'Nine million Doctor Who fans just punched the air.'

If the FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester Utd. and Watford this afternoon goes into extra time (that is, if there's a draw at ninety minutes), the word from the BBC is that Doctor Who will be dropped from the schedule and reappear next week. This makes sense: a large chunk of Doctor Who's target audience will have bedtime to think about.

Manchester Utd. are all -conquering as this season draws to a close, with a chance of winning every competition, at home and in Europe. Lowly Watford, struggling in the Premiership, are generally regarded as lucky to have got this far. So Doctor Who fans are looking for the most likely outcome that suits them: a crushing Manchester Utd. victory within the ninety minutes.

What I love is the fact that people are talking about this. Mitch Benn, for instance, the famously Who -loving comedian and musician, and, it seems, Liverpool supporter (Liverpool supporters are averse to Manchester Utd. winning anything) performed a song about his mixed emotions concerning the match on Radio 4's The Now Show last night:


Mitch shows up 6.48 in. The most wonderful thing is, judging by the anticipatory laughter, a lot of the audience know just what he's going to say. You can bet that the commentators on the match this afternoon will mention something.

It's Doctor Who as pop again. The show not as minority interest, but as something that brings the nation together. Like it was when Tom Baker lived in TV Centre along with Basil Brush and Terry Wogan. And not just nations now, but tribes all over the world, fans at their PCs in Aussie and the USA, waiting to find out if Manchester Utd. score that vital goal. This is what Russell has done: taken our little prog rock album culture and made it into a string of hit singles, made it for the people again. For me, just being able, as my fortieth birthday looms, to be part of not one but several pop media is incredibly exciting.

Watford must feel picked on. If they score early, fandom will hate them, for making a draw look more likely. But if they get a late winner, the weight of fan opinion will swing violently in their direction. It is perhaps the first time that Doctor Who fans en masse have cared so utterly, or at all, about football.

So this is a moment that won't matter tomorrow, but is funny and involving and the subject of talk down the pub today. That's pop for you. Pop and the Face of Boe and, it's rumoured, old monsters returning. Isn't it great?

27 Response to "'Nine million Doctor Who fans just punched the air.'"

  • hexacontium Says:

    It's great, isn't it, this sudden interest in football. I actually consider watching this match as I like Man.Utd. Well, I like seeing their keeper, but still that's a good reason for sitting through a complete match.

    Football coaches are also very nice to look at as this little video from the WorldChampionship 2006 proves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxNmK3jmhCQ

    But apart from that of corse I hope that Manchester will win tonight so that I, and millions of other fans will finally know what the Face has to say. Can't wait :D

  • jphn campbell Rees Says:

    I'm expecting the first 70 minutes of the match to be agony, with the score at 1-1 and extra time a certainty. However, Manchester United will perform the coup-de-grace in the last ten minutes and the game ends at 3-1, with Doctor Who fans everywhere letting out long sighs of relief.
    In work I notice that all the kids love Doctor Who now, not just the nerdy ones. This can only be a good thing for the future of Fandom, which was starting to get a little grey around the temples and wrinkly prior to 2005.

  • Jackooo Says:

    Out of the blue moment happened while I was in work today:

    A little boy carrying dalek bubblebath enters and leaves with his dad and brother.

    Later, a little boy wearing a dalek t-shirt enters with his mum. My boss, a woman as well, says:

    "I take it you'll be watching the telly tonight, with that dalek on your shirt."

    Little boy goes shy.

    The boys mum says:

    "I know, i love it, its amazing." (She said this in the most enthusiastic way possible)

    "And it's so clever, there's so many little plots you've gotta watch out for and pay attention to."

    My boss says:

    "I know, me and my husband always watch it, he always liked the old show as well."

    "I can never remember the old series being as good as this, its amazing."

    The woman and her son left, and I was left grinning as I got on with my job making sandwiches =D

    I hope everyone enjoys Gridlock, I think its gonna be the best yet =)

  • Cygnia Says:

    I don't even know if we have anything that touches that level of passion here in the States (either for Who or football, take your pick). Given the excessive amount of rules, time-outs and commercials we've got, it's almost a given that any US sporting event will run over its alloted time.

    What you've got in England in terms of a fandom's passion is amazing.

    And Basil Brush. Hee!

  • Jonquil Says:

    I love the joy in this posting, and I share it.

  • A-M Says:

    Just before the match ended, a LiveJournal friend mentioned that imagined Mitch Benn was smiling.

    At least someone won in the alloted time! Well done all the players for not delaying Doctor Who. 8-)

    And the loud squeaky gasp that was heard in the Manchester area at about 8.05pm was me! 8-D (I got a funny look from my neice but I'll explain it to her at a later date, we're still ploughing through past stories!)w

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    As it turned out, bar one scare, Wayne Rooney saved Doctor Who! I love stories about small children being into the show. They're dancing in the streets of New Earth tonight!

