Painting the Forth Road Bridge with The Doctor

Traffic on the Forth Road BridgeOver on DoctorWhoTV I read an interesting post from Lewis Christian (he of the Celebrate, Regenerate! project). Entitled How Will Future Fans Keep Up? it addresses the thorny issue of the ever-increasing volume of episodes that each wave of new fans won’t have seen. How do they ever catch up with the past when, like the painting of the famous bridge, the task never finishes.

Lewis mentions the fans that are hoping to re-watch every available episode before the 50th but also makes the point that many fans never will keep up. Some will make a token effort here and there but for most fans the past will remain a closed-door.

I wondered what this might mean in other ways and wanted to add to the context…

The Big Finish back-catalogue

One group of fans who have this problem in spades is the Big Finish fans. As regular visitors to this blog will know Big Finish have released many excellent adventures for Classic Doctors, companions, monsters, spin-offs…

Anyone discovering Big Finish this November will be faced with the daunting prospect of coming to terms (financially and intellectually) with: 180 main range stories (361 CDs worth of adventure), 8 seasons of Companion Chronicles, boxsets, specials, Bernice Summerfield, Jago &Litefoot… the list goes on. Using my case as an example I have taken maybe five years to finally listen to around 2/3 of the main range, 80% of the Companion Chronicles and 60% of the existing Jago & Litefoot! Did I mention four seasons of Eighth Doctor stories and (so far) two seasons of Fourth Doctor stories?

The TCQ Triangle

If you have done much project management, you should have heard of something called the Time-Cost-Quality triangle (sorry – it wasn’t an obscure bit of Whovian arcana!) which roughly tells us that there is a balance to be struck between how fast you do something, what it costs and how well you can do it.

This has a direct bearing: catching up takes time (to listen or watch) and costs money. Both of these will, for most fans, be in finite supply. Quality comes in disguised as scope. The best way to start to address a vast legacy is to slice it into chunks and start with those. I don’t buy everything that Big Finish do, I don’t buy every DVD release.

Just like history

Eventually this will mean that Doctor Who (should it not all suddenly stop being produced) becomes like school history. You may well do modern or 20th Century history but are only going to have a broad sense of everything else. You may specialise in the Tudors at university (forgive the UK centric nature of this analogy) or the Renaissance. No-one does all of it in-depth.

Eventually we will form a short list of Doctor Who History in a Nutshell (which I now copyright, trademark and will produce!) that becomes sufficient for the majority of viewers, listeners and all but the most dedicated of fans.

Do we need the Missing Episodes?

Which brings me to the Missing Episodes. Recently (June 2013) we have the furore over the supposed finding of 90 missing episodes being shipped to the UK. Even with denials there are still wild rumours that secret meetings are going on to resolve their release. This is the fevered speculation (I believe) of a few vocal and influential sources.

Now move on to 2014; with anniversary fever subsiding how many of the millions of viewers would care at all about lost Troughton or feared wiped Hartnell. Even for the most solid fans the completeness gene fights the pragmatic ‘I really only want X and Y to be found’ position. At some stage it will be physically impossible for these things to exist in their original form and will it matter? We know the stories, we have stills and memories of those who were there.

Don’t forget Doctor Who is a piece of entertainment. There is no grand design, no secret of the universe contained within. Yes it is popular, I enjoy it and think about it (too much) and it has some very positive values.

Maybe we don’t need the missing episodes?!

What do you think? How complete is your collection? What do you collect? Do you need the missing episodes?

Let me know!

About Tony Jones

Freelance writer, blogger, philosopher and Doctor Who fan
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  • lewgopolis

    A great article, Tony. I hadn’t even considered Big Finish and books and spin-off material — that’s one chunk of Who I rarely delve into, mainly due to money and space. However, for me, only TV Who “counts” so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I do have a couple of BFs, but not many. I doubt I’ll ever catch up either – it’s (as you say) a hell of a lot of material!

    • http://redrocketrising.com/ Tony Jones

      Still, it’s fun trying!

      • lewgopolis

        Definitely! :)