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21 August 2018

My Name is Barry Aldridge - I'm a Doctor Who fan, born and raised in Forest Hill, London. I also have autism. I am 35 years old and working part-time as a retail assistant (at the time of writing this). I moved out of London when I was 23, and lived in Brighton for 3 months, before moving to West Sussex, to a small town called Goring By Sea, where I live to this day.

I have been a Doctor Who fan since 1988. I can remember watching my first ever story when I was just 5 years old; Remembrance Of The Daleks. I recall the first episode cliffhanger, and my love for the Daleks began. The reason we watched was because my Mum didn’t want to watch Coronation Street (which was on at the same time), and, looking back, I'm so glad she made that decision! To me, the Daleks will always hold a special place, no matter what. It is their design by the late Raymond Cusick that was so iconic and memorable. I can see why people call them pepper pots, even though I never did call them pepper pots, myself.

I remember watching the rest of the season which included The Happiness Patrol which featured the Candyman, who freaked the hell out of me! I was glad he got dealt with by the end. Silver Nemesis was actually filmed near me in a town called Arundel. As for The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, I found that a bit weird as a five year old, but as an adult, I find it rather enjoyable now.

The next season of the show featured Battlefield, the confusing Ghost Light and two true favourites; The Curse Of Fenric and Survival. By the end of 1989 I thought it was coming back and then there was nothing... My Mum had bought VHS Tapes of the show from both the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years, and I loved all the stories. Nowadays, I have every single story - organised from outstanding to poor stories (in my view) - but hey, that's just my opinion!

I really loved the theme music, which I found mysterious, scary and generally wonderful to listen to - especially with McCoy’s era, which made feel like I was going into outer space for a big adventure.

Around 1990 there was a weekend where they showed, for the first time in a long time, the black and white episodes - and I loved them! I will admit that I found the first Dalek story a bit long - particularly the bits without the Daleks, which were a bit boring, but watching it years later, I love it. It was during that weekend that I truly fell in love with my favourite Doctor of all time; Patrick Troughton.

In 1993 I watched all the colour stories on UK Gold, which was a real gem. I would start watching at 7am, as some of the earlier Pertwee stories were longer as they were 7-parters.

In 1998, I have to admit that I fell out of love with Doctor Who for a bit, as GCSEs and other things in my life took over, but in 2005 I once again had to thank my Mum as she had watched the new series and told me to "give it a chance". I did, and at that moment, I was back in love with the show. I particularly loved Episode 6, Dalek, by Robert Shearman who actually shares the same birthday as me and Peter Purves. That’s something that being autistic can do; allowing me to build knowledge and remember even the smallest of facts that maybe others would forget.

I first got my diagnosis for autism when I was 3 years old, which, back then was more like an underground movement (like going to a rave club). All good in the hood in my book. I finally found out that I had it, probably around the age of 7 onwards, when I moved from a special school to a mainstream primary school.

Autism has really good and bad points to it. Normally people start with the good then go for the bad, but I'm going to start from the other way around.

When you talk about the show and there are sometimes disagreements, other people wouldn’t give me the time to explain my side and think I am very slow on getting through. It can normally be tricky, but luckily there are fans who are understanding. I can feel quite nervous at conventions, which can be really tricky as noise and lighting can be distracting and trigger a meltdown, which some people find really hard to understand. People wonder why I am having a meltdown and think I am mentally ill and should be locked up. I can also find the number of people at the conventions tough to deal with. I know some people who have had breakdowns owing to the crowds. It happened to me once, but I made sure I quickly got somewhere quiet to relax myself.

I would get anxious about time slots on whether it is a photo shoot or meeting one of the stars of the show. It was / is really important to me to make sure I get everything right. I know some people will see it as a selfish attitude but I call it being prepared and making sure I am on time. Autistic people I know, like to keep up with time and if they are late it can cause a meltdown.

One other downside is that I may not be able to understand certain forms of humour - if explained, then I would be alright, but a few fans can have trouble understanding that.

Now onto the good side of being autistic! You can build a real encyclopaedic knowledge of the show - for example, I know which stories were directed by Barry Letts, or how many episodes Tom Baker did (not stories but individual episodes to every single story he did). I can recall, at a moments notice, who did the music on each show and can even pick out which instruments were used at different times. I can even spot a reference to a certain time in another episode. There are a lot of autistic Doctor Who fans too who are the same and you can have a really good chat - especially talking about good and bad episodes of the show.

Every time I have met someone who has worked on the show, they have always been incredibly welcoming. Conventions or museums like the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff and other places in Brighton and London were brilliant and very calming atmospheres - especially the Cardiff place which is no longer there, sadly. I think that conventions have improved over the years where there is more understanding for everyone, whatever condition you may have, and I think that is a wonderful thing. There is always going to be a negative that could overshadow the event but I never think of it for long and move on and focus on the positives.

Organising merchandise from the show is really important to me; like putting magazines, books, CDs and DVDs in order - that helps me to be calm! When I was younger, I would make sure to put the stories whether DVD or Blu-Ray, in order, so then I know which one to get down to watch. If it was messed around I would have a bit of meltdown.

Being a fan of the Daleks, I would love to collect anything Dalek related - it was like a mission, and autistic people love missions - or at least the ones I know, do - lol.

Every autistic person is different; not every autistic Doctor Who fan has the same favourites - we are different like everyone else, but the one thing we all have in common - autism or no autism - is our love and passion for the show. Whether we agree or disagree on certain doctors, stories, writers and so on, the one thing we can all agree upon is that we love Doctor Who.


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