Fans of Doctor Who are known for their eccentricity, but a dad and daughter are taking fandom to interstellar proportions.
Lifelong Whovian Robert Doyle and teenage daughter Alex have raised tens of thousands of dollars to blast a replica Tardis into orbit to celebrate the BBC Wales show’s 50th anniversary.
Robert, 43, and Alex, 18, who live in Florida, smashed their initial funding target by collecting nearly $90,000 (about £60,000) from 3,000 Doctor Who fans around the world, as part of an online campaign to launch the iconic police box into space.
The pair have constructed a Tardis satellite, complete with blinking blue light, which will be sent into low earth orbit – the same altitude as the International Space Station.
Robert, whose favourite Doctor Who is Tom Baker, said: “When I was a kid, I got my mum to knit me a Doctor Who scarf. It was ridiculously long and I could wrap it around my neck three times, but I wore it to school every day. I was obsessed by the show.”
His enthusiasm for Doctor Who proved contagious and he is proud that self-confessed geek Alex became “addicted” to the programme three years ago.
He said: “It went off air and I was always telling my daughter about this amazing show I used to watch. I’d been describing Daleks to her since she was in the cradle, so she recognised one as soon as she saw it on TV, then we got back into it together.
“She watched a couple of seasons and she was hooked. All her friends are into it now. It’s like a virus – it’s spreading.”
The pair, whose house is dotted with Cybermen and sonic screwdrivers and other Doctor Who paraphernalia , initially planned a small party with friends to celebrate the anniversary, but within a few weeks, their plan had exploded in scale and ambition, after Alex read about commercial rockets.
Robert said: “We looked into putting a Tardis in the payload bay of a commercial rocket and it made us realise that maybe we could do something more ambitious. Once we realised it was a possibility, I couldn’t let go.”
When the pair first launched the campaign on Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects, they worried no one would respond.
“At the outset, we never thought it would get this response. When the bid went live, I looked at the screen for a little bit and it showed up we had got $1. We were really excited, because someone had heard about what we were doing.
“Then after four days, we had 4% of our funding goal and it was around day six that it really took and went crazy. We have had messages from people in Australia, Croatia and Sweden all telling us how Doctor Who is part of their lives.”
The funding period for this Doctor Who spectacular closed last week and the pair are now planning final upgrades, by making the Tardis bigger and adding a camera to the outside.
It will be launched into space on a commercial rocket on November 23 to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary.
A spokesman for Doctor Who, which is made in Cardiff, said: “We wish them the best of luck.”