Yesterday marked the second special BBC America screening and cast Q&A for Doctor Who I attended in New York City, the first being a year ago when Matt Smith had barely started to rock that bow tie. My, a lot changes in a year! The crowds were bigger -- so much bigger, in fact, that by 5 AM, over 120 people were in line for the event, with hundreds more coming every hour. Some camped out overnight, rewarded for their efforts by free donuts from Doctor Who stars Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill. Two more screenings had to be scheduled that day to accommodate the masses of Whovians who braved the elements and even travelled from out-of-state to attend.
What is it about Doctor Who that resonates so much with Americans? How many new international fans will the British franchise garner now that the show will be broadcast for the first time simultaneously in the USA and the UK? The setting for the first two episodes of the new season -- the United States -- certainly carries within it that extra symbolism. "Stetsons are cool," Smith's Doctor says in "The Impossible Astronaut," striking a pose like James Dean in the movie classic "Giant."
There is so much I could write about those striking two episodes that screened at the Village East Monday night -- but, in deference to Steven Moffat's personal request to the crowd during the Q&A, you'll find no spoilers here. Safe to say, it was some of the best of the show that I have seen yet, feeling much more like a movie than TV. Some of the promos for the Sixth Season of Doctor Who has promised a larger canvas for the series -- and expanded world -- and looking at the first few frames of the dazzling Utah expanse in the episode opener, you will not be disappointed.
But rather than focus in this article on the details of the show itself, I'd rather give you a snapshot of the lifeblood of the show, the fans. The boy who added "Rory" to the end of every chant of "Doctor Who." The legions of fans wearing the scarf made famous by the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. The little girl with a Doctor Who t-shirt, trying to use her sonic screwdriver to make my friend's broken iPhone work. The fans on line who played "Apples to Apples" and handed out chalk for people to draw TARDISes and catchphrases from the show on the sidewalk and brick walls. And I've never seem so many fezzes in one place in my life.
photo by Leonard Lee
I know it sounds pretty corny to say this reminds me a little bit like Beatlemania all over again -- but the level of intensity and devotion was getting pretty close. For those few hours at the Village East, the Doctor Who crew owned New York City -- from driving up to the screening in a shiny blue Cadillac, to posing for photos outside the theater (even random passers-by who clearly never even heard of the show were caught up in the excitement, wondering what was causing such a ruckus), to the standing applause when the starts arrived for the Q&A. Even that little boy I mentioned earlier -- the one steadfastly championed "The Companion's Companion" Rory -- literally shook with excitement as he showed off his new autographs of the cast and crew to his mom.
photo by Leonard Lee
I guess what struck me the most is that what I witnessed Monday was nothing less than the embodiment of where "Geek" culture is heading towards. This new culture is not only international -- but brings people of different nations and cultures together. There is a common perception of "Geek Culture" being insular -- but this is a fandom that encourages inclusion and diversity. Doctor Who is not a "girl's fandom" or a "boy's fandom" -- the thought that it could be divided in such a manner among gender is absolutely ludicrous. It's for everybody. It has started in Britain, and will always be intrinsically and proudly British -- but it also belongs to the world.
photo by Leonard Lee
This post isn't written by a long-term Doctor Who fan -- I only really got into the series last year, and I don't think I've earned my stripes yet as an expert by any stretch of the imagination -- but someone who was definitely caught up in that strange strange magic Monday night. Who is going to be huge.
The new season of Doctor Who premieres Saturday, April 23, at 9/8c in both the UK and the USA.