I set out to do a quick talk about the role of canon in various fandoms and it turned into a massive lecture that I’ll have to split into multiple parts. So, here’s the first part, wherein I talk at length about the canon of Doctor Who (and quite possibly tick off some of my fellow Whovians).
NOTE: I’ve noticed I use the word “series” a lot in this episode. For the most part, I’m using the American meaning of the word (the entirety of a single show’s run), though there is one point in the middle where I try to switch to the UK meaning (when I’m talking about people being familiar with “the current series and the previous series” – by which I mean the current season and the previous season) but despite my effort to grammatically hop the pond, I clumsily fall back into the Standard `Murican definition pretty quickly after that.
Time for a bit of a ramble about Star Wars and Star Trek, and how the two seem to have become each other. Over time, Star Wars has become more Star Trek-y and Star Trek has become more Star Wars-y. I wonder where it will lead?
I ramble for a bit about how the people behind Doctor Who may not have changed as much as we might think at first. I also talk about why old Classic Who fans like myself shouldn’t worry so much about the differences between the old series and the new one. Even though we had a 16-year gulf between times the show was on, one side of the chasm isn’t so different from the other.
I think I’ve just figured out why Doctor Who is so important to me these days.
I know, it’s shocking – a geek like myself being a fan of Doctor Who. I’ve been one since I was about seven years old. I’d been hearing for years about that odd, British, science fiction show about a dimensionally transcendent police box and a guy who can travel in time and change his appearance, and at that time I’d never been interested enough to look at it. But then, one day back in the early 1980’s, I happened to catch part of a special early evening showing of The Five Doctors on PBS – not too long after it had first premiered in the United States – and thought I’d go ahead and give watching it a try. After that, they showed the regularly scheduled story for that week, The Creature from the Pit. By the time I got to the end of the evening, I was fully hooked and would never miss an episode if I could help it.
The show was like a life-line for me. It encouraged people to revel in being different – which meant quite a lot to me. To say I was a bit odd as a child would be a gross understatement. My horrifyingly bad grade school experiences kept beating the idea into me that being different was bad, but here was a TV show giving me a completely different message – and in a much more entertaining way than I’d encountered from the name-calling bullies on the playground.
I kept watching the show right up until it went on what we can now happily call a long but temporary hiatus in 1989. Then there was a long dry spell punctuated only by an American TV movie and a few books from Virgin that I managed to pick up every now and then. I no longer had Doctor Who in my life in a significant way (though I’d go back and watch episodes that I’d recorded every now and then). But I was okay with that.
The dynamic changed again, though, when the new series started in 2005. I put off watching it for a while, but then when I did I became utterly hooked on it once again, and was soon as deeply attached to it as I’d ever been. The new series had begun acting like a life-line for me again.
I didn’t realize why that was the case until a very short time ago. It wasn’t because of the whole “being different” thing – that’s pretty much a given at this point – but because of the struggle the Doctor goes through in the new series.
You see, for all practical purposes, my life pretty much fell apart in 2005. It had started falling apart long before then, but 2005 was the year of the final collapse. I won’t go into too much detail about it right now, but suffice it to say that I went through some very difficult changes that left me a depressed shell of a person for quite a while. Eventually, though, I started learning once again how to interact with people and even how to trust them.
It’s still not easy, though. I’ve gotten to the point now that I can behave as though I’m alive and can go out and do things with friends from time to time. But there’s always a struggle to keep myself from sinking back into the abyss.
In the new TV series, the Doctor’s life has fallen apart as well. He’s lost nearly everything he cares about. And he’s always struggling to keep himself from falling into the darkness. Since the premiere of the new series there have been three new Doctors, and no matter which one of them you look at, you can see that struggle going on.
Maybe it sounds a bit nuts, but it’s an interesting parallel, and nuts or not, it’s working for me. After helping me deal with the pressures of early life, my childhood hero went away for a while. But when I needed him again, he came back.
The Doctor has his ups and downs, but when it counts, he’s able to remind himself that he’s not alone. Despite everything that’s happened to him, he’s continuing to reach out to people. He’s trying to befriend them and learn to trust them again, even to the extent of taking on new traveling companions. Even though he had to watch as so much he held dear was destroyed, he’s still trying to keep going – to get back to living his life.
