Contact has been made – Looking back at Doctor Who: Lockdown!

Image Credit: Adapted from (CC BY-SA 3.0 – Myrabella (Wikimedia Commons)); (Public Domain – ubahnverleih (Wikimedia Commons), U.S Department of State (Flickr)); (CC BY 2.0 – MangakaMaiden Photography (Flickr), Ben Sutherland (Flickr), Ewen Roberts (Flickr), Nelo Hotsuma (Flickr)); (CC BY-SA 2.0 – Heroes & Villains (Flickr), Jules Bywater-Lees (Flickr), Gage Skidmore (Flickr), Matthew Wells (Flickr), Shaun Smith (Flickr)); and (Pixabay License – Acozza (Pixabay))

Image Description: The stars of Doctor Who: Lockdown! at the Palace of Versailles

By Thomas Barker

“Ready to outsit eternity…”

In the ‘Before Times’, or ‘2020a’ (also known as the Dark Times, albeit not part of Time Lord Victorious), we were treated to Series Twelve of Doctor Who, from which sprung many revelations and much discourse which was to sustain us until the festive special. Our society gathered weekly to watch the series unfold and eagerly discuss, debate, and theorise about the future. Polls were made, memes shared, and analysis deliberated. The Covid pandemic, for all its challenges, difficulties, and anxieties, did not thwart this spirit of open-minded discussion and love for Doctor Who and, undoubtedly, has helped to sustain many of us in a torrid year. For all I may dislike social media sometimes, its role in connecting geographically disparate fans (and creatives) cannot be disputed. Doctor Who, with its escapism and optimism, represented one coping mechanism for those struggling, like myself and many others, whether through the programme, its spin-offs, or expanded universe material. You need only consult a YouTube comments section from any of the fan-made offerings from the pandemic to see many highlighting the net benefit these projects have had, whether in invoking nostalgia for lighter times or in their offering of diversions from “the world out there”. While not a panacea for every worry posed by Covid, the franchise united an online community able to transcend the confines of isolation and, through various projects, it has provided ways to showcase the breadth of creative talent and energies which have sustained it and its community for decades. This seems pertinent given the challenges the arts sector faced throughout lockdown and is a reminder of media’s centrality to our lives, whether in its mental health benefits or, as the society confirms, in forming social bonds with others. We should not take the importance of Who for granted. As the recent Adventures in Lockdown anthology’s blurb states, while staying at home was imperative, “the freedom of the TARDIS remained a dream that drew many – allowing them to roam the cosmos in search of distraction, reassurance and adventure.”

Doctor Who’s availability via Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Britbox has no doubt helped facilitate traditional viewing during this time. However, a standout extra ‘season’ we have seen this year has been the Doctor Who: Lockdown! strand of content spearheaded by the wonderful Emily Cook, the quality of which almost qualifies it as its own era of Doctor Who in itself. As the Thirteenth Doctor says in her debut, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, “when people need help, I never refuse”, and help the Doctor did, coming to the rescue as the prospect of national restrictions in the UK beckoned. Initially titled ‘Who at Home’, Emily Cook of Doctor Who Magazine offered a communal online tweetalong to The Day of the Doctor on 21 March, with Steven Moffat in tow to offer commentary via Twitter. From there, the epically named Doctor Who: Lockdown! went from strength to strength, with (at the time of writing) 29 tweetalongs to NuWho episodes, with on-brand hashtags and often with cast and creatives joining in to offer new insights or recollections about the stories. Humble beginnings in Rose (26 March) and The Eleventh Hour (3 April) soon gave way to the titanic Subwave Network tweetalong, which rivalled Endgame in scope and scale in celebrating the Series Four finale with a host of stars tweeting along on 19 April. Though the original run came to an end in May, a successor series was then revived for the end of 2020 as lockdown restrictions were reimposed, with a third in 2021. Whether you consider the newer watchalongs ‘NuWhoLockdown and the originals ‘Classic WhoLockdown is up for debate, but we have received a wealth of extra content and archived tweets which will forever endear the events to fans long after the nightmarish year was over. Having creatives like Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, former Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith and a host of companions commentate alongside fans on the relevant hashtags (with #HellOfABird taking on a life of its own as confused birdwatchers invaded the hashtag) gave a sense of intimacy and communal togetherness, as if we were all sat on the same sofa watching Who.

