Next up is the amazing Blue Box Alliance, who have an important message to share with Doctor Who fans. Today their founder, Jeremy Wheeler, will talk to us about some of the different ways one can participate in the fandom including cosplay, fan-films, podcast, comic cons, and
Question 1): What part of the world do you come from?
I (Jeremy Wheeler) currently reside in a small river city town in eastern Kentucky called Ashland. However, most of the members of Blue Box Alliance reside in Columbus, OH. One member lives in Florida, and another in British Columbia, Canada. We also have a small group of members in the United Kingdom.
Question 2): When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?
I was born during the middle of Tom Baker’s era as Doctor Who (1978), and my earliest memories of TV as a child were watching Doctor Who late Saturday nights on PBS. My oldest sister watched it every week along with Star Trek. She is a zealous sci-fi fan. I remember watching Doctor Who until Peter Davison took over the role in 1982, and I was confused why the Doctor didn’t look like the floofy haired one that I first knew. I didn’t know how the show worked, and I wasn’t aware that the Doctor regenerated and changed looks when mortally wounded.
Fast forward to 2013. I was a senior in college at Marshall University, and a number of my fellow classmates were enamored with the new Doctor Who. I was surprised to learn that the show was still on the air after many years, because I quit watching it in the early 80s. After being pressed to watch Doctor Who I finally gave in to the pressure. I learned that a 50th Anniversary Special was airing in a few months, and I had some time to catch up on Doctor Who leading up to the show. I binge-watched all the “new” Doctor Who I could find, and quickly became a fan of Chris Eccleston as the Doctor. I was a bit disappointed that he regenerated after only one season, but it explained to me how and why the Doctor changes his appearance from time to time.
The big day of the 50th Anniversary special came, and I was glued to my TV all day watching the festivities live on BBC America. Although I was slightly caught up on “new Who,” there were still a ton of story arcs I wasn’t familiar with (River Song in particular).
Imagine my surprise when “The Great Curator” came on the screen during the final scene of the 50th anniversary special. The moment I saw Tom Baker make a cameo as a Doctor-Not-Doctor character made me weep with tears, because in that moment MY Doctor was on screen. I wept with joy and excitement, and in that precise moment I became a dedicated and rabid fan of the show, and it’s been a upward spiral of joy ever since then.
Question 3): Who is your Doctor?
As already alluded to before, my only exposure to Doctor Who that I watched regularly was Tom Baker – the 4th Doctor Who. Perhaps it was his childlike nature, or his floofy hair, or his colorful scarf. Or maybe it was his robot dog K-9 that kept my attention. Whatever it was, the 4th Doctor is and always will be Doctor Who for me.
Question 4): What started your interest in cosplay?
I suppose cosplay was something I was mildly aware of that existed, but I assumed that it was for hobbyists with ample disposable income to burn. I mean, creating costumes requires a talent I don’t have, and money that I didn’t have either. It also requires plenty of money to buy tickets so you can show off those awesome costumes at conventions. It wasn’t until I fully immersed myself in to Doctor Who fan communities online that cosplay became fully aware to me, and that fans spent very little, or no money at all constructing props and costumes with whatever they could find. Of course, I also discovered that fans were hiring professional costume makers to make their costumes too.
When I discovered some comic and pop-expo conventions were making their way close to where I live I decided to research the cost of costumes and props, and then I easily chose the 4th Doctor to be my one and only form of cosplay. I didn’t act immediately, though. I spent a couple of years trying to piece together the right 4th Doctor costume, but found it nearly impossible to find any jacket that resembled the ones Tom Baker wore, and I also found it nearly impossible to knit my own colorful scarf like the 4th Doctor wore. I wasn’t aware at the time that there were online vendors who custom make scarves and other bits and pieces for cosplayers to dress up as their favorite Doctor. I discovered online cosplay retailers just a couple of years ago, and saved the right amount of money purchasing a wig that closely resembles the 4th Doctor’s curly hair, and a costume that is as screen accurate as I can afford to get.
