There are two approaches to revenge in Doctor Who fandom – the way of Mel and the way of Ace.
The way of Mel says that the best revenge is a life well lived.
The way of Ace says revenge is a dish best served at the end of a sparking baseball bat with a cry of ‘Take that, bilgebags!’
It’s been an interesting week for one of our friends. Pull up a chair, let me tell you about it.
Jon Pertwee is one of life’s good guys.
Nono, not that Jon Pertwee, though as far as we know, he was pretty groovy too. Nor is the name any kind of coincidence, but here and now, we’re talking about Jon Pertwee who owns Who’s Toys, an independent geek supply store in Mansfield.
Jon Pertwee has not had an easy life. In fact, as a child, Jon Pertwee had the kind of life you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Many geeks of a certain age were bullied for their geekdom at school, but when your home life is a brutal nightmare world of physical and sexual abuse too, it can often feel like there’s no escape.
Jon found his escape in the world of fantasy and sci-fi – worlds of hope, of good triumphing over evil, of people striving together in a spirit of peace, helped him escape from the darkness of his childhood, and gave him, as it gave countless others, a way of living his life, a moral template of positivity that could offer a different way of thinking to that he knew at home. Star Trek, with its collaborative Federation, and Doctor Who, the man who fights the monsters, became some of his favourite fandoms.
‘It was an escape from all that stuff. The worlds of fantasy and sci-fi don’t have barriers, they don’t call names. The whole mindset of being a collector is that it puts you in another world away from all the nastiness of the world we know. I waded through all that nastiness, and sci-fi, like Doctor Who and Star Trek helped.’Now, Jon owns and runs Who’s Toys, selling all kinds of fabulous fandom merch to the stuff-hungry geek world. You want to drink tea out of a Patrick Troughton head mug, Jon can make your dreams come true. Looking for something a little out of the ordinary, or a cool print to liven up your geek-cave, Jon’s your man. Hell, until recently, if you had only one wish in the world and that was to eat your dinner off a Death Star tea tray, Jon Pertwee could hook you up.
More important than how a man makes his living though is the footprint he leaves behind in the minds of others. Cheerful, funny, professional, there’s not a geek who’s dealt with him who has a bad word to say about Jon Pertwee. In case you missed this at the top, Jon Pertwee is one of life’s good guys.
Which makes it especially galling that in the early hours of Friday, 5th August, some people smashed the padlock on Who’s Toys. They broke the chain that secured the premises, then kicked a hole in the door, crawled in and cleared out the whole shop – not a Batman retro cookie jar, not a Star Trek sound effect model, not even a badge was left in the place when Jon came to work that morning.
Here’s the thing that makes this even worse. When you’ve had the kind of childhood Jon had, traumatic events can spring you in a handful of heartbeats from the happy life you’ve built yourself and put you right back there, in your past, and it can make you entertain the worst, the most insidious lie of all. The one that whispers to you ‘Maybe they were right. Maybe I deserve this.’
‘I was bullied and brutalised as a child,’ says Jon. ‘So when my stock was taken I just went right back to being totally destroyed, emotionally and mentally. The cops didn’t want to know and the rest of the weekend was a blur. I was white with rage’Score one for the way of Ace – the desire to grab a baseball bat and go Babe Ruth on some thieving ass is strong in the moment when you hear about a story like this.
But here’s the joy of geekery. Batman retro cookie jars and Star Trek sound effect models are not like satnavs and car radios. You can’t just sell them anonymously, under the table, no questions asked in pubs. They belong to a bit of a specialty market. There is, by all means, a black market in geek-stuff, and let’s face it, if you knew nothing of its origins and this stuff came your way at a budget price, you’d be interested, wouldn’t you?
Jon made sure people knew enough to watch the boards for cheap geekery, and some people are currently helping the police with their enquiries – but that doesn’t really help in the here and now when you’re a shopkeeper in a room with no stock and a kicked-in door.
You remember the part where Jon Pertwee’s one of life’s good guys, right?
Ashley Devine was one of Jon’s customers. He took it upon himself to start a Justgiving appeal, to help with the costs of restocking Who’s Toys and proving to the thieves that they couldn’t win simply by a cowardly and selfish act. He set up the appeal to try and raise £500, as a hand up for one of the geek community’s friendliest retailers.
Just one day is all it took for geeks and customers of Who’s Toys to hit their target, only giving a little at a time, but wanting to be part of a bigger statement, supporting Jon for the positive impact he’s made in their lives, and telling the bullies and the burglars that when you hit one of us, you hit us all – and ultimately, we’re bigger and more powerful than you are.
‘Blown away. I’m just blown away,’ said Jon. ‘I’ve crossed the whole spectrum of humanity this week, from the lowest scum to the milk of human kindness. It’s amazing how the kindness destroys the bad.’The story of geeks supporting geeks against those who think it’s fine to simply wreck their world goes on. The Justgiving page, having smashed its initial target, is still receiving donations – and after all, new doors and advanced security systems don’t come cheap. If you’d like to add your name to the story, and help to prove that in the here and now, the idea of good defeating evil’s not just a fantasy, simply go to Ashley’s Justgiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/WhosToys?utm_id=106&utm_term=Vy9mJX28p or donate direct via Paypal by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk