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Podcasting in a Doctor Who World

When I first became a fan of Doctor Who, no one else I knew liked it, or had even heard of it for the most part. I was having a great time watching the series, but I longed for a way to share this Who-Love with others. Being a nerd, I went to the Internets. A little earlier than that, I’d started listening to podcasts about things I enjoyed, so I decided to find out of there was a podcast for Whovians such as myself.

I was overwhelmed. The podcast page for Doctor Who on iTunes was packed with all manner of titles, most of them I’d only recognize as references to the show once I was further steeped in the history of the program. There were far more podcasts than I expected there would be. Now, only 18 months later, there are close to 100 fan-operated Doctor Who-related podcasts focusing on every facet of fandom imaginable. There are so many podcasts, in fact, that there is now a “Doctor Who Podcast Alliance.” What is it about the show that lends itself to podcasting? When I was at the Gallifrey One convention last month, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of Doctor Who podcasters and discuss with them the draw, fun, and potential pitfalls of podcasting in the Doctor Who world.


Doctor Who podcasting began in 2005, around the time the new series began. Five years later, “Doctor Who: Podshock” is the longest running Doctor Who podcast. Hosts Louis Trapani and Ken Deep from the US and James Naughton from the UK were at first unsure they could find enough to discuss on a weekly show. Says Deep, “We thought, ‘How are we gonna fill half an hour talking about Doctor Who?’ No single show has been under two hours, because there’s so much to say about it.” Podshock’s format is that of a news magazine, discussing the news of the week before going into the main discussion topic, a style which has proved to be popular among most DW podcasts that followed. Adds Deep, “You want to sound like a group of friends getting together chatting about the episode you watch, what makes it good, what makes it bad, and that’s really the birth of it.”

From there, slowly but steadily, more podcasts began to arise. Another heavyweight in the game is run by “three jaunty fellows from Canada.” Steven Schapansky, Warren Frey, and Chris Burgess, each from different provinces, host “Radio Free Skaro” (RFS), a magazine-formatted podcast wherein the three spend as much time celebrating Doctor Who and its many spinoff material as they do lampooning it, all cleverly and with much love. RFS has become one of the most highly respected of the podcast range due in no small part to the interviews with various Doctor Who personnel they’ve gotten since going to Gallifrey One in 2009. Schapansky says, “When we do interviews, the sort of non-podcast listening public are drawn in by interviews with people they know. They can hear three nerds talking about Doctor Who any time; they don’t necessarily hear them talking to [producer] Phil Collinson, or [director] Graeme Harper.” If you’d like to hear their interview skills with the likes of Chris Hardwick and myself, check out episode 240.

The interesting thing about DW podcasts is that, as time has gone on, people have started branching out and carving their own niche by doing what interests them. “2 Minute Time Lord” (2MTL) has sought to change the approach set out by “Podshock,” “Radio Free Skaro,” and the other magazines. The podcaster known only as Chip takes two-ish minutes to give a thoughtful editorial about a specific piece of Doctor Who minutia. “I like polishing my thoughts, I like trying to write and craft something, and it’s easier to do with something short. And I wanted to do something that would be easy for people who were already listening to “Radio Free Skaro” and “Podshock” to sort of slip me in there because I don’t really ask a lot of my listeners,” says Chip. His reviews tend to be positive in nature, a quality few podcasts seem to embrace fully. “There’s a lot of ranting in the podcasts out there. In general there seems to be a lot more energy devoted to criticizing things that cheese you off instead of thoughtfully celebrating the whole thing.”

A relatively new podcast that shares Chip’s penchant for positivity is “The Ood Cast” from the United Kingdom. Unlike the purely opinion-based casts, “Ood Cast” not only discusses the show, they also write and perform comedy sketches and do humorous song parodies to accentuate the topic that week. The aim is to not just to critique but to create. Says Chris “Sigma” Mead, sitting next to fiancee and co-host Laura Simpson, “We felt really strongly, with two more of our friends, that we could create a podcast that really showed the joy of being a Doctor Who fan and that since it’s such an inspiring show, let’s show some of the creativity that it inspired.” Adds Laura, “What I think Doctor Who does a lot of the time is that it sort of takes fear and makes it manageable; it shows you a way around the fear. What we’re trying to do is take fear and make it funny.” Inspired by the likes of Monty Python and Spaced, the Oods hope to one day put out an album of original comedic and musical material not directly related to Doctor Who.

