Chicks Dig Time Lords, A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea, is a collection of essays and interviews that does exactly what it says on the tin. It also does quite a bit more, providing insight into fandom and what makes it tick, from a female perspective.
In the 21st century, anyone with a computer and an internet connection has an idea that fandom exists. Films have been made about the Star Trek and Star Wars fandoms. While everyone is familiar with the concept of the “Fanboy” it’s “Fangirls” who often get short shrift. The assumption being that women are only in it for the eye candy, and can’t possibly be into genre content the way men are. That there is no evidence for that assumption, hasn’t stopped it from being trotted out everywhere from Comics-oriented forums to the New York Times.
Chicks Dig Time Lords blows that assumption out of the water. In Time is Relative, Carole Barrowman shares a surreal journey that takes her from tormenting her baby brother with imaginary Autons in front of a Glasgow department store to being charged by a Dalek as payback, on the set of Torchwood. Novelist Elizabeth Bear takes on the concept of fandom tarnishing with time, in We’ll Make Great Pets and in Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, by Shoshana Magnet and Robert Smith? (yes, the punctuation is part of the name,) tackle the issues of sex and sexuality
There are practical anecdotes about cons and costuming, making fanzines and what it was really like trying to get one’s hands on Doctor Who back in the days before the internet. Yet it is the focus on critical analysis that drew me into the book. Chicks Dig Time Lords does some of the heavy lifting of deconstructing fandom, female fandom specifically, and reading the show from a feminist perspective. It’s easy to forget that Leela was a warrior, Nyssa was a scientific genius, Ace was incredibly good at blowing things up and even in the modern era of who, there are numerous ways that women are presented, nearly all of them controversial to some part of the fanbase. The book doesn’t cheat on presenting a homogenous point of view about whether or not Doctor Who is reflecting the concept of women as equals and directly takes on the questions of sexism and racism in both the writer’s room and fandom.
As an exploration of the Whoniverse, Chicks Dig Time Lords offers plenty of food for thought, while maintaining a fairly breezy tone that makes it a quick and easy read. As an exploration of female fandom, it is fascinating to see behind the mask of what’s expected of fangirls, even from each other. Be it ‘ship wars or the controversy over injecting smut into a universe that many fans see as being above all that, female fandom has begun flexing muscles we didn’t know we had.
That we’re demanding a seat at the table of fandom and conventions, that we’re synthesizing our concerns over presentation of women and LGBTQ characters in ways that might make creators uncomfortable at times, is becoming more and more evident. As an artifact of female, feminist, and completely unpredictable fandom, Chicks Dig Time Lords succeeds beyond expectation. Where it falls a little bit flat is in the included interviews. It diffuses the focus of the book in favor of very standard questions that don’t expand on what Sophie Aldred, India Fisher, or Laura Doddington’s experiences as women of the Doctor Who universe meant to them as women. The break in tone brings the momentum of the book to a screeching halt. Additionally, since the book only covers the Classic through Tenth Doctor eras, the reader who is looking for discussion of the Moffat era is going to be sorely disappointed.
It’s not a definitive analysis of Doctor Who, even from a female point of view, and it falters in presenting clearly defined sections between general fandom experience, puff-piece interviews and the more critical essays, but Chicks Dig Time Lords does offer an important window into how women view fandom and the object of that fandom. It is, in fact: bigger on the inside.
Author’s note: The reviewer is firmly New Who, considers Eleven to be her definitive Doctor and if given a choice, would go to the future so she could see how the human race turns out.