Through the Backwards Telescope – Doctor Who Fandom in the 80s.

tomBaker

Tom Baker – always the one and only

The gathering was in a  suburban house in the New South Wales town of Penrith (now referred to as a ‘Sydney Suburb’). People from all walks of life, and all ages, met once a month to discuss their favourite show, share their thoughts and have a bring-a-plate barbecue. The club convener produced a `fanzine’ filled with stories the fans made up about their favorite characters, not just Doctor Who, but Star Trek, Blake’s 7 and many more.

I had never seen anything like this before. The fanzines were produced on cranky old Roneo copiers, with the submissions painstakingly typed on carbon sheets before being cranked through the copier, producing as many sheets as you needed for a run of say, fifty copies. I was enchanted. It took me back to my own childhood attempts at producing my own magazines and newspapers. I hadn’t realized that it was actually possible, that this Roneo thing could make it happen.

I soon started writing the odd Dr Who story for this fanzine, and before long my range had expanded to Star Trek and Blake’s Seven. Our circle of friends widened to include people from all these fandoms, and I reveled in the feedback from the readers. Be assured, fandom is no shy violet when it comes to offering criticism. I learned to take the hits on the chin, and treasure the kind comments.

It was the era of Peter Davidson, the Fifth Doctor, but Tom Baker was still THE Doctor and would remain so for many years. My kids loved both and my son made quite an impression at the school fancy dress parade in his Davidson outfit, complete with fresh celery – at least he did among those who were Doctor Who fans. Companions came and went – for me, there was only Leela. All the others seemed sort of colourless, although I did quite like Tegan. She was Australian, after all (although at that time, no one in Australia had ever heard of that name – a few years later there were thousands of them!)

Any kind of memorabilia was in high demand – I remember one poor soul desperately trying to protect his precious original script from an avid fan who practically offered his house, and his car thrown in, to pay for it. Mostly we made our own stuff. After finding out that I had made my son’s costume, I was inundated with offers, including pleas to sell the costume.

Unfortunately, as the result of too much moving about in the intervening decades, I don’t have any copies of the stories I wrote back then, but one of my favourites of mine was a meeting between Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Servalan (from Blake’s 7) who turned out to be related across time (because I fancied I saw a resemblance).

It didn’t take me long to get a cranky old Roneo of my own, and I managed to produce one edition before it gave up the ghost. But that didn’t matter. The computer was becoming an ever more useful tool as the 80s wore on. I discovered graphics programs like Newsroom that would have made my mouth water back when I was first creating my own periodicals. Soon I was laying out a fanzine on our brand new Commodore 64. It was called Lodestar, I think it had a run of two issues, and the first was practically unreadable because I was playing with fancy fonts.

Today, computers can do things that machines like the Vic 20 and the C64 could only hint at, but what I could do back then seemed magical enough. After I had designed and laid out my fanzine, I pressed the print button and watched it come to life.

Time moved on and so did I – and so did fandom. It went online and fanzines became ezines. I haven’t written a fan story in years, but a while back I discovered an old floppie disk with some of my unfinished stories on it. These days I prefer to save my writing for blogs and ebooks. But you know what – it was the best fun ever.

 

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