  • czechOUT Says:

    I thought it was down to Ronaldino's fancy footwork. Mind you, Alex F exudes hs own fog. I should know, having been stuck in a lift with him once.

    Still the Macra, what was so special about March 1967-the first ep that RTD remembered? How Random is that. Still they may have de-evolved, but my, how they've grown.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    At least you weren't stuck in a lift with the Macra.

  • sacha Says:

    i knew that it would be shown (my dad believes that the plots are getting predictable cos the moment he saw claws he said "theres no such thing as macra!!!"in a mad voice then instantly after the episode showed me his amazing(lol)macra terror reconstruction)like army of ghosts (i had mixed feelings about england losing)and it will be the same forever, either allways when showing doctor who is at stake, a team will lose for the sake of all the kids in the U.K. and Canada. or it is rigged to make it always be on ITV1 or be rubbish teams. god bless whichever one is true.

  • sacha Says:

    i am a atheist by the way,
    can't wait for human nature and the family of blood.;o)(i can't stop using smileys)

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    We've got to a certain point now, haven't we, when Dads are showing off their reconstructions of The Macra Terror?

  • maggie Says:

    Oh GOLLY Paul, this season is UTTERLY FANTASTIC.

    I am SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO happy that Man. Utd. won, and even happier that the comments indicate it's thanks to Rooney, who was my favorite player on the English world cup team last year. Not because I knew anything about football, mind, but because every time he came on screen all the drunkies with their heads shaved (and dyed) into st. george's crosses would shout "ROOOOOONEY" and I could shout along and feel knowledgable.

    Good GOD I miss England.

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    *That's* what you miss about England?

  • maggie Says:

    No- it's just part of "everything" which is what I truly miss about england. Although the dyed crosses were really wonderful, because then men with them (unaccostumed, I'd assume, with the ways of manic panic) had dyed their hair red without realizing that immeiately on washing it would fade to a sort of pinky coral. And they did not seem, to me, as the kind of guys who'd really relish having pinky coral hair.

    Did you go to Microcon again this year? Kathryn and I were telling the students on the Exeter program next year about it, and the Doctor Who fans (there were two) were DEEPLY envious when they heard we'd met the writer of Father's Day.

  • Britgeekgrrl Says:

    I only *just* got around to listening to the 4/13 Now Show (mea culpa) and I almost fell into the aisle of my commute train when I heard Mitch Benn begging Man U to have a decisive win in order to prevent Doctor Who from being pre-empted, provoking many odd looks from my fellow commuters, but I'm getting used to that, by now...

    If only my local "British" pub hadn't closed down two months ago, depriving me from real-time FA cup matches, darnit..

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  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Aww, that's nice to hear! No, I didn't go this year. I try to do one in two, and I was doing something else that weekend. Mitch also does fan events, like a convention cabaret and hosting the Eagle Awards. I love the fact that the audience at The Now Show are now well-used to his fannishness.

  • Richard Dinnick Says:

    "Manchester Utd. are all -conquering as this season draws to a close, with a chance of winning every competition, at home and in Europe."

    Sorry, Paul, can't let that one slide. You may know your cricket, but Chelsea won the League Cup 2-1 against Arsenal back in Feb. So there is no way Man U can win every competition as we already have one piece of silverware!

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    You are, of course, absolutely right. But what can I say? I'm a geek. I speak football as a foreign language.

  • Richard Dinnick Says:

    Actually, I am in a similar boat as you but on the SS Football, not the HMS Cricket.

    I seem to recall that a while back (on OG, I think) you said that you felt you were only allowed to enjoy cricket once you became a grown up as school pigeonholes are so exclusive and all-encompassing. I am paraphrasing terribly, but absolutely agree!

    Foot ball is like a second language to me, whereas SF is my mother tongue.

    I think I've just channelled C3PO and Blackadder in the same sentence. So I will stop there!


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Yes, absolutely. I enjoy running now too, which is something else denied me at school.

  • Richard Dinnick Says:

    I just want to say that it was *so* ridiculous at school that I wasn't allowed to support Chelsea (despite having lived there from the age of 2!) because someone else already did! I had to pretend to like West Ham!!! This sounds bizarre as I am typing it, but true.

    School, eh? Best days of someone else's life!

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Oddly, I had to make a split-second decision between the two, and went the other way, opting for Chelsea. And indeed!

  • Richard Dinnick Says:

    This conversation has reaffirmed my excitement about your mooted 'bullying book' for want of a better title. Perhaps 'Bullying - The Inside Story'?!? Is this in development or are you concentrating on the TV work?

    I am about to disappear to a country hotel somewhere in the UK to finish me book as PfD are now becoming vaguely impatient... naughty Richard!

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    I've written 130,000 words of it as we speak, and am looking to finish a rough first draft sometime in the next two weeks. Then I'll go back for a fairly lengthy final sort out before giving it to my agent for his notes. It's a novel, and it's called 'Chalk'. Good luck with yours.