A question I am conspicuously never asked is "Have you always been a Doctor Who fan"
There may be an apparent explanation for this oversight on behalf of the rest of the worlds population: that it is inherently a ridiculous question to ask. If you have always been a Doctor Who fan then logically you would have burst out of your mother's womb handily wrapped in a 12ft scarf and saying something like "Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment to soon!" before whipping out a recorder and doing an infantish jig around the ward. And there have been few reported occurences of this.
BUT I propose another explanation: that this is exactly what people assume - that I have always been a Doctor Who fan. We all like simplicity and the ideas of acquiring tastes and changing over time are really quite complicated to fathom. People assume that DW people are round-pegs in the square hole-filled wooden box of the world - this is shown, as my friend Ewen pointed out, in a tribute music video to DW made by comedian Andrew Hansen. Andrew himself is a DW fan - but to perform the clip he put on the character of the President of the Woollongong DW Fan Club who spoke in a funny nasal voice, had an arse that would take up two disabled spots, and wore a really crap fake beard. This piece of illusion seems a bit odd and excessive when you stop to think about it, as when Andrew shows off (in character) his knowledge of the show's script editors and his signed photograph of John Leeson ('the bloke who played K9') it becomes increasingly obvious that he, the man hiding underneath the piss-poor prosthetics, is exactly the uber-fan he's singing about. And he's a normal guy!
And, living in Australia, it's really surprising how many closet Who fans there are around. Just the other day at the gym I was waiting to be picked up having finished an incredibly manly session of lifting 500kg weights with my lower jaw while whistling in what I feel the need to point out was an excessively manly man way, so I sat down and started reading my copy of Doctor Who and the Menagerie. In a manly way. Shortly afterwards the tall and dark resident gym psiren emerged, having to make a call to one of her clients, and asked me what I was reading. Naturally my response was "Oh, just a Doctor Who book. Nothing intellectual." Surprisingly, her response was "Oh, does it have Nyssa in it?"
That response tells you she's a fan. Anyone cribbing notes off to pretend they're a fan (as I frequently do to irritate Trek fans online - it's all harmless fun) would have asked about "Sarah-Jane" or "Jo Grant" or maybe "Leela". But "Nyssa"? To the casual viewer Nyssa is nearly invisible, most often seen in the background of shots as Adric, The Doctor and Tegan have one hell of a bitch fight by the TARDIS console. I was quite impressed.
Her next response was even more illuminating - after I informed her that it didn't, she said "Nyssa was the princess in Doctor Who." I didn't have the presence of mind at the time to tell her that Nyssa technically wasn't actually a princess, she just dressed like one and thus earn some more pips to my title of Unbelievable Pedant of the Land as I couldn't quite work out why she said it. And then (eventually) it struck me: she thought I was the low-down cribber, picking up some second-hand books to appear part of the in-crowd now DW is back in town. Or something. But for whatever reason she thought I was ignorant of Peter Davison's companions. And what does that mean? She looked at me and didn't think I was a fan either.
Now that I have established that DW fans and homo sapiens are one and the same, allow me to address the aforementioned question that I have never, ever been asked.
My first experience of DW is one I can barely remember - the goddawful 1996 TVM starring PMG. (God, we love acronyms don't we in fandom? Well, most of us...) I say 'goddawful' because apparently it's an irrevocable fact that it was. But for my part - I loved it. And why wouldn't I? I would have been 9 at the time. Really, at that age what's cooler than a guy being mowed down by evil Asian street thugs, dying, coming back to life as a wild haired pom, a snake jumping down another guy's throat and making him evil, and aforementioned wild haired pom stealing a motorcycle and going joy-riding? My interest waned when he decided that he needed to steal a microchip from Young Scientist Dude's Atomic Clock to stop Bad Things Happening, but I remember how it all ended: me grinning like a loon saying "That was great" and the stony-faced reaction of my parents.
"That wasn't Doctor Who." they said. And they were right, really. It was quite fun a piece of sci-fi for young kids but, really, it didn't do much did it? I was always later puzzled at it being referred to as "The movie" when they was barely any plot. I mean, "Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie" has far more happening in it, and runs for the same amount of time. And that is, you know, a comedy.
So my first real DW experience was 2003. Only four years ago. When the ABC decided to show the whole bally lot of em. This is a fact I bring up as rarely as possible, though, as it truly strips away your cred in online arguments. The bloke who's been trying to peek up Jo Grant's skirt since he was 5 years old will always have more authority than you in UNIT dating arguments. And downloading episodes over bitTorrent doesn't compete with blokes who own all the VHS AND the DVDs, does it? Bloomin' hopeless.
No doubt you're thinking "But wait, Jared, you're an obsessive geek! How did you survive without DW to bang on about? Did you not speak at all for the first 15 years of your life?"
That's a rather rash conclusion to jump to and I think you really ought to be more sensible.
Well, I find it hard to remember now. I was fairly obsessed with LucasArts adventure games in my formative years - which is a far lonelier obsession to have than Doctor Who, I can tell you that right now. But the big one was... and there's really no nice way to say this... Lord of the Rings.
Please, put away the pitchfork. I know Lord of the Rings fans have become the bane of the internet. I know Kevin Smith smacked us down in his latest film whilst making Star Wars fans look [marginally] cooler. I know the success of the films have, irritatingly, pigeon-holed a brilliant piece of wartime literature with Pirates of the Caribbean. I feel the need to justify myself by saying that I respected the books as pieces of great writing and the [first two] films as serious, engaging pieces of drama that may have been poorly written in places but were always brilliantly acted.
So, was I reverent of the book and films? Was I deathly serious in approach to them, rather than my flippant attitude towards my current nerdish obsessions?
Of course I bloody well wasn't! Whenever I see something I like, I feel the need to roughly take the piss. For an example, here is something I found lurking on my hardrive, a piece of a round-robin parody that I never posted for some reason - that won't make too much sense unless you've seen the Extended Edition of Two Towers. And now, thanks to being taken out of context, has a punch line that makes absolutely no sense. Make of it what you will.
(Gimli sits on a dead Uruk, smoking. Legolas strides up, polishing his bow.)
Legolas - The final count….is 342.
Gimli - 342? Well, that’s not bad for a pointy-eared, prissy, glam girly, media-whore elf princeling.
Legolas - So what was your score?
Gimli - Hey, I haven’t finished yet. Lessee, where was I? Oh yes, an elf princeling so anal-retentive that he was over-qualified for Queer Eye, who is so wooden -
(Legolas nocks an arrow into his bow and aims at Gimli’s head)
Gimli - Whoah, calm down! Geeze, ya canna’ even take a wee bit o’ constructive criticism!
Legolas - I’ll ask again, what was your score?
Gimli - Wellll, I am sitting pretty on three-hundred-and-forty-three.
(Legolas narrows his eyes and looses the arrow. It hits the dead Uruk after going right between Gimli’s legs)
Gimli - Are you just a sore loser or is there a more complex reasoning for your trying to shoot me balls off?
Legolas - Yes. See, I shot at that Uruk’Hai you’re sitting on. That makes us even.
Gimli - Hmmmm, good idea. BUT, newsflash, this orc’s dead.
Legolas - No. He was twitching.
Gimli - If he’s twitching it’s because there’s a suss-looking elf standing nearby his corpse with a certain glint in his eye…
(Legolas draws his knives.)
Legolas - Right, that’s it! Back in the box!
Gimli - You’ll have to catch me first, nancy boy!
(Gimli runs off. Legolas chases after him)
Personally I think my writing has come a long way...