Participatory Memory: Fandom Experiences Across Time and Space

Layering Ianto's Memorial

This case study focuses on how fans have created a memorial space for Ianto Jones, a character from Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood produced by the BBC.

Doctor Who is a long-running science fiction television program centered on a time-traveling alien called the Doctor. He, along with one or more companions, has adventures through time and space. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, having run for so long with only short gaps in the nineties by virtue of having the Doctor regenerate into a different actor. As of this writing, the 12th Doctor, played by actor Peter Capaldi, is about to give way to the 13th Doctor. 

Torchwood is a spinoff of Doctor Who that ran from 2006-2011 and was aimed at mature audiences. While not as popular as Doctor Who, Torchwood did develop a strong fanbase for numerous reasons. The show saw the continuation of a popular Doctor Who character, Captain Jack Harkness, an immortal ominsexual human time traveller originally from the 51st century. The show is largely focused on the Cardiff branch of the Torchwood Institute, originally headquartered in London and charged with protecting Earth from alien invasions. One of the characters, Welshman Ianto Jones, came to Cardiff after the London branch fell. His initial function was that of a butler and receptionist; over the course of the show, in addition to becoming an operative in his own right, Ianto and Jack become a couple, causing Ianto to question his own sexuality and work through how he can have a relationship with an immortal.

Cardiff Bay is a place that embodies Matt Hills’ (2002, 2010) conception of a cult geography, one where the location has become a space for fans of Doctor Who and Torchwood to visit and participate in. They consider the space to be canon made real. This area houses BBC Studios, and the home base for the team featured in Torchwood was Cardiff Bay. Nearby was the Doctor Who Experience, an interactive experience and exhibit hall open to the public. There are also nearby tours of Doctor Who filming locations, which are examined extensively in Ross Garner’s 2016 work on fan tourism. Nearby shops sell Doctor Who and Torchwood memorabilia. The area both benefits and suffers from this connection to the BBC shows, as explored in multiple studies (e.g., McElroy et al., 2010; Blandford and Lacey, 2011), but the urban branding of Cardiff as glossy and ripe for investment broadly matches that of Torchwood and Doctor Who, thus aligning the two purposes. This branding can, however, also help to erase local history that would complicate this simple reading (Dicks, 2000).

Since 2009, this shrine has been a dedicated space for these fans to mourn and celebrate with their community. This space is unlike any of the other spaces discussed in this digital book project. This uniqueness is seen in the way fans continue to participate in, visit, and curate the site. It is also unique in that owners of the space have acknowledged the fan participation here by contributing markers to this space.

This page has paths:

Contents of this path: