Blog| Day of the Doctor
To join in the celebrations of all things Whovian for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, we caught up with Scout leader and super fan, Tom Nichols, for a chat about his sci-fi obsession and his unusual fundraising style...
How are you involved in Scouts?
I started at about age six in Beavers in Slough and I went up through to the Scout Network. Now I’m a leader at 3rd Upton Scouts. It was a huge part of growing up. It very much shaped me into who I am today and gave me the confidence to take the plunge and try out new things.
When did your Doctor Who obsession start?
It started from an early age. I distinctly remember watching videos with my dad when I was about six or seven. That got me hooked. I remember being at school doing model-making and making model Daleks and drawing Daleks in art class and no one else, not even some of the teachers, understood what this was; I couldn’t understand why everyone hadn’t heard of this brilliant thing. This was the nineties and it was cancelled in the eighties so there wasn’t any buzz about it at all back then.
When did you first start collecting memorabilia?
My interest was re-ignited around 2005 when the show made a comeback; the memorabilia was a lot more accessible so that’s when I was able to start collecting then. My first purchase was a sonic screwdriver replica.
What’s your most impressive collectable?
The most iconic one is the Tardis. A friend and I started with one and now have a couple. I’ve currently got some people building me some Cybermen costumes from the new series, so I’m hoping to get them through soon.
You can occasionally find Doctor Who telephone boxes on eBay but the best way to go about it is to build your own. There are loads of plans available online. Once you get into it, you realise how difficult it is to replicate something from the show. If something’s not quite right, the fans will know straight away.
Is it an expensive hobby?
It is. On average, each prop we build costs between £2,500 and £3,000 – but we hire them out with our websites hireatardis.com and hireadalek.com. Weddings are the big one really, and the big comic book events too. When an event announces that there will be a Tardis there, the ticket sales immediately increase because so many Whovians turn up to have their photo taken with it in full costume.
You also rent out your room of memorabilia to fundraise for Scouts?
This started a while ago. Someone said to me, you have so much Doctor Who stuff; you could rent your room out to Doctor Who fanatics during the build-up to the Doctor Who anniversary. There’s an online company that focuses on ‘social accommodation’, which is where people host their rooms with a quirk or theme.
From this and the Tardis hire, I donate around £2,000 to our Scout Troop at the end of the year. We use the money to make life a little easier; we’ve done our HQ up in the past and if you have a less privileged Scout who perhaps can’t afford to go away on camp, then we can help them out.
Do your Scouts know of your obsession?
They do. It completely passes some of them by but some of them are fans too and they love the idea of the whole concept. I think I’ve probably helped enhance their fandom – they come to me first to talk about the latest episodes.
Who is the best Doctor?
I’m always torn between Patrick Troughton and the newest Doctor, Matt Smith. Of the ones that have brought it back, Smith does a brilliant job of embodying the older ones a lot more. Troughton did it back in the day when replacing the main actor was a whole new concept and if he had failed, the show would have just been cancelled and that would have been the end of it.
Doctor Who and Scouts share similar traits: smart, resourceful, adventurous – do you think Doctor Who was a Scout?
I think Doctor Who was certainly a Scout. He could have quite possibly been one of the leaders on Brownsea Island in 1907, bestowing that sense of goodwill and adventure in every young person.
Is your Group marking the 50th anniversary of the Time Lord? Keep us up to date with your Doctor Who-related celebrations on our Facebook page.
Photograph by Andy Tyler Photography