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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing: fans need to leave John Simm alooooooone!

John Simm Doctor Who

So recently, John Simm said this to the Radio Times (via the Guardian):

I do get a lot of Doctor Who. God almighty, I’ll be so happy when that’s gone from my life. They’re lovely, I’m sure, but I won’t miss it.

It’s great to be into something, but for goodness’ sake, really? I’m not the Master, I’m not that evil Time Lord who rules the galaxy, I’m just in Tesco with my kids. Leave me alone!

I guess no one has told Simm that being the Master is never going to be gone from his life. There’s no excuse for fans to annoy him in public, of course, but fandom will never forget him.

Simms’ words prompted Stuart Heritage at the Guardian’s TV & Radio Blog to warn:

[S]urely John Simm understands the risks involved in speaking out against sci-fi fans. They’re not like normal fans. Do something they approve of and they will clutch you to their hearts forever. They’ll publish fan art of your face on Tumblr. They’ll write slash fiction about you. They’ll, yes, stop you in supermarkets to tell you how much you mean to them. Appearing on Doctor Who might have been a couple of weeks of work for you, but it’s a lifetime for them. Most importantly, it all comes from a place of affection. And they’re easily hurt.

Surely John Simm saw what happened when William Shatner told Star Trek fans to “Get a life” during a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1986. The backlash from wounded fans was so stinging that he had to backpedal wildly to save face, even going so far as writing a book about how much he actually loved them all along. Leonard Nimoy did something similar, writing a book called I Am Not Spock and then writing another book called I Am Spock, in case any fans thought the first book made it seem like he wasn’t actually Spock.

And then John Simm had a small I Am Spock moment on Twitter:


Whether Simm’s claim to have been misquoted is true or not, one thing is for certain: Actors don’t owe fans anything at all beyond their work. I understand fannish impulses, but it’s hardly ever cool to approach a celeb in public when they’re just trying to go about their business. At a convention is another thing: then they’re there to be seen and to talk to fans. But in public it’s probably best to err on the side of caution. Why would you want to annoy someone you profess to like?

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

posted in:
daily doctor | talent buzz
  • ProperDave

    “Out of context” is the most weaselly phrase in existence. (The same goes for your ‘Doctor Who and race’ story, incidentally – either someone said something or they didn’t.)

  • RogerBW

    John Levene was a guest at UK Games Expo last weekend. Not a bad residual for a role that was over 36 years ago.

  • I think the editor of that book makes a good justification for her being quoted out of context.

    I refuse to believe that you, a writer, don’t know how placing something in its context can make a world of difference to seeing it removed from that context. :->

  • Bob

    Whether it was in context or not, I don’t think the comparison with William Shatner’s Saturday Night Live appearance is apposite. Shatner hasn’t had anything remotely resembling an acting career for many decades, and by 1986, was ”Captain Kirk”. It was really all he did, or could do. In those circumstances, having a go at the people whose devotion was keeping him in a more than comfortable life style was, to say the least, ill-judged. John Simm is a versatile, and much in demand young actor, who has clearly moved on from a part he played about three years ago. I can’t see that offending some Who fans is going to do him any harm.

  • ProperDave

    Not direct quotes.

    As a journalist, I’ve heard things about the Mail newsroom – X number of years ago – that are truly shocking. But I’m just not feeling the outrage over this Who story. As I read it, it’s poking fun at ‘so PC it hurts’ types who think, for example, that Davison’s sweater alludes to a racist agenda. Now, did someone write that or didn’t they? It’s even quoted the editor directly, though she’s now complaining that it didn’t quote her extensively enough. The Mail itself hasn’t accused the show of anything.

    As for Simm, did he say these words or not? I can’t believe the Radio Times would distort a direct quote. So now he’s tweeting: “Boo hoo, I’ve said something I shouldn’t, the wicked journos are out to get me.” All a bit pathetic, IMO.

  • althea

    You really haven’t been paying much attention since 1986, have you? Go check Shatner on IMDB. Or Wikipedia, for that matter. He been busy, dude.

