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Oct 10, 2006

A few thoughts on the passing of the OG news page

I don’t think there will ever be another Doctor Who website quite so central to online fandom as Outpost Gallifrey in its pomp. For over a decade it has served – still seems odd to think that this must now be spoken of in the past tense – as the first stop for any news about the series online. Other websites might have had news up more quickly on the odd occasion, eager to report rumour as fact, but there has never been an editor as consistently reliable or ahead of the game as Shaun Lyon.

OG was important because we knew we could trust it. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Shaun, although I hope to some day, but I know him a little bit via e-mail, and he strikes me as being a top bloke. That he no longer has the time and energy to devote to keeping the website constantly updated is a great shame. That he found such time and energy for over ten long and gruelling years is nothing short of a miracle, and while other websites came and burned out and went, Shaun kept going, his reputation growing all the time.

There are many reasons why Outpost Gallifrey has been so important. It was one of the first out there, of course, launching way back in 1995, so it had the prestige of history behind it. It had contacts – people at BBC Worldwide, Big Finish and so forth knew Shaun could be trusted and so he formed important links and got official news stories first. You knew that if you read it on Outpost Gallifrey, it was reliable, and as often as not the news page was of great use as much for dismissing ludicrous rumours as it was for providing the actual news itself.

It’s also important, though, because the memory of the website will to such a large degree be tied up with our memories of what’s happened these past few years, in the decades to come as we grow grey and old. When the new series was announced in September 2003; when the Doctors were cast; when the publicity began, and when the BAFTAs were won, no matter where and when you heard the news, nine times out of ten where was your next click? Straight to OG, to read the full story and knowing that if it was on there it must be right. Somehow, seeing it on Shaun’s news page – and with a snazzy banner at the top of the website if it was a really big piece of news – made everything seem all the more real. Plus there was always the excitement of coming across an article or a bit of publicity yourself, e-mailing it in and seeing your name go up on the news page if Shaun ran it – being a part of the madness.

It was a central point, somewhere we could all come together, the voice of authority in a changing world for fandom. Perhaps Shaun’s work in all the ‘wilderness years’ before 2003 was all the more important, though – keeping going when the prospect of a new production seemed bleak, and making sure there was one fantastic, high-quality fan website to represent the series when it finally returned to the screen. For all those years in the late 1990s and early 2000s he kept on plugging away, and for that we must be very grateful.

But life goes on, changes. Everything has its time, we’re told, and everything dies – websites especially are such transient things, and in internet terms OG’s best part of eleven years puts it almost in Methuselah’s league. It’s not going away for good – thank goodness! – and the zany, mad antics of the forum we love so much will stay, but the news page is going, much of the rest of the site will go into deep storage, and that’s surely at least a little sad?

This is a new era, a new fandom. There are countless websites, blogs, RSS feeds, text message services, podcasts and doubtless YouTube videos disseminating and analysing the slightest bit of Doctor Who news to the masses. None of them has the same sort of authority within fandom that OG does, and I doubt any of them ever will. It’s a fragmented world, and I can’t see one main website ever coming to replace Shaun and his news page as the one website we all trust with this sort of thing. Few people have the sort of commitment needed, for a start.

So now we must pick up our news from forums and other places, not having a place to go to and say ‘it feels real now it’s up there’. But at least Shaun can close the news page knowing that the future for Doctor Who itself looks very rosy indeed, which is surely a much nicer point to stop than if we were still in the doldrums of a hiatus. Then it might feel like another step on the way to the final end. Perhaps this is more a sort of changing of the fandom guard, a watermark in the history of online appreciation.

In any case, all that can be said is thanks, Shaun, for all your efforts down the years. It’s been a long and interesting journey from 1995 to 2006 within Doctor Who fandom, and Outpost Gallifrey has made it all just that bit more sane and bearable.

Comments

Here, here. Even though I fell out with Shaun (my own stupid fault) a few months ago I would like to echo Paul's thoughts. The web seems an emptier place without him.

A sad day indeed but to be fair Shaun has gone above and beyond the call of duty with his work on OG all these years and if anyone deserved a break it was him.So thanks Shaun....and thanks to you too Neil for BTS,we shouldn't just appreciate what we've lost but celebrate what we have.Cheers!

It's a terrible pity, OG seemed to be more up to date than the BBC news site on occaisions and it'll be sorely missed. Shaun's done a tremendous job over the past decade and he deserves a rest. Also, I'd like to second Colin's thoughts: while BTS isn't quite as expansive as OG, I'm very grateful for the work Neil puts in.

The cardinal shame for me is the passing away of the Reviews section. I have never read more insightful reviews anywhere than Paul Clarke's coverage of the entire classic series, and now I will never know what he thought of the end of Series 2.

Hey Drew,

you can always buy Shaun's new book about series 2. He did a decent job with the last book.

If you read his announcement, you'll find that Shaun hasn't actually decided what he's going to do about the reviews section yet. Even if he does close it, I'm sure Clarke's reviews will turn up elsewhere.

A particular shame seeing that Lyon only recently made an appeal for someone to take over the news page...his attempts to delegate seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

And how ironic that just as the show is enjoying its highest media coverage ever, one of the leading lights in keeping its flame burning from '95 - '05 is having to bow out.

I doubt any other website will take its place, either in being so authorative in its news coverage or in having a foot in both the fan and the production team camps.

I guess Mr Perryman is just gonna have to bridge the gap with a little help from his friends...

"A particular shame seeing that Lyon only recently made an appeal for someone to take over the news page...his attempts to delegate seem to have fallen on deaf ears."

On the contrary - Shaun said on the site that he was stunned by the hundreds of offers of help he received. I just think that, on further consideration, he decided that even with help he no longer had the time to devote to it.

It is indeed sad news that the OG news page is no more. That was always my first port of call for the latest news, and I really don't know where I am going to find all the latest news now. Certainly not on the BBC website. At least the forums are continiuing. They are always interesting to read even if, at times, it seems full of nutters.

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