How did the Whoniverse begin? Hyperdiegesis & Trans-transmedia

Stenson, Edmund

Hills made an important distinction early in his talk between “world-building” and “world projecting”, and this, he argued, was particularly relevant in the case of Doctor Who, a show never read as a product of a single auteur. World creation, then, is something fans did early in the life of the show, whilst it was still an episodic and somewhat incoherent entity: the Whoniverse was not constructed but projected by fans during the show’s early years, in which the producers had little intention of building the Whoniverse themselves.

Early Doctor Who, it was argued – a product of its socio-historical circumstance – often breached its own internal continuity, as a result of its episodic, amnesiac structure, as well the world-sharing mentality of its creators. Early emphasis, then, was placed upon the articulation of a story, and not a world. This led to discontinuities: variant origin stories of the Daleks and the Cybermen exist, as well as Gallifrey, the Doctor’s homeworld. One particularly amusing example is an official TV-movie in which the Doctor was “revealed” to be half-human. Fans have rejected this story despite its official, canonical status, as they felt it undermined the overarching logic of the series.

As the series progressed, and a more expansive approach was taken to the creation of the Whoniverse, fans’ “narractivity” continued to reshape the “rickety palimpsest” into a coherent universe. This practice, Hills argued, was an example of FanFac, not FanFic, and although the academy has paid a great deal of attention to the latter, it has yet to investigate the ways in which fans treat televisual material as "factual", or “real”. In this sense, Hills’ talk connected well with Mark Wolf’s yesterday, in particular, the latter’s discussion of ancillary reference material, and the way in which it represents an attempt by fans to, in the words of Jenkins, gloss over the inevitable cracks in a particular story world (overflow).

An interesting historical development is that new Doctor Who episodes have developed a complex reliance on paradox and world-condensation, a process of simplifying the story world so as to reach a wider audience, one that goes beyond core fans. Ultimately, though, for fans, the Whouniverse will outlive the vicisissitudes of production and official world manifestations.

It was here that we came to the rather unwieldy term trans-trans media: Hills argued that although fan studies has focused on how transmedia stressed movement across platforms, the term transtransmedia will allow us to investigate the ambivalent relation between production and fan discourse.

For each fan, then, we might argue that there is a "perfect" conception of the Whoniverse, and although they might act together to rally against a particular episode or storyline, the Whoniverse is ultimately an internal production.

Martin Lefebvre asked an important question at the end of Hill's talk: to what extent do we see shifting fan practices shape and reshape the Whoniverse? Hills' answer, that work needed to be done to situate the predominantly masculine culture of the Whouniverse, raised some interesting questions. What might a comparative study of gendered fan practices illuminate with regards to Doctor Who? Why do men choose to study, catalogue and paste over the cracks of the Whoniverse? Is this form of fandom strictly male? If so, why?

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