Before the BFI screened Doctor Who: The Movie as part of their 'Doctor Who' season, the first of two panels gave numerous writers for the show, the fanzines and novels, the chance to discuss their love for it and why they continue to come up with Doctor Who stories in so many forms. The panel included Andrew Cartmel, Nicholas Briggs, Justin Richards, Gary Russell, Jason Haigh-Ellery and Marcus Hearn.
Cartmel, who was a script editor and writer for the seventh Doctor, explained that there was no big dramatic finish when the series came to an end. To him, the ratings were impressive, especially as it was going up against Coronation Street. He explained that, when it did end, 'it was just silence'. The writers had been thinking about where the show could go next. It just wasn't to be.
What followed was what fans have come to call 'the wilderness years' but this wildnerness did not seem to touch the panel who all had plenty to say about the fandom. Russell speculated that 'everyone who grew up watching Doctor Who wanted to do something creative'. Everyone on the panel had at some point worked on fanzines or some other medium. Some had written Doctor Who novels and many of the panel also run Big Finish Productions, the company that works on audio stories which continue to expand the Doctor Who universe even further. Richards said that it's a 'very open format', explaining that there are always more stories to tell. Haigh-Ellery also speculated that the Doctor will always be with us in some form or another, just like Sherlock Holmes.
After the Doctor Who movie didn't immediately lead to a continuation of the TV show, it seemed like it was over but, through their work at Big Finish, more stories continued to be told. Hearn insisted that he and many of the panel spent the 90s in a bubble because of it. To them, the show continued. It just wasn't on TV.
Many of the panellists argued that the continued success of the show when it wasn't even on air was thanks largely to the increased accessibility. Suddenly, it was cheaper and far easier to get your hands on old episodes. Fans could go back and revisit their favourites while newcomers could discover the show for themselves.
The panel was an eye-opening look not just at the televised show fans have come to love but at the full extent of the Doctor Who universe and how popular all the spin-off material really is. The demand still exists for content and the Big Finish stories allow former Doctors to revisit the role and develop the character beyond TV. As Richards said, 'you can't categorise [Doctor Who]'.
Amanda Keats dreams of one day going for a spin in the TARDIS where she would love to meet Queen Elizabeth I, John Keats and Jane Austen - though she could happily live her entire life without coming into contact with a Weeping Angel. Follow Amanda Keats on Twitter and Facebook.
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