  • Rob

    I’m assuming you meant “hadn’t” had an acting career by 1986 as opposed to “hasn’t?” Because he certainly has since then. He even won an Emmy for Boston Legal (and was nominated another four times for the role). And even saying he was no one but Kirk to most people by 1986 isn’t strictly true, since T. J. Hooker ran from 1982-1986.

  • Rob

    But that doesn’t account for the fact that sometimes something delivered in a certain tone of voice comes across differently on paper. I’m not saying this is necessarily the case here, but that could be the context he’s referring to.

    For example, just recently the former child actress, Danielle Fishel from “Boy Meets World” was quoted in a magazine as saying that Bob Saget from “Full House” had offered her cocaine as a kid, causing him to tweet angrily at her that he had been joking, to which she responded that she had known it was a joke and that she had told the journalist that it was a joke, but that line had been left out of the story. I’m not saying that this is a synonymous case, but that there is a clear example where an exact quote can be misinterpreted, either due to the story missing a crucial set-up line or not clarifying a person’s tone of voice.

  • singlestick

    RE: Actors don’t owe fans anything at all beyond their work.

    The sad thing is that the worst fans (and certainly not just sci fi fans) do not understand or accept this. They expect actors of the shows they love to be mirrors that reflect fan enthusiasm forever and forever.

    And I certainly understand how some publications not only yank quotations out of context, but sometimes deliberately distort something an actor says, or just make something up because it will better “sell” an interview. It can be pretty sad at times.

  • ProperDave

    Can anyone suggest a context in which Simm’s quote means something different?

  • Paul

    OK, how about the context being “a year or two after it was said”? (Which is what Simm is saying happened here) thus the meaning of the quote shifts from “I am really in the thick of this shit and I don’t much like it” to “I was in the thick of this shit some while ago”.

    If the quote is being presented as what Simm thinks now (and he has strongly argued that it isn’t what he thinks now) then it’s a lie, and the context — in the sense of the time — is everything.

  • Martin

    I’ve seen a few minor celebrities out and about in my life and I’ve always figured that I wouldn’t want to have people coming up to me, talking about my job in my down time so I’m not about to do the same to them.

  • Paul

    “yank quotations out of context”

    It isn’t just Americans who get hit by this.

    Do you see what I did there, ProperDave? Do you still think that “Either someone said something or they didn’t?”

    The “race” book coverage included a “thunderingly racist” quote by the editor, which was implied to be a judgment about the whole of Doctor Who when in fact it was simply the observation that there have been racist scenes over the 50 years of the show (not really such a dramatic revelation).

  • Bob

    I’m afraid nothing he’s done in the last thirty years has had much impact on me-but that may well say more about me than about Shatner! Pre-Star Trek, he did show a lot of promise as an actor-he’s very good in a Roger Corman film called ”The Intruder”, from the early sixties, and was an effective guest star in shows like ”The Outer Limits”, and ”The Twilight Zone”. At least his ”music” career didn’t take off-or was he nominated for any Grammies?

  • ProperDave

    The Radio Times will have recorded the interview as protection against any resulting lawsuit. Simm is quoted as speaking in the present tense, and his quote doesn’t chime with the explanation he’s giving, though I thank you for providing it.

    I’m certain that the RT hasn’t twisted this. It would be counter-productive to piss off its interviewees, since people like Simm would tell their celebrity mates to steer clear of them. So either he’s dissembling or there’s been a horrible misunderstanding on the RT’s part. The most charitable explanation I can think of is that the reporter wrote it up in good faith and a subeditor deleted something vital while cutting it to length. But I don’t actually think that. The quote and the explanation don’t tally, I’m afraid.

    EDIT: Sorry, I’ve just read your comment again after misreading it the first time. If the RT is holding back interviews for a year, that’s unprofessional. I’ve never heard of that being done, and I’d be very surprised if that’s the case, though anything’s possible.

  • ProperDave

    “Lindy Orthia, who compiled the anthology, concluded: ‘The biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist.'”