Fans may recall that extra diegetic (in-universe recounting of narratives – Ed.) content for Who has a digital precedence, with the Tardisode offerings for Series Two, posing as prequels to be digitally downloaded on mobiles or via the BBC website. While not returning for subsequent series, the Moffat era saw further prequel content from Series Six to Nine, with The Night of the Doctor perhaps the most well-known example. The lockdown content could, then, be viewed as the spiritual inheritors of these offerings, hosted on YouTube in the social media age. While short stories from Chris Chibnall and others were published on the BBC Website (separate to the Lockdown ventures), I would like to focus on reviewing (or recapping) the original roster of Lockdown content and remind us of how lucky and fortunate we were to get such a wealth of content (for free!) in a difficult year for creators worldwide. Overall, we gained, amongst other things, new prologues and endings to iconic episodes, brand new Murray Gold music, a cameo from a Doctor, the epic Doctor Who: Assembled multi-Doctor special, a farewell to the much-missed Elizabeth Sladen and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and reflective, thought-provoking offerings like Paul Cornell’s ‘Shadow’ duology, with the passage of time and the post-Timeless Child state of play providing interesting takes on the Doctor’s morality. These new pieces have, as we will see, embraced different mediums, such as poetry, puppetry, comics and illustration; included high-concept VFX; and brought in fans and professionals alike to create new tales. It’s another reminder of the creative stimulus Who can (and will) pose to all, as well as the open and communal energy behind the project. We have much to thank Emily and everyone who gave up their time to produce these shorts for, which remain free to view.

Strax Saves the Day (21 March 2020) – for The Day of the Doctor:

The beginning (albeit not in black and white and not in a junkyard) saw a special tie-in written by Steven Moffat in the vein of the Strax introduction to the cinema screenings of The Day of the Doctor. This, the ‘Genesis of the Tweetalongs’, is just as good as later instalments, and the return of Dan Starkey and Neve McIntosh as Strax and Vastra set the precedent for later guest returns from across Who. There are of course many in-jokes, which put me in the mindset of that original introduction, which I remember well from going to see Day in 2013. It is very much DIY compared to something high spec like Pompadour later on, but is by no means less effective. Just as the cinema intro reminds you of the event of ‘Doctor Who in the cinema’, this nicely reminds you of ‘communal Doctor Who at home’. I would also like a Strax plushie, please (thanks BBC Studios!).

Doctor Who and the Time War (26 March 2020) – for Rose:

As it became clear the Day event was not a one-off, the fifteenth anniversary of Rose saw an iconic piece of ‘what-if’ Doctor Who prose, penned by Russell T Davies, released. Before the War Doctor existed, and when Doctor Who Magazine was gearing up for the fiftieth anniversary, Davies was asked to contribute something, with the result recounting in prose how the Eighth Doctor regenerated into the Ninth Doctor at the end of the Time War. Despite now being ‘not canon’, the results are magnificent, especially given Lee Binding’s gorgeous Target-style cover and Richard Atkinson’s page designs, which make the text look like the end pages of a Target novel. That we could see this at all, considering its position as a ‘lost’ piece of Who media, is perhaps worth talking about. As recently as the Christmas Carol event, we were treated to an early first draft of the episode, which peels back the creative process for fans in a way some programmes may not be able to. Being able to similarly unearth this, when by all rights it could have remained lost in the sands of time, is a great way to archive lost Who material and, like the first drafts, show what could have been. As for the story itself, it essentially retells the Doctor ending the war, and without wishing to spoil the imagery and prose, it is everything I would want from a Time War. Prose lends itself well to a supposedly perpetual war like a Time War, with imagery conveying time itself as a weapon in a way other mediums perhaps could not. There is some great deep lore to be found here, with details of aftershocks of the war, and a reworking of the Moment. The Doctor’s point-of-view and subsequent regeneration are captured beautifully, especially with the Ninth Doctor’s first words. Thank you to Russell for revealing this – it’s absolutely great!

