The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Whovian as “A fan of the British science fiction series Doctor Who.” According to most English departments at higher learning institutions around the world, this means Whovians are an institutionally recognized, actual, and real group of people. Such a distinction moves them beyond a simple, underground counter-culture or fad but certainly not out of their “cult” status, which they revere. There are also Whovians who have no idea what Doctor Who is or have never seen a single episode the popular BBC program.
The only explanation for the fact there are Whovians who have never seen Doctor who, is that the merchandise and memes for the show are everywhere in the U.S. and the witty slogans and catch phrases of the show have been applied and cross referenced into just about every other subculture, popular name, and demographic of persona out there. The most popular meme states, “Keep calm, I’m the Doctor,” and originated from the show’s famous line “Keep calm and don’t blink.”
The meme, however, appears applied to every name, for example: “Keep calm, I’m Ted,” or “Keep calm, Susan is here,” and any bit of simple, universal advice attributed to any what-one-should-remember-from-kindergarten list one can think of. The meme most often appears in bold lettering imposed over a Union Jack or under the graphic of a crown with a red or blue background and is printed on t-shirts and posters and sold everywhere.
Thank the “geek chic” movement for making all of this happen. This is the movement in which it is “cool” to be “un-cool”, and Doctor Who is, perhaps, one of the greatest beneficiaries of the movement. The Whovians, however, are not to be discredited. They are as loyal and involved as any fan of Star Trek or Star Wars. Reenactments of favorite scenes and battles are even performed around the world by Whovians in costume in impromptu, flash-mob brand performances. For the show’s 50th anniversary a British entertainment blog, CultBox, asked fans to submit videos of these reenactments. As a result, Whovians from over thirty countries around the world submitted videos to the contest.
The series originally started in 1963 and ran until 1989. It was then regenerated, to borrow a concept from the show, in 2005 and continues to air. There have been twelve “regenerations” of The Doctor, an alien time traveler, as he is passed from host body to host body and the show continues battling evil across time and the cosmos. The show is as whimsical as it sounds, though not for the faint of heart. Villains of the show are the stuff of nightmares. Any remaining story premises are simply too deep and Whovians are too detail oriented to attempt more of a synopsis in one article. To miss something would be inexcusable. Perhaps the Doctor explains it best when he says, “It’s a timey wimey thing.”
Among the memes shared frequently on social media pages, lines quoted in conversation, and merchandise purchased in every shopping mall by the most ardent of fans, there are still many practitioners who partake in Whovian culture without having seen a single episode of Doctor Who and would never know it. The advice is simple to those Americans who have purchased or shared a “Keep calm” shirt or meme recently: Watch Doctor Who on BBC America, also available on Netflix. The other Whovians may not keep calm forever.
By Joseph Porter