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Article — Doctor Who in America

First Published:
Dark Circus #5

Publish Date:
Autumn 1991

The Star Trek comments were pre-Next Gen, of course. And I’d like to see the survey technique that concluded Doctor Who was the favourite show of 6% of Americans! And I think there were quite a few more American zines than I implied here; I just didn’t know of them at the time.

In 1988 Coast to Coast (now Green Light) carried out a survey to discover what America knew about Doctor Who. They found that only 38% of Americans over the age of six had even heard of Doctor Who, but, conversely, one-sixth of those who had heard of it rated it as their favourite show. This gives us a good overview of the situation in America: while it is not widely known as in Australia or Britain, a strong fandom movement does exist.

Doctor Who has a completely different public image in America than here in Australia. Here, the general public see it as a children’s show. In America, it is thought of as a very weird show, and is often grouped mentally with the likes of Monty Python (partially because British shows are not as prevalent there as here in Australia). Doctor Who is a recent phenomenon there — it has only been widely shown since 1978 (and even then not on the major networks), and has not had 25-odd years to establish itself. It also has to combat the higher public image of Star Trek (despite the Doctor Who following being both larger and better organized).

Within universities and colleges, however, Doctor Who has an extremely high following. I lived in a small town in upper New York State (Ithaca) where there were two colleges, and never ceased to be amazed at the amount of people who watched at least casually. I watched the debut of The Trial of a Time Lord (all fourteen episodes at once!) with nearly ten others on a campus building’s communal TV. Down the hill at Ithaca High School, however, it remained unknown.

The true test of the number and vitality of Whovians (Whovians, incidentally, originated as a term through the Doctor Who Fan Club of America — their newsletter is called Whovian Times) in the area came with ‘Doctor’n the TARDIS’. They passed with flying colors. It was the #1 request on one of my local radio stations for over three weeks, and stayed in the Top Eight for another three. The style of the song, however, and timidity on the part of radio stations, meant it achieved little in the national charts. Considering that it reached #2 in Australia, this clearly shows the nature of the following and public attitude in America.

One extremely interesting point to note is that there are, relatively, very few fanzines in America. There are many groups, with several very major ones (much larger than the Star Trek equivalents), but the proliferation of fanzines you would expect from such a number is absent. There is much more emphasis on the "professional" magazines such as DWM. It is a great shame.

I’ll close with a few revealing facts from a 1988 survey done for the Whovian Times. Included in the Top Ten stories were Arc of Infinity and The Invasion of Time (placed worse than 86th and 44th respectively by Data Extract after Season 25). Whovians have about 50% more university education than the average American and are aged around 28. The fourth and fifth Doctors reigned supreme, as did Sarah Jane Smith (no doubt that has changed by now). A massive 71% of Whovians supported Doctor Who through their local PBS station. Finally, and this is by far the most intriguing fact of all, 62% of Whovians are female — a complete contrast with sci-fi in general and British Whovians in particular (96% male, according to DWB #65).

Read some comments on this article.

End of Article

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who articles available here
A Bit of Adric in All of Us
Ace Timeline
Cursed References
Doctor Who Collectible Card Game FAQ
Doctor Who Collectible Card Game Tips
Doctor Who in America
History of the Daleks
History of Doctor Who
History of the fanzine Sonic Screwdriver
How I Killed a Fanzine (or, What’s an EFG?)
Survival the (Con)vention
The Doctor and I (First Memories)
The Doctor and I (1985 — Move to the USA)
The Doctor and I (Organised Fandom? Huh?)
The Doctor and I (Doctorin’ Ithaca)
The Doctor and I (Back to Melbourne)
The Doctor and I (Whovention)
The Doctor and I (David, Meet the DWCV)
The Doctor and I (Enlightenment)
The Doctor and I (The Blankety Blank Era)
The Doctor and I (Q Who)
The Doctor and I (DWCV Committee, Meet David)
The Doctor and I (Whovention II (Control))
The Doctor and I (Sonic Screwdriver, Meet David (and Marco and Matthew))
The Relative Confusion of The Curse of Fenric
What Makes a Warrior?
What’s in a Name?
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index

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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Sun, 9 Feb 2003.