Revenge of the Nestene (26 March 2020) – for Rose:

Not one but two extras were released for Rose, this one being a sequel to the ending, billed as ‘Chapter 21’ of the Target novelisation (also written by Russell T Davies). Like the novel, it expands the scope of the Nestene invasion from what is seen in the episode, which is something you always want to hear about after your planet is invaded. Jacob Dudman, literally working from home, narrates the story, which is from the perspective of a fragment of the Nestene. Unsurprisingly, he is a great narrator (listen to his Time Lord Victorious The Minds of Magnox narration or any of his Big Finish Short Trips to hear more) and conveys the prose brilliantly. Hearing more from the Consciousness’ perspective ties into the effects of the Time War on ‘lesser’ species, something alluded to in the programme but did not get fully fleshed out. The use of time as a weapon in a Time War is always exciting, with lines like a “blizzard of Tick-tock” (not referring to the app!) conveying imagery that I still can’t wrap my head around. It also ties well into future appearances of the Nestene and how they go from defeat to working in the Alliance in Series 5. Oh, and that ending is something I’m sure everyone will recognise and indeed remember…

The Raggedy Doctor by Amelia Pond (3 April 2020) – for The Eleventh Hour:

If you are an Amy and Rory fan, you’ll love this. This is a beautiful Moffat-penned, Sophie Iles-illustrated piece, with Caitlin Blackwood returning as Young Amy recounting memories of the Raggedy Doctor after her first encounter with him. There’s also great music – which goes for all of the Lockdown releases – capturing the fairytale motifs from Series Five, playing well to the first-person narrative. I would love a Lockdown album release of all the music from the shorts, if those who contributed would want to do so – though many of us are still excited for an eventual Series Nine soundtrack release…

Rory’s Story (11 April 2020) – for The Doctor’s Wife:

As Arthur Darvill is returning as Rory Williams to Big Finish in 2021, this was a nice teaser for more Rory (which is always good). Arthur slips back instantly into the role in what is a two-minute piece narrating Rory’s autobiography for his son, Anthony, on the “only working smartphone in the world.” While I do worry for how Rory’s phone worked in 1946, with no way of charging it, the sheer charm of the story – ‘canonising’ the unproduced P.S webcast – allows me to overlook that, and assume he’d have some Doctor Who-y way of sustaining the battery life. When he recaps his experiences of life and death adventures, you realise how much Rory went through and the extent of his position as a positive male role model, something Neil Gaiman captures perfectly here. Here, the focus is on the end of the Second World War, with a brief heads-up about human resilience which feels very applicable and welcome. I hope Big Finish develop some of his internal thinking in his boxsets, especially during his epically long guarding of the Pandorica. He also gives a welcome reminder to us, and incoming baby Anthony, of just how complicated the Pond-Williams family tree is!

Farewell, Sarah Jane (19 April 2020) – on the anniversary of Elizabeth Sladen’s death:

Production on Series Five of The Sarah Jane Adventures was sadly interrupted by Elizabeth Sladen’s passing, so this Russell T Davies special provides a touching coda to the series and truly made me well up. Rani, Clyde, Luke, Sky, Gita and others return for a touching in-universe send-off to Sarah Jane Smith, with cameos from Ace, Jo, and other fan-favourites at Sarah Jane’s funeral. Despite a low budget, this is a touching and respectful tribute to a Doctor Who legend while also giving the protagonists closure by outlining their post-Bannerman Road lives. As I grew up with these characters, hearing how they turned out (with Sarah’s help) was lovely, growing up alongside their audiences. Their speeches are beautiful and Luke’s in particular, with his marriage to Sanjay, reminds me of how unfortunate it was that Luke’s coming out story could not be realised on television in the end, with all the positive representational benefits it would have had. There’s also potential for future stories (see: Ace and K9), which I hope will be explored eventually. That this was produced in lockdown is astounding, with editing and storytelling to rival any official production. Within ten minutes, it packs an emotional punch that has stayed with me ever since as a highlight of the year. I would like to think that the Doctor came back for Sarah for just one more trip, though a touching line for why they don’t appear at the funeral is equally fulfilling. Of course, the story goes on forever…

Shadow of a Doubt/The Shadow in the Mirror (24 April 2020) – for Human Nature/The Family of Blood:

