It's safe to say that I am a big fan of the new Doctor Who, and I have been ever since it arrived in 2005, back when I was sixteen. I wasn't a big fan from the first episode. As a science-fiction fan in general, I had heard of Doctor Who but was not quite sure what it was all about. So I tuned into the CBC and watched "Rose" with interest. Gradually, I came to appreciate Doctor Who for what it is: one of the best TV shows ever.
Normally I don't like to jump on the "we have it so good these days" bandwagon, but … we do. We Canadians might grumble about licensing restrictions preventing us from watching some videos online, but at least we're lucky enough to see Doctor Who regularly (and now that it's on Space, it's even on a channel that doesn't pre-empt it for hockey!). From the essays in Chicks Dig Time Lords, I get the impression that the life of an American Doctor Who fan involved scrabbling around for video cassettes (which were not always cheap or easy to find) and negotiating with parents/siblings/broadcasters to ensure they had access to their regular dose of Doctor Who. Getting the episodes seems to have been an epic struggle in and of itself; I am lucky enough to get them delivered directly to my TV or computer whenever I like.
I've never really seen the old Doctor Who, and this doesn't bother me. I don't feel like I'm missing out, because unlike the essayists here, those Doctors weren't my Doctors. The division between the series is sharp enough that I don't feel the loss, and because I was not around when the old series was broadcast, because I never attended conventions or got involved in the fan groups, I don't have that sense of community that this book so clearly portrays. While I wouldn't mind watching episodes of the old Doctor Who, they are not as essential to me as they are to so many of the contributors to Chicks Dig Time Lords. So for that reason, I really enjoyed hearing their perspectives on the old series and how it affected their childhood. I liked hearing about their favourite Doctors and companions, and especially their anecdotes about attending conventions; working on the shows, the audio books, or the tie-in novels; and becoming a part of the larger community.
At times these essays become extremely personal, and I feel privileged that so many people chose to open up their lives to strangers like us. Some of their anecdotes are hilarious:
Bill [Baggs] introduced us to Sylvester McCoy the year that he was a guest at [Chicago] TARDIS. The two of them proceeded to beat Michael and me at pool. Actually, it was a close game until Michael's final shot, when Sylv leaned over and whispered into Michael's ear "you're going to lose," using his best Doctor voice. Michael then (rather understandably) flubbed the shot, losing the game.
Note to self: do not challenge a Doctor, current or former, to a game of pool. Some of the anecdotes are heartwarming:
Lis [Sladen] didn't have to give Caitlin an extra glossy. The nice guys running the autograph lines didn't have to let us jump the line. Colin [Baker] didn't have to wave, and Lisa [Bowerman], Nick [Briggs], and Jason [Haigh-Ellery] didn't have to spend ten minutes talking to our daughter, even if she has listened to her fair share of Big Finish audios.
They could have all remained professional and kind, but disinterested. But that's not how this community works.
Because, you see, our fandom is truly bigger on the inside.
Both of the above quotes come from Lynne M. Thomas' essay, "Marrying Into the TARDIS Tribe". Thomas' daughter, Caitlin, has Aicardi syndrome, and toward the end of her essay Thomas talks about how fans and members of the Doctor Who community have provided assistance and support. It's at this point in the book that I stopped devouring the essays and had to force myself to slow down, because it was difficult to read so quickly while my eyes were tearing up. This is where Chicks Dig Time Lords went from being interesting and insightful to beautiful.
I bought two copies of this book from Amazon, one for myself and one as a birthday gift to a friend, who is also a fan of Doctor Who. Ironically, a week later I received access to an electronic copy in the Hugo Voters Packet, because Chicks Dig Time Lords is nominated in the "Best Related Work" category (and I will most likely be voting for it). I shall keep my print copy, because the electronic version is a yucky PDF. And I'm glad to have paid for it. But I've seldom been more tempted to pirate a book: there are just so many people I know into whose hands I want to shove a copy and say, "Read this. It's just that good."
Although, as its subtitle implies, this book is a celebration of Doctor Who, it's not just fluff. Many of the essays have more serious moments, and all reveal what it's like to be a woman Doctor Who fan, to go to conventions, to cosplay, to make Who-inspired fan videos or write fan-fiction. The essays herein provide insight into a part of Doctor Who fandom I have never seen, not only because of my gender but also simply because I don't go to conventions, and I neither read nor write fan-fiction. I exist on the periphery of the community, and this was like getting an all-access pass. To be certain, some of the essays are encomia of the show and its fan base. Some verge upon the academic—in particular, Shoshana Magnet and Robert Smith? write about the problematic portrayal of women in the new series' companions in "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Have We Really Come That Far?". I don't agree with all of the essays (I think Magnet and Smith? make some good points though), but they are without exception well-written and fascinating.
All of the 28 essays remark, to one extent or another, on how being female has affected the author's relationship with other fans of Doctor Who. Despite this fact, Chicks Dig Time Lords never feels repetitive, never feels like it's harping on some central theme, because the perspectives are just so diverse that every person has a different story to tell. Some are positive, some not so much. But Thomas and O'Shea have managed to collect a broad spectrum of opinions and experiences from across the community of female Doctor Who fans and compile them into a single, amazing volume. For Doctor Who fans, I'd call this essential reading. Even if you aren't a fan of Doctor Who, you still might like this: if fandom and its phenomena interest you, or if as a feminist or sociologist you're interested in women's perspective on women in one of the longest-lived science-fiction fan communities, then grab a copy of Chicks Dig Time Lords.