"What started in 1985 with newsletters and meetings, in 2010 is now an online presence like the website or podcasts and things," Louis Trapani told fellow fans of the 40-plus year British sci-fi series "Doctor Who" gathered at Tuesday night. "But there's still nothing better than good old-fashioned people getting together and having a good time and we have a great community of Doctor Who fans on Long Island."
Along with fellow fan Ken Deep, Trapani is head of the "Gallifreyan Embassy," billed as the largest "Doctor Who" fan club on Long Island, and which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Deep said that it was "fitting" that the group was in Mineola because club member Beth Trekman had been working at the where the original club newsletters were mailed. "You used to see Mineola as our paid postage meter-thingy from the post office," Deep said. "Mineola has a special place in our hearts."
Trapani said he decided to start a "Doctor Who" fan club on Long Island in 1985 "since there was nothing there at that time, (and) since there was nothing there I said 'hey, I'll start it' and little did I know 25 years later they're still talking about it."
As part of the celebration, the club invited actress Daphne Ashbrook, one of the stars of the 1996 "Doctor Who" TV movie, to the restaurant to reminisce about the show and its impact on fans. "She's one of us," Deep said of Ashbrook. "She is into what we like, what we're into. She appreciates the science fiction, she appreciates the community that we have, it's very important to her just like it's important to all of us."
Many fans credit Ashbrook's 1996 movie for allowing a new series of Doctor Who episodes to begin in 2005 produced by Russel T. Davies. "When the announcement that there was going to be a brand new "Doctor Who" thing coming out, this was a big deal for all of us," Deep said, explaining that there had been no new content since 1989. "The bridge was that 1996 movie." The movie's ratings might have suffered slightly due to it airing against the final episode of the TV comedy Roseanne.
Deep interviewed Ashbrook about the six week shoot, saying that "the first three weeks of shoot was Paul (McGann), me, (Yee Jee) Tso and the crew, and then the Master (Eric Roberts) came and things changed a little bit because he was the bad guy." Ashbrook explained she got the part because she was late to the audition, "which I don't remember," as well as being "crazed", "running around" and "out of breath." to paraphrase the producer's description. "It wasn't my acting at all," Ashbrook said, "it was just being crazy and late!"
Ashbrook first met the duo during a Skype chat interview several years ago "and every so often I'll do a Podshock interview with them and then I met them in person and fell in love," she said. "I love these guys." Visiting her daughter, who was in acting school in New York, at the time, Ashbrook made a slight detour to have lunch with the pair.
Ashbrook was recently in the UK doing a signing before stopping in Mineola on her way home to Los Angeles Wednesday. She brought back with her video greetings from some of the "Doctor Who" cast members wishing the club a happy 25 years. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into and it took several years after the show had aired that I realized how enormous this is," she said. "It's really about heart. About right versus wrong, I think it's about that, I'm not very eloquent about the feeling about it but it's there and it's a long-lasting love."
"Doctor Who" is not Ashbrook's first foray into science fiction as she also starred in an episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Knight Rider" and the new "Law & Order: Los Angeles." "That was about four hours of work," Ashbrook said on portraying the Star Trek character of Melora. "It was another family to be a part of." Ashbrook explained she researched the role by taking a wheelchair to a local shopping mall. "Everything's an obstacle and also nobody looks at you," she said. "I think because people are uncomfortable and they don't know what to do."
In addition to her acting skills, Ashbrook has also embarked on a musical career, releasing a debut album "Grace Notes," a reference to her "Doctor Who" character, Dr. Grace Holloway. Selections from the CD were played throughout the evening. "The last thing my dad said to me was 'don't stop singing' and I did, I did stop singing for years," Ashbrook said. "Since January I've been singing again."
In the 14 years since becoming involved with the "Doctor Who" universe, Ashbrook still considers herself somewhat of an outsider, expressing her gratitude to fans for educating her about the series "I did become aware quickly that this was a lot bigger and a lot more important than I understood at the time and I'm really glad I didn't understand it until actually years later," she said, recalling listening to executive producer Philip Siegel's DVD commentary on the 1996 movie about the seven-year struggle to get the movie completed. "I feel very fortunate."