Paul Cornell’s duology of two illustrated audio stories, one with Benny Summerfield and one featuring Lucy/Daughter of Mine, offers a retake on the canonicity of the two iterations of Human Nature, reminding one of the malleability of canon and how both versions can, and did, happen. Given the recent revelations of The Timeless Child, the explanation given is simple enough and, if you weren’t satisfied already, would surely allow you to entertain both possibilities. Or, if in doubt, cry ‘Time War’ or ‘cracks in time!’. Both, regardless, are beautifully illustrated by Rachael Stott and, as usual, performed exceedingly well. Tying in with a Cornell story released on the BBC’s website, ‘The Shadow Passes’, the duology details the Thirteenth Doctor returning to free Daughter of Mine to live out her mayfly lifespan on her home planet, despite the latter showing no remorse. This undoes the Tenth Doctor’s fury originally condemning the Family to eternal imprisonment. Much discourse has emerged concerning if the Doctor was correct to free her, given it undoes the actions of her predecessor and the ending of the 2007 story. While I don’t claim to have a bona-fide answer, Thirteen returning to atone for the actions of her younger predecessor does not feel out of character with Whittaker/Chibnall’s interpretation of the Doctor, seeing this mistake as something that needs fixing, and thus doing what she can to rectify it. As Mr Copper, of all people, states in Voyage of the Damned

“If you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster.”

Here, Thirteen reworks the “fury of the Time Lord” so that, if the Doctor “stands where he falls”, the Doctor falls on the side of mercy. One may still debate whether the Tenth Doctor’s decision to hide in 1913 itself was itself morally justifiable, given the destruction left in his wake, but Cornell seems to acknowledge this, acknowledging the Doctor’s inner guilt as she approaches Daughter of Mine. As he notes in Doctor Who Magazine #554:

 “I wanted to move Human Nature on a bit, given how I’ve moved on in terms of ethics. The Doctor releases the girl from the mirror despite the girl offering no repentance, because mercy is different to justice and the opposite of just deserts”. 

I can see arguments for and against this, but that it poses this discussion as to whether the Doctor’s actions are always justifiable, and the Doctor’s own future assessments of their former self’s actions, is interesting to discuss. Nonetheless, as usual the graphics, music, and editing make for wonderful short stories – again, all for free!

Sven and the Scarf (30 April 2020) – for Dalek:

This is a quick, nostalgia filled  tie-in to Rob Shearman’s forthcoming Dalek Target novelisation, written and directed by Andrew Ireland. This one felt more like a traditional TARDISode, especially with the ending foreshadowing the opening of Dalek, akin to a traditional pre-titles sequence – and thus perfect to watch as you approach a rewatch of Dalek. Leo Flanagan, who played Charlie in Kerblam!, plays the titular Sven, who examines some strange items in a recently found, and very familiar scarf, which I hope the Doctor will recover eventually! Lots of items from past Fourth Doctor stories appear, with an especially worrying object seemingly containing the power of Eldrad – let’s hope that is under control by the time the Doctor and Rose arrive! Part of me wonders if Sven will be the character who touches the Dalek and bursts into flames, as is recounted in the episode. I can’t wait to read Rob’s Target and find out!

Pompadour (6 May 2020) – for The Girl in the Fireplace:

It wouldn’t be Steven Moffat if he couldn’t make an already heart-breaking episode even more heart-breaking. Pompadour reminded me of something you would see in Black Mirror; being very bleak and perhaps not the best thing to watch if you’re reeling from the episode as is. It doesn’t change the ending, but instead accentuates the last shot, revealing that the human Reinette’s mind was copied to the SS Pompadour’s computer and, like all sci-fi computers, believes it is alive. The question, of whether the Doctor went back in end to switch the computer off, or even knows of its plight, remains just as unanswered as the robotic computer’s own contemplations. This tearjerker is stunningly conveyed through the visuals, sound, and editing (with credit to Rob Baines, James Jarvis, and Emily), coming together to produce a high-concept style achieved for free in lockdown, looking just as professional as a typical television production. It is a stunning reminder of the wealth of creativity existent within the fan community, even if it may leave you with a forlorn feeling of bleakness after watching it…

The Zygon Isolation (10 May 2020) – for The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion:

Ah, Zoom! I’m sure everyone has had to learn the ins and outs of muting and unmuting, and here the two Osgoods show us not only that, but how they are coping with isolation. Regardless of whether this is canon or not – the two decide to ultimately watch Doctor Who for comfort, which is very relatable – this felt very intimate and a bit like the ‘Message from the Doctor’ video, filmed by Jodie Whittaker as a message to fans from her home in costume. It was a nice reminder to, if you want, use comfort television to help throughout the tedium of this year, with Who being a perfect option. Plus, look out for the icons on Osgood’s desktop and the other various easter eggs that Peter Harness and Emily weave in!

