#ProfessionalUp #2 : The Work-Health Balance: The Conversation That Can No Longer Wait

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Why employee health should be your number one priority

By Mélissa M Azombo

Let’s talk about health at the workplace…

This is the era of “self-care” and a booming health and wellbeing industry. Concurrently, our working hours and practices are commonly at odds with our health appointment scheduling, and our ability to simply get a good night’s sleep. Result: we are stuck in a dichotomy. Traditional and social media send us messages to look after ourselves, while for many of us, the only way to pay our bills and earn a living, ties us to do the opposite.

This problematic dichotomy is due in part to one thing. While discussion around work-life balance is nothing new, the conversation around work-health balance is mute.

It’s time to start the conversation about work-health balance.

A blonde woman with red lipstick wearing a white shirt and beige trousers, curled up on her chair while working on her silver laptop with a black keyboard. Her table has her glasses and multiple used tissues on it.
Above: A woman working while sick. Image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska from Pexels.com

In the US, 9 in 10 people go to work ill because they can not afford to miss a day of work. There, it’s simple. You’re sick, you don’t get paid if you do not go into work. Slightly less harsh is the UK. Employees are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay of £96.35 per week if they have been ill for a minimum of 7 days. So, if you’re ill for less than that amount of time, you get nothing.

So, why does this matter?

People going to work ill instead of resting can worsen the illness and increase their likelihood of taking sick days the following year by 50%, compared to their counterparts who take the time off they need, when they are unwell. The current pandemic has shown it can have adverse effects on clients and customers when contaminated, too.

With all of this in mind, here’s how you can redress the work-health balance.

  1. Introduce the four-day work week
Gold embossed notebook, light pink calendar with gold writing on clipboard with gold clip.
Above: Image of calendar, notebooks, gold pen, gold clips, clipboard and stationery courtesy of Olya Kobruseva from Pexels.com

One of the major constraints of the work-health balance is the rigidity of the work part. Fix it. Give your employees more flexibility to book health appointments and maintain a health routine by permanently freeing up a working day in their schedule. They don’t need to go through an entire holiday booking process, which can be arduous at certain companies. Looking after themselves is as easy as it should be. Plus, you benefit from the greater productivity that studies on the four-day work week have shown.

  1. Provide job security
A brown female boss with long black hair wearing a white shirt with a cravat and black lanyard, adorned with a long black jacket, shows a young white lady with white silver blonde hair, wearing a light blue shirt, a black lanyard and a black jacket, holding a light pink pen in her hand, through a contract she has on the table.
Above: Image of boss showing new hire through contract, courtesy of Sora Shimazaki from Pexels.com.

Implement a no questions asked understanding approach to time-off requests, absences and lateness. Not all health issues come with a 48-hour pre-shift warning. To maintain work-health balance, untimely period pains, depression episodes or headaches should not cost someone their job. Neither should drinking water.

Professionalise humanity. Allow employees to hydrate themselves to stay focused, functional and to keep their vocal cords working in a job that requires lots of talking.

Be understanding of the fact your employees may be going through something they find difficult to discuss, do not wish to disclose and legally don’t have to. Show compassion by not contractually assuming lateness or absence is due to not being a worthy employee. Presume positivity. Simplify the time-off requests process. An emergency is rarely programmable months in advance.

  1. Pay a living wage
Money on the table. £5, £10 and £20 notes with £2, £1, 20p, 50p and 5p coins.
Above: Money, money, money. Image courtesy of Alaur Rahman from Pexels.com

The work-health balance is about working to live, not living to work, and definitely not living to barely get by. But paying your employees the minimum wage will land them exactly in that last category. Yours might be one of multiple jobs they have to work to make ends meet. Even then, some parents won’t eat, so their children can eat. They simply won’t earn enough to feed everyone. Instill the work-health balance. Break this stress-inducing system.

As an employer, pay a living wage to give your employees the opportunity to work one job and have more spare time to release endorphins among family and friends. Give them the purchasing power to gift themselves enjoyable experiences and eat healthily, as well as access regular healthcare. You relieve them of the stress a minimum wage job would give them. In turn, you welcome healthier, more productive individuals by your side.

