My experience with Doctor Who cannot be reduced to a key moment but rather, since I was about 8 years old, provided the foundation for my life. In Russell T Davies new Doctor Who series episode Turn Left (2008) we are shown the disastrous impact of what would have happened to the world had Donna Noble turned right instead of left and never met the Doctor. As a result of the time distortion, Donna has a beetle on her back. This is important here since if we were to ask what life would have been like for me (and Im sure for many others too) had Doctor Who never been made, if the world had turned right instead of left back in 1963, and if creator Sydney Newman and producer Verity Lambert had a beetle on their backs, then the picture may well have been a gloomy one. Thats a set of stories that remains to be written in full. But after addressing the ways in which Doctor Who has affected my timeline, including special moments, in the latter part of this piece I shall draw out some key features of what may have happened to me in this alternative universe.

        Just as I find it impossible to pin down my favourite Doctor Who story, I have so many varied moments associated with Doctor Who. There are those diegetic moments that I was enthralled by within the actual Doctor Who narratives as well as those moments in-between episodes of the programme - the anticipation of how each cliffhanger would be resolved, and news about the programme. But there are those moments surrounding the actual programme which are equally captivating. I was hurled into the world of Doctor Who fandom at the age of 10 by the Longleat 20 Years of a Time Lord event in 1983 and soon after joined the DWAS (the Doctor Who Appreciation Society). When I was 11, I produced what I now regard as a rather shoddy fanzine (Doctor Who Times which soon became S-FT - Sci-Fi Times). For this, I interviewed celebrities such as the wonderful Pat Troughton (at the Childrens Bookshop in Oxford), the divine Debbie Watling and the mouth on legs Janet Fielding, to name but a few. I was so young when I interviewed people like Pat that I did not realise the enormity of what I was doing. I was in no way star-struck. Children are like that, you know. I in no way stopped to pause and think about these as key moments, however looking back now I can see just how special they were. When we have people like Pat with us we do not appreciate just how blessed we are and the fact that one day they will be gone. Also, and this is something that I regret to this day, it did not occur to me to make - and keep - a tape-recording of the interview, or even just to have my photograph taken with Pat. Even when I did more detailed interviews on tape with people like Debbie Watling, Janet Fielding and Michael E. Briant at conventions it did not strike me to keep the recordings. This again ties in with the point that I didnt see these moments as key. I just sat in the bar chatting away with Debbie Watling at the Wiltshire Hotel in Swindon after the interview as though it were the everyday done thing. I am grateful that a photograph was taken at a London Comic Mart of myself as a youngster with John Nathan-Turner, showing interest in my work, or I would have no record of this. Indeed this photograph has been printed in Doctor Who Magazine. Nowadays I have my photos taken with celebrities (as can be seen on my website) but then I didnt. I think that I got away with interviewing a lot of these people - especially Pat - because I was so young. He must have found the whole situation rather funny, as illustrated by his humorously answering that the strangest experience he had in meeting a fan was in meeting me! But these moments were part of a larger engagement I had with the programme as a child.

        Doctor Who Times was a cheaply produced A4 zine, while S-FT was a more elegant A5 wraparound zine, printed at the Pronta Print photocopying shop on the Cowley Road in Oxford. For both zines, I produced headings with Lettraset which I purchased from WHSmiths. The first zine was produced on a typewriter while the second was typed on a Word Processor. I would then cut out text and paste it onto A4 paper which would then be reduced in size at the photocopying shop. Furthermore, I began by tracing photographs (very badly!) but later got other people in to do the art and indeed some of the articles too. My final S-FT - A Winter Wonderland was an A3 wraparound magazine with images taken from the television screen with a special camera. This camera took a shot of the entire television set so it was up to me to cut out the image with a craft-knife and ruler so that the edges would not appear jagged. All a very different affair from the images taken on computer for the 2004 Terry Nation book. I would also produce and pay for adverts to appear in the DWAS newsletter CT (Celestial Toyroom) and sold copies at conventions from a paid for fanzine table located in the Dealers Room. This all led to my later designing a magazine called Unlimited, consisting of episode guides, for GCSE Design.

        In my early years (between the ages of 9 and 12) I was excluded from school. They called this misbehaving though I was the one who had rocks thrown at him in the school playground at break time and was teased. Anyway, I was sent first to live in an Oxford hospital where watching stories such as Arc of Infinity, Snakedance and Mawdryn Undead (1983) in our dormitory was an evening ritual, and then to a small Special School where one of my teachers encouraged my producing Doctor Who Times and told me how to get in touch with Doctor Number Six, Colin Baker by post, while another teacher arranged for me to use the computer after school to type up articles for the zine. After my parents divorced, when I was 9, I eventually, at the age of 13, moved with my Mum and stepfather to Milton Keynes and visited my Dad at weekends in Oxford. I was pretty much ignored at secondary school, but for a few friends, and when I wasnt ignored I was bullied to the point that I would arrive home in tears. When I lashed out in response or misbehaved as a result of feeling unhappy, I was suspended from school and sought solace in Doctor Who episodes.

        But I had a social life of sorts. I was briefly a member of the Cubs in Wolvercote - indeed, I had to have Four to Doomsday Part 1 (1982) videotaped for me to watch later - and I was also a member of a couple of East Oxford youth clubs where I enjoyed playing table tennis. However, I joined the Oxford Local Group (OLG), which consisted of about 8 or 9 males in their 20s. At the age of 11, I was by far the youngest member, and was named Little Andrew. Group meetings were typically at one of leader Geoffs successive number of abodes, always on, or in the vicinity of, the Cowley Road. At these meetings we largely watched old Doctor Who and I would do deals with other groups, like the Surrey Local Group, for episodes. Those were the days when watching old Doctor Who episodes was something special - a key moment; I remember staying up all night in the video-room at The Leisure Hive conventions in Swindon. There was something so Romantic about that. I was the student who as a teenager carried bags of videotapes to school in Milton Keynes on a Friday since after school I would get the coach to Oxford and would take the tapes back to the Oxford Local Group having made copies. This was when I was not purchasing blank tapes to have copies of programmes made for me. Those bags were heavy! Most of the OLG found me too annoying to talk to, though some did contribute articles and art to S-FT; a chap named Salam seemed amused by me and kept trying to sell me copies of the fanzine Time Screen, to which he contributed. He once also rang me up and told me to telephone Geoff and then turned out to be at Geoff’s flat and pretended to be Geoff!

        It was Tim Harris and another chap named James from Scotland - who eventually became group leader - that I had the most contact with. How I became acquainted with James is that he invited me to join him and Geoff in the garden at one of Geoffs abodes when they were taking photographs of spaceship models, and indeed James would later take the telly-pics for S-FT with my guidance. I would be allowed to make brief telephone calls to members of the OLG such as Tim and James in the evening. I recall that on weekends when I was not going to Oxford, I used to ring James at Rush Common in Abingdon on a Friday evening at 6 - on the dot! Someone else from the residence would answer and then would have to put a call out to James who would then after awhile arrive at the phone. Other weekends when I was visiting Oxford, I would often stay overnight at James residence at Rush Common, sleeping on his floor, and at group meetings would be sent out to the local Cowley Road chippie to buy us Scampi and Chips. Always Scampi and Chips. Never anything else. One occasion we remember fondly was when I invited Tim and James to visit me in Milton Keynes. James drove all that way, negotiating the maze of roundabouts, to have me give them a guided tour of of all placesthe Milton Keynes Library! James still jokes about it to this day, remarking that I didnt want to take the pair of them back to my home since my Mum would be shocked to find that she was not meeting Little James and Little Tim but rather grown-up men! Which, I must confess, is partly true. Mum had met Geoff when she took me to my first group meeting but it would have been weird to have these other grown-ups round to the house. On reflection, it must also have seemed very strange for these men in their twenties to be hanging out with a teenage boy! Another incident we all recall is when James and Tim gave me a glass of vinegar which I thought was alcohol and naturally got drunk on! This led to a what would turn out to be a temporary expulsion! Apart from the OLG I didnt really have much positive social contact, except with various of my S-FT contributors, from different parts of the country, who I spent hours naughtily nattering with on the phone on Sunday afternoons when my Mum and stepfather were visiting relatives in London. And it did seem like an eternity where I was mindful of the huge telephone bill I was running up. My Mum and stepfather did have serious words with me about that but I couldnt stop! When the Oxford Local Group dispersed towards the end of the 80s, Tim, James, and I would meet up for Saturday lunch in the restaurant upstairs at Littlewoods in town.

        I was into other programmes as well as Doctor Who, though the Time Lord was my main love. Television had an appeal for me that film lacked. My interest crossed national and generic boundaries - British science fiction, fantasy, and thriller (e.g. Blakes 7, The Tripods, Star Cops, Knights of God, Jack the Ripper), British childrens drama and soap opera (Grange Hill, EastEnders); American soaps (Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing and The Colbys); American drama (Mission: Impossible, The Dukes of Hazzard, Moonlighting, L.A. Law); American superhero action (Batman); American comedy; and Australian soaps (Neighbours, Home and Away). As soon as I got in from school, I would switch the television on, either watching Childrens TV or episodes of Knots Landing that I had set to be recorded in the early afternoon while I was still at school. I had hundreds of videotapes of programmes in my bedroom; those that I wanted easy access to (e.g. Dallas which I was continually recording and watching) were kept on an open shelf, but I had so many that countless tapes were kept in boxes stored underneath my high bed. This caused problems when I desperately wanted to get at a programme! I had more programmes, however, than I was actually interested in. From Tim and James I learnt which were the best quality videotapes (TDK and TDK Extra High Grade) and which the worst (Memorex). Tim and James got me into quite a few programmes: I went through an ALF phase where I would purchase talkable toy ALFs and ALF T-shirts! The 1980s was also an era when we did not have the easy access to episode guides that exist on the Web today ( and so I frequently made trips by train to the main library in Birmingham to rummage through copies of the Radio Times. Piles would be brought to me, one after the other, and I would read episode titles and descriptions of old episodes of, for instance, Dallas and Dynasty. I did much the same in the Library of Congress, during a summer trip to Washington D.C., looking at episode titles for Knots Landing on index cards, And I kept guides for all the programmes I had on tape in a folder, safely stored in my bedroom.


Andrew O’Day
The Time Beetle: A Life With and Without Doctor Who

Doctor Who Times was cheaply produced on a typewriter, while S-FT was a more elegant A5 wraparound ’zine, printed at Pronta Print, with images taken from the television screen. All a very different affair from the computer images for the 2004 Terry Nation book