The Descendants of Pompeii (17 May 2020) – for The Fires of Pompeii:

The household gods (namely James Moran and Emily Cook) have reunited us with two of the cast of The Fires of Pompeii. Like the previous piece, this was another indirect reference to lockdown and isolation. Some may find this less appealing to watch if they like their escapism but it could be cathartic too, as the two family members ponder their ancient history, echoing the characters seen in Pompeii. There also seems to be someone else on the call…I wonder Who it could be? There is even more new Murray Gold music, which deserves its place on a soundtrack as soon as possible. That this story is, in effect, the product of the Doctor’s decision to save just a family from Pompeii way back when prompts you to consider the ripple effects of the Doctor’s interventions and, with a medic in the family, the positive consequences of the Doctor’s snap decision – thanks to Donna Noble. If only all of our Zoom calls could have someone from time and space watching over us…

Listen & Fear is a Superpower (20 May 2020) – for Listen:

Moffat contributes a poem and James Peaty and Mike Collins a comic for this Listen watchalong, with both included in this paragraph as I thought it would be nice to mention both formats. Moffat’s poem, read again by Jacob Dudman, expands on the use of poetry in the episode and is another example of Moffat’s use of rhyme and poetry in his work, here to illustrate the Doctor’s MO. The lines “The shadows that you’re fighting/I fight them everyday” are particular examples of the Twelfth Doctor’s style, that being “the man that stops the monsters”. Meanwhile, the Fear is a Superpower comic is a great tribute to the character arc of Danny Pink and the comic format serves this well. Depicted in a comic, the ‘super’ of superpower is well on display,given the medium’s typical home to superhero characters, with great renderings of the moments seen in Series Eight and Danny’s ultimate heroic sacrifice. Like how Targets retell stories in prose, this visual marvel recaps Danny’s in comic form.

Doctors Assemble (23 May 2020) – for An Adventure in Space and Time:

Essentially, this is all the Doctors on Zoom, but with a stellar impressionist cast, lovely imagery and references, and is ultimately fun to watch. I particularly appreciated the Second Doctor and Beatles image, as fans of both – thank you, Andrew-Mark Thompson! James Goss captures the personality of each Doctor well, even if some are just spouting catchphrases, but having the Doctors assemble to fight a common enemy isn’t anything new, but the novelty of “all 13” (or 14) is just as interesting and engaging as you’d imagine. I enjoyed the reaction to Thirteen’s usage of “fam”, in the vein of the War Doctor’s reactions to his older selves in The Day of the Doctor. David Bradley, who has appeared as the First Doctor elsewhere, was particularly funny and, personally, I think sounds near-identical to Hartnell. Jonathon Carley, too, is now playing the War Doctor proper in forthcoming Big Finish boxsets, and I can’t wait to hear him in more detail soon! There are also many blink-and-you’ll-miss them continuity jokes, with the reference to the iconic ‘I Am the Doctor’ song lyrics being one that many will welcome. This is undoubtedly fan-service, and the appeal is seeing the Doctors – albeit not played by the original actors – interact, but if it’s what you want to hear for around ten minutes, it’ll be up your street.

The Secret of Novice Hame (30 May 2020) – for New Earth and Gridlock:

Russell T Davies stated in DWM #554 that he had the image for Secret in his mind for 14 years, and here it is finally told. Anna Hope, Murray Gold, David Tennant and Russell T Davies return in a beautiful, JUANMAO-illustrated story, with the accompanying narration ensuring we were truly spoilt for this. The Tenth Doctor extends his farewell tour further (at this point, who knows how long he managed to hold on?) to meet Novice Hame just before she passes away. It’s very poetic, with lyricism and world-building adding a spiritualist, almost Biblical tone which chimes well with the themes of Gridlock and of New Earth in general. The titular ‘secret’ is alluded to, but not outright confirmed, though seems to be something to do with the genesis of New Earth – could it be a copy of the original Earth, or maybe something more sinister, like Clom or Mondas!?! Whatever it is, the true emphasis is confirmed with Hame’s last words – “I wonder” – and with the ethos of Who more generally – that being to discover, question, and explore. Whatever the grand secret is, it is dwarfed in comparison to this intimate farewell to a popular character and the return of much-loved creatives.