Doctor Who has fans all over the world, and what’s so great and interesting about the podcasts is that, even though the fans might live in various parts of the world, they can still get together to discuss the show via new technology. One Doctor Who podcast, the aptly titled “The Doctor Who Podcast” (The DWP), features James Rockliffe and Tom Attah, who live in England, and Trevor Gensch, who lives on the other side of the world in Australia. Naturally, the distance has its disadvantages when scheduling is concerned. James notes, “Trev’s got up at half-past 3 in the morning to interview people in the UK using Skype and other times because I can’t make it or Tom can’t make it at a normal time. We’ve always done recording at really unsocial hours and received extremely odd comments from wives and partners.” Trevor adds, “My wife’s used to it now; She sort of sees me get up in the middle of the night, 2 o’clock in the morning: ‘Oh, you’re off to record, are you?’” A fun tidbit for this podcast: despite having been podcast colleagues for a few years and becoming good friends, last month’s Gallifrey One convention is the very first time James and Trev met in person. Such is the power of podcasting

Variety is indeed a spice of the Doctor Who podcasting life and it seems to be a podcast for every kind of DW fan there is. By and large, the podcasters themselves seem pleased with the assortment while marveling at the growing number. Ken Deep of “Podshock” says, “It was very difficult, and it still is difficult, to pinpoint what it is you’re going to talk about. There’s so much to cover and the nice thing about what’s happened with podcasts is that it’s started to specialize.” Adds Chip of 2MTL, “People want to participate and get their opinions out there, and it’s exploded, but it’s not all cookie-cutter.” There are now podcasts devoted to discussing books, audio dramas, costuming, music, and literally every aspect of the show and its spinoffs, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Chris Burgess of RFS suggests that the world of podcasting is open to all sorts of fans. “It’s a fun and exciting world of which to be a part,” he says, “both as content producer as well as content consumer, with amazing people involved, both people who know the show inside and out and those who are just discovering it.”

However, what stands out the most about all these incredibly different podcasts is that it doesn’t seem to be about the content, necessarily. These are all people who enjoy a particular, tiny corner of popular culture and part of the fun for them is sharing it with people who think the same way they do. It’s about creating a community and a rapport not only with each other but with the listeners. James from the DWP offers, “The success of podcasting is not what you talk about but more about the dynamic you create,” and, Trevor agrees, saying, when it comes to content versus relationships, “I really think people tune in for the latter.”

Doctor Who podcasting, an outlet for various types of fandom, has itself become a type of fandom. The podcasters themselves seem to be part of a club, one that is growing steadily with every passing week. But it is, it should be noted, not an exclusive club. Any rivalry between these people is, from what I’ve seen, purely superficial and largely invented for a laugh. Podcasters will guest on each other’s shows and the entire cadre seems to rotate depending on what’s happening that week. “Podcasting is pretty darn democratic,” says Chip, “and we listen to each other’s stuff when we can.” Adds Chris Sigma, “Since I started listening, a whole bunch of new ones popped up and there are LOADS out there who are doing brilliant things.” And, quips Laura, “they’re a really, really great bunch and I haven’t met anybody I’ve disliked at all.”

So what is the future of podcasting in a Doctor Who world? That point appears up for debate, but slowly they’re starting to gather notice in the greater DW fan world. “Not to toot our own horn,” says Schapansky from RFS, “but the mention of us and “Podshock” in Doctor Who Magazine (issue 430) as podcasts to follow on Twitter, for me, that was the moment of, like, ‘Wow, podcasts have sort of arrived.’” In fact, “Podshock” has, just last week, been nominated for an SFX Blog Award. It seems the years of work and play are paying off. Ken Deep of “Podshock” feels good about his place in the scheme of things, and adds, “I hope these other podcasts are getting the same good feelings because if they have what I feel, they’ll want to do it for a really long time.”

I want to thank the podcasters of Radio Free Skaro, Two-Minute Time Lord, The Doctor Who Podcast, The Ood Cast, and Doctor Who Podshock for taking the time to talk to me and for being genuinely lovely, generous people. But these are just a handful of the many great Doctor Who podcasts out there. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other excellent podcasts with whom I had a great deal of fun at Gallifrey One, including The Pharos Project, Doctor Who: Mostly Harmless Cutaway, TARDIS Tavern, Bridging the Rift, The Doctor Who Book Club, Staggering Stories, The Happiness Patrol, and Mutter’s Spiral. If you’re curious about any of these podcasts, or just Doctor Who podcasting in general, I urge you to search for them in iTunes or visit The Doctor Who Podcast Alliance.

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30 comments

  • Feel free to try our show, the Thumbcast – not solely Who, but a lot of Doctor Who talk (and other largely UK-centric stuff) with a distinctly Scottish bent. New episode, for example, reviews the Doctor Who Experience event at Olympia.

  • Many of these podcasts I was introduced to at this year’s Gally, namely the Ood Cast (DELIGHTFUL) and Radio Free Skaro (just a joy to listen to). I’m even hoping to start my own podcast at some point because I can see the appeal of it: there’s something about sharing a thing you truly love with other like-minded folks…or not so like minded. I’m sure with quality podcasts like these, there’s going to be more than a few converts in the future.

  • Brilliant article. Very interesting to see our show in the context of the massive upsurge in DW podcasting over the last few years. Very proud of what we’ve been able to do with the format but genuinely the best part is the chance to be part of a wider podcasting family.

    But writing a Dalek agony aunt and summarising the plot of The Vampires Of Venice to the tune of Under the Sea was fun too…

  • Wow, I didn’t think we were quite so inconspicuous – what with four of us wandering around the convention in our Staggering Stories Podcast t-shirts and the now famous Head of Pertwee!

