‘My Doctor Who Odyssey’

Personally, the TV show Doctor Who creeps me out – I blame the Daleks and Tom Baker’s scarf – but for American teacher and cartoonist Bruce Nelson (GC handle: Cecil-EGCM), it’s an addiction as strong as geocaching. He tells It’s Not About The Numbers about combining three of his loves for his 14-cache Doctor Who series:

“Each year I start off trying to push myself a bit creatively and late in 2010 this idea popped into my head: A series of geocaches honouring Doctor Who in all his incarnations.

“You see, when I was a kid I remember watching Doctor Who, he was a goofy-looking guy with a really long scarf and a robot dog. Years later, when the BBC relaunched the series, I was a late adopter but ended up becoming a fan and now watch it religiously.

“Once I had the idea of my cache series, the next step was to figure out how I could do it. I went through many ideas but the one thing that stayed constant was the use of army decon containers. You see a friend of mine (the geocacher Super Genius) had purchased an endless supply and has been reselling them at events. My wife and I ended up with around a dozen, and I finally had a use for them.

“My first thought was to paint the containers to look like the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). After I posted the idea on my blog, another cacher commented that after putting so much work into each decon, it would be sad to have them go missing.

“So I decided to enlist another friend who does vinyl graphics to help me find a product that should work in various weather conditions. Now it was up to me to come up with a suitable design, which pushed me to the drawing board. You see, I have been drawing all my life and, for the past two years, I’ve been drawing a comic strip called My Geek Odyssey, so drawing these out was something I could do.

“Using the same process I do for my comic, I began drawing versions of ‘the Doctor’, starting with the most recent incarnation – Matt Smith. After creating a few doodles, I realised I needed a TARDIS backdrop. It took a while but I found a basic background online and tweaked it to meet the needs of the decon container (labels and such).

“Once the initial design was done, I sent it off to get printed so I could conduct a test-run. Fortunately for me, the midwestern United States had a bit of bad weather so my graphic ended up being tested and proved to need a redesign … back to the drawing board.

“That wasn’t a bad thing. I came up with a basic character template and moved on to hours of watching Doctor Who episodes so I could make sure each drawing fit the persona of that doctor. Oh the sacrifice! Once the 11 doctors were penciled, inked, scanned and coloured, I emailed them off to get printed. The series was almost ready – but where should these caches go?

“I did consider a massive global cache series (like Project: APE) but as time passed, I thought about just placing them locally. Finally, I took the plunge and emailed some geocaching friends around North America, asking them to become a ‘companion’ for one of the doctors. “Everyone was excited and came up with some great ideas on placement – one even created a Wherigo (GC2TDF4 Doctor Who Series: The 10th Doctor). Each companion was given carte blanche as to the hide but strict rules as to the cache page to keep that portion somewhat uniform. In fact, I wrote the basics for each listing.

“With the nuts and bolts of the project over, I still needed to decide if there should be a final. When I found the perfect container, I knew I just needed to find a place for it. Like many cachers, I searched for a perfect location only to discover that the final to some multi or puzzle was too close. That said, the actual final co-ordinates are in a much better spot. So the rush was then on to get the containers finished and out in the wild.

“Each cache was sent with a logbook, a pencil, a special pathtag and one set of the co-ordinates for the final. Of course, in my rush I ended up putting the dummy final co-ordinates in every cache and had to send out another sticker to everyone.

“As the caches started to get published, people started asking about other versions of the doctor. ‘What about Peter Cushing?’, ‘You don’t have the doctor from the Comic Relief short.’ Back to the drawing board again … So far, the series covers 11 states and one province. California will end up with two, and Indiana has one and the finale, making a total of 14 hides. As of writing this, there are two that need to be sent out (Peter Cushing and Rowan Atkinson) and one that still needs to be published (Colin Baker) – the mysterious 12th Doctor (GC2ZKNH) was published three days ago. It has been great fun and a wonderful way to give back to caching while also getting to work with other cachers.

“From concept to all the caches being sent out, it took around eight months of work but reading most of the logs, it seems to have been a success. There has already been one FTF on the final, but there are multiple ways to get FTF honours – check the listing page GC2R1VF Doctor Who Series: Finale for details.”

UPDATE: The Indiana resident also entered his Doctor Who caches in the recent BBC America competition Where’s the TARDIS? as part of its launch of all-new Doctor Who episodes. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the final, leaving It’s Not About The Numbers to think the contest was obviously rigged.

*To see more work by Nelson, aka Professor Zoom, check out his My Geek Odyssey blog – where he’s now running an informative strip called Geocaching 101 – and the Indiana Geocaching website. When not teaching, drawing or watching Doctor Who, Nelson can also be found cruising Indianapolis in his beloved Mini Cooper with Cecil the Evil Geocaching Monkey. His furry sidekick even has his own page on Facebook.
* In the near future, INATN also hopes to bring you a special comic strip by Nelson explaining the history of Cecil – EGCM.


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  1. GSV

    Ok, now that’s cool! Should be a huge amount of trade items inside each I assume? After all, they’ll all be bigger on the inside, yes?

  2. captnkirk17

    I like this post, because I just found a tardis shaped geocache near my home yesterday, great minds must think alike.

  3. Papa

    I’m with GSV on this one. I wonder what size the containers are listed as?

  4. Ed Julian

    As one of the Dr. Who cache owners, I can say it is a very cool series.

    And I can be bribed for the coords that are in the lid of my cache. 😉

  5. Robert Holdsworth on Facebook

    There is a Dr Who Puzzle cache in Wanganui GC2WG8T. I haven’t had a chance to get up there and do it yet, but looks like the cache itself is probably in theme.

  6. tink123

    I absolutely LOVE this! I’m a massive Doctor Who fan and wish there was one near me 🙂

  7. ruth

    i really really really REALLLLYYY wanna see those drawings.. pretty please?? and is it all 13??? x

  8. Elisa

    Just saw this and had to share with our group – absolutely, absolutely awesome containers! LOVE the drawings!

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