Given the enormous scope of the Doctor Who format it should come as no
surprise that there is a vast wealth of Who-based stories alive and well
beyond the confines of the small screen. These tales come in all manner
of shapes and sizes and are pitched at a broad spectrum of fans. The
novellas of Telos Publishing, the comic strips of Doctor Who Magazine,
and its junior counterpart Doctor Who Adventures, the Big Finish audio
productions and the manifold efforts of BBC Books each demonstrate the
rich story making potential of Doctor Who – a programme with an array of
incredible adventures still waiting to be told.
But what of the realms of imagining and writing which lie beyond the
limits of officialdom? In these precious, creative waters lies a
territory which deserves a good deal more attention than it generally
receives: fan fiction – the world of writing which apprenticed the
talents of Marc Platt (‘Ghost Light’) and Paul Cornell (‘Father’s Day',
‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’) and continues to throw up gems
of every description.
The business of writing fan fiction is hardly a new development, it
being the stock trade of many a science fiction fan with pen and paper –
and time – in hand. In so far as Doctor Who fandom is concerned,
however, this creative enterprise can become something of a grand
affair, verging, in some cases, on the virtually impregnable world of
professional writing. The Doctor Who Appreciation Society first entered
the world of fan fiction with Cosmic Masque in 1977, whilst the
Toronto-based Doctor Who Information Network stepped into the fray in
1991 with Myth Makers, later joined by its more substantial sister
publication Myth Makers Presents in 1996.
Beyond these fan fiction publications most common or garden fanzines
also contain an offering or two in amongst their pages. Gary Merchant’s
efforts for the Celestial Toyroom (see www.dwasonline.co.uk) include
Solitary Man (CT 347) and more recently his episodic tale Déjà Vu (CT
348 – ). Alongside these monthly servings the quarterly Canadian Doctor
Who Fan Magazine Whotopia (see www.whotopia.ca) indulges in both plain
text adventures, such as Tea at Midnight by Evan F. Casey, and those of
the comic strip variety, as evidenced by Kyle Borcz’s and Jon Huff’s
The advent of the Internet, and its Wunderwelt the World Wide Web, has
given the readers and writers of fan fiction a globally accessible
storehouse. One of the largest collections of online fan fiction is ‘A
Teaspoon and an Open Mind: A Doctor Who Fan Fiction Archive’ (see
www.whofic.com), which contains over ten thousand stories generated by
the creative faculties of more than fifteen hundred writers. Another
online venture, given a distinctly original taste by dint of being
audio-based, is Sebastian J. Brook’s aptly named Timestream Productions,
available on the ‘Doctor Who Online’ website (see
www.drwho-online.co.uk). This exciting ongoing project evidences that
fan fiction is a versatile animal, more than capable of branching out
from its paper-based home and into other, more diverse media.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with all these worthy efforts is one fan
fiction endeavour that deserves a particular attention. It is not the
longest running enterprise, nor is it the most extensive in terms of
material, but it is undoubtedly one of the most professional fan fiction
undertakings currently available. The phenomenon in question is the
Vancouver-based The Doctor Who Project (see
www.thedoctorwhoproject.com), a multi-award winning collection of fan
written adventures, which undoubtedly leaves many of its competitors
The Doctor Who Project, or TDWP for short, was forged in the creative
crucible of the Telefantasy Appreciation Society of Canada. On a distant
day in 1998 some of its members became inspired by a Pandora’s Box-esque
question, the sort which starts with those two seemingly harmless little
words “What if…?” and belongs to that particularly dangerous breed of
query known as the hypothetical question. In short, the question was:
What if the Doctor Who television series had not been cancelled in 1989?
These few brief words delivered up nothing short of a Hydra-like series
of enquiries, the answering of which unlocked a gamut of fictional
possibilities, which became the mainspring of the TDWP. Since that time
this question has gone on to fuel eight seasons of fresh, innovative
stories which take up where season twenty-six of the classic series left
off. In so doing, TDWP has carved out an alternate time line for the
maverick Time Lord, and one well worth following.
Aside from these words of praise, what makes TDWP such a phenomenal body
of work? First, it possesses a highly motivated and experienced
coordinator in Bob Furnell, the writer-turned-editor who has been
actively involved in all things Who for over twenty-five years. Second,
it has a team of writers and editors that can deliver the goods,
including such leading lights of fandom as Arnold T. Blumberg, author
and editor of various books and publications, and a writer for Telos
Publishing. Third, it is a professionally packaged affair with a glossy,
user-friendly website which houses a growing library of sharply edited
stories, adorned with superbly drawn covers by artists such as Jack
Drewell and John Gordon.
Fourth, it serves up first-rate writing in a range of styles. Consider,
for example, the fast paced dialogue of Lesleigh Force’s The Atef Crown,
alongside the rich historical substance of Duncan Johnson’s The
Conspirators and the vivid imagery of any John Gordon story (Season 33’s
Dawn of Time is a prime example). Each of these tales evidences such a
high quality of writing that it is astonishing that more of TDWP’s
contributors are not paid-up professional writers.
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, TDWP is fed by a rich vein of
creativity. Over the past eight years over fifty stories have been
written, involving three different Doctors, an array of companions and a
cartload of menaces both old and new. Still further, planets and peoples
have come and gone, moral crises faced, time lines threatened and even
the odd story arc laid to rest. And with villains like the cephalopod
Oozle and story titles like David P. May’s Séance In A Type 40 TARDIS
originality is the watchword for TDWP.
Sixth, TDWP understands the importance of continuity. In fact, respect
for what Doctor Who is as a programme runs deep within the
ever-expanding archive of this series of fan fiction. Its manifold works
are tightly fastened to the history and heritage of the television
programme and palpably draw their sustenance from its mythology.
Moreover, the most recent example of this regard for the past has
involved the inscrutable act of regeneration, bringing about TDWP’s
second original incarnation of the Doctor.
In short, there are at least six reasons to support the claim that TDWP
is a fan fiction phenomenon: a strong coordinator, a talented and
motivated team of writers and editors, excellent production values, high
quality writing, truckloads of creativity and a high regard for
continuity. Just a glance at the TDWP website and its free-to-download
adventures will demonstrate that these essentials are all present and
correct, so why not drop in and see what it’s all about for yourself.
July 2007 saw the release of TDWP’s latest season, Season 34, which
presents ten brand new additions to the fan fiction world and ten more
reasons to give TDWP a go. And don’t forget, all this industry is done
simply for pleasure of it, which is quite possibly the most important
ingredient of all. Enjoy.
Copyright Jez Strickley & Doctor Who Online, 2007.