The Secret Origin of The Doctor Who Companion

This year, The Doctor Who Companion was a decade old. It’s just that few people realise that.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a wonderful, dedicated audience since this website popped online in March 2016, our numbers buoyed by the readers and writers of Kasterborous. But we had been in a quandary. Andrew Reynolds and I knew that we’d have to leave the site we’d joined long ago, and we were over the moon to hear fellow contributors were willing to go on that journey with us. We still needed a name, however.

Okay, we needed a lot more than that, but a name was front and centre. It was, like “the Doctor,” a statement of intent, and further needed to be grabbing enough, to tick those SEO boxes.

Except in the back of my mind, I had a name. It was a present from when I first became a fan of Doctor Who.

The Doctor Who Companion began when I was in school. I didn’t have a clue about how to create a website, and I didn’t much care either. What I needed was a printer, ink, and loving parents who would let me go on my mad endeavours. Fortunately, I had all three. This was before I knew much about fanzines. I just knew that I wanted to be a writer, and that it would be really cool if, one day, I could balance writing duties with being an editor of a magazine. Something nice and small like National Geographic, Radio Times, or Doctor Who Magazine. Might as well get some practise as soon as I could…

So, shortly before Doctor Who Series 2 aired, The Doctor Who Companion was born.

As far as I recall, it was one sheet of A4, but double-sided so y’know, it wasn’t a rushed job. I made it look vaguely professional, designing my own header: I was on a Design and Technology course, yet still felt using a transparent 2005 Doctor Who logo with the words, “THE” and “COMPANION” either side of it was an artistic peak.

I can’t recall the main news on the front page – presumably it was something to do with Series 2 – but I distinctly remember writing a supporting piece about The Sontaran Experiment having been announced as an upcoming DVD release. I knew nothing about that two-part serial back then; I was just improvising using whatever facts I could gleam. I pretty much do the same thing now (although I have seen all available episodes now, so take that, Young Me).

lady-cassandra-end-of-the-world

On the second page was the character history of Lady Cassandra, revealed to be returning in the season opener, plus a review of Quick Reads: I Am A Dalek, in which I assured readers that David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor has, at least, met the Daleks in book form, something which he might not do on television as Rose Tyler rid the universe of them at the conclusion of The Parting of the Ways. Ah, sweet naivety.

I stood by the school gates and shouted about a brand new publication, handing them out to interested individuals and delivering bundles to local newsagents. Okay, so that didn’t happen.

Its readership was incredibly limited. Naturally, my family were its first recipients, followed by a few friends at school and my History teacher who was very supportive and inspiring. The reception I received from everyone was really positive, and I began work on more issues of what I called “the DWC” then and there. I didn’t stick to just news either, the fanzine’s page count doubling to include more eclectic stories and, yes, fiction. I even had a sort of arc planned. It gave me a public outlet that helped me gain a bit of confidence in my writing, egged on by ever-supportive family.

I was happy with it. That’s what was important. But GCSEs happened and school finished and the DWC was no more.

Until this year.

Andy and I were struggling for a name, so I pitched The Doctor Who Companion to him. He didn’t immediately scream, call the police, or pour hydrochloric acid into his ears, so I figured it went down well. No, but seriously, he gave me a big thumbs-up and I was pretty ecstatic. (That was basically my one good decision – I was sceptical about this “every week should have a theme” notion of his, yet it turned out that his idea set us apart from other Doctor Who fan sites, and hopefully carved our distinct place in the web. Damn his cleverness.)

I hope the DWC continues to entertain its readership – that’s you! – and it’s this community that drives us forward. That’s why we exist.

I like to think there’s a parallel world where the DWC is still a physical fanzine, but for me, that ended a long time ago… then began anew again.

Nonetheless, I’m just happy that a small piece in the history of the DWC is a single A4 fanzine I started when I was kid, and that same dedication continues this very day.

  • Dr. Moo

    Brilliant Philip, why haven’t you shared this with us before?! (I assume no copies exist anymore, if they do I want pictures.)

    • Philip

      Cheers Moo! They do still exist… but I don’t know where! Will add them in if I ever find them…

  • bar

    Doctor Who inspires so much creativity. Fans get to hear about it because it also inspires loyalty – that creativity is fed back into the show and its environs. In fansites, conventions, DVD restorers, BF audios, and the TV show itself we celebrate people like you making your Who-related dreams a better reality than you ever imagined.
    BUT what about all the Who-inspired creativity that has gone on to produce in other fields – people becoming scientists because of 3 and Liz Shaw’s dogged determination to find a cure, people becoming astronauts or teachers or aid workers or engineers because the show inspired them? What else has its optimism and belief in change inspired fans to do and be?

    • Philip

      You’re absolutely right. DW inspired me to become a screenwriter (not that that dream’s in action yet), so we’d love to hear how the show’s inspired all sorts of careers. Mind you, the ethos of the show permeates to real life, whatever you job, I feel.

  • FrancoPabloDiablo

    A great, fun and insightful article Philip. Thanks. Love this site and am glad I was one of the many that transitioned from the old K site (still upsets me the way that died a death). But can you please share with the rest of us where to see the other two parts of The Sontaran Experiment? I’ve only seen two of them 🙂 (jeez, I love being pedantic sometimes).

    • Philip

      I could just go with it and say I was being ironic, that I’m saying I knew nothing about it… But no, you’re right! How did I make that mistake?! I LOVE Sontaran Experiment! (Glad you liked it though.)