Discussing, Not Dismissing: The Perils of Talking Doctor Who

I think some of you were expecting a follow-up to my Pond article here, and indeed, that’s what I intended.  Some IRL sadness coupled with what prompted me to write the following post have at the very least, delayed that.  Perhaps they’ve preempted it entirely.  In case of the latter: I liked “The Angels Take Manhattan” quite a bit.  I thought the title and Statue of Liberty were dumb, but on the whole, I enjoyed the rest.


A while back I wrote a post about how shitty it is when non-Doctor Who fans bag on the show I love so much.  I still stand by everything I said there.  It sucks when people insult something you care about.  It sucks even more when people insult you for caring about it.  It’s stupid, really.  We should be happy when others enjoy stuff.  Does Joe Schmo’s enjoyment of Generic Program One really make the world a lesser place for you?  No.  It doesn’t.*

I’ve noticed a similar problem within the ranks of Doctor Who fandom.  We all like the show (or claim to, anyway)—that’s a prerequisite.  We don’t all like the same things about it.  We have favorite Doctors and companions and stories and eras and even writers, directors, composers, and production designers.  That’s all great.  Diversity is fun!

On the other hand, we also have least favorites of all of those.  And that’s where the trouble starts to rear its ugly head…

There are scores of nits to pick when it comes to Doctor Who.  We have decades of poor effects, hole-filed stories, stiff performances, questionable directorial choices, and an unending list of other complaints.  That’s the nature of the show, and we love it despite these things.  That said, we all have different nits that we choose to pick.  Again, that in itself is just peachy.  Diversity—yay!

It’s when those differences—specifically, discussions about them—start to skirt the realm of personal attacks that things turn grim…

As Doctor Who grows in notoriety (as we all have to admit it’s doing), there are more voices clamoring about what they think.  It’s easier than ever to get tugged into a discussion of the nuances of the show.  All too often I’ve seen those disagreements turn ugly—or at the very least, snarky.

So Terry Televiewer liked aspect X of the classic show, and you thought it was puerile.  Maybe you saw some sexism in the way a certain new series character was written.  Jane Doh didn’t.  I loved “The Angels Take Manhattan” despite a few plot inconsistencies that had to be overlooked in order to enjoy it thoroughly.

So is Terry a simpleton?  Is Jane sexist?  Am I a vacuous airhead because I’m able to enjoy something without asking too many questions?

Hell to the no.

Sadly, responses to Who-based disagreements** too often seem to imply that those types of things are true.  Because someone disagrees with an opinion, they’re clearly a lesser person and often not even worthy of engagement for further discussion.

That sucks.  Like I said in my previous post, it’s uncool to make me feel like a jerk for loving the show I love.  It’s every bit as uncool (if not more so***) to make me feel like a chump for liking (or even just tolerating) aspects of the show.

Doctor Who is an amazing program.  It covers a whole universe of issues and questions and emotions, and those deserve to be picked apart at length and examined and appreciated.  I’m not anti-discussion.  On the contrary, I’m very much pro-!  I’m pro-discussion; I’m anti-dismissing.  It’s not a discussion if all you do is put the other person down for not seeing things your way.  You do both the show and fandom a disservice when you shoot someone down.  Why not listen and explore why they feel the way they do?  You might learn something or at least come to understand their point of view.  If nothing else, you can agree to affably disagree.  There should be no harm to your ego in that.

For the record, I’d like to state that there are plenty of wonderful, friendly, open-to-civil-discussion fans out there.  I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve surrounded myself with some of the best of the best of Doctor Who fans and that I listen to some of the “friendliest” Doctor Who podcasts around.  The phenomenon I cover here seems to happen most when I dip my toe into the larger waters of fandom.  There are some cold bastards out there.

Try not to be one of them.



*And don’t give me crap about Joe’s annoying habit of pushing Generic Program One in your face.  That’s a separate issue.

**I realize this phenomenon isn’t unique to Doctor Who fandom, but that’s the fandom with which I associate most, so I’m framing the argument in these terms.

***Because you profess to love it too.

10 thoughts on “Discussing, Not Dismissing: The Perils of Talking Doctor Who

  1. Deb Stanish says:

    Eh – personal attacks are the lowest form of debate. It just means the other person is far too lazy or lacks to intelligence to articulate beyond the fannish version of “your mom”. When navigating the oceans of fandom I find it comforting to realize that there are many, many people wrong about Doctor Who, bless their hearts, and I try to feel kindly toward their poor, stunted view. Just ask Graeme. ;-)

  2. Back in the day (circa 2003-2006) I used to help out on a Doctor Who forum, it was a friendly place for like minded fans to hang out and chat. Sadly there were a minority of idiots who seemed only to be content when putting down others who didn’t share their opinions.

    The situation gradually got worse and the site owner eventually decided to call it a day as he had had enough of all the bitchiness. Fast forward a few years and many well known Doctor Who fan forums are haunted by the same nasty types, which is why I no longer visit them.

    On the flipside, I have found a huge community of positive Doctor Who fans on Twitter, which has done wonders to restore my faith in human beings.

    My friend, however, was the subject of a troll, who as it turned out had targeted him thinking he was someone else (!) This person, it transpires, was one of a group of people banned from a high profile DW forum for targeting abuse at another poor soul.

    I am very lucky to have found some really good friends online (yourself included) who I can have a discussion with (even if we don’t always agree!) and it doesn’t descend in to name calling and hysterics (well, only the good kind of hysterics).

    As a wise man once said: Don’t let the bastards grind you down….

    • Thanks Mark. Wise words. :)

      And I completely agree about twitter. That, more than anything else, has connected me with amazing and wonderful Who fans (and non-Who fans as well)! Hooray for the internet age!

  3. John Hood says:

    As a rule of thumb; I avoid conventions and forums! However, when Mark recognised me (in a store he was working at) from a DW forum, which I rarely frequented, my faith in fandom was restored!

    • Leave it to Mark to restore someone’s faith in fandom. :) I was lucky enough to stumble on a great group when I first discovered fandom, so I didn’t learn about the seedy underbelly until much later. That’s probably a good thing ’cause I’d’ve never continued to participate if I’d’ve met haters or rude folks first.

  4. Mike Huberty says:

    I usually stick to the AV Club or Ain’t It Cool when discussing DW. I’ve had okay experiences on Gallifrey Base (but I know others have not!) The AV Club is really safe and Ain’t It Cool it okay as long as you stay out of the Coaxial section and stick in the Docbacks (the rest of the site is notoriously troll-heavy.)

    I remember rec.arts.drwho back in the day and it was crazy exciting to be talking to Whovians worldwide for the first time. But as the Internet and the show’s popularity expand, so will the army of bungholes ready to talk about it.

    Haters gonna hate, but there are still plenty of forums where there’s friendlies!

    • Yeah, you got into the wider world of fandom way before I even knew it existed! I was lucky enough to discover it via twitter, by stumbling on a truly great group of folks. Good thing too, or I’d probably have run away and not looked back. :)

      Good to know there are other outlets with good folk out there too. Thanks for the tips!

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