    Clearly next time we’ll need something even more shocking to get noticed :)

    Still, very glad to see The Doctor Who Podcast Alliance get some recognition – we’re all to be found there.

  • Fantastic article and great point by Trevor. Part of the fun that comes from listening to podcasts is the thought that you are a part of a worldwide community. Though I’ve never met the folks from RFS, Podshock, or the rest, I feel like we all have a connection.

  • author

    @Adam
    Very sorry for the omission. I did mean to include you and in my haste to get the article finished, I forgot. Many, many apologies. The name of your cast and link has been added with the rest, as planned.

    Again, no sleight intended.

  • No problem – we did miss most of the LobbyCons due to jet lag, so severed head or not we probably were a little less seen than many podcasts. Also, there were a heck of a lot of podcasts at Gally – some on that list that even I didn’t realise were there!

    Does this mean I can step down the tentative plans to bring a group of inflatable companions next time? Damn!

  • Great article…but…you missed out one of the longest-running and most-popular Doctor Who podcasts. The DWO WhoCast :)

    Anyone typing in ‘Doctor Who’ in iTunes will be aware of the podcast and its popularity amongst listeners. Im surprised it was missed out?

    We have a bit of a hiatus at the back end of 2010, but the show came back quite triumphantly with two new, fantastic hosts for 2011.

    http://www.dwowhocast.com/

  • Great article but as the main thrust of it seems to be pointing out niches in podcasting you could have mentioned my show which is one of the few that features full length recordings of panels at conventions as well as covering fan events such as location tours.

  • Hooray DW Podcasts! I can’t even imagine how much work (and how long!!) this article would be if EVERY podcast was mentioned. There are easily over 50 podcasts out there about some facet of Doctor Who. It’s just a testament to how passionate (and awesome) DW fans are! :)

  • Good article. read in context of coming from the Gally con, one can understand how so many shows weren’t mentioned Flashing Blade Podcast . You were on a hiding to nothing by only mentioning a few. However, the points made by the podcasters still stand. It IS about the community and the sheer fun of podcasting and knowing that somone else will listen to you and hopefully want to be creative themselves – something the Doctor Who Podcast Alliance activly encourages.
    If anyone who reads this wants to start up a show of their own, then go to the DWPA site at http://www.doctorwhopodcastalliance.org – join the forum and you’ll be welcomed in, given advice etc… all we ask is that if there are promo’s for events we need to plug so we get access to those events, then ya play the promo – and everyone gets offered the resulting podcast for themselves. Also, of course, if your in the area of an event and we can get you entrance to it and a chance to interview guests, well, you’ll be our roving reporter on the spot!
    Working together we get a lot more access to events and some people who can’t get to events get a chance to run interviews etc.

    Ok, rant over, LOL.

  • author

    Apologies to every Doctor Who podcast I didn’t individually name. I was trying to do an overview in 3 pages using certain shows as examples. Clearly, it was not egalitarian, but I tried to get people interested in finding out more. It was truly nothing personal.

  • Great article Kyle! I think you did a superb job of explaining how the podcasting culture in general has gained substantial momentum over the last few years, and moreover has worked as a form of networking for fans with very particular interests. The amazing thing about a long-running show such as DW is the deep-seated fan bases throughout the world. In the past they could only intermittently dialogue through meetings such as Gally. Now with so many podcasts (RFS is my personal favorite) the “niche within a niche” has begun to flourish.
    P.S. – I enjoyed your Torchwood review as well.

  • Hi Kyle and everyone!
    Great article and fully appreciated. It staggers me still how many Doctor Who podcasts are out there and it’s thanks to the DWPA and the work that goes into it that we have a handy location to peruse and find favourites in a good many of them (and growing numbers still!)
    I’ve had the good fortune to work with a good few of the podcasters here and have met a fair few more. All of them a complete joy and worthy and have kept my interest in podcasting, as well as Doctor Who, shining bright.
    There is a downside though… to my nature perhaps only… there are so many great people here, so many good works being done I’m sometimes rather jealous that when I hear something brilliant I’m cursing the universe that I didn’t think of it first. Damn yoooooou!

    But yes, the rapport between everyone is fantastic and the variety and hard work that everyone puts in is incredible and gratefully received.

  • I’ve listened to dozens of Who podcasts over the last 6 months and feel qualified to offer some insight… Sorry dudes but Podshock is NOT the best. It’s two hours of the worst chemistry between people you’ve ever heard. They’ve been doing this for years and they still step on each others lines, have no natural banter, the host has a distracting accent and uncomfortable delivery – every show he sounds like he’s got the stage fright of his first show. And it needs far more editing, at least half the material needs to be cut as it either falls flat or just isn’t worth listening to. Sorry, just my opinion.

    Radio Free Skaro is pretty good, but I think the best ones are DWO Podcast, Blue Box Podcast and Kastaborous. Most of the rest are either dull, have very annoying hosts or simply aren’t naturals at broadcasting. Yes, these are amateur shows, but if after a dozen episodes you don’t at least sound like you’re getting the hang of it and are developing a good sense of timing and have learned a thing or two about sound quality, well, don’t expect a lot of people to keep listening!