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Suppose you’re newish to the universe of Doctor Who, enthralled by what you’ve seen and wish to express your enthusiasms to fellow fans, how welcoming do you imagine they will be? Suppose there were unwritten rules of etiquette that you were not aware of, and you accidentally broke one? How forgiving, in this age of instant internet super-scorn, will they be, even if it’s an honest mistake?
That’s right, the correct answers are “not very” (unless a form of heirarchy has been established in which their length of service as a Whovian is taken into account) and “not at all.”
So what you need is a brief guide to some of the worst things you could do to offend your new
friend mentor, short of reminding them that any TV show is a constructed reality, and if you extend the construction of that reality over 50 years, AND make it a really strange reality, some inconsistencies will arise.
Oh and if you’re the pedant in question, do calm down, there’s a love:
Rule 1: It’s not Dr Who, ever.
It’s a common thing, when referring to a properly qualified doctor by name, to contract the title down to Dr. especially when addressing letters. This is, ironically, to do with issues of both time (it takes longer to write “octo” in the middle) and space (some envelopes are really tiny). However, while being superbly qualified in all sorts of scientific disciplines, the Doctor in Doctor Who is not an actual Doctor. He is called the Doctor: he’s not Doctor the Doctor. If he was, you’d be fine to start your letters “Dear Dr. the Doctor,” but as he isn’t, and we don’t know his surname (see Rule 2) you can’t write Dr. Who, or Dr Who.
And while we’re on the topic…
Rule 2: He’s not called “Doctor Who,” ever.
This is a perfectly understandable error, and one that should be forgiven more often than it is. The series is called Doctor Who, and it revolves around a man that everyone refers to as Doctor. So it’s only logical to conclude – especially given the lack of a question mark – that his surname is Who, and that he’s an actual doctor, like the doctor in House is Doctor House because his surname is House and he’s a doctor. Sadly not. The Who is there to provide mystery, not genealogy. If it was, the Doctor could turn up on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? pointing at himself and yelling “YES! I DO!”
Having said that, early episodes expressly said William Hartnell played “Dr. Who” in the end credits (I know, contravention of both rules in one go!), and the robot WOTAN refers to him as “Doctor Who” on screen in the 1966 story The War Machines, so while it is not the show’s common convention to call him “Doctor Who” to his face, there is some evidence that doing so is not as wrong as some furious Whovians would have you believe.
Also, it’s the basis of the best knock-knock joke of all time (and space)…
Rule 3: Do not spell anyone’s name wrong, ever.
Matt Smith is fairly straightforward, as were Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (two ls each, please). But Jenna-Louise Coleman has a hyphen, which is problematic. Peter Davison has no d – he’s not the son of David – and Christopher Eccleston has no extra e on the end of his surname. Russell T Davies has two esses and two ls in his first name, and an e in his surname. Steven Moffat has a v and not a ph in his first name, and only the one t at the end. TARDIS is an acronym, and should therefore appear in capitals. The Daleks have a capital D.
Raxacoricofallapatoria is too hard to worry about. We know what you mean.
Rule 4: Do not call the Daleks robots, ever
Inside your average robot (and most of the above-average ones) is a mass of circuits, wiring, electrical components and batteries. Inside the fearsome metal casing of a Dalek is a squid with rage issues. That’s the difference.
Rule 5: Do not say “the sets were all wobbly in classic Who,” ever
In 2008, the comedian and actor Toby Hadoke took the show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf to the Edinburgh Fringe, detailing his life as a Doctor Who obsessive, and massive pedant on behalf of the show. Here’s his spirited defense of the commonly-expressed nugget of hand-me-down journalism that states that the problem with Doctor Who in the classic years was that the sets were all wobbly, and therefore nothing was real.
There, that should grant you access to a few Whovian inner circles at the very least. Any other arguments you may choose to have once inside are therefore your own concern.
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic