of _Doctor Who_.  Several
stories in this nine year period used plots and images that
relied on the nostalgia of the previous years.  The first
significant example of this was the 1982 story "Earthshock" by
Eric Saward:

          It was perhaps only a matter of time 
          before the new Doctor found himself 
          up against the "old favourite" monster 
          races.  Just as Daleks had been used 
          to help ease Patrick Troughton into 
          the role and the Daleks and Cybermen 
          had been dusted off for two of Tom 
          Baker's first few stories, so the 
          Cybermen were chosen by the production 
          team to make a comeback in Peter 
          Davison's opening season, after an 
          absence of seven years.[25]

     The inclusion of the Cybermen was done for two reasons.  
Firstly, the Cybermen as an adversary are a known quantity, as
with the Daleks, the Cybermen were popular and therefore used to
increase the audience ratings.  John NathanTurner again uses the
press in this respect.  Even though the title avoids mentioning
the Cybermen, their impending appearance would have been
discovered before or reported after the first episode.  The
second reason for their appearance was to strengthen Peter
Davison's role as the Doctor.  This highlights the problem of
periodically changing the lead actor.  Each of the actors who
plays the role of the Doctor makes it their own, so for Peter
Davison replacing Tom Baker, who had played the character for
seven years, it was necessary to constantly remind viewers that
despite the change of appearance, the character was the same.  To
do this John Nathan-Turner turned to the obvious solution, that
of nostalgia, a practise that had been used in the past when both
Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton took over the role.
     Therefore, to suggest that in this case John Nathan-Turner
worked mostly for the fans appreciation would be a fallacy.  The
use of the history of the programme and the increased reliance on
continuity is understandable with regards to the opening season
of Peter Davison's Doctor.  In order to replace the enduring
image of Tom Baker as the Doctor, the audience needs to see Peter
Davison facing adversaries that have been seen in the series
before.  This would associate him with the series and the concept
in general rather than inviting comparisons with previous
     Peter Davison's second season in the role was announced to
fans as having each story containing an element from the Doctor's
past.  If ever John Nathan-Turner could be accused of nostalgia
it is here; however he later denied that he had fans in mind:

          The ploy worked well; though, as usual, 
          you can't please all of the people all 
          of the time, and some of the devotee 
          glitterati said it was "disastrous 
          pandering to the fans"; others thought 
          it was a splendid idea.  It's always 
          pleasing if the regular fans are 
          enjoying the end products, but it has 
          never been my yardstick.[26]

     The fact that John Nathan-Turner did not consciously play to
fans is not really point at issue here, and indeed there is
evidence to suggest otherwise in the next section.  The important
point is that with the arrival of John Nathan-Turner, _Doctor
Who_ began to display traits mentioned previously such as
increased reliance on past themes.  Season twenty is the best
example of this in the programme's history.  It opens with the
previously mentioned "Arc of Infinity," a story that not only
mirrors Robert Holmes' "The Deadly Assassin," but contains
elements from the Jon Pertwee season ten story "The Three
Doctors."  The main part of the season is taken up by a trilogy
of stories, "Mawdryn Undead," "Terminus" and "Enlightenment," all
of which use an adversary called the Black Guardian, originally
seen in the Tom Baker story "The Armageddon Factor."  Finally,
"The King's Demons" features the Master, a villain who appeared
prominently during the 1970's and 80's.  The series closed with a
ninety minute, twentieth anniversary special, "The Five Doctors."
Apart from this extreme example which will be studied later, it 
is "Mawdryn Undead" which contains the highest concentration of
     For this particular story, the writer Peter Grimwade wished
to bring back both a villain from the past, the Black Guardian
and a companion.  It is this latter choice that has caused a
curious irony:

          The first choice was science teacher 
          Ian Chesterton, one of the Doctor's 
          original companions.  This in turn 
          inspired the setting of an English 

