Whether you watch British television or you’ve seen Community’s Inspector Space Time spoof, you have probably heard of a little show called Doctor Who. In short, the series follows the adventures of a Time Lord (that can regenerate in the case of death), called The Doctor, who travels through time and space, usually with a companion of some sort, to stop various alien species from destroying things and/or messing with the space-time continuum.
Well, in order to gain a more educated perspective on the matter, a visit to the most qualified people on MSU’s campus was in order – the United Nerdy Inter-Temporal Travelers, or U.N.I.T. as the Doctor Whoclub is more commonly known.
When asked what Doctor Who means to a Doctor Who fan, there was a shared speechlessness and then a collective chatter as they all tried to explain the magnetism of this television phenomenon. Some of the more dramatic members of the club simply said, “It means everything”, but junior and U.N.I.T. President Bill Bohlen tried to put it into more specific terms.
“It’s more than a TV show,” Bohlen said. “It’s an all-round genre show. It is a show for everybody. You can find something that everybody loves.”
Since Doctor Who began in 1963 and its revival in 2005 (after a 16 year hiatus), it has become a sensation in Britain that has completely changed not only their culture, but American culture as well.
“It’s a cult science fiction show,” Bohlen said.
Doctor Who is the longest non-continuous show in the history of television. With that amount of time on air, the show has gained numerous fans of all ages over multiple generations.
“The Doctor Who community . . . spans a few generations. There are new fans and old fans all interacting and loving the show together,” Bohlen explained.
Since the show began fifty years ago, the age of the fans and range of the show has increased over the years allowing Doctor Who to garner a broader worldwide fan base that overlaps generations but is still able to be new at the same time.
When asked how Doctor Who has changed over the years from the original series to its revival series that airs on BBC now, Bohlen said, “It changes with every Doctor. Every Doctor puts their own spin on it.”
Harold Karrar Jr., an MSU graduate of 2012 and the club’s librarian, explained, “It has changed by constantly reinventing itself by the pop culture of the time.”
Bohlen referenced an episode where the Doctor is facing a problem and suddenly whips out his sonic screwdriver saying, “I have an app for that.” Even as one of the oldest shows on television, Doctor Who has to keep up with the times.
U.N.I.T. itself has changed since it first began in 2009; the presidency has been passed from Mark Vorenkamp to Bohlen when Mark graduated. Bohlen usually plans out a schedule over the summer that includes episodes the club will watch over the course of the year. The first fall meeting usually consists of listening to an audiobook of Doctor Who and then over the course of the year they watch consecutive episodes of a season or a specific Doctor. Sometimes if they finish a season or if it’s a special occasion like a Halloween or Christmas party, the group will re-watch their favorite episodes.
Although you may think that all of the Whovians in the club are nerds (and you may not be far off), the members of U.N.I.T. come from a variety of different majors. Bohlen said it’s a diverse group with students
from packaging, astrophysics, computer science, zoology, elementary education, and mathematics.
“It’s become a home. This is a family,” Bohlen said.
Every fall this close-knit group of people go to Chicago TARDIS, a convention purely dedicated to Doctor Who, where they are able to meet the stars from the show and get things signed by them, which then end up in their end-of-the-year raffle for the members to win.
In the meantime, U.N.I.T. is gearing up for the second part of the seventh season to begin, set to air March 30, 2013. The club is also excited for the show’s 50th Anniversary special that is set to air this fall in 3D. To join in at this exciting time in the Doctor Who fandom, the club meets every Monday at 7 p.m. in Room 120 in the Psychology Building.
If you’re looking for a vastly different show than any other on television, you should watch Doctor Who. As Bohlen put it, “There’s nothing else like it.”