I’m giddily excited about having my second letter published in Doctor Who Magazine, a mere 29 years after my first. Admittedly I’ve only ever written them two letters, so I’ve no-one to blame for such a gap but myself.
Writing the letter did bring home to me just how different Doctor Who fandom was in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Although like today, there’s plenty of debate, rumours and liberal helpings of positivity and negativity, it was done at a completely different pace.
There was no internet, so debates tended to be carried out in the pages of the numerous fanzines of the time. And since many of them had an irregular publication schedule (those that ever returned for a second issue) any discussions tended to last months, a far cry from today when a single internet post can gain numerous replies almost instantly. There was also DWM of course, published every month, and also DWB (in many ways the anti-DWM, and certainly in its early years a must-read, even if you had to take much of its news content with a pinch of salt).
The phantom Cartmel rumour was only one of a range of strange theories and heated debates that raged in fandom during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In retrospect, this was the golden age of Doctor Who fanzines. Two things would help to kill the Doctor Who fanzine off – firstly the rise of the internet and secondly Gary Gillatt’s editorship of Doctor Who Magazine. Gillatt wasn’t the first fan to edit DWM, but by recruiting writers who had cut their teeth on various ‘zines, he helped to make the magazine feel very much connected to fandom and the ‘zine culture. This didn’t please everyone – some found it too insular and the in-jokes must have been baffling to newcomers – but for me, the Gillatt era of DWM is still my favourite.
There could be mileage in rooting around my old collection of ‘zines and penning a few articles on what I find. The popularity of eras, Doctors, writers and producers has certainly waxed and waned over the years (the Pertwee era was particularly unloved by a small, but vocal, minority in the early 1990’s for example) and taking a look at how the fans perceived both the series and themselves back then could be of interest.