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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 09:49 GMT
Fans count down to new Doctor Who
By Tom Bishop
BBC News entertainment reporter

Sisterhood of Karn
A member of the 'Sisterhood of Karn' poses as a Cyberman
The wait is almost over for devoted fans of sci-fi series Doctor Who, which returns to BBC One on Saturday after a 16-year absence.

The show has attracted a huge number of followers since William Hartnell first stepped out of his Tardis in 1963 - many of them members of fan clubs and attending gatherings around the globe.

Yet it seems most will be staying home to watch Christopher Eccleston's debut as the time-travelling Doctor.

International Doctor Who website Outpost Gallifrey lists a very full calendar to keep even the most dedicated of fans, known as Whovians, busy all year.

No sooner have you emerged from the Doctor Who weekend in Somerset's Wookey Hole than it is time for a swift Sci-Fi Sea Cruise around Europe, a Whovention convention in Sydney and Chicago Tardis 2005.

When not doing that, groups such as the Sisterhood of Karn dress up as their favourite villains and heroes from the series, including the sinister Cybermen.

But when it comes to the show itself, there is only one place fans want to be - in front of the television.

"It is time to sit down on your sofa, aim your remote control and enjoy it," says Antony Wainer, spokesman for the 1,500-strong Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

"If this was a movie we would hire a cinema and if it was made for the internet we would gather around a computer screen.

"But we want to see the show in the way it is intended - in our homes up and down the country."

After the series' extended absence, Mr Wainer says Saturday's broadcast will be a significant moment in both the history of the Time Lord and the history of television.

"I can just imagine the excitement when the TV announcer says 'And now on BBC One - time for Doctor Who'," he says.

"I wasn't born when the original Doctor made his debut, so this will be a very special occasion."

Billie Piper as Rose
Rose, played by Billie Piper, aims to bring sexual tension to the show
A spokesman for The Sisterhood of Karn - "an Earth-based group of gay people united by their interest in Doctor Who and cult TV" - agrees.

Ian Chandos says the 30-strong London group has opted for a number of small viewings on Saturday rather than a united gathering.

"We all want a chance to watch the first episode in its entirety then meet up the following week to discuss it," he says.

"Having said that, we'll probably all be on the phone to each other as soon as it's over."

Resisted temptation

Members of both fan groups resisted the temptation to watch an early version of the show which was leaked onto the internet earlier this month.

"None of us looked at that out of principle," says Mr Chandos. "We want the new series to be totally fresh to us."

They expressed strong support for Eccleston as the new Doctor and Russell T Davies as series producer.

Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who
Fans expressed early support for new Doctor Christopher Eccleston
"Mr Eccleston is a splendid choice, I think he will be one of the best things about the new series," says Mr Chandos.

"The previous two actors - Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy - did their best but they did not really have the intensity, gravity or eccentricity needed for the role."

Davies has already impressed diehard fans by writing a Doctor Who novel and mentioning the show in his 1999 TV series Queer As Folk.

"I never once doubted their appointment," says Mr Wainer. "They have already worked together on The Second Coming, a fantastic TV drama and a tremendous parallel for the new Doctor Who series."

Programme-makers have hinted that the show will be brought up-to-date with dynamic storylines, impressive special effects and a little sexual tension from the Doctor's companion Rose, played by Billie Piper.

Doctor Who Appreciation Society logo
We'll all have to wait and see what we make of it
Antony Wainer, Doctor Who Appreciation Society
"It could alienate some viewers if it focuses too much on the personal relationship side," says Mr Chandos.

"One of the reasons why Doctor Who has so many gay fans is that the programme has never been overtly heterosexual, and it has portrayed the Doctor as a bit of an outsider."

While chat rooms on Doctor Who fan sites will no doubt soon be buzzing with response to the new series, Whovians were not tempted to risk an advance verdict.

"We'll all have to wait and see what we make of it," says Mr Wainer, "but I think we're in for a real treat."

Doctor Who is on BBC One at 1900 GMT on Saturday.


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