We all benefit from the work-health balance. Replace any idea that it’s a matter of profit over health, when the two are intrinsically linked. Put health where it was always meant to be – at the centre of work. Take action and start the conversation about the work-health balance.

#ProfessionalUp #1: 3 Simple Steps To Become An Expert Communicator Within Your Team

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

How effective communication will make you unstoppable at achieving your goals

By Mélissa M Azombo

Let’s talk about communication…

In the workplace, we know it’s vital. It appears on all our job posts. It is the method by which you get the job in the first place. And it is the crux of many problems which could have frankly, been very easily avoided.

As the content creator here at Time Made Of Strawberries, I contact interviewees all the time and reach out to you about interacting with the content that I’ve produced for you to enjoy and read.

As the DISC (Diversity in Space Careers) Marketing Lead and Volunteer at UKSEDS, I connect with my fellow team mates frequently about an array of topics, to facilitate the smooth running of what it is we are trying to accomplish and ask and answer pertinent questions, so we can attain our best.

What this shows is that communication is at the heart of teamwork. It is the electricity that keeps your Tesla going, the clockwork that keeps your watch ticking. So, what does this mean?

gold and silver round frame

Photo by Ej Agumbay on Pexels.com

Well, circuits are put in place with precision to make sure you can read this post on your smartphone, laptop or desktop right now and drive your Tesla. The cogs and needles are laid down meticulously, so that you can manage your time.

In the exact same way, you need to have a specific method about how you employ communication to make your team work.

1. Communicate and receive skillset

people doing work presentation

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Find out what your team members are good at and what they want to have a go at but could use help with. Put forward your strengths and areas for improvement too. This allows your team to feel empowered via solidifying their strengths and improving in areas of interest.

Communicating and sharing your skillset is an integral part of teamwork. It is the beginning of your journey to success as a team.

2. Delegate

women colleagues gathered inside conference room

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Use that knowledge to play to your team’s strengths and delegate roles accordingly. Likewise, benefit from other people’s strengths and allow them to help you in producing your best work. Is public speaking not your forte? Is someone in your team an expert at public speaking? Allow them to give you a masterclass on public speaking, so that you can put together the best, smoothest running presentation.

Become proficient at lending your skills and benefiting from gaining new areas of expertise from your teammates.

3. Communicate your vision clearly and precisely.

woman writing in paper

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

So, you have successfully delegated. This might mean that you will not be in charge of bringing your vision to life. You might have direct involvement with the conception stage of your project, but it is the role of another team member to present that concept and make it tangible to your audience. Make your team’s life easier.

Be precise about the work you want your colleagues to produce. You will find that making no assumptions about what your team should and shouldn’t know about the details which currently lie in your mind, will go a long way in this aspect. Providing specific details and an accurate description of your concept will make it easier for your colleagues to achieve the vision you have in mind.

Just like that, confusion about the output not matching the vision is reduced or eliminated entirely and you’ll achieve synergy.


One thing that all teams have in common is a shared goal that they are working towards. It is having all the key elements of communication in place, that will allow your team to run like clockwork in reaching your common objective. You have the tools.

So, upgrade your communication skills in team work today to make the dream work.


Jodie Whittaker (centre), John Bishop (left), Mandip Gill (right) in Doctor Who: Flux Credit: BBC

Get the lowdown on Doctor Who Series 13 ahead of its Halloween release

By Mélissa M Azombo

As the 13th series of Doctor Who materialises on British screens tonight, from casting to plotlines, here’s everything you need to know about what’s to come.

Doctor What?

“It’s coming. Be ready.” This is what The Doctor tells us about The Flux in a BBC ident. Just what is the flux? We don’t know exactly. We are aware that it involves a SWARM of creatures from Sontarans to Weeping Angels, Cybermen and Ravagers. New set photos have even been released to confirm this.

