There have always been two kinds of Doctor Who fan. Some understand the inherent absurdity in a person traveling through time and space in a police box to battle farting aliens, the Loch Ness Monster, and plasticine dinosaurs. And then some take the show very, very seriously.
This kind of fan reared its ugly head on Twitter earlier this week after fan Andy Dobson posted an adorable photo of his young son Rory. Dressed in a homemade Dalek costume, the little boy was having a lot of fun as he undertook the time-honored tradition of using household props to create Doctor Who magic. We guess the Dobson household didn’t have a plunger!
However, despite how innocent and fun the image was, one fan sent Andy a scathing DM about his 18-month-year-old son’s effort. “Stop posting photos of that kid in his crap Dalek costume – he’s not even holding the energy weapon in the right hand,” this strange person wrote. “Your [sic] embarrassing proper Doctor Who fans.” Not finished, the insanely angry fan demanded that Andy, “Get off Twitter and leave fandom to the true fans who care about the show.”
The jaw-dropping response garnered massive reaction from Doctor Who fans, who offered their support for Andy and complimented his son on his first cosplay attempt. “As someone who has directed Doctor Who, I think your son looks wonderful!” said Douglas Mackinnon. “Who knows, as he likes dressing up, he might end up being an actor and end up playing Doctor Who!”
Former companion Nicola Bryant said that Andy and Rory should “Never worry about the words of the mean-spirited” and Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg spoke on behalf of the Dalek’s themselves when he said, “True fan? Hmm. I wouldn’t know about that, but you can take it from a true Dalek, whose vision is not impaired, that your son’s costume looks brilliant. Here on Skaro, we’re all very proud of him.”
Perhaps the most significant response, however, came from the legendary Neil Gaiman, writer of classic Doctor Who episodes like “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver,” not to mention his own original work. “True Doctor Who Fans know you can hold the whisk in either hand,” he wrote. “As long as you remember to say ‘Exterminate’ or something vaguely like it, you are a real Dalek.”
Writing in a follow-up tweet, Dobson thanked those responding, saying, “that’s the real fandom.” The father added that he had no ill will toward the offending fan, saying he “certainly didn’t take the DM personally… you never know what the sender is going through in the real world to feel so angry or upset.”
While the critic may believe he is a “true fan,” thousands coming together to offer support for victims of gatekeeping and toxic fan culture is very much in the spirit of a show. As Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor once said, “Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.”