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Doctor Who – A Global Phenomenon: Part 7: Finland

Guest contributor Martin Backman looks at what Doctor Who means to Finland.

It has never been more obvious that Doctor Who is most definitely a Global Phenomenon, and to celebrate we’ve pulled together yet another group or Whovians from different corners of the globe to show how Doctor Who is received in their own home country. Part Seven is…

Doctor Who in Finland!

doctor-who-finland

Prior to the creation of the revived show Doctor Who has never really had any presence in Finland, even though British television programming is otherwise very common here and many people consider themselves proud Anglophiles. To my knowledge the first time anything Who-related arrived here was on Easter Friday of 1999, when the channel MTV3 showed the 1996 pilot-movie featuring Paul McGann. Since the British-American collaboration never went further and episodes of Classic Who have not been aired in Finland, my guess is that the pilot was shown just to get something to fill the broadcast. I suppose that it might also have been aired because it dealt with the coming millennium and all the paranoia around Y2K was a big thing right then. Anyhow, for those of us who saw the film it was a very confusing experience, because we didn’t have any prior knowledge of the context.

But for me and several others the strange story about the regenerating time-traveler and his blue box left enough of an impact for us to recognise the title of the show when Series 1 suddenly arrived in late 2006. Unfortunately it was not really a success, because the show was aired rather late in the evening and not everybody knew what to make of it. So Doctor Who stopped airing in Finland after Series 2 ended, but it did light an initial spark of interest. In many ways we Finns and most other Nordic people have been early pioneers of internet use, which meant that there was a small and passionate group of fans that kept up to date with what was going on with the show even when it wasn’t seen on TV. Because of the huge presence of Doctor Who on the internet the Finnish fandom was slowly growing, but also to a large part through word-of-mouth when fans introduced the show to their friends.

flood-waters-of-marsThat is what happened to me a few days after The Waters of Mars had first aired, when a friend of mine asked me to sit down and watch it with him. Because I very much liked the special (and still consider it to be one of the top best stories ever made) I then went through the typical path of many Finnish fans back then: I went on an archive-binge and watched through everything from Series 1 onwards, and after that that I got my fix by getting acquainted with the Classic show. The internet was instrumental in making me fan and frankly it was also a necessity for everybody else, because otherwise the show would have slipped under the radar and been stuck in obscurity for an even longer time.

As the show kept becoming even more internationally visible during Matt Smith’s tenure and the Finnish online fandom was fairly noticeable, the show was finally brought back to Finland in 2012. Because of the fan-interest the Finnish public-broadcasting company Yle became a part of the global simulcast of the 50th anniversary special in November 23rd 2013, which is why the entirety of Series 1-7 were aired over less than two years, to lure in even more fans and to allow them to catch up with what was going on in the story up to that point.

This is in a nutshell a brief summary of how Finland became a part of the ever-growing global phenomenon that is Doctor Who, even though the show still has a fairly small presence here. Earlier this year Finland was in the news due to Tarmo Kivikiello of YLE publically admitting to the lack of Who’s popularity in our country:

“Doctor Who is funny because it’s such a huge brand in Britain. We have tried. We bought the whole series and really pushed it but no, no reaction. There are a couple of fans and they really love it. But if you have 10 of those fans it’s not enough.”

British shows like Downton Abbey and Heartbeat tend to be a lot more prominent and have an established fanbase in Finland. One reason for why shows like those two are more popular is because the content of the Yle-channels is mainly directed at an older demographic, mostly middle-aged or older. There are other more commercial channels, with more visible programming directed at a younger audience, but I honestly don’t believe that Doctor Who would be any more successful on these channels because there would then be so much more competition. Only time will tell whether the show becomes more popular, but at its current state I’d give the show a 3/10 for Prominence. As for Finland’s reputation in the Whoniverse, I can give at most a 1/10 as the country has been mentioned only once, in the episode Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith.

FINLAND
Reputation Rating: 3/10
Prominence Rating: 1/10

To read the first 6 articles in the series, simply click on the links below!

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