Otherwise, all we know in terms of the storyline (which is quite special already) is the first two episode titles. Episode 1 titled “Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse” will launch the series this Halloween. The following episode called “War of The Sontarans” will air Sunday 7 November. It’s safe to say this episode will feature the return of Sontarans, not seen since Doctor Who series 8, right? Their return has been confirmed since their appearance in the latest Doctor Who trailer.

The trailer also reveals an Ood and a new monster named Karvanista.

Doctor Who?

Although the writers confirmed for Doctor Who: FLUX are limited to a total of 2 – Chris Chibnall himself and Maxine Alderton (Doctor Who: Series 12: the Haunting of Villa Diodati) – a growing list of further casting details has been released. Of course, Jodiie Whittaker will be featuring in her last series in the role of The 13th Doctor. The Yorkshire-born actress made history when she was announced as the first woman to play The Doctor (within continuity) back in July 2017. Alongside her, will be Mandip Gill continuing her role as Yasmin Khan. Both will be joined by new TARDIS arrival Dan Lewis, played by John Bishop.

As announced during the last Doctor Who Comic Con at Home Panel, Game of Thrones’ Jacob Anderson will be starring as series regular, Vinder. Talking about playing his character during the panel, Anderson revealed “Not only did I get to go on the TARDIS & press all the buttons & levers but I got my own ship.” His own ship? Is Vinder a Time Lord? Only time will tell.

Featuring alongside the principal four, an array of guest cast throughout the six-part story. Robert Bathurst and Kevin McNally of Downton Abbey, The Irregulars’ Thaddea Graham, Blake Harrison from World On Fire and Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty) will all enter the world of Doctor Who throughout the following six weeks. Although full character details have yet to be confirmed, some interesting character images have been released. In the mean time, it’s a waiting game to find out who will be played by Sara Powell (Unforgotten), Britannia’s Annabel Scholey & Gerald Kyd, Penelope Ann McGhie (Harry Potter), Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty), Sam Spruell (The North Water), Craige Els (Ripper Street), Steve Oram (The End of the F-ing World), Nadia Albina (The One), Jonathan Watson (Two Doors Down), Sue Jenkins (Coronation Street) and Paul Broughton (Brookside).

All cast have been directed by Jamie Magnus Stone (Doctor Who: Series 12: Spyfall) on episodes one, two and four with the remaining episodes directed by Azhur Saleem and produced by Pete Levy. Azhur Saleem’s directing venture on Muse made the Official Sci-Fi London Film Festival Selection.

As in series 12, Doctor Who: FLUX had Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens as executive producers, while being co-produced by series producer Nikki Wilson.

Doctor When?

The hit sci-fi TV show returns for its 13th series tonight, Sunday 31 October at 18h25 GMT (UK). Doctor Who: FLUX will be available for streaming from Monday 1 November at 6h20 AEDT and broadcast at 19h30 AEDT (Australia). To American audiences, the show will air on Sunday 31st October at 20h00 EDT (USA). The series continues with Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans the following week.

Doctor Where?

Doctor Who will be broadcast in the UK on BBCOne, in Australia on ABC iview and ABC TV Plus and in the USA on BBC America. Details for other countries are yet to be confirmed.

Doctor How?

The series will be broadcast over six one-hour episodes, which will also be available to watch on the BBC’s catch-up streaming service BBC iPlayer.

Doctor Why?

The return of Doctor Who tonight brings an end to the 10-months hiatus Whovians have endured since the New Year’s Day special Revolution of the Daleks aired on 1 January 2021. Although past Doctor Who seasons under the current Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall have been known to have fewer episodes than their predcessors, Doctor Who: Flux suffers an even more dramatic episode count cut from Chinall’s standard 10 to just 6. He confirmed during SDCC’s Comic-Con at Home 2021 Panel in July this year that pandemic filming influenced the story telling.