     Unfortunately, the actor who played Ian Chesterton was
unavailable, so without changing the setting or the date,
Grimwade simply replaced Chesterton with the Brigadier.  Even
though this was an example of nostalgia and used the history of
the series to create a plot, something that fans regard as a
positive quality, the difficulty in resolving the previous
stories featuring this character in terms of continuity caused
fans to denounce his inclusion.  In other words, what might have
been appealing to the fans had the opposite effect.  This mistake
was made despite measures taken by John Nathan-Turner to avoid
continuity errors, and these will be examined in depth in the
next section.
     Season twenty closed with _Doctor Who_'s twentieth
anniversary story, "The Five Doctors."  Written by Terrance
Dicks, this featured to a varying degree all of the past Doctors
plus some companions and monsters.  Although the bringing
together of Doctors had been done before in the 1973 "The Three
Doctors," "The Five Doctors" was a plot designed almost entirely
around previous stories set on Gallifrey.  The necessity to
include so many elements from the past meant that Dicks was
seriously restricted in his writing:

           Dicks was presented with the same set 
           of guidelines that Holmes had been 
           working to.  "My standing joke about 
           it was that it was like a game where 
           you make up a story about objects that
           come out of a box.  This particular 
           box had an awful lot of objects in it!

     This story, and to a lesser degree the season in general,
highlights the problems caused by the desire to bring in elements
from the history of the series.  Although in essence the whole
reason for it was as an anniversary, a celebration of _Doctor
Who_'s past, "The Five Doctors" seems to celebrate it to the
point of overkill.  The plot is a sequence of set pieces, tied
together by a very simple driving narrative in which the
characters journey towards a tower.  It is essentially a story
actually written by the production team before the writer was
even hired.  By imposing so many restrictions on Dicks' creative
processes, the writer has become less of an author and more of a
problem solver.  "The Five Doctors" is an extreme example,
however, and in terms of nostalgia and the chance to see actors
returning to roles they occupied decades before, it seems to
work.  It should also be said that at this particular time,
according to the BARB ratings, _Doctor Who_ was still popular. 
This may suggest that fans are not the only ones who are prone to
nostalgia.  Within the assumption that the increased use of the
history of the series and the concentration on accurate
continuity isolates the average viewer, lies the assumption that
the non-fan does not remember stories of the past.  However, the
accusations of fans being pandered to during the John
Nathan-Turner years aside, it is true that during this time the
series did become introverted and more reliant on it's past.  In
general, this could be seen as an attempt to mine the rich
history of the programme to create stories, however this may in
some ways limit the imaginative processes needed when writing,
such as in "The Five Doctors."  This section has been an attempt
to show how fandom affected the series from the outside, in other
words as simply a collection of ideas and forms rather than a
direct influence.  However, there is evidence during John
Nathan-Turner's time as producer that a more direct relationship
was built up between the programme and the fans.


     There are two distinct ways in which fans may have had a
direct, internal influence on the development of _Doctor Who_
during the 1980's.  The first is through writers or those in some
other creative capacity working on the series, while the second
is through advisors actively consulted by the production team. 
John Nathan-Turner used both when commissioning and creating new
_Doctor Who_ stories.  In this section, both ways will be
investigated and their effect upon the series will be assessed.
     In 1979, John Nathan-Turner commissioned a story called
"Full Circle" from writer Andrew Smith.  It was planned to form
part of a trilogy of loosely connected stories that would lead in
to Tom Baker's final appearances as the Doctor:

          What makes it all the more impressive 
          is that it is what might be defined as 
          a "fan story", written by someone with 
          knowledge of and obvious regard for 
          the show.[29]

     This story was unique in that it was the first to be
commissioned from a fan.  Fans had been sending a constant stream
of ideas for stories but all of them had been rejected until
Andrew Smith impressed the production team enough to select him. 
The question is, however, can "Full Circle" be described as a fan
story, or simply just as a story written by a fan.  As mentioned
before, fan traits include an increased sense of the importance
of the history of the series as well as a desire to rate and rank
previous stories through criticism.  This may mean that
independent fan fiction, stories which have not been televised,
would be expected to follow certain trends.  Henry Jenkins in his
1992 book Textual Poachers suggested that fan fiction might fall
into ten distinct areas:

