Sunday, July 31, 2011

Going slightly off topic for a few posts

Cover of Doctor Who and the Ice WarriorsGreetings from the nonexistent Prydonian Academy Library website. There's not much Trek stuff to report on these days, so please indulge me in a temporary detour.

Looking back ten years ago...

The summer of 2001 was a great time to become a Doctor Who fan. The show had been off the air for years, the McGann TV movie was already five years in the past, and it must have looked to some like a dead franchise. It was anything but. The BBC was publishing Eighth Doctor Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures every month, and you could still find a lot of the New Adventures and Missing Adventures novels in bookstores. The Chapters bookstore chain carried a lot of videotapes and DVDs in its stores and you could find plenty of Doctor Who episodes for sale. Big Finish was producing new monthly audio adventures with TV cast members. Telos was just a few months from starting its line of novellas. Doctor Who Magazine was publishing a new issue every four weeks.

On the fan side, the Internet offered plenty of information and interaction. The newsgroup was still alive, Outpost Gallifrey was already going strong, and Daniel O'Malley's Timelash Tardis Library website offered all the information someone trying to get a sense of books, videos, and audios could need.

And you could find so much stuff in bookstores. Virgin and BBC books in the chainstores, Targets in the used bookstores, VHS tapes in video stores. You could find any number of things before you'd need to go to Amazon, eBay, or specialized retailers like WhoNA.

There was no sign of any new TV Doctor Who on the horizon. But did it matter? With 26 years of TV to explore, dozens of original novels, comic strips, audios, and more, Doctor Who was very much alive.

And so it was that in July of 2001 I finally took the plunge I'd contemplated for many years.

In the late 1970s, I first heard of Doctor Who in newspaper articles and, no doubt, Starlog magazine. I saw the occasional Target (and Pinnacle) novelizations and was curious but thought they looked too much like children's books. And I couldn't find the show on TV. I saw my first episode in the summer of 1980 in a hotel room in Thunder Bay, Ontario, while we were making our way across the country, having been transferred from Edmonton, Alberta to Summerside, PEI (about 5000 km of driving). All I remember is Tom Baker and lots of wandering around caves. I was only moderately intrigued.

A few months later I bought the first four Marvel Premiere comics to reprint UK Doctor Who comic strips, but they didn't hook me. I picked up a copy of Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors and, again, wasn't quite hooked. At university I went a little deeper, watching the occasional Tom Baker episode on PBS with confirmed Who fan Peter Jarvis. (We may have watched Full Circle; I know I remember him explaining E-Space.) I was tempted by the books again, but there were eighty of them by then. It seemed like too much to take on.

But I watched a few Pertwee episodes in the summer of '85, including The Daemons, and in '86 bought and read The Doctor Who Programme Guide Volume One. Starlog was running more articles on UK SF TV series, and now I was in a city where Doctor Who was on TV regularly. This was the perfect time to get hooked, right? I saw at least a couple of Davison episodes, possibly a Colin Baker episode, and still didn't get hooked.

In the early 1990s the New Adventures books started appearing on bookshelves, New, original novels that looked more adult than the Target books... but no. Then one of the contributors to a Star Trek mailing list I was on started getting her Doctor Who novels published, so I picked up a Kate Orman book, looked at it, and thought, I don't think I'll have a clue what's going on if I read just this one and didn't buy it. Another missed opportunity.

1996: the TV movie. I watched it, though I did some flicking between channels. I liked it reasonably well. Another opportunity missed.

So why July 2001? A few things, People posted about Lovecraftian elements in Doctor Who novels in alt.horror.cthulhu. I was doing a little research into the various Who book lines for a feature article on SF tie-in books on my website. There wasn't much good SF TV happening, with Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 over and X-Files way past its prime.

Anyway, on July 6, I bought one of the novels with Lovecraftian elements, The Taking of Planet 5. There was so much happening in that book -- it was not only part of an ongoing story arc, it was also a sequel to an episode I had never seen -- that I was lost. Utterly, But I was also fascinated. I bought a few Who books at a used bookstore a few days after buying ToP5. I asked Laura if she's watch a Doctor Who video with me -- she'd watched it occasionally many years earlier, and said sure. I bought The Stones of Blood on VHS.

In the next month I bought more than 60 Doctor Who-related books. Half a dozen or more videos. I started buying Doctor Who Magazine. There was no turning back.


At 2:55 PM, Blogger Kaiser the Great said...

Is there going to be a Complete Doctor Who Library in the works now? Because...awesome?

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Steve said...

No chance of that happening. There's too many books I don't have, and the Timelash Tardis Library is already doing an amazing job.


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