“You could go we’re just gonna do lots of tiny episodes, in one room, with no monsters, or we could throw down the gauntlet and go we’re gonna do the biggest story we’ve ever done and we’re going to all kinds of different places, have all kinds of different characters and monsters, and it’s all gonna be part of a bigger whole,” Chibnall explained. Doctor Who: FLUX, set to be one epic six-part story, will be Jodie Whittaker’s last series in the coveted role of The Doctor, although she will also feature in 3 more specials across 2022: The New Year’s Day Special airing on 1 January 2022, an Easter special airing early 2022 and the BBC’s centenary special set to air in Autumn 2022, which will be Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as the 13th Doctor.

Chris Chibnall will join Jodie Whittaker and exit his role as showrunner after the BBC Centenary Special. Previous showrunner Russell T Davies will reprise this former position and succeed Chibnall as showrunner for at least the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary and series 14.

Russell-T-Davies Doctor Who Flux Everything We Know So Far Time Made of Strawberries

Stellar return: Award-winning writer Russell T Davies from It’s A Sin will take the role of Showrunner from Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary onwards

Meanwhile, this is John Bishop’s first series, which he joins as Dan Lewis alongside Yaz (Mandip Gill) and The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).


Above: Emilia Jones in Doctor Who episode The Rings of Akhaten left and at a première, right.

16 years since the shows return, where are these child stars?

By Mélissa M Azombo

Today marks 16 years since Doctor Who made a triumphant return to our TV screens, so where are its youngest actors now who were so integral to its storylines?

From CAL (Charlotte Abigail Lux) in series 4 episodes Silence in the Library/ Forrest of the Dead to Amelia Pond in series 5 episode The Eleventh Hour, find out what the child stars of Doctor Who are now up to 16 years later.

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Enjoyed the article? Support the author, here.

However, if you’re encountering issues with the slideshow, scroll through the text and images below to find out where the child stars of Doctor Who are now.

Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia Pond
Since appearing on our screens as little Amelia Pond in Doctor Who series 5 episode, The Eleventh Hour, Caitlin Blackwood went on to feature in many more episodes, including series 5 finale The Big Bang and Doctor Who Series 6 opener Let’s Kill Hitler. Did you know Caitlin had actually been suggested for the role by her cousin Karen Gillan who played the older Amy Pond?
Caitlin clearly found a talent she wanted to use, as she has continued acting since Doctor Who. Also found on convention circuits (in pre-pandemic times), she starred in 2015 TV series Cops & Monsters, as Alexis and reprised her role as little Amelia Pond in The Raggedy Doctor video, created as part of Emily Cook’s Doctor Who Lockdown series. Most recently, she played Clara in Lost At Christmas. It’s fair to say, Caitlin is very much still into acting and may be appearing on our screens again, soon.
It’s the second half of the Doctor Who Series 6B two-parter and we’re all on the edge of our seats as a little girl regenerates before our eyes with no explanation. She is later confirmed to be a young Melody Pond AKA River Song. But she had a link to the world of Doctor Who before playing Melody Pond, as Sydney had starred in Marchlands as Amy Marchland, the daughter of Helen Maynard played by Alex Kingston, who you may remember as River Song AKA the older Melody Pond. Since Sydney Wade’s last appearance as Melody Pond in Doctor Who, the actress has gone on to other roles.
She appeared in Sherlock episode The Reichenbach Fall in 2012 as Claudie Buhl who instantly screams when she sees Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch). She featured in children’s TV shows Rocket’s Island as Jade Hollis and Wolfblood as Emilia Covaci, more recently playing Jessie in the TV series Creeped Out in 2017. At present, the 18-year-old is out of the limelight, however it is clear she remains very much in the acting industry from her agent profile. Here’s hoping she lands some more work soon.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster Tim Latimer Then Doctor Who 16 Years Time Made Of Strawberries
Pretty soon within the Doctor Who series 3 Human Nature/The Family of Blood two-parter, Tim Latimer became the key to keeping The Doctor hidden and safe from them, as he got his hands on The Doctor’s pocket watch. This was not just any ordinary pocket watch, though. It contained The Doctor’s Time Lord self, after he had used his chameleon arch to rewrite his biology into that of a human. Any viewer would be on edge every time Tim Latimer opened the watch, as it brought the family of blood one step closer to tracking down The Doctor. Thomas Brodie-Sangster who portrayed Tim Latimer proved numerous times across the two-parter the extent of his acting abilities. The actor has since not shied away from using them, as his glowing CV shows.
From feature films Nowhere Boy (2009) where he played Paul and The Maze Runner (2014) where he starred as Newt to TV series Game Of Thrones (Jojen Reed), Thunderbirds Are Go (Pirate Tracy, John Dobbs) & The Queen’s Gambit (Benny Watts), the 30-year-old’s career doesn’t look due to halt anytime soon. He even recently took part in an interview with Heat magazine.
Also from the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter, is actress Lor Wilson who played Daughter of Mine in the form of Lucy Cartwright. We recently heard from Lor during the Doctor Who Lockdown tweet-along of The Family Of Blood where she joined in, talking about her experience on the show. Lucy Cartwright is supposedly 6-years-old, a shocking age at which to shoot the headmaster, after her body has been taken over by Daughter of Mine.
So, what has Lor Wilson been up to since Doctor Who? Well, more Doctor Who, for one. She took part in Doctor Who productions Dark Legends and Resurrection. Outside of this, she played Beth Ward in 2016 TV series Today’s Detectives and Veronica in the 2019 short film Veronica.
There’s nothing more magical than a Doctor Who Christmas special. Back in 2011, Laurence Belcher starred in A Christmas Carol as the young boy version of Kazran. He becomes integral to the plot when The Doctor attempts to save the day by rewriting Kazran’s past. Aside from giving us a very cool interaction between young Kazran and adult Kazran, following a Doctor Who Lockdown tweet-along of a Christmas Carol, what has Laurence Belcher gone on to do?
Today, he is still an actor, represented by leading talent agency Curtis Brown. His credits since Doctor Who include X-Men First Class, where he played Charles Xavier and Diana where he played Prince William. More than actor, Belcher is also an Oxford University graduate, having studied Classical, Ancient Mediterranean, Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology there.
The daughter of Walking In The Air singer Aled Jones showed she too, had some amazing singing skills when she starred as Merry Gejehl in Doctor Who series 7B episode The Rings Of Akhaten. Aged only 8 when she filmed this episode, the young actress seemed to act and sing effortlessly across her scenes opposite Clara, The Doctor, The Vigil and other characters.
Today, the 19-year-old starlet continues to act, most recently in the film Coda. She has also starred in Locke & Key as Kinsey Locke and taken to the stage as Joan in Far Away.
Aged only 8 at the time, John Bell made his acting debut on the set of Doctor Who series 3 episode Utopia. He played a young boy called Creet who was calling out names to try to reunite people with their families in time for the ship they were on to launch, allowing them to fly away from the menacing Futurekind. Bell had won the role through a competition on children’s television programme Blue Peter.
A reference to his character was made in Doctor Who the series 3 finale The Last Of The Time Lords, where it was revealed that the spheres The Master had called the Toclafane were actually humans from the future who had gone back in time to annihilate their ancestors. The paradox was maintained by The Paradox Machine The Master had turned the TARDIS into. Since Doctor Who, Bell, now 23 has worked on further productions including Tracy Beaker Returns and Outlander.
We can’t finish this trip down memory lane without mentioning William Hughes who played the Young Master back in series 3 of Doctor Who. On the run from The Master (played by John Simm) in The Sound Of Drums, Martha, The Doctor and Capt. Jack Harkness manage to find a hiding spot. There, The Doctor describes life on Gallifrey to a montage against Murray Gold’s score of This Is Gallifrey (Our Childhood, Our Home). William Hughes’ Master appears as The Doctor explains “As a novice, he was taken for initiation. He stood in front of the untampered schism. It’s a gap in the fabric of reality, through which can be seen all of the vortex. You stand there, 8 years old, just a child. Some would be inspired, some would run away, some would go mad.”
Hughes later played a character called Alex Grainger in the Torchwood episode Sleeper. Aside from this, he continued boxing, which he had started at the age of 9. He won a British Championship at the GB Amateur Boxing Championships for Wales back in 2011. Using his talent, he fought in a charity boxing match to raise money for charity. Going on to study Finance at Queen Mary University London in 2017, he joined its Elite Athlete Program and won gold with the University at the British Universities and Colleges Sport championships. After living an active life, William Hughes sadly passed away at age 20 while on holiday in Greece. He had gone on the trip to celebrate the end of his first year exams but on the last night, was found unresponsive. Unfortunately, Mr. Hughes could not be resuscitated at hospital and his cause of death was later confirmed as suicide, upon investigation.


