Five Hundred Eyes

Nostalgia - is it the essence of Doctor Who?

One of the questions that fans are most frequently asked by "outsiders" (eg. the press) is that old chestnut "Why are you a fan?" Often this is impossible to answer, but if there is a single reason, it is surely nostalgia. I firmly believe that the main reason 99% of fans are fans is because, at some time during their childhood they watched Doctor Who and were captivated by it. Of course, there are "adult" moments, "adult" scripts and certainly stories not for "children", but it is through the medium (if it can be described as such) of childhood that we discover Doctor Who, starting down a path that often leads, ultimately, to becoming a fan.

It was H.G. Wells, in 'The Time Machine', who put forward the theory that when we delve into our memories we are experiencing (in its basest form) a kind of time-travel, and when you think about it, that's what it is. Therefore, in remembering "the good old days", we are not simply remembering a particular Doctor Who story, but a whole era of our lives, now gone forever.

This might explain in part why nostalgia is so prevalent, and nowhere more so than in today's fandom. This is partly due to the deep divide in fandom, and also the continuity-orientated Doctor Who of today, but the result is the same - nostalgia is one of the most, if not the most, important factors in today's fandom.

But fandom is a strange organisation; since it exists purely as an organised entity to enjoy and celebrate Doctor Who, nostalgia is bound to play a big role - as indeed it does. It is obvious that recently nostalgia has become much more prominent in fandom, and that fans generally (apart from the "JNT-ites") have become much more retrospective. If we had a decent future to look forward to, it wouldn't be so bad, but I feel that a totally introverted fandom will do nothing but harm. This is a kind of safety mechanism really - we don't like the current Doctor Who so, to preserve our love for the series, and to prove to ourselves that it really was good once and we aren't just remembering through rose-coloured spectacles, we fall back on past Doctor Who, our memories of it, clarifying them, where possible, through tapes of the particular stories. The level to which nostalgia has saturated us is apparent in the fan press, in the growing number of "non-critical nostalgia" zines/audiozines, and in the amount of reviews and slagging off of JN-T and co. in the other zines.

Please don't get me wrong here, I'm not defending JN-T or criticising "nostalgia" or nostalgia-orientated products/fans. All I'm saying is it would be great if we could also have an optimistic outlook (if there was anything to be optimistic about, that it).

However, I think that nostalgia is a terrific pleasure, and in all fandom there is nothing better than just sitting down to watch a story you saw as a child. That reliving of the story, indeed reliving of the past, is a wonderful experience, and fandom's purest joy.

And in this nostalgia flooded fandom, it would be nice to think that we might have something to look forward to, and also that the fans of tomorrow might also look back with the same fervour and affection that we do - not only on Doctor Who but also, in part, on the magical era of childhood.

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