          1. Recontextualisation, where fans write 
             scenes taking place within a television
          2. Expanding the Series Timeline, where 
             fans write about characters backgrounds
             or events leading up to a televised 
          3. Refocalisation, where fans write about 
             minor characters rather than the lead
          4. Moral Realignment, where fans write 
             about the villains in the main text
             rather than the heroes.
          5. Genre Shifting, where the genre of the 
             main text, such as science fiction, is 
             changed to another, such as romance.
          6. Cross-Overs, where two main texts are 
             brought together into one story.
          7. Character Dislocation, where characters 
             are given different identities or
             names and shifted from their usual 
          8. Personalisation, where the writer of 
             the story, the fan, takes part in his 
             or her own story.
          9. Emotional Intensifictation, where 
             moments of extreme emotion from the main 
             text is expanded upon.
          10. Eroticization, where characters from 
             the main text are featured in erotic 

If Peter Anghelides' criticism is to be believed, "Full Circle"
as a fan story, should fall into one of these categories. 
Although Jenkins' guidelines for fan-fiction refer to
uncommissioned work, not part of the main text's canon, it should
be interesting to see if there is any evidence in "Full Circle"
that label it a "fan story."
     In 1995, Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping compiled
a book called _The Discontinuity Guide_ in which they pedanticly
but light-heartedly pointed out the technical errors and plot
discrepancies in every televised _Doctor Who_ story.  For the
purpose of this study, however, the book contains a far more
useful section, a list of continuity references for each story.   
The list under "Full Circle" states several of these which may be
worth briefly paraphrasing:

          1. The use of a recall circuit within 
             the TARDIS as in "The Deadly Assassin" 
             and "The War Games."
          2. The binary co-ordinates of Gallifrey 
             (1001100 by 02) are the same as in 
             "Pyramids of Mars."
          3. The Doctor suggests that short trips 
             usually do not work as in "Planet of

These may seem, and in fact are very pedantic, but it could be
worthwhile examining them more closely.  Not only do they
emphasise the point made previously concerning _Doctor Who_ fans'
preoccupation about minor continuity points, but the fact that
they are minor suggests something about the story itself.  As a
fan, Andrew Smith would be expected to draw extensively on the
history of the programme within his plot.  In fact, all the
references to past episodes of Doctor Who are not only small, but
may even have been added after the writing stage and during
production.  Anghelides cites the story's opening scene as
evidence for "Full Circle" being written from a fans perspective. 
The Doctor and Romana are in the TARDIS, the Doctor's time
machine, when they receive a communication from Gallifrey
requesting that Romana returns.  As soon as they have discovered
this message, however, the TARDIS is pulled through a hole in
space to a different universe, enabling the story proper to
begin.  This event is, in fact, only the lead in to an informal
trilogy of stories and does not affect the main plot at all. 
"Full Circle," therefore, is not crammed full of continuity
references.  Its plot is not based around an event or a story
from a previous season of _Doctor Who_, nor does it feature the
return of a monster or companion.  In fact, "Full Circle" avoids
all of the traits that fans have been shown to be prone to.  It
does not fall into any of Jenkins' categories because it is not
fan-fiction, but an independently plotted, original, story. 
"Full Circle" is interesting, because it comes at a time when
_Doctor Who_ was becoming more and more introspective.  It was
only a few years after this that John Nathan-Turner produced the
celebratory, but indulgent, season twenty.  So why did Andrew
Smith resist using any of Jenkins' fan-fiction categories?  There
are several answers, most of which are straightforward.  Although
almost every fan dreams about being commissioned to write for the
series they spend their time watching, most will not be because
either the production team would not consider them experienced
enough, or the story they propose is fan-fiction.  Jenkins'
version of fan-fiction makes it necessary for it to remain
outside of the series canon.  Fan-fiction exists on the periphery
of the main text, and can never become part of the series, as the
two are essentially mutually exclusive.  By its very definition,
therefore, fan-fiction must be uncommissioned and untransmitted. 
An example of this point lies in contrasting "Full Circle" with
the 1989 story "Remembrance of the Daleks."  Each has the
potential to be called fan-fiction.  The first is written by a
fan, but does not fit into Jenkins' list whereas the second is
written by a freelance writer, a non-fan, but is positively
bursting with expansions of previous stories and even contains an
intriguing example of a cross-over element in episode three:

          Mention of "Bernard" and "the British 
          Rocket Group" are in-joke references 
          to Bernard Quatermass and his team as 
          seen in Nigel Kneale's  seminal science-
          fiction serials.[32]

"Remembrance of the Daleks" contains elements that would not be
out of place within fan-fiction, however, it would be ludicrous
to describe it as such because the writer is not a fan.  Ben
Aaronovitch found it necessary to review previous stories before
writing his script, something a truly obsessive fan would never
need to do.  Fan-fiction, therefore does not rely solely on
content or on who is writing it, but more on how it is produced,
and what relationship to the main text it has.  This suggests
that as writers, fans did not have a great deal of direct
influence on the fan-style elements within the series.  On the
contrary, "Full Circle," the first example of a fan being used by
the creators of the series cannot be cited as an example of John
Nathan-Turner's increasing use of continuity.
     When he employed Andrew Smith as a writer, John
Nathan-Turner closed the gap between the fan and the text, but
ironically did not achieve a story that would have been expected
from fans.  Instead other non-fan, freelance writers did this
with varying degrees of success.  This is still not evidence that
the production team was writing for fans, however.  The number of
proposed storylines written by fans while the series was on air
must have been immense, so the fact that a couple of these were
ultimately chosen is hardly surprising.  However, there is
evidence the John Nathan-Turner considered fans important for the
series and that he attempted to mine the history of the
programme.  This evidence lies with his informal employment of
Ian Levine.
     Levine was a prominent record producer, and also happened to
be a fan of _Doctor Who_.  This meant that he had some influence
with the BBC and was also known by the production team at the
time.  Nathan-Turner used him to such an extent that when Paula
Moore's "Attack of the Cybermen" was shown in 1985, many fans
suggested that it was actually written by Levine and the then
script-editor Eric Saward.  Looking at this story, it is clear
how these suggestions were started.  More than any other story in
Doctor Who's history, apart from "The Five Doctors," "Attack of
the Cybermen" demonstrated the introspection that would be
expected of a fan:

          "Attack of the Cybermen" is one of the 
          most derivative stories that _Doctor 
          Who_ ever turned out.  It seems that 
          the production team had by this point 
          become preoccupied with making the 
          series in a style that would appeal 
          to fans and, with this in mind, had 
          decided to cram in as many elements 
          from and references to past stories as 
          they possibly could.[33]

The plot is basically a remake of the Patrick Troughton 1967
story "Tomb of the Cybermen," while other elements include
beginning the story in the same junkyard that was the opening
shot in the first ever episode, "An Unearthly Child."  Add to
this two recurring adversaries, the Cybermen and a mercenary
called Lytton, and the story may become one for fans and fans

          "Attack of the Cybermen" features the 
          interweaving of plot elements from a 
          number of previous stories, including 
          "The Tenth Planet," "Tomb of the Cybermen" 
          and "Resurrection of the Daleks."  These 
          make the story a treat for regular fans, 
          but perhaps a little alienating for more 
          casual viewers.[34]

Nathan-Turner, however, denies any knowledge concerning the
accusations that Paula Moore did not actually write "Attack of
the Cybermen":

          I met the credited writer, Paula Moore, 
          several times at meetings in my office, 
          and she was often in script editor Eric 
          Saward's office discussing the script.  
          I knew that Paula was a friend of Saward's, 
          he was honest about that, but if this 
          script was totally written by Saward and 
          Ian Levine, and not Ms. Moore, as it has 
          been claimed, then I know nothing about it.

Whether or not Levine wrote the script is unimportant.  What is
clear is that he had a hand as a consultant on the accurate
history of _Doctor Who_.  His presence goes some way to dispute
the claims by John Nathan-Turner that he did not have fans in
mind when producing stories.  During his years on the programme,
a curious cross over between the two camps of fan and creator
took place.  John Nathan-Turner became an advisor on the _Doctor
Who Magazine_ while Ian Levine became an advisor on the
programme.  What this meant to the series was that fans and
fandom had a direct line to the production office and also, more
importantly, some influence.  Levine, in interviews, has
displayed all of the characteristics attributed to fans
previously in this study.  Firstly, he disliked Graham Williams'
years as producer, and welcomed John Nathan-Turner's change in
policy.  According to Levine, Graham Williams "didn't care about
the programme, didn't care that a fact that had been established
one year should be adhered to the following year."[36]
     Levine bemoaned the fact that Williams had chosen to
regenerate the character Romana in "Destiny of the Daleks," in a
way at odds with the previous stories, and that he chose to
inject humour rather than drama into the series.  All of these
views are typical fan attitudes and ignore the fact that the
series during Williams' years were actually more popular with the
casual viewers than ever before and since.  Levine was far more
complimentary about John Nathan-Turner's changes to the series:

          John Nathan-Turner, according to Levine, 
          was "careful to consult the facts to make 
          sure that he is not clashing with anything"
          - and during this period Levine "helped 
          out the _Doctor Who_ office with continuity 
          errors and continuity problems" (which is 
          one reason for Levine's initial view that 
          Nathan-Turner had "restored _Doctor Who_ to 
          a golden age again")[37]

The important fact about Levine is that although his view are of
a typical fan, he is actually, an atypical fan.  Although he
displays all the attributes of a fan, and occasionally falls into
the stereotypes imposed on fandom by the media, Levine has one
quality not possessed by fans in general, namely, power over the
text.  Just as fan-fiction ceases to be such when it becomes part
of the canon of the main text, Levine stopped being just a fan
when he became accepted, welcomed and used by the production
     It was through Levine, that Nathan-Turner found a direction
to take _Doctor Who_, he decided that the past of the series, and
the nostalgia felt by fans regarding previous stories was an area
that could be used in the formation of new _Doctor Who_.
Nathan-Turner connected himself with _Doctor Who_ fans and
allowed them to connect with the series, thereby producing some
stories which, if they were not part of the main canon of _Doctor
Who_, would fall into sections of Jenkins' list of attributes of
fan-fiction.  This introspection may have isolated the casual
viewer, causing them to stop watching.
     Now that the level of this introspection and the reasons
behind it have been assessed, it should now finally be possible
to see how much fans and fans preferences contributed to the
removal of _Doctor Who_, and to suggest other reasons why _Doctor
Who_ failed.  As well as this, it may be interesting to note what
happened to _Doctor Who_ as a concept after 1989.


     In the late 1980's,as _Doctor Who_ began to die, a curious
thing started to happen to fans.  Throughout the eighties, John
Nathan-Turner had slowly been relying more and more on continuity
and the concept of _Doctor Who_ as a nostalgic institution rather
than progression through original ideas.  Many fans at the time
praised Nathan-Turner for this attitude and considered his
introspection to be strengthening the series by backtracking over
previous stories and adding to them.  Nathan-Turner produced many
stories which, had they not been part of the televised series,
could be described as fan-fiction.
     Towards the end of the television series, the relationship
between the production team and fans began to collapse.  In
particular, a major fan magazine, _Doctor Who Bulletin_ began a
campaign against John Nathan-Turner:

          DWB in itself wasn't very appealing, 
          with its tabloid language and new found 
          aggression throughout the late eighties, 
          it attacked JNT with one negative 
          headline after another.  And it grew 
          successful on that basis, creating an 
          audience of very cynical fans.[38]