How To Fix “Taskbar And Start Screen Disappeared” in Windows 8.1

Blank Start Screen Time Made Of Strawberries

Fix your blank start screen issue in Windows 8.1 within a few simple steps

Resume your workflow without having to turn it off and on again

By Mélissa M Azombo

Has your start screen been replaced by a blank purpley-blue screen and no matter how many times you click or right-click, nothing happens? Has your taskbar also mysteriously disappeared, leaving you with no other way to access your open programs than via Task Manager? Stay tuned to find out how to relaunch your productivity without having to restart your computer.

It seems that whenever we have a to-do list as long as a monthly shop till receipt, our tech just does not want to co-operate with us. If you have been haunted by a disappearing taskbar, start screen and desktop this Halloween, fix this issue and get back to smoothly checking off your tasks within just a few simple steps.

1. Launch Task Manager

Launch Task Manager Windows Security Screen Windows 8.1 Ctrl + Alt + Del time Made Of Strawberries

The Windows security screen in Windows 8.1 which appears after pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del together, from which Task Manager can be launched. Image credit: By Microsoft – Shot by Codename Lisa (talk · contribs), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24113438

Press the 3 keys most likely engrained in your brain as the life saver keys when it comes to tech issues “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” simultaneously. On the next screen that appears, click on Task Manager.

2. Run New Task from Task Manager

Run New Task Time Made Of Strawberries

Above: Run new task via Task Manager window

Once your Task Manager window opens, click “More details” at the bottom of the window. It will extend and a top menu will appear. In this top menu,  click File > Run new task. This will allow you to make your taskbar, desktop and start screen reappear by launching them as a new task from the dialog box that appears.

3. Launch the Taskbar, Start Screen and Desktop

Run New Task Explorer Taskbar Start Screen Desktop Windows 8.1 Time Made Of Strawberries

Above: Run explorer to launch taskbar.

In the dialog box that appears after you have selected File > Run new task in the Task Manager window, you will see a text box where you will need to enter the name of the program you are trying to launch. Type “explorer” and click “OK.”

Your taskbar will appear. You can now click on the start icon in your taskbar or press the start key on your keyboard, and your start screen will appear with all the icons it usually has. You can choose to search for a program or click on “Desktop” to navigate back to the desktop which will again, have all of the icons you normally have on it.

Crisis averted! You can finally get back to running your empire, being a boss, blogging or simply watching Doctor Who: Blink on Netflix in peace.


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Above: Mandip Gill in pre-sale order signing with the Time Meddlers for one week only!

The actress will be signing limited B&M sets via Official Doctor Who Merchandise vendor, The Time Meddlers

Mandip Gill, who plays Yaz in hit sci-fi TV show Doctor Who, will take part in an online pre-sale signing on the Time Meddlers this week.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the signing will take place online via pre-order until next Thursday. Fans can select from multiple prints, priced at £29.99 each or order the limited exclusive B&M 13th Doctor Friends and Foe set, which will be signed by Mandip, herself at £49.99.

Personalisation is available for an extra £5.00, as well as a mounting and framing service as an add-on, for that special touch at £20. All orders will be shipped globally once the pre-sale window closes at 23:59 on 4th September 2020.

Mandip is kindly donating her fee to the Alicia Boparai Foundation, a charity that raises funds for children & young people affected by limiting illnesses.

