Doctor Who News The Day of the Doctors

Published on June 15th, 2014 | by Nick Kitchen

Has the Internet and Social Media Killed Fan Meetups?

The Guardian has published a very interesting piece by fellow Whovian and Doctor Who  author, Jenny Colgan, on the history of the “Doctor Who Fan Clan” that has regularly met at The Fitzroy Tavern for over 30 years. The tavern is set to close up shop for renovations and Colgan has pondered if this may mark the end of the monthly meeting of Whovians in London.

Known primarily for bad beer and its status as the former hangout for intellectuals like author George Orwell, “The Tavern” also served as a bastion for Whovians during the 16 year wilderness period between McCoy’s last adventure and the first time we heard Eccleston tell Rose to “run.” As a matter of fact, Colgan notes that the monthly meeting featured attendees that would go on to be some of the most influential individuals working on NuWho (i.e. RTD, Steven Moffat, Nicholas Briggs, Paul Cornell, etc.). Says current show runner, Steven Moffat, of the meetings:

“That form of fandom was much more active than it is now. You only had what you could create yourself. There was no Who on TV. We had nothing.”

If you flash forward to today (with your mind-TARDIS, dear readers!), the monthly meeting has declined in its numbers and Colgan speculates that perhaps the temporary shutdown of the Fitzroy Tavern may be the end of the “Fan Clan,” and puts forth the question, “Can the gathering survive the closing of its home?” The answer is maybe yes, maybe no. While the closing may end up being the catalyst that sees the end of the meeting, the real reason for its decline and ultimate demise may have nothing to do with lack of upkeep or “substandard lager.” Indeed, perhaps the real culprit is the Internet and social media. As Colgan notes, it isn’t hard to find someone to talk to about Doctor Who on the Internet (Kasterborous and our fantastic forums for example!). How many multitudes of fan groups exist on Facebook? Oh, and that shiny electric monolith you may be reading this very paragraph on? The game has certainly changed.

[pullquote align=right]As Colgan notes, it isn’t hard to find someone to talk to about Doctor Who on the Internet![/pullquote]Picture this scenario: It’s the first Thursday of the month in London. You’ve had a long day at the office. The boss has really tightened the screws on you and you’re just ready to get to the house/apartment/townhome/mansion/cave to unwind. You have a couple of options at your disposal. You can a.) Drag yourself back out into town and hit the Tavern for a lovely evening of Whovian discourse or b.) You can pop the top off your favorite gentlemanly beverage from your refrigerator, chill on your sofa, queue up some Doctor Who on Netflix, and have some of the same discourse you’d have had at the tavern on Facebook or Internet forum (maybe even with someone sitting in the Tavern at that very moment!) via your smartphone/tablet/laptop. I’m willing to make a small wager that the second option wins more often than it loses, and maybe that’s OK.

Technology has made it easier to connect with likeminded people anywhere in the world, but’s it’s also caused us to lose some of that face to face interaction that still has such incredible value to us as individuals and as a fandom. For example, I can promise you that meeting and having a conversation with Matt Smith or Tom Baker in person is going to be more precious to me than having a Skype call or IM session with either one of them (Writer’s Note: that last sentence is totally true, but I would still geek out over the chance to Skype or IM Baker or Smith! – NK).

That being said, perhaps we need to make it a priority to keep these fan gatherings alive. By all means, embrace new technology and ways to promote our beloved show; just don’t, as we Americans often say, throw the baby out with the bath water. Hopefully, the original Fitzroy group will find a temporary (or permanent) new venue for their meeting. That group’s contribution to Doctor Who has been too valuable for it just vanish into the ether for good.

So what say you, fellow Kasterborites? Do you have a local spot (or group if the venue changes) for Whovian discourse? Have you ever been to the Fitzroy Tavern or fortunate enough to have been part of one of these legendary “fan clan” meetups? Sound off below! We’d love to hear your stories and experiences!


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About the Author


“That’s bacon! Are you trying to poison me?” And from that line on, I’ve been unable to stop watching, reading, musing about the Doctor. As a recent transplant to the Whoniverse, I’ve been trying to soak up as much Who-related knowledge as possible. That journey has taken me from the Tenth Planet to the Fields of Trenzalore and gently set me at the edge of my seat for what’s next. It’s an honor to be here and I plan to bring a unique perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey alongside me.

7 Responses to Has the Internet and Social Media Killed Fan Meetups?

  1. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Surely it all depends on the members that regularly attend the Tavern. If they want to continue meeting (temporarily or permanently) at some other venue, they will. I have a feeling they will. I personally abhor so-called ‘social media’ and agree that you could never beat face-to-face encounters. If social media is so social, then why does everybody participate by being so completely antisocial that they have to communicate with each other totally alone via the internet! I’ll stick to briefly sharing my thoughts on articles like this (and it’s wonderful host website) and spend the rest of my time being a physical presence in the world rather than a virtual one.

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  3. avatar Christine says:

    For me the experience is quite different. It is only since the internet and the social media that I can have any Whovian discourse at all. And they have helped in meeting people I otherwise would never have met. Before the rise of these media I just had my novels (both novelisations and original stories) and some VHS tapes and nobody at all to talk about it or correspond with about all those aspects of the series I was and am interested in. I actually visit conventions now while before I didn’t even know about their existence. So, it may be a loss to all those people close enough to the Tavern, if you live abroad in a non-English speaking country (although most people do know a smattering of words) the coming of these new media really has been a revelation in the opening up of possibilities. Even if there are some places on the web I do not visit because of the rather anti-social expressiveness of some!

  4. avatar Richard says:

    There is nothing social about typing into a computer. We are social creatures by habit, if meets up do not work then why do conventions still do so well it is our love of Who that brings us together.

  5. avatar LanceRock says:

    The fan meetup in my community has only been growing in recent years, and guess how information about times etc. mostly gets communicated….Facebook. People meet up with each other in person not for the Doctor Who discourse alone, but because they actually want to hang out and make friends with people who share a similar interest. I think people want to blame technology for every negative change in their lives, but based on little evidence. I think that it is just as plausible that because Doctor Who is no longer a niche interest one doesn’t need to go to special meetups to make friends with people who share the interest. That is just speculation of course, but without any scientific research being conducted, it is equally plausible.

  6. avatar francis cave says:

    Interesting article although of course the answer to the question: “In which episode does Colin Baker first use his sonic screwdriver?” is never because he never had one!

    I’ll get me coat…..

  7. For me, it’s only been very recently – in the past 7 months actually – that I’ve had a regular physical meeting place for fellow fans. Prior to that, the only places I “met” other Doctor Who fans was online.

    Our little group of book readers meets once a month and I wouldn’t have known they even existed if it weren’t for Facebook, yet they’d been meeting for months only half an hour from my house.

    I’ve enjoyed the mix of online (and now physical) meeting places that I’ve experienced since I was introduced to the occasional chat room here and read-news group there on the Internet in the late ’90s. The diversity is truly astounding.

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