The reasons for this breakdown is the fact that _Doctor Who_
began to lose its audience.  In this final section, an attempt
will be made to find why _Doctor Who_ finished in 1989, and if
John Nathan-Turner's relationship with the fans had anything to
do with it.
     It first should be pointed out that "Survival," the last
story shown in the final season was not actually the last new
_Doctor Who_ story to be televised, only the last BBC production. 
In 1996, an Anglo-American co-funded telemovie called simply
"Doctor Who" was shown on both sides of the Atlantic.  It did
reasonably well, owing in part to its expensive special effects
and high production values, but not well enough to restart the
series.  In this way, the telemovie is merely a blip in the
history of the transmitted programme, however, the man who
produced it, Philip Segal, is worth considering more closely. 
Segal, like Levine and Gary Gillatt, editor of _Doctor Who
Magazine_, is a self-confessed _Doctor Who_ fan.  It could be
said that these three figures each represent a different type of
fan.  Gillatt acts on the outside of the series.  He has no
direct influence over the text, as he is not part of the
production team.  In terms of the television series, Gillatt is a
fan-reporter.  Levine acts on the periphery of the series, he is
in direct communication with the production team, but has only
limited power, he is a fan-advisor.  In the cases of both Gillatt
and Levine, it is up to other, non-fans, whether to take their
ideas and preferences on board.  Segat has the ultimate power
over the future of the series of which he is a fan.  In essence,
he represents most fans' dreams.  Segal does not just work on the
inside of the series, but from the top of it.  Segal is a
     These three aspects of fandom; reporter, advisor and
creator, are significant as they also represent the changing
relationship between _Doctor Who_ and its fans throughout the
eighties, and up to its end.  It may be said, that as a fan's
power increases, the average, non-fan viewer, the majority of the
audience, becomes more and more isolated from the text.
The question remains, however, as to how much this isolation
affected the series, whether it was to such an extent causing it
to be removed from the schedules.  It may be a mistake to assume
that John Nathan-Turner's reliance on fan ideas was to blame for
the lack of audience.  There are other reasons for this, which
involve the BBC's attitude to the series and the viewing habits
of the audience.
     In 1985, _Doctor Who_ was rested for eighteen months. The
BBC felt it had become stale and needed a rethink.  It is
important to note, however, that this was probably not due to the
increased introspection.  At the time, _Doctor Who_ was regarded
as a British institution, something you expect to be there
forever.  The BBC, however, were more concerned by the gradually
sinking BARB figures at the time.  _Doctor Who_ had faced
cancellation many times in the past.  Towards the end of the
Patrick Troughton era in 1969, the BARB figures had sunk to a
level just slightly higher than in the late 1980's.  The BBC
threatened to remove it, but instead allowed the series to
change.  The new season in 1970 was made with a different actor,
a different style and in colour.  This provided the revamp the
programme needed and saved it.  In 1985, however, _Doctor Who_
was a much older programme and was running the risk of becoming
stale.  The BBC wanted something different, rather than the now
familiar stories of time travelling.  The BBC was also again
concerned about the level of violence that had been present
during Colin Baker's first season.  When it returned, the
eighteen-month gap had affected fans in a way the presence of the
series had never done:

          In September 1986, the twenty-third 
          series of _Doctor Who_ premiered on BBC1 
          - as had always been promised - but by 
          this point, the damage was done.  
          Although most were well meaning, an 
          aggressive subset of _Doctor Who_ fans 
          had managed to label their entire ilk as 
          an at best ungrateful, at worst borderline 
          psychotic group.[39]

     For the relationship between John Nathan-Turner and fandom,
the eighteen months without _Doctor Who_ was a disaster.  Fans
began to demonise Nathan-Turner and denounce him as the destroyer
of the series.  The extent of this criticism was such that in
1988, the story "Greatest Show in the Galaxy" contained a
character called the Whizzkid, possibly an attempt by the
production team to satirise the fans who were criticising them:

          Commenting on the character later, script 
          editor Andrew Cartmel would say, "We did 
          the rather cruel thing of destroying a 
          young fan.  There was a lot of laughter 
          on the set when we finally executed that 
          one, I can tell you!  Well justified![40]

