It was absolutely fitting that the latest one day event from DWAS (and quite honestly it's time you joined) celebrated Doctor Who, old and new, at the legendary Riverside Studios. Time And Again became part of and reflected a great British television legacy at Riverside that proudly boasts the production of the original Quatermass, Hancock's Half Hour and, of course, classic Doctor Who. In fact, if you stepped out onto the Riverside's terrace you'd be able to see the very spot where a Dalek emerged from the Thames in Dalek Invasion Of Earth in 1964.
Thanks to DWAS the day at Riverside offered a stellar guest list from all eras of Doctor Who. Quite a mind bogglingly good line up. The day kicked off at 1.00pm with what can best be described as 'Tom Baker Does Standup' wherein the elder statesman held court for about an hour and had his very appreciative audience lapping up his very tall stories. He emerged carrying a brown shopping bag and wearing a dark raincoat. If he'd worn a flat cap there would have been a definite resemblance to Eric Morecambe skulking off at the back of the set whilst Ernie does his song and dance. The subjects ranged far and wide, everything from his wife's real name (he's been calling Dorothy 'Sue' for years apparently), his pre-pubescent confessions to Catholic priests of impure thoughts (the priests used to ask him if 'pollution had occurred'), a tribute to the man who cast him as the Doctor - the late great Barry Letts (who he claimed was a 'nudist' as well as a Buddhist), to the pretense of politicians and his new found love of the countryside. Actually, very little was about Doctor Who! This was 'life according to Tom' and it was bloody hilarious.
Whilst Tom graciously signed for an ever growing line of delighted fans, his producer Philip Hinchcliffe and actor Chris Ryan (Kiv in Mindwarp and General Staal in The Poison Sky/The Sontaran Stratagem) continued with another panel. I've never seen Hinchcliffe at a convention before and what I saw of him confirmed that he could be extremely erudite about his time on the show, shedding light upon his and Bob Holmes bricolage approach to putting stories together. Quite an intense man but obviously delighted by how well his era is regarded by fans.
One panel I particularly enjoyed and I wished had carried on longer was Karen Davies talking to Sir Derek Jacobi. Having previously met him in the photo studio, I have to admit he's one of those actors that for me the term 'being star struck' must apply. Wisely, Karen just allowed him to talk about his upbringing, his years in rep, his call up to the National Theatre and his first big breaks in the profession. Again, his involvement in Doctor Who wasn't the main subject when it came to throwing the floor open to audience questions, although he was clearly overwhelmed and delighted to be involved. He didn't have a clue as to the importance of the role of The Master in Utopia until he told some close friends, one of whom was a huge Doctor Who fan and who fell off his chair when he told him the part he had in the show. He was asked about his investiture and how he felt about being a 'Sir' and what came across was how terribly humble and grateful Jacobi is. He's not the 'posh actor' that his knighthood can often pigeonhole him as and his final message to the audience about being blessed with extraordinary luck in a very fickle profession served to show just how rooted and genuine Jacobi actually is.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Drury
He also spoke very eloquently about the character of Claudius, the murderous king in Hamlet and how intimately he has come to know the play having played Laertes, Claudius and Hamlet over the years. The conversation also turned to the other Claudius he played, that of Emperor Claudius in the landmark television drama I, Claudius and how the series was made and its initial reception. A lovely man who, when I asked him later about the recent British government's apology to Alan Turing (he played Turing, a gay code-breaker who cracked the German Enigma codes and turned the tide of the war, in a stunning TV film called Breaking The Code) he simply said with a great deal of sadness in his voice, 'Well, it was too little, too late'.
I was also fortunate to catch the last moments of the panel with Graeme Harper. Harper is a director I much admire and to hear him talking about his work so enthusiastically was a joy. He touched on an issue which I know was of much concern to fans; the casting of Davros in the Series Four finale. He admitted that he'd wanted to go back to Terry Molloy, much as fans had expected to happen, but was convinced by producer Phil Collinson to meet Julian Bleach. It was obvious that Harper was very impressed with Bleach and found him to be an extraordinary talent. He and Trevor Cooper also gave the thumbs up to new boy Matt Smith with Cooper particularly praiseworthy and positive about Smith's casting. Harper just clearly wants to get back to the series to work with him.
Katy again movingly paid tribute to Barry Letts, calling him a 'visionary' for the way he transformed the Doctor Who series. She also went on to discuss her move back to the UK and her success with a one woman show called Me And Jezebel, in which she plays all the parts, and which recounts the story of Bette Davis' impromptu stay with Elizabeth Fuller. She invited herself over for one evening and stayed a month. A delightful guest, Katy was as beguiling, eccentric and funny as ever and you get the feeling that if she ever invited herself over to your house you'd probably end up with her staying for some considerable time.
Time And Again was an unqualified success. DWAS' organisation of this event was very professional and they should be commended for their efforts. Like all good conventions, everything was under one roof and despite last minute changes in the running order, much of it ran to time and all the guests, as advertised, turned up and charmed a very appreciative audience. And with a bar on site it was a very convivial atmosphere that ruled the day with many guests mingling quite happily with the audience.
More of Tim Drury's photos can be seen at his Flickr stream. Thanks Tim for allowing the use of some of your images.