Question 5): How important is it to you to have authentic materials and patterns for your cosplays?
At first, having as costume and props that were as screen accurate as I could get was a top priority. But when the challenge of finding patterns and materials for some of the 4th Doctor’s vests and jackets proved to be an impossible feat, I gave up and settled for just finding costumes as close to screen-accurate as I can get. Plus, only professional cosplayers who compete in contests are more concerned with authenticity and accuracy when it comes to their contests. Since I do not compete in contests, I have settled for just looking as close to the 4th Doctor as possible without having vests and pants that match the exact same ones as the Doctor wore in the 70s and early 80s.
As a mission dedicated to STOP BULLYING, our mission isn’t to impress other cosplayers or compete in contests, but to share a message of love and acceptance. Everyone who has ever encountered us at a convention has never ridiculed us about anything minor as a costume inaccuracy, because they realize we represent a group who loves Doctor Who and is only concerned with giving fellow Doctor Who fans with an experience of meeting the Doctor and his/her companions as they’ll ever get. Casual convention attendees don’t grade you or care if your vest matches perfectly, or if your costume is screen-accurate or not. They see someone dressed as one of their favorite characters and they are content with that, and so are we.
Even our TARDIS prop is not screen accurate. We built a TARDIS using plans and blue prints from a woodworker who designed a generalized TARDIS. Since we have so many variations of the Doctor at all of our appearances, having a TARDIS design that is specific to one Doctor and not another didn’t seem fair or economically possible. Instead, we erred on the side of building a generic version of the TARDIS that fits all the variations of the Doctor and not just one. And as usual, when fans of Doctor Who see our TARDIS at a convention, they never comment with “that’s not the TARDIS from [insert a Doctor’s name here] era.” It’s always, “Oh wow! Look! The TARDIS! Can I get a picture with it?” Of course, we oblige. Selfies with our TARDIS are always free, by the way.
Question 6): What inspired you to start Blue Box Alliance?
I give credit to two factors: 1. Mr. Ronn Smith, creator of the YouTube series “Doctor Who: The Classic Series Regenerated.” and 2. Heroes 4 Higher (a DC and Marvel Cosplay group dedicated to speaking out against drug abuse, bullying, substance abuse).
Ronn Smith is a fellow fourth Doctor cosplayer, and when I watched his YouTube video for the first time I though, “I’d love to do this!” A couple of years later, Ronn and I crossed paths on social media and we connected. I learned he lived not too far from me, and we met a couple of times so I could learn more about what he has done with his YouTube series, and what he plans to do in the future. Ronn is just as eager a fan of the fourth Doctor as I am, and so we quickly became good friends.
Heroes 4 Highter, LLC is a group that I have observed locally for quite some time. John Buckland is a former military firefighter who is retired and now spends his time cosplaying as Batman. He visits sick and injured children in hospitals, speaks at schools and churches, and also drives around in a replica Batmobile that he has dubbed “The Hope Mobile.” Because of their efforts, and the changes in people’s lives that they’ve made, I became inspired to assemble a group of people who had the passion and vision to do the same thing.
Unfortunately, I’m not a passionate fan of DC or any other comicbook characters, but I knew I wanted to do something similar to Heroes 4 Higher. The only logical thing I knew to do was find a group of fellow Doctor Who fans who was interested in social activism, and who wanted to represent the Doctor Who brand with a strong message of just being kind to other people.
I also work in the public education system, and seeing young students be victims of bullying was something that tugged at my heart. After initially conceptualizing my idea to combine Doctor Who, teaching, activism, and a desire to change people’s lives, Blue Box Alliance was born.
In November of 2016, I joined a few private Doctor Who cosplay fan forums announcing my vision of connecting Doctor Who cosplayers who wanted to speak out about the issue of bullying. Only one or two people responded, but fortunately they were very close to where I lived, and we connected and further conceptualized what is now known as Blue Box Alliance.
In the Spring and Summer of 2017 we started making appearances at as many conventions we could get ourselves in to. Some conventions invited us as guests, and others we had to petition to become participants in. Wizard World in Columbus, Ohio was our big break.