This character may just have been a joke played at the fans
expense, but it represents the all too real undercurrents of
tension that existed between fandom and the people who made
_Doctor Who_.  It was while all this was going on, however, the
BBC finally decided to axe the series.  Fans argued with the
production team while the production team defended themselves
against the fans, and when the series was cancelled, both parties
were surprised and shocked.  The tactics employed by the BEG in
this removal are interesting and worth noting.  The corporation
moved _Doctor Who_ out of its traditional Saturday evening slot
to Wednesday, importantly opposite ITV's flagship programme
_Coronation Street_.  This act was an unusual one, _Doctor Who_
with the ratings it was getting in the mid-1980's on Saturday
night would definitely not survive either the move or the
competition.  It may be that the BBC needed an excuse to remove
the programme, or it may be that they simply wanted to tuck it
away where it would gradually fade away.  It is undeniable,
however, that the fan protests in 1985 and 1989 did nothing to
change the BBC's mind regarding the series, and it is unlikely
that _Doctor Who_ lost its audience owing to its content. 
Instead, _Doctor Who_ became simply too old for a BBC desperate
to be seen as progressive.  It may be significant that towards
its death, the series became more and more introspective and
nostalgic, just the factors that the BBC were trying to avoid. 
This answer to this question concerning the alienation of normal
viewer's may be found in another series.  In September 1993, a
new series created by Chris Carter was broadcast in America,
called _The X-Files_.  In the synopsis to their book _Deny All
Knowledge: Reading the X-Files_, David Lavery, Angela Hague and
Marla Cartwright stated that:

          Initially a cult show in the tradition 
          of _Star Trek_ and _Twin Peaks_, _The 
          X-Files_ has become a mainstream hit.[41]

_The X-Files_ displayed several fan traits just as _Doctor Who_
did during its final few years.  Carter's series is built around
events occurring in previous episodes, forming narrative arcs
that span the series.  The hypothesis that this reliance on
continuity should alienate the average viewer breaks down with
this example. _The X-Files_ is a very popular series and indeed
has found not just a solid fan base, but also a regular
mainstream audience.
     The question remains, why _The X-Files_ has become so
popular, while _Doctor Who_ lost its audience.  The answer may
simply be that _Doctor Who_, while being retrospective, refers
back to stories that were shown twenty years before, whereas when
_The X-Files_ looks back to build upon what has gone before, it
is often only a week.  In this sense, _The X-Files_ is more like
a soap opera, presenting the on-going struggles of a collection
of characters, and demanding a regular, possibly an obsessive
     The arrival of the Internet, might also be a factor.
Cyber-space allows fans to communicate much more easily and
widely than ever before, so a series such as _The X-Files_ may be
argued and debated over by anyone, not just those who buy a
certain magazine or who attend conventions.  Newsgroups on the
Internet are used as focal points for specific areas of fandom,
but are also used by non-fans, interested in the subject.  Fandom
in essence has become mainstream.  This in turn suggests that the
average audience mentioned throughout this study, is moving
closer to what may be called fandom.  The problem with this idea
is that to be a fan, it is necessary not just to watch but to
interact creatively and critically with the series.
     When discussing the role of the fan in the ultimate failure
of _Doctor Who_, it must be said therefore that while their
influence on the production team may have been evident, their
influence on the BBC was not.  It should be noted, however, that
while the BBC television series ended on December 6th 1989, the
concept has survived in books, fan-produced videos, radio-series
and comic strips.  Therefore, when _Doctor Who_ was taken off the
air, it did not die, but simply changed form.

          INT. THE TARDIS

          The Doctor feels the controls. He pulls 
          levers, turns dials, punches in numbers 
          and then hopes for the best. He smiles.
          That sounds better.. .Now, where shall 
          we go?
          As if in reply, the time-rotor lights glow 
          brighter and brighter and we're off!  We 
          close in on the Doctor's face, alive again, 
          and wait with baited breath... The famous 
          music fills the air and the Doctor's next 
          adventure is about to begin.
          FADE OUT [42]

(c) Copyright Matthew Barber, 2001.


1) Anthony Coburn, _Doctor Who-The Scripts: The Tribe of Gum_,
John McElroy (ed.), (London: Titan Books, 1988), 27.

2) _The Sunday Times_, 27th December 1998.

3) Jon Wiener, _Come Together: John Lennon in His Time_, (New
York: Random House, 1984), 308.

4) Andrew Smith, "When Fan Means Fanatical", _The Sunday Times_,
30th January 1999.

5) John Fiske, "The Cultural Economy of Fandom," _The Adoring
Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media_, Lisa A. Lewis (ed.),
(London: Routledge, 1992), 30.