And if the Doctor can do that, then maybe I can too.
Click below if you’d like to hear me read the article:
Music by Kevin MacLeod
I expect some of y’all are curious about the art o’ Personal Brandin’. Step on up to the fire-pit and grab a hot iron, if you think you’re ready. It takes a brave one to do it, but once everybody sees that there emblem on you, the folks’ll flock to you like a flight o’ rabid condors! It’ll only be a few seconds before you pass out from the pain, so come on! Who’s first?
Okay, okay, tempted as I am to finish this whole article in character, I’ll drop the accent and get a tad more serious.
I’ve taken a few tentative steps into the wading end of personal branding and will probably need to try sinking or swimming very soon. Something I’ve been learning is that writers – writers of pretty much anything – need to advertise not only their work, but THEMSELVES. What that essentially means is that they have to find ways to make themselves memorable to their readership.
Mur Lafferty (author of “Heaven” and “Playing for Keeps”) talks about this fairly frequently on her podcast. J.C. Hutchins is doing it all over the place – remember him, by the way? The guy whose Kilroy2.0 character “hacked” this blog and a bunch of others on October 27th to promote the release of “7th Son?” If you do, then he’s evidently getting it right.
I’m still working on it. I really need to get in gear, though, since I may very well have a creative project to promote sometime next year (more on that if and when it comes to fruition). I recently came across an article by the inimitable Miss Destructo that discusses the creation of a personal identity and an accompanying press kit. All I can say is that when the time comes for me to put a press kit together, I’ll be referencing it heavily! It also shows that there are clearly a lot of steps I have yet to take in defining my own “brand.”
But, that said, here’s some of what I’ve done so far. Hopefully it’ll be helpful for someone out there who might just be getting started.
Who is this OtherDoc guy, anyway?
I use the handle “otherdoc” for things like instant messaging services, bulletin boards and various online community sites – basically anywhere that you’re encouraged to go by a cool pseudonym instead of your real name. I’ve been using it ever since the late 90’s, when I needed to give my then-local ISP a user ID. “Doc” was already taken, so I went with “otherdoc” instead – and it stuck. And no, I’m not a real doctor in any sense of the word. The “doc” aspect was a throwback to my fascination with both Doctor Who and Doc Holliday. Merge the two and you get a cantankerous smart-alec trying to use his wits to make the universe a better place – which is kind of how I’d like to describe myself – well, an idealized version of myself, anyway. The “other” aspect, while initially just a way to stand out, has come to represent that sort of “alien” vibe I’m told I tend to give off (if you’ve met me, you probably know what I’m talking about). It also works nicely as a way for my humility to come out and prod me every now and then, reminding me that I’m not necessarily the idealized “Doc” composite to which I aspire – I’m the OTHER “Doc.”
Regardless of its origin, using the same handle wherever I go means that people will hopefully recognize me no matter what site I’m on. If you’re picking a handle out for yourself that you’d like to use in a similar way, choose something that you won’t mind being remembered as because you’ll be stuck with it for a long time.
What’s with the eye?
So, you might have noticed that picture of my left eye that appears on my web site, as album art for this blog’s audio files and on virtually every web site and communication service to which I subscribe that allows the use of a personal icon. Honestly, like my net handle, I stumbled onto the use of that, too. I had a web camera at one time and tried to get silly and artistic with it. That photo, showing my left eye in the light and my right eye in shadow, was probably the best of all the ones I took (which probably gives you a good idea of just how pathetic I am at photography). I’ve used it – or at least the right-most part of it on those occasions when I have to use an icon that’s completely square – as another way people can recognize me. If they won’t always know me by my face, then by thunder they’ll know me by my eye!
In other words, faces can be forgotten, but if you have some kind of logo – even if it’s just an extreme close-up on one particular feature – people are more likely to remember it. Maybe not at first, but if you get it out there enough, they will!
Like I said, these are just a couple of small steps. There’s a lot more for me to do to get where I’ll need to be. In the mean time, I’d be curious to hear what you folks out there in the digital ether have been doing as a way of branding yourselves? What do you do to shout your identity to the world? Don’t be shy – mosey on over to the blog’s comments area and throw down some responses. We’ll keep the fire-pit ready and the irons hot!