Review: Who’s Changing – An Adventure in Time With Fans / Cert: Exempt / Director: Cameron K. McEwan/ Screenplay: Cameron K. McEwan / Starring: Louise Jameson, Neve McIntosh, Sophie Aldred, Dan Starkey / Release Date: Out Now
Cameron K. McEwan, creator of the popular Blogtor Who website, directs this charming and affectionate look at the history of both Doctor Who as a TV series and the way its fans have celebrated it across the decades. Early conventions in the 1970s in draughty London church halls have blossomed into massive (and usually massively profitable) high profile events where the fans mingle with the stars and the fans, increasingly, indulge in their passion for ‘cosplay’ (wearing replica Doctor Who costumes) and now, it appears, ‘crossplay’, where the girls dress as the boys and the boys dress as the girls. Whatever next?
Cameron’s documentary is, in many ways, a timely postscript to the loud and shouty celebration events and presentations of last year’s fiftieth anniversary season. Largely stripped of the world-bestriding bravura of much of the BBC’s commemoration of fifty years of travel in Space and Time, Who’s Changing just lets the fans – and some of the show’s stars old and new – talk about why they love Doctor Who in a simple, straightforward and entirely naturalistic way. The documentary discreetly teases out its contributors' first memories of Doctor Who, recollections of convention experiences, the American influence, the increasing sexualization of the series (in which one girl dressed as laughable 1980s male companion Adric, not unsurprisingly, expresses her distaste for the sexualizing of TV characters) and, on potentially less incendiary ground, favourite episodes and those dark days (or ‘stolen years‘) when the show was the BBC’s shameful, quietly cancelled family black sheep.
Inevitably talks turn to dressing up. This reviewer has never seen the appeal of squeezing into a homemade replica of some gaudy costume which even the actor who wore it on TV couldn’t quite carry off, but there’s no denying the enthusiasm and sheer lack of self-consciousness shown by those happy to be interviewed wearing replica Patrick Troughton costumes or with their faces plastered in silver make-up. Good on 'em.
But it’s not just the fans who share their passion for Who. Cameron has roped in some familiar faces from the TV series – classic years names such as Louise Jameson (Leela) and Sophie Aldred (Ace) rub shoulders with newer faces Neve McIntosh (Vastra) and Dan Starkey (Strax) and writers such as former script editor Gary Russell, scriptwriter James Moran and former Buffy scribe Jane Espenson. There are, as they say, many many more, but to reel out a list of names here would just spoil the fun and, of course, the surprise.
If you’re a long time fan of Doctor Who, then Who’s Changing won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. But then that’s not the point. Cameron’s film, unfussy and without artifice, is like watching some old friends talk enthusiastically and without inhibition about a shared passion. Sometimes you’ll find yourself shouting at the screen,“How can you like that, it’s rubbish!?”, and sometimes you’ll be nodding sagely in agreement as someone slightly spaced-out with silver hair admits to adoring Genesis of the Daleks. Who’s Changing ultimately celebrates one thing about Doctor Who that never, ever changes – the fact that its most devoted fans adore it almost unconditionally. Perhaps that’s exactly how it should be.
Check out www.blogtorwho.com for details of where to purchase or live-stream Who’s Changing.
Extras: Extended interviews