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Whovian

noun [countable]

a fan of the British science-fiction series Doctor Who

Whovian also whovian

adjective

'But I've met a number of Whovians, real serious Doctor Who fans, and they've been so kind and generous to me and excited about the series …'

Christoper Eccleston, quoted in Yorkshire Post Today 29th March 2005

'After a hiatus of 16 years – a mere blip to a 900-year-old Time Lord, but an eternity for obsessive Whovians – the BBC has launched a new Doctor Who series …'

The Globe and Mail, Canada 26th March 2005

'Nathan went to Community High School, and I've known him since eleventh grade. He used to have this Whovian scarf …'

anonymous weblog September 1996

There is a section of the British population for whom Saturday 26th March 2005 was a particularly momentous day. Who are these people then? Winners of the national lottery perhaps? Well no, they were simply turning on the TV at 7pm to capture a moment they had been eagerly awaiting for 16 years – the first episode of a new series of the science fiction programme Doctor Who. And yes, there's a name for these committed aficionados: they are the Whovians!

for many individuals who grew up during the 1970s, Doctor Who was a defining childhood experience, with jokes abounding about time spent hiding behind the sofa for fear of the Daleks, mechanical villains infamous for their robotic pronunciation of the verb exterminate

In 1962 the BBC light entertainment department was commissioned to produce a science-fiction programme featuring 'time travel' and 'telepathy', topics felt likely to capture the imaginations of younger viewers. The result was Doctor Who, which debuted on BBC television on November 23rd 1963, the day after President John F. Kennedy's assassination. The programme was to become one of the longest-running science fiction series in broadcasting history, featuring the talents of seven successive actors in the title role. After 26 years of continuous adventures, Doctor Who disappeared from British TV screens on Wednesday December 6th 1989, to the dismay of Whovians across the globe.

For many individuals who grew up during the 1970s, Doctor Who was a defining childhood experience, with jokes abounding about time spent hiding behind the sofa for fear of the Daleks, mechanical villains infamous for their robotic pronunciation of the verb exterminate! It is precisely this generation of children who today form the vast majority of Whovians, serious fans of the series and often collectors of associated merchandise and memorabilia.

Like The Doctor himself, the use of the word Whovian has recently re-emerged from the archives of popular British culture. It is also used adjectivally in phrases such as a whovian scarf, describing a scarf modelled on the very long multi-coloured one worn by actor Tom Baker in the role during the 1970s.

Background – Whovian

Popular use of the word Whovian is thought to originate from the Doctor Who Fan Club of America, who formerly produced a newsletter entitled The Whovian Times. Unlike the term Trekkie, which appears in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary as 'a fan of the US science-fiction programme Star Trek', Whovian has yet to be formally recorded as an English word. However the word for the Doctor's time travelling machine, Tardis (an acronym of Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, externally a small police telephone box, but internally a time travel base of generous proportions) has gained general currency as an informal description of 'an unexpectedly large space', and is defined in the Encarta® World English Dictionary as 'a room or building that seems to be much larger than it actually is or appears to be from the outside.'

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 25th April 2005.

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