Throughout Time, Ken Deep Has Been a Companion of Doctor Who Fandom on Long Island

Long Island TARDIS

Like many fans of science fiction who grew up in the 1970s, Ken Deep relied on real world connections to share his fandom.

The cultural connection came through comic book shops, fanzines, and by dragging yourself to a movie theater to rewatch your favorite film. You mailed in paper checks to join fan clubs, met in living rooms, more comic shops, and even libraries to talk about your favorite shows, characters, and storylines from the world of sci-fi. If you had a shared interest you had to seek out like-minded individuals sometimes serendipitously or sometimes purposely traveling to local cons. It was in these spaces that Deep found his people, the ones who also geeked out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Space 1999, and Buck Rodgers.

“It was a great sense of community,” said Deep in our rambling discussion, a sort of retelling of his own origin story in sci-fi.

Deep had been consuming as much sci-fi as he could find and then one day he came upon a strange new show (to him at least). It was on channel 21. For the uninitiated, back in the day, television stations used to broadcast only up to channel 13 on Long Island. Anything above that was in the strange realm of UHF stations, not where you’d usually find your mainstream shows or really anything very exciting.

“I stumbled across it in the TV Guide,” Deep said. “It was a sci-fi show named Doctor Who. I said, ‘I have to try this thing.’”

The first episode was unlike anything he had expected.

“I was completely lost,” he said. “I had no clue what was going on.”

But Deep was determined because the visuals and the storyline were so different from anything he was used to watching on television at the time where shows had tidy beginnings, middles, and ends, and nothing happened that really mattered. Doctor Who was serialized so stories could lead from one week to the next.

“I didn’t know what was going on but this thing had my attention,” he said. “I just got hooked.”

The kid from Oceanside was discovering another galaxy via a show made by the BBC in England.

Deep found other local fans of Doctor Who, signed up for the fan club, and traded tapes and stories with them. He belonged.

“In high school I was kind of nerdy,” he said. “These other people spoke my language.”

When Deep figuratively stepped into the TARDIS as a young boy, he never imagined the places it would take him. In time, Deep would charter a new course for Doctor Who, even innovating the way other fans consumed their fill of the culture.

Deep helped launch the very first podcast dedicated to Doctor Who, titled “Doctor Who Podshock.” It garnered a huge following that spread across the globe. Being the first of its kind, they were able to book some notable guests and make connections among fans and the people who created the show. He helped bridge the gap between OG fans and the new way people connected over Doctor Who.

“Modern fandom is online,” he said. “The newsletters became the podcast.”

Eventually more and more Doctor Who podcasts proliferated, with shows dedicated to every crack and crevice of its universe from the music to fan fiction. 

Still, cons survived and even thrived in the new millennium but in 2013 when the famous ICON science fiction festival decided to go on hiatus, Deep was bummed but he also seized on an opportunity.

It was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and there was nothing happening in New York to celebrate. Of course, Deep, drawing among the community he forged early on and the success of the podcast, thought of a solution.

“Why don’t we just do one of our own?” he said.

The first Long Island’s Doctor Who Convention was held in November 2013. The show sold out. They had premier guests like Frazer Hines, who played the companion to the Second Doctor, and Daphne Ashbrook, who played in the 1996 film.

“There were scalpers outside selling tickets,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was a hit.”

Now in its 11th year, the Long Island Doctor Who Convention will return this August for three days at the Holiday Inn off North Ocean Avenue in Holtsville.

Some would think that was enough. But not for Deep.

He also helped create Long Island’s very own TARDIS.

“We’ve been doing it for over a decade,” he said.

The Long Island TARDIS is exactly what it sounds like. Officially it’s a life size screen accurate Type 40 TT capsule. The full size replica of the TARDIS is available for weddings, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs. It also shows up at the occasional con, including the Long Island Doctor Who Convention.

The next place you can find it will be at MastiCon IV on May 4th at the Mastics Moriches-Shirley Community Library.

“It’s been there every year and it will be free to take a picture,” Deep said.

So that’s the extent of Deep’s Doctor Who fandom.

Except, it isn’t.

Deep has also co-edited a new book about Doctor Who titled, The Companions of Doctor Who. Actually, it’s his second Doctor Who book.

“Last year I was a contributor to a book called A World of Demons: The Villains of Doctor Who,” Deep said.

It was a rousing success and so much fun that editor David Bushman asked him to help him with his next idea: a 175-page, 16 chapter book of essays, each one about one of the Doctor’s companions.

Deep says his role was more of creative director and producer. He helped select the writers and gave them some direction while Bushman did a lot of the red pencil work. Deep says he was selective in who he chose to write the essays.

“The writers I picked had to have certain kinds of credentials,” he said. “It had to be people who could critique Doctor Who as a fan and a professional – who can explain why certain creative decisions are made and why?”

Yee Jee Tso, who played Chang Lee in the Doctor Who telefilm, wrote one chapter (“He was a bit of a coup,” says Deep) and another on Martha Jones and attachment theory was written by Gina R Rosich, who has a PhD in social work.

“I got a nice diverse group of people and gave them the freedom to do what they wanted,” he said.

The book, published by Fayetteville Mafia Press, is available almost everywhere books are sold.

Returning to television in May, Doctor Who will land at its new home on Disney+ in America with a bigger budget, something many people (including series showrunner Russell T. Davies) thinks will open the show up to a wider audience. Ncuti Gatwa is taking over the role as the Fifteenth Doctor when it officially kicks off on May 10th.

For his part, Deep is excited. He says that the fandom gets protective of their shows but in order for Doctor Who to survive it needs to expand.

“Being on Disney is going to bring a new audience to the series,” he said.

The Long Island Doctor Who Convention will run from August 23-25, 2024 at the Holiday Inn Long Island at 1730 N. Ocean Avenue in Holtsville. Click here for more info. You can learn more about the Long Island TARDIS on their Facebook page here. You can buy the new book The Companions of Doctor Who online at Amazon.

Photo: Courtesy Ken Deep.