Early in 1980, a group of individuals in Peterborough and Detroit got together to share their interest in an odd little program imported from the United Kingdom. Doctor Who had been shown on TVOntario for about two years, and had made a sporadic debut in the United States. On June 1st of that year, the Doctor Who Information Network was born.
Twenty-five years later, a lone member of the DWIN Executive looked up and said, “hey, wait a minute… it’s our silver anniversary! How’d we miss that?”
Well, to be fair, it has been quite a year for Doctor Who fans. I’d forgive them for not looking up from their television screens if I myself wasn’t glued to the CBC every Tuesday night.
In the intervening years, this club has risen, fallen and risen with the fortunes of the television program it celebrates. And it has meant a lot to me personally.
I joined DWIN in 1984. I was twelve years old and had a crush on actress Janet Fielding who played the companion Tegan Jovanka. I watched Doctor Who religiously on TVOntario and WNED Buffalo PBS, but I had no idea that there were clubs where like-minded fans could interact. I had no idea that it was possible to receive information about the television program before the episodes aired here. I had no idea there were such things as conventions. I had entered a whole new world, and I did not look back.
I am still a member of DWIN, but I was particularly active as I went through high school. I tried my hand at fan fiction. I helped nurse DWIN’s first fan fiction magazine (Myth Makers) to fruition. As I entered university, I’d spread out into producing my own fan fiction magazines, producing DWIN’s fan fiction magazine and editing other fan writers. I joined the DWIN Executive.
And through it all, a lot of things happened that made me into what I am. A lot of things have made me what I am: my education, my loving and supportive parents most of all, but my contact through Doctor Who fandom in general and DWIN in particular helped foster my interest in writing and in magazine production, allowing me to share my craft with small audiences. I met important people in my life, like Dan Kukwa and Martin Proctor, both of whom were my groomsmen at my wedding. And, of course, there was Erin, who I met on the Internet in 1994, after uploading a Doctor Who short story I’d written onto alt.drwho.creative.
Doctor Who came to a close after its twenty-sixth season in 1989, but that didn’t matter. Doctor Who fans, like Star Trek fans before them, became adept at celebrating the program after it had gone, while waiting out its eventual return from cancellation. It was during this period that I did most of my fan fiction. Even so, membership waned, from a high of 800 during the program’s mid-eighties glory days, to a low of 200. Fans like myself were getting older, getting married, getting jobs, and couldn’t spare as much time on such “frivolous” things as fandom.
But as the current market shows, dead programs always come back if you wait long enough — particularly shows as imaginative and flexible as Doctor Who. Some old time fans, as they got older and got jobs, got jobs in the writing industry, in television, and at the BBC. Eventually Russell T. Davies made a name for himself, and then focused on bringing Doctor Who back. And myself and the hundreds of former DWIN members cheered. A part of our lives, a part of ourselves, was back and it was fresh and new. A virtual fountain of youth.
Science fiction and fantasy fans get a bum rap sometimes. “Normal” people can’t understand how we can give so much of our lives to a book series, a genre or a television show. But in my case, Doctor Who gave a lot back, through its fans and through a sturdy Canadian organization set up to celebrate a strange British show.