During the Columbus show, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and John Barrowman were booked as guests. The majority of the convention attendees were there specifically to meet the tenth Doctor and his most popular companions. Of course, we had a prime location that intersected with the lines that lead to all three stars. With our TARDIS on display, and our various Doctor Who and related characters, we had a non-stop line requesting picture and photos with us and our TARDIS the entire weekend. Meanwhile, we were able to tell folks exactly who we were, what we were, and why we were doing what we were doing. The response and acceptance of our mission was openly positive, and since then we’ve continued to grow our online presence through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Question 7): How can Doctor Who fans help spread the word about #WhoAgainstBullying?
We are active on all of our social media platforms. Doctor Who fans can first follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @BlueBoxAlliance. We are easy to find.
Next, in the coming months we will be premiering our very first Doctor Who fan-film that fans can share. The show will present a strong message about friendship and battling bullying.
Another way Doctor Who fans can help spread the word is using the hashtag #WhoAgainstBullying or #BlastBullying along with #BlueBoxAlliance.
Question 8): The Blue Box Alliance was a guest at Wizard World Columbus. How did that come about?
It was a pure stroke of luck for us since we were just getting started in early 2017. Fortunately, someone who’s a member of our group has a relative who follows Wizard World on Facebook. The powers-to-be posted on their page how they were looking for fan groups to appear as special guests at their 2017 Columbus show. I believe someone close to one of our members tagged us in the post, and within minutes a representative of Wizard World contacted us personally and invited us to be a part of the show.
Surprisingly we were a huge hit at the 2017 show. Of course, it helped that three top stars from Doctor Who were there that year. As the months grew closer to the 2018 Wizard World Columbus show I contacted the same representative who booked us the year prior, and she graciously allowed us back. Wizard World is our top favorite show, and we look forward to it each year.
Question 9): Recently I learned about Who and Company, which is a Doctor Who podcast. How can fans tune into this show and/or be a guest?
Who & Company is an online podcast hosted by two American fans, Brent and Drew. The podcast is a fairly new show, but they cover all sorts of news regarding Doctor Who – classic Who, current series, and future series. The hosts found us on Twitter and were impressed with our #WhoAgainstBullying campaign and wanted to feature us as a guest.
We gladly went on to the show, and now we proudly support them in their effort as a top-tier Doctor Who podcast. Fans can tune in on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and everywhere else podcasts can be listened to.
If you want to be a guest on the show, you can contact Brad and Drew directly through twitter: @whoandcompany
Question 10): I understand you are also into making Doctor Who fan films. What decisions go into choosing a particular film to produce?
Producing a Doctor Who fan-film was a tough decision to make, because there are so many fan-films already online. Everyone out there who is a fan of the show is doing their very best with what they have to work with, and it’s fabulous what they are producing.
I’ve been working in independent film-making for a little over three years now. The first thing to consider when producing a movie, or a fan-film in particular, is “How do I make mine completely different from everyone else who’s making a Doctor Who fan-film?”
This was an easy answer to find. First, we wanted to write a script that would emphasize our strong stand against bullying. So what could we do with the Doctor that hasn’t been done before, or how could we re-do a scenerio the Doctor has faced before, but in a new way?
Most of the fan-films out there feature a unique and personal version of the Doctor. I’ve yet to see a Doctor Who fan-film that features an attempt at recreating one of the canonized Doctors we all know and enjoy. It’s usually someone creating their own version of the Doctor and exploring brand new stories with their extended universe version of Doctor Who.
In our Doctor Who fan-film we are focusing on the fourth Doctor; mainly, because I’ll be portraying him and we don’t want to have to develop a new version of the Doctor like other fan-films. Second, our story is set during an unknown period of the Doctor that we as fans may or may not ever know about. It’s an extended universe story, and it takes place following the Doctor’s departure from Leela, so he’s all alone traveling all of time and space as usual, but we don’t really know where and what the Doctor does in his down time between adventures, so we sort of explore that.
For the sake of our story, we chose to create new companions for our film. When you see our film you’ll understand why we chose to create all new companions, because our story takes place in a setting that the Doctor rarely ever goes to, if ever.
Next, we wanted our script to not only feature an exciting adventure and conflict for the Doctor to encounter, but we also wanted the script to feature a message. Our script isn’t just an adventure on just another planet with just some more companions facing just another threat. No. Our threat is real. We are relying heavily on magical realism in our film, and we hope the audience will lose themselves in the story. Of course, we don’t have hardly any money to spend on this project, so we hope the audience will be forgiving on the special effects side of things and focus more on the story.
Question 11): On social media you have posted about another Doctor Who fan film. Can you tell me a bit more about it and how fans can audition?
Our first attempt at a fan-film is a story called ‘THE CELESTIAL FRIENDMAKER.’ It’s an extended universe story featuring the fourth Doctor, and although he precisely set the TARDIS coordinates for another location, he somehow ends up in present day rural United States (2018/2019).
Meanwhile, two teenaged girls – Heidi and Amber – are at each other’s throats. Amber is the high school bully and she has it out for Heidi. But is there something more insidious behind Amber’s behavior towards Heidi, or is it just a part of the psycho-social order of teenaged development? Tune in to find out!
As the girls go at each other, a dark shadowy figure is following Heidi around until an encounter with the Doctor leads both girls to stop fighting each other for a moment and seek refuge for their lives from the dark shadow figure. Somehow, they make their way in to the TARDIS where the Doctor tries some conflict resolution between the young ladies in attempts to negotiate peace. When it seems like the negotiations are going to fail, the Doctor takes his time to both girls the value of life in only the way the Doctor can.
At the present, July 9th, we have most of the cast and crew of the fan film already in place. We do have space for the part of Amber, an adult teacher role (can be male or female), and the role of Heidi’s uncle Barry. It should be noted that this is a fan-film, and it’s as low budget as it comes. Everyone is strictly volunteer and must not anticipate financial compensation for acting or performing behind the scenes work for the film. The fan film will be release publicly and for free on YouTube and Vimeo for general audiences to enjoy.
Sixty-second audition videos, or requests for auditions, can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question 12): What can we expect from you in the future?
We aren’t counting our chickens before they hatch, but the intent is to continue to create Doctor Who fan film content that fans will love and enjoy. We intend to write scripts that will carry a strong and encouraging message and lesson in each one.
Our hope to expand our presence nation and world wide. We understand that our efforts are a tad bit niche, but we can at least make a small impact on Doctor Who fans by emphasizing the principals of kindness, acceptance, love, laughter, and bravery.
We intent to attend and appear at more conventions where we will have our TARDIS and other props on display. Photos with us and our props are always free. We never charge for anything. We’re not out to make any money. We’ve been to conventions where other prop displays charge $25 or more for a non-professional photo with their TARDIS or other props. We’re not interested in profiting. We’re interested in rejoicing together with other Doctor Who fans, making friends with people who love the show as much as we do, and reminding people to “run fast, always be kind; hate is foolish, and love is always wise!”
Lastly, we hope to begin making presentations and taking our TARDIS and props to public schools and offering our services as entertainers and educators to where the heart of our mission is aimed.
Question 13): How can others find out more about you and your work?
Facebook is our primary way of advertising and interacting with fellow Doctor Who fans. We also post enlightening quotes from Doctor Who, and the latest statistics about bullying and its effects.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting videos discussing things relevant to Doctor Who and bullying, and that will be posted on our Facebook page as well.
We’re also active on Twitter and Instagram: @BlueBoxAlliance
We have a blog and tells a little bit more about us, and also features articles written by the members of Blue Box Alliance. You can check that out at:
Thank you again, Jeremy! Fans, please make sure to check out their Word Press, and stay tuned next week when I sit down with Luke East from Reviewing Who to talk about reviewing Doctor Who, Big Finish Productions, etc!
How You Can Participate!