The Best of Days (7 June 2020) – for World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls:

Moffat’s post-The Doctor Falls coda was rewritten with the help of Pearl Mackie, with Bill and Nardole catching up via space-time telegraph. Bill narrates her experiences of protesting against racial injustice amid the pandemic in what is perhaps the most explicitly ‘2020’ of the Lockdown pieces. With Bill back on Earth and on a break from Heather, it is reassuring to hear of her ‘happy’ ending, removed from the horror of that finale. Show-worthy effects by John Smith VFX and music by Murray Gold, make for a beautifully realised depiction of 2020’s events from the perspective of a much-loved character. It also may perhaps connect Thirteen to Bill, with her sighting of a beautiful woman at the protest – Is this Thirteen checking on Bill from a distance, unbeknownst to her? The line “turns out not all Cybermen have got handles on their heads, let’s put it that way” is also a poignant line and, through Bill’s perspective, handles the issues raised sensitively. I am glad Pearl was able to extend Bill’s story and voice, especially given her initial predicament in the finale, and I am pleased that she has a relatively happy ending, though I wish the Doctor would say hello! Oh, and Nardole is as Nardoley as ever, with this double act something I dearly miss…

UNIT on Call (14 November 2020) – for Turn Left:

It’s likely most of us have grappled with the dreaded ‘on hold’ period of a phone call, but I doubt many of us have got through to a Time Lord on the other end! Released in the height of a second lockdown, this ten minute sketch sees a Doctor Who fan call 1970s (or 80s) UNIT for help amid the current crisis. The vocal talents of Jon Culshaw and Katy Manning give us some sage advice from the Third Doctor, the Brigadier, and Jo Grant. It seems fitting that it is the Third Doctor, who then worked for a scientific organisation and was a champion of science, even when he seemed at odds with the military-minded structure of UNIT, is the one to deliver the fan (played by Emily Cook) a rousing endorsement of the potential for human scientific achievement and, given the current delivery of a vaccine, this seems more relevant than ever. After all, as Kate Stewart tells us, “science leads.”, There are also some great fan references, from the catchphrase call-backs to a subtle character mention, and a particularly amazing ‘cameo’ which Culshaw pulls off perfectly. Katy Manning, who is as ever an endless source of optimism and positivity, delivers some heart-warming advice in-character, though I also like to think this had some contributions from Katy herself. I will never tire of it! It also emphasises Doctor Who as a welcome distraction from ‘the world out there’ and, as the lockdowns go on, I would welcome that when times get especially tough. This is a great sketch in the vein of something you’d see on a charity telethon and would have easily fit on Children in Need as a great representation of the power of Doctor Who in darker times.

The Genuine Article (14 February 2021) – for Love and Monsters:

The final Lockdown minisode was released, appropriately, for Valentine’s Day. For the Love and Monsters rewatch, Will Grantham, the original creator of the Absorbaloff way back in the mists of time of 2005-6, produced a new animated short. This rematch between the Tenth Doctor and the Absorbaloff (voiced here by Jon Culshaw) was a long time coming. While this isn’t the original article, the Absorbaloff’s father is just as entertaining and Peter Kay sounding. Dominic G Martin’s comedic writing is a hoot to watch in animated form, and the Krakanord, an original monster created for a Lockdown competition, is also a nice surprise. It makes for a minisode that lives up to the original spirit of the Blue Peter competition, in a way, though the Absorbaloff doesn’t exactly exact their ultimate revenge. Shame, but probably for the best for the Tenth Doctor!

Conclusions:

The ‘Emily Cook era’, overall, provided heart-warming and engaging extras to already-loved stories and unearthed archival elements and hidden treats from what feels like lifetimes ago – albeit without unleashing an ancient power from the Dark Times in the process. It helped to bind a fandom across the globe while reuniting old cast and crew for events that rivalled the Avengers in scale. While it’s a shame the current era of Who was unable to be included in the Lockdown season, somewhat akin to Big Finish’s inability to produce current-era audios, much unofficial content and endeavours have arisen to compliment the official Lockdown content, some of which featured the incumbent Doctor.

