He may have made only one brief appearance in Doctor Who, but Clive Finch still stands out as one of the best representations of fandom within the series itself.
I’m not the first person to write about the brilliance of Clive Finch – Mark Benton’s doomed conspiracy theorist in opening episode Rose. Only a few months ago, my fellow contributor Raphael discussed why he was such a great Doctor Who character in a fantastic article that’s well worth a read.
But I wanted to look at the character from another perspective. Because – after listening to his recent return appearance in Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon – something else leaped out about Clive. Specifically, how he’s one of the best representations of the Doctor Who fandom within the show itself.
Sometimes, a series will include a character that’s very obviously inspired by its rabid fandom. And often, these will usually be intended to be jokey characters who are completely obsessed with the heroes. As genuinely funny as these characters can be, (Sarah Silverman’s character of Marci in the TV series Monk was especially fantastic,) it doesn’t exactly paint the best picture of the fandom.
Even Doctor Who has been guilty of this. While neither obsessed with the Doctor nor particularly funny, there’s no question that the character of Whizz Kid from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was a clear parody of the fandom. The stereotypical image of a total geek, he was someone who was obsessed with the Psychic Circus and was eager to not only see it, but also mention a ton of facts about it to anyone who would (or wouldn’t) listen.
The character’s fate – being suddenly killed after failing to entertain the audience – teaches a harsh lesson: knowledge and enthusiasm are no substitutes for talent. And while this may be true, again, it’s not exactly the best depiction of fandom.
A fresh take
Which is why Clive was such a huge breath of fresh air. When Russell T Davies needed to inform both Rose and the audience about the Doctor, a conspiracy theorist who knew so many stories about him was the perfect way to do it. It was also a great way of representing the voice of the older fans within the Doctor Who universe itself.
As I mentioned, characters representing the fandom had been done before. But what Russell T Davies did so brilliantly was avoid all the stereotypes. Instead of giving us a lonely, or at least insular person living on his own, Clive was immediately shown to have a family. He had a wife and kids, and he wasn’t exactly afraid of meeting new people. He even had a sense of humor!
These are little, ordinary things, but at the same time, geeks are so often presented in such a clear and stereotypical way that it’s refreshing to see it subverted so brilliantly. To see someone who’s passionate about something also having a family, too. It made Clive that much more likable, and it also made his sudden death that much more shocking.
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The parallel version of Clive that features in Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon is introduced as being on his own when he meets Rose. But in all other aspects, he’s still just as likable as the version we know. On top of that, we get to hear him meet his wife, or at least a parallel version of her, and it’s a really sweet story, too. (The fact that they got Elli Garnett to reprise her role of Caroline is a huge bonus.)
Almost fifteen years on, and Clive is still one of the best and most grounded takes on fandom in Doctor Who. Don’t get me wrong, Osgood’s a brilliant character. But again, her character reflects some of the more exaggerated areas of fandom. Still affectionate, and nowhere near as bad as Whizz Kid. But not quite as wonderfully grounded as Clive. So I’m glad that the character has been brought back, and in a way that doesn’t undo his tragic ending in Rose. I hope we get to hear plenty more of the character in future.
Are you a fan of Clive Finch? Do you think he’s a refreshingly grounded take on fandom? What did you think of Mark Benton’s performance in the role? Let us know in the comments below.