As the longest-running science fiction series ever, whose generation-spanning viewer base has often been named one of the most intense and devoted fandoms ever, Who
offers an case study in the way that modern fandom has evolved. The fanzines where Capaldi and others got their start may have seen their numbers decline over the years, but their DNA is all over the modern fandom in a way that distinguishes it from other sci-fi fanzine communities like that of Star Trek. Doctor Who
fanzines not only helped keep the fandom alive during its hiatus, they’ve been a long-standing venue for fans to debate and police the limits of the Doctor Who
universe—and these debates have had a direct and noticeable influence on the show itself.
“Perhaps the fanzines were anticipating the way the show has gone,” [fanzine editor Leslie] McMurtry says.
Or perhaps the show was just paying attention to conversations happening in its fanzines—it wouldn’t be the first time. Debates about the Doctor Who universe that unfolded in zines in the 1970s and ‘80s are not only still relevant, they’ve often influenced or been incorporated into the show itself.
“A lot of the fan debates that were going about whether the Doctor should have relationships with his companions, about the history of the Time Lords, the history of the doctor and his enemies, you can see those debates emerging today,” [assistant professor of new media and technology at DePaul University Paul] Booth says. “In the’ 80s you have people talking about ‘The Doctor should never have a relationship!’ or “It’s very obvious they have a relationship!’ Today, when we see the Doctor kissing his companion, that’s almost the product of the fandom from the early days. The fans today are taking that into account.”