6) Sarah Kuhn, _Q&A: Henry Jenkins_,  (Internet: Three Word
Slogan Productions, 1997).

7) Jan Vincent Rudzki, "Television Review of The Deadly
Assassin", _License Denied_, Paul Cornell (ed ), (London: Virgin
Books, 1997), 6.

8) Lance Parkin, _A History of the Universe_, (London: Doctor Who
Books, 1996), 1.

9) Ibid, 75.

10) Ibid, 263.

11) David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker, _Doctor Who: The
Television Companion_, (London: BBC Worldwide Ltd, 1998), 431.

12) Jan Vincent Rudzki, "Televsion Review of The Deadly
Assassin", _License Denied_, 3.

13) Ibid, 5.

14) Howe and Walker, _Doctor Who: The Television Companion_, 314.

15) Gary Gillatt (ed.), _Doctor Who Magazine_, Issue #265 (1998),
(Turnbridge Wells (UK): Marvel Comics, 1998), 5.

16) Henry Jenkins, _Textual Poachers_, (London: Routledge, 1992),

17) Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, _The
Discontinuity Guide_, (London: Doctor Who Books, 1995), 276.

18) Paul A. Bov, "Discourse," _Critical Terms for Literary
Study_, Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (eds.), (Chicago:
Chicago University Press, 1987), 57.

19) Gary Gillatt (ed.), _Doctor Who Magazine_, Issue #251
(1997),(Turnbridge Wells (UK): Marvel Comics, 1997), 30.

20) Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, _The
Discontinuity Guide_, 236.

21) Howe and Walker, _Doctor Who: The Television Companion_, 364.

22) John Nathan-Turner, "The JNT Memoirs", _Doctor Who Magazine_,
Issue #233 (1995), (Turnbridge Wells (UK): Marvel Comics, 1995),

23) Gary Gillatt, _Doctor Who: From A to Z_, (London: BBC
Worldwide, 1998), 107.

24) Ibid, 115.

25) David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker, _Doctor Who: The
Television Companion_, 419.

26) John Nathan-Turner, "The JNT Memoirs," _Doctor Who Magazine_,
Issue #236, 34.

27) Andrew Pixley, "Mawdryn Undead," _Doctor Who Magazine_, Issue
#234 (1996), (Turnbridge Wells (UK): Marvel Comics, 1996), 26.

28) David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker, _Doctor Who-The
Handbook: The Fifth Doctor_, (London: Doctor Who Books, 1995),

29) Peter Anghelides, _TARDIS_, Vol.5 No.6, cited in David J.
Howe and Stephen James Walker, _Doctor Who: The Television
Companion_, (London: BEG Worldwide Ltd, 1998), 388.

30) Henry Jenkins, _Textual Poachers_, 162-177.

31) Cornell, Day and Topping, _The Discontinuity Guide_, 256.

32) Howe and Walker, _Doctor Who: The Television Companion_, 515.

33) Ibid, 471.

34) David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker,
_Doctor Who-The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor_, (London: Doctor Who
Books, 1993), 83.

35) John Nathan-Turner, 'The JNT Memoirs', _Doctor Who Magazine_,
Issue #239 (1996), (Turnbridge Wells (UK): Marvel Comics, 1996),

36) John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado, _Doctor Who: The Unfolding
Text_, (London: Routledge, 1983), 65.

37) Interview with Ian Levine, November 1981, cited in John
Tulloch and Henry Jenkins, _Science Fiction Audiences_, (London:
Routledge, 1995), 149-50.

38) Paul Cornell (ed.), _Licence Denied_, (London: Virgin Books,
1997), 9.

39) Gary Gillatt, _Doctor Who: From A to Z_, 147.

40) Ibid, 155.

41) David Lavery, Angela Hague and Marla Gartwright (ed.), _Deny
All Knowledge: Reading the X-Files_, (Syracuse: Syracuse
University Press, 1996), (synopsis).

42) Matthew Jacobs, _Doctor Who: The Script of the Film_,
(London: BBC Books, 1996), 126.

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