Confession #113: I Like In-Doctor-nating Newbs

When I started writing this blog several years ago, I still considered myself a new fan. The original concept of the blog was to talk about the show—particularly the Classic/pre-Hiatus era—from the perspective of someone who'd only "discovered" it ~2.5 years before. It was also less common at that time to see women blogging about Who, so it seemed like a nice little niche I could carve out for myself in fandom writing.

Somewhere along the way, I seem to have morphed into something more akin to Old Guard. I'll certainly never have the same kind of cred as fans who grew up with the show in the UK, or even those here in the US who had to scramble for access via many-times-copied VHS tapes. (Along those lines, I'm really looking forward to the release of Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America by Steven Warren Hill et al., due out in less than two weeks.) However, I've noticed that as the show evolves and gains new young viewers, I have more in common with those long-term fans than the new.

I think that commonality has much to do with the fact that I am of an age with the fans who grew up with the show. As such, I relate to television in much the same way. Having been raised on 70's and 80's television, I don't find those periods of Doctor Who as foreign or off-putting as many fans of younger generations do. Nor does 60's Who seem as far out of my norm.

These are things I have to keep in mind when I want to introduce new people to our show. Depending on the kind of television the individual in question is used to, I might have to make different selections or give a different set of preparatory comments.

The general openness of a subject to the entire experiment is also important. For example, there is a big difference between a thirty-something fan who's seen all of modern/post-Hiatus Who and is interested in exploring more of the older Doctors; a twenty-something who came in with Smith's Eleven and doesn't really connect to Capaldi's older, crankier Twelve—and is pretty dubious about that whole black-and-white nonsense; and a pre-teen who mostly only knows about the show because their parent(s) watch. That necessary customization is part of the fun for me.

That last case describes my current project, as I recently convinced my preteen daughters to watch with me. They had seen a few snippets in passing over the years, and one of them watched an entire Fourth Doctor (single) episode with me some five years ago. At that stage, both of them declared it all "too scary." Thus, they weren't too keen on the idea when I suggested they might like this most recent series.

However, I really thought they'd dig Bill and her dynamic with Twelve, so I made them a deal: watch one episode with me, and if you don't like it, we don't have to watch any more. They agreed, and lo! and behold! they liked it. I got them caught up on the episodes that had already aired, and the next time a new episode came out, we all watched it for the first time together.

For various reasons, that ended up being the only time we did that—and at the end of the series I made them wait an extra week because I didn't want them to have to experience World Enough and Time without having a denouement on tap. I think it was the right choice; we were able to enjoy the finale despite high tension.

That decision is actually a prime example of knowing your audience when you try to share your enthusiasm for Our Show with a newb. While we were waiting it out, though, they were still interested in watching more. Given that the girls had seen some Sarah Jane Adventures previously, I mentioned that we could watch some of her adventures with the Doctor. The idea intrigued my girls, and my suggestion of watching the story in which she first met the Doctor was met with enthusiasm.

To my delight, The Time Warrior was as big a hit with them as it had been with me. They didn't quite know what to make of this different Doctor, but adjusted quickly enough. So then I suggested we could follow Three and Sarah Jane to meet another character they'd seen in passing in Series Ten: Alpha Centauri.

Some readers might find it hard to believe, but my daughters were just as riveted by The Monster of Peladon as by anything else we'd watched together. I started putting together a list of a few representative Sarah Jane stories to show them in the coming weeks and months as we waited for more new episodes: The Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, The Hand of Fear...

Then Series Ten ended, and there were more questions. Who was that Doctor at the end? Who is this Master person (hoo boy...)? What about those Cyber-whaddaycallums? In my enthusiasm to feed the fire of their burgeoning fandom, I may have overstepped.

Remember how I said you need to know your audience? I didn't do the best job with my next move; I showed them An Unearthly Child (though, in my defense, only the first episode). I wanted them to get to know the First Doctor after The Doctor Falls, and the first-ever episode is just so full of *history*. I couldn't help myself.

Mostly, they found the First Doctor off-putting (which, to be honest, is not an uncommon reaction) and the poor picture quality vexing. I assured them that he mellowed over time, but I was afraid I'd lost them. My collection of titles to screen had expanded again: The AztecsTomb of the Cybermen, The Mind RobberTerror of the Autons. Would I ever get to show these to the girls?

I decided it was time to go a different direction for a while. Enter the Ninth Doctor and Rose.

Just like with Twelve and Bill in The Pilot (or Eleven and Amy in The Eleventh Hour), Rose provides a great jumping-on point for new viewers. There is so much self-reference in the modern era—even just to episodes from Rose onwards—I felt like the girls would enjoy having all that background. Further, as Nine was my first Doctor, I have a special fondness for him (and the fact that I imprinted on a somewhat gruff and grouchy Doctor may explain in part why I'm so fond of Twelve).

We are taking it in spurts, and have made it just over halfway through Series One. As the summer winds down and school starts up, we'll see how often we get to watch together, and how long it takes to finish the series. I think it's a safe bet that we'll get there eventually, even if they don't want to binge the way I did at the beginning—after all, my introduction was pretty extreme.

This certainly isn't the first time I've "in-Doctor-nated" someone to the show, and I doubt it will be the last. There is, however, a uniquely special feeling in sparking a shared love for something in a close family member, and I am basking in it.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about the experience is seeing how they respond to things differently (or sometimes incredibly similarly) to the way I did. I'm simultaneously eager and nervous to find out what they think of all the Doctors they have yet to meet. Which will they love, hate, or be indifferent towards? The future brims with possibility.

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