Fandom in the Wilderness Years
An independent documentary film
About the Film
After 26 years on television, Doctor Who ended in 1989 with a vague assurance that one day, it would come back. Aside from a false start here and there, the show wouldn’t return as a continuing series until nearly 16 years later. And yet, Doctor Who never really went away – spinning off into official and unofficial novels, comic books and audio plays. This aspect of the show’s so-called ‘wilderness years’ has been well-documented but what was it like to be a fan at that time?
How do you engage with your favourite television programme when it’s no longer on the television? Do you put away childish things and move on, or revel in being childish sometimes? This documentary aims to document the fan experience during it’s darkest, but arguably most vibrant, time – the 1990s.
In pubs and hotel conference rooms across the country, these keepers of the sacred flame met up to discuss the show, share VHS tapes and form bonds with some of their childhood heroes. Lifelong friendships were formed, age-old wisdom was handed down and Uvanov from Robots of Death popped in for a pint.
This is a film about Doctor Who’s fallow period, where in the Doctor’s absence, fandom had to work harder to connect with the show they’ve always loved. This is a universal story about love, loss, redemption and the friends we make along the way.
Mark Donaldson caught a repeat of The Time Meddler in 1992 and has never looked back. His love of Doctor Who influenced his other great passion – cinema. This fascination began via the sci-fi and horror movies that Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes so gleefully ripped off during the 1970s. He is a freelance film programmer and has programmed screenings for venues as diverse as the Genesis cinema, the Korean Cultural Centre, the National Film and Television School and the Margate Film Festival for whom he is the Features Programmer, specialising in independent British cinema and documentary film.
Mark has contributed articles to the past two Doctor Who Appreciation Society annuals and to the Big Blue Box Podcast. He is also the co-host of boozy Doctor Who podcast On the Time Lash which seeks to emulate the vibe and the spirit of the 1990s pub meetings that were pivotal in forming his and so many other’s fan identities.
Richie Morgan’s love for Doctor Who is only matched by his passion for filmmaking. Working for the last 12 years in production, Richie has spent his career interviewing filmmakers, creating music videos, short films, trailers, ads, documenting anything and everything. As someone who loves all parts of the process, Richie can be found writing, shooting, directing and editing, often at the same time. Get him talking about filmmaking or Doctor Who, it’ll be hard to get him to stop, get him talking about both? You better grab a seat, you’ll be there for a while.
You may have noticed that we don’t have a lot to show you, there is a reason for that, we haven’t filmed much so far. We built this website so that we could find people to talk to. We’re in the research and planning stages of the film. Being a freelance filmmaker, Richie already has access to shooting equipment, so for the second half of 2021 we are going to start interviewing and filming some of the people we have spoken to already, anything that we can do with little/no budget. At the end of the year, we’ll be putting together a sneak peak of the film, alongside a pitch video and a crowdfunding campaign to pay for things like travel expenses, archive footage, external freelancers for more complex elements and all of those other wonderful costs that pop up.
2022 will be the bulk of the production, we're hoping to complete post-production tin time for the 60th anniversary.
Every aspect of Doctor Who has been documented through DVDs and books and the quirks of modern sci-fi and fantasy fandom are well known. We want to make something that celebrates Doctor Who, more specifically the people who loved and supported it during those dark years. It’s a look at a lost era of fandom, loving something in times of scarcity, the magic and mystery of piecing together experiences through intermittent repeats and expensive video tapes, encounters with your idols and finding like minded friend before the internet made all of this a lot easier.
We’re looking to speak to people who have memories of this time, young and old. Perhaps you attended a local pub group, perhaps you put on your own home made convention, or attended one! Maybe you were part of a campaign to harangue the bbc to bring back the show! We’d love to speak to you. If you’ve got a mad story from that time, now is your chance to immortalise it.
A live edition of On the Timelash, where Mark and Richie discuss the film, what it's about and how it's going to happen!
The film will be produced by Runabout, a production company built on over a decade of production experience.
Check out the Runabout showreel.
If you had any experiences of Doctor Who fandom between the show's cancellation in 1989 and it's return in 2005, we'd love to hear from you.
You can find us on twitter here, or you can send us an email.
Do get in touch because we'd love to hear from you!