    I read that as “on the occasions when it is thunderingly racist”, as spelt out in the story.

    I suppose it could be read as “loving a thunderously racist TV show”, though I still think she has been quoted fairly. She knew the line had punch when she wrote it, therefore it’s hardly surprising that someone writing a lighthearted news report – which is a different thing entirely from a balanced critique – should cherry-pick it.

    Anyway, we’re arguing about semantics now.

  • NorthernStar

    I wouldn’t approach an actor that I liked if I saw them out and about, as much out of respect for them as out of cowardice. I wouldn’t want to be thought badly of by someone I admire.

    However, if done quickly and politely and most importantly only when appropriate (David Tennant tells an awful story of being asked for an autograph in a shower!) I don’t see anything wrong with it. Yes, it’s true that actors don’t owe their fans anything, but these ARE the people blogging about them, writing letters, keeping their names current, generating “Buzz”… all the good stuff in our media soaked world that is being utlitized more and more by film and TV makers.

  • Paul

    “Now”? It was semantics from the very beginning.

    I mean, the quote you provide demonstrates the problem with your “someone said something or they didn’t”. Because “when it is thunderingly racist” can mean either “on those occasions when it is thunderingly racist” or “which is thunderingly racist (all the time)”. In order to work out which of those is intended you need more information: i.e. more context.

  • teenygozer

    Wow, does someone have to explain to you that the entire world doesn’t revolve around what does and doesn’t have an impact on you? Privileged much?

    Shatner won primetime Emmy Awards in 2004 and 2005 and was nominated for Emmys in 2006, 7, 8, and 9. You may cavalierly wave a hand and say, “Tis mere piffle; I shall only be impressed by OSCAR!” but I assure you, the rest of his profession take prime-time Emmys very seriously. They didn’t give them to him ‘cos they think he’s just adorable in his Priceline commercials, which incidentally made him millions due to his taking a chunk of the company as part of his pay packet.

  • teenygozer

    Experience has made me side with Simm (and you) on this. There are fans who seem to think an actor has actually done the things they’ve acted out, but Simm is not a Timelord, Bruce Willis never shot a terrorist, John Wayne was the opposite of a war hero, William Shatner never explored other planets, Leonard Nimoy is not a Vulcan. However, Stuart Heritage seems to misunderstand what happened with Shatner & Nimoy, I don’t recall much of a backlash and there was no back-pedaling. The “get a life” thing made Shatner cool again (none of the fans seemed to think it was aimed at them but everyone knew someone who needed it said to them) and I’ve read both of Nimoy’s books, he pretty much re-iterates everything he wrote in the first book in the second, he just expands on the topic… and hit the NY Times Best Seller list for both books, I believe.

    Most frustrating: you’ll be at a convention enjoying an actor up on the stage taking questions and you get the inevitable, “Can I give you a kiss?” The answer needs to be “no” but it never is. Stage-time is supposed to be about the actor sharing experiences with everyone in the audience and that self-involved fan is about to hog 5+ minutes of time, because it’s never just a kiss, it’s always “Why I’m Your Biggest Fan”/listen to meee, pay attention to meeeee! The actor stands there, glassy eyed and with a fixed smile, and I’m sure it’s just as unpleasant on the street or in a restaurant. That time in the clutches of the super-fan is all about the fan, never about the actor.

  • Bob

    ”Privileged”? Hardly. I think Althea put it better when she described me as someone ”Who Hasn’t Been Paying Much Attention Since 1986”. My wife likes that one as well. You can also put it down to me being Someone Who Doesn’t Watch Much Television These Days.However, I’m glad to be corrected, and it’s good to know that the old boy is still out there earning a crust.

  • Jennei

    I see where he is coming from. I am a huge Dr Who fan, and IMO, he was the BEST Master. But that wasnt thanks to HIM directly, that was RTD and Moffat. If you want to see John Simm at his best, see Crime and Punishment. Im starting the Village sometime this week, so I am not sure how that is.

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