Book #22

Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea

I’ll begin with my version of what this book contains:

I’m a second generation female science fiction fan. That means Mom was the fan; Dad patiently endured taking my mother to Star Trek movies for their anniversary dates. (In much the same way, Eric humors my love of X-Men movies…) From my perspective, science fiction fandom was of course the prevue of women. Still, there was a gap between my mom’s sci-fi and mine. She preferred Star Trek. I preferred Star War (and Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica). I like the daring-do and Princess Leia (and Colonel Deering). Yes, fine, Spock was dreamy and all in his alien aloofness, but Leia rescued Luke, Han, and Chewie as they were trying to, er, rescue her. It was with Doctor Who that we finally found sci-fi common ground.

Doctor Who was shown on our local PBS channel in the late 80s at 6:30 in the evening.  It was followed by Star Hustler, a five minute astronomy show.  Mom and I watched while making or eating dinner. The show had the character interations that my mom treasured and the action that I enjoyed. Plus, great girl characters! Sure, sometimes they were just there to ask questions, but it was better than opening hailing frequencies all day. The episodes were shown maybe roughly in order from the Tom Baker years on, but it’s Peter Davison that is “my” Doctor. He was tall, a bit handsome in a befuddled way, and a little more down to earth than some other Doctor incarnations, but still with a dash of goofy. And it was during this Doctor’s tenure that I learned a very important lesson of story-telling: characters die. Sometimes they die after you’ve come to love them (instead of in the first episode to build pathos). They don’t have a twin, and it wasn’t part of a dream (common “soap” tropes). If they’re not the Doctor, they don’t regenerate.

When PBS stopped running the show, I lost touch with it. Nebraska, pre-internet, was fairly cut off from the fandom. (I knew nothing of the novels and audio dramas until after the 2005 relaunch. Heck, I didn’t even know about the 2005 series until about halfway through the season!) My mom and I moved on to Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Whatever our PBS station, and later the satellite dish, could give us. When the TV movie came out, I was in college, living in a house in Lincoln with housemates that were not Who fans. Luckily, I still owned one of the bigger television sets in my circle of friends, and Mary (a fan of all SF) insisted we make an event of it. Of course none of of friends “got it” and that was okay.

Two things stuck me about the essays in Chicks Dig Time Lords. First, the fandom is a fandom within fandom. Most of my friends in college liked Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Files, but Doctor Who? Not as much. In the meantime, it was the overlapping interest for my mom and me. Second, Doctor Who is one of the longest running fandoms. Longer than Star Wars, longer than Star Trek. Thus, like the legacy of sports teams, it can encompass the entire lifetime of its fans. I became friends with my mom in late grade school and high school as we watched the show together. When I watched the movie, we had become a bit estranged. I’m not sure I’ve even talked to my mom about Paul McGann’s Doctor.  In 2006, I remember mentioning that I’d found new Doctor Who to my mom over the phone. The Sci-Fi channel hadn’t picked it up yet, but it was there (if an American knew where to look). “What? New Doctor Who?” my mom asked. “Yep,” I said, “and it’s good. I’ll hook you up.” I can’t say that Doctor Who has mended my relationship with my mom, but it’s given us common ground again.

Chicks Dig Time Lords is a collection of personal histories of Who fandom by female fans, as well as a few interviews with women involved with the show (and books and audio adventures) and a few pieces of feminist academia concerning Who. I had assumed there would be more of the latter, but I appreciate the histories. Especially since I have one of my own. Not a book for non-fans. Not a book for casual fans. Honestly, I still haven’t gotten around to the novels and audios, so some of that is lost on me. It was a quick read and a nice way to finish off my year of “reading women.”

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