In terms of fandom passion, persistence, and indifference to things like budgets, plausibility, or (occasionally) good taste, it’s safe to say that the U.K.’s Doctor Who lovers can give the Star Trek crowd a run for their money most any day. There are plenty of other parallels, too, beyond a dedication to cheapie fan-films and the occasional, uh, “liberty” with the sexuality of their respective shows of worship; both series had major fallow periods from their official creators, with Trek’s spanning from the end of the original series in 1969 to the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, and Who from 1989 to 2005, that allowed (and even encouraged!) the people who loved them to take things into their own hands, creating a lot of beautiful and sometimes deranged love letters to the franchise in the process. (And yes, we know about The Animated Series and the 1996 Who revival movie. The point still stands.)
Those largely unlicensed Who spinoffs are the subject of a new and occasionally eye-opening piece in RadioTimes this week, detailing not only how fan-producers became the primary source of new “Who” content during the dark, pre-Christopher Eccleston days, but how they managed to talk several former Doctors into taking part. (And taking off. Their clothes. Sometimes the Doctors, especially Colin Baker, got naked.) Written by Thomas Ling, and talking with several key figures in the fan film movement (including former Doctor Sylvester McCoy), it’s all suitably fun and bizarre stuff, detailing how you go about trying to fake a Dalek’s distinctive voice, or that time a softcore producer convinced the prolific Bill Baggs to horny up some Zygons in an effort to broaden his fan films’ appeal.
It also highlights, though, how fan-driven even the official new Who has been, with people like Mark Gatiss, who co-created Sherlock and wrote a number of nu-Who episodes, discussing how they got their start making the unofficial stuff. It also makes it clear how ridiculously nice the BBC has been about licensing or authorizing these characters and concepts over the years; it’s hard to imagine a corporate-owned property letting its fans get away with half of this amazing, weird, sometimes horny shit.