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Above: Mandip’s selected charity benefits children with limiting illnesses.

“Inspired by her love for children, her family and friends continue to raise funds in her honour to make a change to a child’s life and bring a smile to their face,” the foundation states.

The charity was set up in memory of a young woman named Alicia who was diagnosed with cancer aged 20. After a series of procedures including a hysterectomy, tumour removal and chemotherapy, Alicia finally got the all-clear. Unfortunately, in 2013, she received the news the cancer had spread to her liver. Following complications from a further operation, she sadly lost her life.

The Alicia Boparai Foundation continues to raise funds to help children affected by such illnesses, in her memory. All sales will benefit Mandip’s chosen charity.

General sale has been open from 18:00 today and all items will continue to be available while stocks last. Figure sets are first come, first served, while autographed prints are unlimited.


Doctor Who merchandise image featuring monster, companion anddoctor figures, the TARDIS, sonic screwdriver and VHS. These are set across 4 shelves.

Above: Doctor Who memorabilia, image credit The Doctor Who site.

Is Superfandom money and talent-centric?

By Mélissa M Azombo Support the author

I’m on the set of Doctor Who during one of those lulls when we are waiting to be called in for the next scene, when one of the other extras told me he had been in the newspapers as a kid for owning the biggest Doctor Who collection.

“Impressive!” I thought. “That’s really cool,” I responded. He must really like Doctor Who and it is amazing that he not only enjoyed the show enough to want to collect so much, but that he was able to. He is what the media would have termed a “Superfan”. Unfortunately, his name escapes me. This was way back in the summer of 2016, after all. While I wish him well wherever he is, I also wonder whether he would have agreed with that terminology.

See, I have seen many examples of fans photographed with their collections and artwork and called superfans but I wonder if this always feels like an accurate fit. Do they, themselves feel like superfans or regular fans? And what makes the distinction? I wanted to unpack what it meant to be a Superfan a bit further.

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Above: Snapshot from BBC documentary Tom Felton Meets The Superfans

The best place to start when you want to know the meaning of a word is always of course, the dictionary. The Oxford online dictionary defines a Superfan as “a fan especially of a sports team, who admires somebody/something or enjoys watching or listening to somebody/something, more than usual.” While Doctor Who may not be a sports team, instead the longest running sci-fi TV show, I think I can still use this definition as a barometer against which to calibrate Superfandom.

First, I need to set a baseline for “usual”. Is this Countdown? Because off we go to the dictionary corner again. According to the same dictionary, usual means “that happens or is done most of the time or in most cases”. This sets the baseline for usual fandom at: ways of enjoying a franchise that are the most accessible. In the case of Doctor Who for example, that would be simply watching each episode from when it aired. Anything beyond that, such as watching episodes multiple times or investing further in the show in other ways, would bring you towards the Superfan side of the spectrum.

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Above: A Doctor Who collection of Daleks, a TARDIS, figures and more. Image credit: The Doctor Who site.

This means that my fellow extra from earlier would categorise as a superfan. Does this mean that anyone who does not own even one Doctor Who Funko Pop, could never dream of qualifying as a superfan? Owning a huge collection is in large part, money based. Whilst it is arguably unfair to dismiss those who would never be able to afford such a collection, it is also not right to dismiss the passion for the show someone must have, to want to do this in the first place. The collector has rightfully earnt their place as a superfan (as long as it’s not just because they couldn’t shift the latest limited edition blu-ray for £1000 on e-bay, after all). Perhaps this just seems like the main representation we get of the superfan. Others are acknowledged in media, though.

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Above: Cosmic Doctor: The 11th Doctor fan at by Alice X. Zhang.

The superfan is sometimes in the media for their fan art. With Doctor Who’s deep history, there is lots to draw inspiration from to create hand drawn, painted or even digital artwork. Spend just a few minutes scrolling through Twitter and you will see a plethora of talent emanating from your screen.