Indeed, while Doctor Who: Lockdown! produced stellar content that’ll be remembered beyond the hellscape of 2020, there were other great initiatives which deserve mentions for their impact. Ellie (aka TARDISMonkey) organised some great Classic Who rewatches (like The Five Doctors, The Three Doctors, The War Games, and Survival) with equally iconic hashtags, like #DandyAndTheClown. RadioTimes hosted a John Barrowman-supported Torchwood watchalong, and unofficial Class rewatches were organized via Twitter. #DoctorWhoBlackout on June 6 raised $2700 for organizations supporting Black initiatives and Black Lives Matter by hosting a marathon of inclusive Doctor Who stories like Thin Ice. 

Aside from watchalongs, there were also other Who activities on offer, with Emily Cook and Borna Matosic’s amazing Lockdown Choir iterations of ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Abigail’s Song’, featuring some Society members, wowing the community with good reason. Meanwhile, virtual events such as Fantom’sTime Space Visualiser conventions were great to go to as one of my first conventions, with archival interviews and newly-written performed stories. Society favourite The Quiz of Rassilon went virtual, with rounds from the great and good of fandom and the show, echoed more recently by the recent Who-hosted Marie Curie UK celebrity quiz. Big Finish have given away more than 175,000 free downloads in their Lockdownload offerings throughout the pandemic and have also hosted a ‘listenalong’ to the iconic Chimes of Midnight, with Paul McGann’s iconic commentary There was also actual Jodie Whittaker filming technically new-but-shot-at-home Doctor Who messages; the BBC Studios ‘Staying in the TARDIS’ activities featuring recipes, printable activities, and free comics from Titan; the Adventures in Lockdown anthology released for Children in Need; and recent ‘official’ watchalongs for The Timeless Children and Resolution. This season of creativity has exemplified the creativity and determination of Doctor Who fans and, with the Lockdown! Fan Gallery offering fans a chance to contribute directly to an established platform themselves, new voices and creatives will surely emerge to larger audiences, which can only be a good thing. 

We have gained insight into moments not to be or ‘what ifs?’, especially with Davies, Moffat, and Gaiman posting deleted scenes, first drafts, and other Who ephemera – with one notable example being Russell’s first ever Who script, Mind of the Hodiac, soon to become a Big Finish audio. For me, this provided a much-welcomed peek behind the scenes as Confidential once did, something we unfortunately don’t have as much of nowadays. While I don’t expect a Moffat-era Writer’s Tale, further reading how the episodes were put together, the original transmission order plans, and how scenes were directed has changed my perceptions of certain episodes, with Richard Curtis’ comments on the origins of Vincent and the Doctor being one of the most swaying. This will have no doubt proved a treasure trove for television production enthusiasts, as well as we Doctor Who fans!

Nor is this necessarily a Doctor Who-confined phenomenon. The Lockdown! project, while made for free, has highlighted the COVID-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund, working to aid creatives in the pandemic, and has further highlighted Black initiatives and support organizations (chosen by Pearl Mackie); all being worthy causes that Doctor Who’s ethos surely supports. The BBC’s April Big Night In also sported many of the Doctors in a support message for the NHS and frontline workers, while the Children in Need charity anthology directly benefited from the release of new stories in print. These initiatives, and countless others, show the best of our community and too, point towards the transformative effects of media, offering both escapism and activism. On a personal level too, a contemporary Metro article, consulting psychotherapist Noel McDermott, highlights the positive mental health benefits of Doctor Who in allowing one to engage with “safe resolutions of conflicts” between villains and heroes. According to him, stories of adversity can be “good sources for helping us move out of the pain and fear of depression and anxiety”, something that I can certainly relate to when watching! Certainly, Lockdown and other fan initiatives have proved a great comfort for Doctor Who fans worldwide and, with this creativity on full display in 2020 and 2021, I see no reason why this energy and kindness cannot continue into 2022 and beyond.

Bibliography:

Tides 47 is, at time of publication, available to buy through this link

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