A few months ago Stew and me appeared in an on-line Dr Who adventure called Real Time. We have always had a slight sci-fi cross-over in our fan base and a couple of our fans were involved and got us to take part. I had my head crushed by a cyberman, but it was only an audio thing, so I had to imagine it, which was a shame.
The CD of the adventure is now commercially available and we were asked to go to a shop in Barking to sign copies of it. I wish I had more time to write about this experience as it was very eventful and I am still trying to work out how the whole thing made me feel. Should I be proud or embarrassed or somewhere in between?
There were a couple of CDs being signed by various actors, one of whom was ex-Goodie, Graeme Garden. Had you told the 14 year old me that I would one day meet one of the Goodies, I would have been extremely excited. To be honest there was a big part of the 35 year old me that still was. The other actors were less famous, though one of them was the woman who John Cleese has sex with in front of a class of pupils in Meaning of Life.
I noted the coincidence that Dr Who, the Goodies and Lee and Herring are all things that the BBC no longer wants anything to do with. But then maybe that isn't a coincidence, thinking about it.
Typically the CDs of the episode we'd been in hadn't shown up, so whilst everyone else had official stuff to sign, we were going to have to sit at the end of the table and twiddle our thumbs, looking like blokes who were trying to pretend they had something to do with Dr Who. The potential for embarrassment was increasing. As it was we just signed photos of ourselves and occasional bits of artwork. Funnily enough, now that we have appeared in a Dr Who related thing, all the stalwart fans get us to sign the books and posters that have been signed by everyone who has ever been in Dr Who.
People were queuing outside the shop when we arrived, an hour before the signing. I hadn't really expected many people to show up, but Dr Who is clearly a flourishing industry.
And as for the people who showed up.... Well let's just say that the stereotype of Dr Who fans is probably the only stereotype in the world which is inaccurate, because it doesn't go far enough.
There may have been some nerds in attendance.
I have nothing against nerds, although I wouldn't let my daughter marry one. Though luckily for me and my non-existent daughter, marriage isn't something nerds have to worry too much about. In a recent Dr Who magazine I was quoted as saying something along the lines that I thought Dr Who conventions were a good thing because it got Dr Who fans off the street and away from the rest of us, plus you could just pipe in poison gas and wipe the whole lot of them off the face of the earth.. This was a kind of a joke.
Seriously, there is a part of me that envies the Dr Who fans. They are not plagued by the self-consciousness that affects most of us. They are not worried about looking cool (that's for sure) or impressing anyone with their interesting opinions. They have found something that they like and they embrace it and it makes them happy. They have found somewhere that they belong, where they will always belong and it's not reliant on a fad or a trend. They don't have to worry about the thing they like going out of fashion. Because it was never in fashion. Enthusiasm is something that is frowned upon in the "cool" world. That is a shame. Enthusiasm is a great thing.
On the flip side the things they like (whether it's sci-fi, dungeons and dragons or lord of the rings) are not actually real. The place they belong does not actually exist. IS it a refuge from reality? Isn't any hobby or interest that anyway?
Some of the people made me laugh (sometimes affectionately, sometimes at their expense, usually a bit of both) some made me feel sick, some brought tears to my eyes. As we signed photos of ourselves (as ourselves, not in character from the show), that these people had only bought because we belonged to the Dr Who canon and they were anally retentive enough to collect them all, I wondered if they were being exploited for their hobby.
I didn't come out with any firm conclusions. I felt confused. Part of me feeling I'd provided a service, part of me worrying that these people were being voluntarily ripped off. But then the people who run the shop were just as enthusiastic and charming as the fans. They certainly weren't riding around in gold plated Tardises. The un self-conscious part of me really enjoyed it. Maybe just the part that wants to be cool, got embarrassed and fretful.
At the end Stew got Graeme Garden's autograph and we autographed something for his son.
I guess there's a bit of nerd in all of us.
And I can't think of a nerd who ever harmed anyone.
Well maybe the Unabomber.