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Above: A work of art: A pen drawing of Vincent Van Gogh as portrayed by Tony Curran in Doctor Who episode Vincent and The Doctor. Artwork by BethanApple on Instagram.

The talent of Doctor Who fans will astonish you. These fans show that their enjoyment of the show sparks their creativity, prompting them to take their fandom beyond just watching the program.

Doctor Who Series 4 Steelbook Sophie Cowdrey Time Made Of Strawberies Un Temps De Faises

Above: The Doctor Who Series 4 steelbook cover artwork designed by Sophie Cowdrey (@sophiecowdreyart on Instagram)

From The Doctor in her various incarnations to her companions or cross-era mash-ups, for example The 8th Doctor with Bill Potts, there is an array of fantastic artwork from fans. This can give them more material to practise their craft enough to even work on the show one day in an artistic capacity, as Sophie Crowdrey who designed the Doctor Who Series 4 Steelbook did.

There is no way in which these fans have not earnt the “Superfan” title. It’s still important to note though that artwork is money & resources dependent. It also depends on being able to draw. The concept that someone who does not have the funds or resources to produce this art or can not draw could not be a superfan, just does not ring true.

Timey Wimey Productions

Doctor YouTube Channel Timey Wimey Poductions

What about something more inexpensive like running a blog or a successful YouTube or Vimeo channel? Possibly even a successful social media account? Blogs not only take a lot of time and effort to run and promote, they employ a vast skillset. Bloggers need to research and innovate to come up with original articles you will enjoy reading. In the case of writing about a topic the rest of the Doctor Who fandom is already aware of, they need to be quick to beat the rush of every single other Doctor Who Blog writing about it or use a different angle that would warrant a later publishing date.

There is a lot to take into account from photography to logos and website design, as well as interviewing people, given the chance. This is definitely something not done lightly. Most times, this is a hobby fans are trying to squeeze in around their day job that they do not get paid for, with no guarantee anyone will read it at first.

Similarly, YouTube channels and social media accounts have no guarantee of ever being viewed by anyone. The amount of time, energy and creativity fans put into editing videos for, be it YouTube or DailyMotion and perfecting posts for Instagram or Twitter, is definitely a match for a superfan. But when it comes to success, this is tied to likes & impressions in the mediasphere. It’s a numbers game! By that logic, this level of dedication to the show means nothing to your superfan status if you don’t have thousands of likes and followers. Ouch! Sounds harsh.

Also a numbers game and perhaps the most symbolic of a superfan, is autograph & photograph collecting. The autograph & photograph hunters have been synonymous with the term superfan for ages and it’s quite an expensive hobby to keep up.

With conventions increasing in price, along with auto and photo prices, this is not exactly accessible to everyone. But it doesn’t actually have to be expensive. You can go to stage door for free and try to get a photo or auto from your favourite actor if they come out. You might be able to do the same outside red carpets, some of which are wrist-banded to restrict the number in fan areas.

Of course, if you are just after an autograph, you might actually be able to get one for the price of a stamp – well, 2 stamps. You can send fan mail to the agency of the actor of your choice and enclose a stamped SAE (self-addressed envelope), so that they are able to send you a response, including an autograph, if you request one!

While these last methods dramatically take the cost of this activity down, it is still exclusive. The latest figure from l’INSEE (L’Institut National de Statistiques et des Etudes Economiques) reflects that the amount of people in poverty is 14.2%. For such people, the cost of a stamp may be too much, let alone 2 stamps or trying to get into a convention. Unfortunately, being a Doctor Who fan does not automatically grant someone a magic money tree from the Universe.

So, who is the superfan in all of this? Is it the collector? Is it the artist? Is it the fanfiction writer or is it the person who has watched lots of episodes multiple times and can tell you a thing or 2 about them from the top of their heads? It turns out that the superfan is all of these examples. As far as being a superfan goes, you don’t have to have all the money in the world to collect every photograph, autograph or figure. You don’t have to be able to draw or write or even have defined success on your Doctor Who social media account. You just have to enjoy the show, in a more than usual way. There is more than one way of being a superfan, even a free one…