TIME AND AGAIN: Riverside Studios 10th October 2009

I'm a seasoned convention goer. Although I haven't been an avid attendee for some years it has to be said but I know a good convention when it hoists up its skirts and shows me a bit of leg. And this one was positively sluttish in its behaviour!

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'.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Drury
In the middle of a very packed venue we also had the lovely company of Anneke Wills, there to promote the second volume of her autobiography, Naked; a Revelation Of The Daleks reunion of sorts between Colin Spaull, Trevor Cooper and Graeme Harper, Mary Tamm with her just published autobiography The First Generation; Who artist Alister Pearson happily chatting to fans and a screening of the recently colourised episode of Planet Of The Daleks. The episode is now resplendently restored to its original form and kudos should go to the Restoration Team for their amazing work on the episode. The episode was followed by a group panel of Jane How, Prentice Hancock and Katy Manning, all of whom were clearly impressed by all the hard work that had gone into restoring it. There were some interesting discussions about the pace of television today, about the differences between making programmes on tape and on film. All the actors praised Barry Letts and Jon Pertwee for their impact on the series as it moved from what was considered to be purely a children's programme to one which the whole family could enjoy.

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.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Drury
And the best was left till last. Katy Manning entertained us all with an intensely funny journey through her, shall we say, unusual life. Katy can be best described as someone who lives life at a slight angle to the rest of the universe and her hilarious anecdotes have to heard to be believed. I for one did not know that she was best friends with Liza Minnelli and that they both went to the same girls' school, mixing with the likes of Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Minnelli's mother Judy Garland. We also were treated to several of what she describes as her 'shortsighted' stories. Katy is as blind as bat and it inevitably gets her into some bizarre situations. Like the time she decides to water a rather forlorn looking palm tree on a Hollywood boulevard. As she's pouring her bottled water into the ground, none other than Clint Eastwood taps her on the shoulder and asks her what she's doing. 'I'm watering this palm tree'. 'I don't think telegraph poles actually need water', he replies.

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.

5 Responses to “TIME AND AGAIN: Riverside Studios 10th October 2009”
  1. Thanks for the review, Frank, I really wish I'd been there. Oh well, there's always 2010.

  2. Tim Drury says:

    Great review Frank you managed to see several bits of the con I missed by being in an autograph queue, eating lunch or having a drink in the nearby pub.

    About the only thing you seem to miss was the exclusive screening of part one of the Who Peter documentary that won't be out on DVD for several months.

  3. Thanks Tim. I think that as you were watching the Who Peter documentary I was stood in an autograph queue. You can't win 'em all! Sad that I missed that.

  4. Capricorn One says:

    It was wonderful to meet you sir, all be it very briefly.

    You also missed Graeme Harper talking about The Caves of Androzani winning the DWM poll. He was very humble about his role putting it simply down to be a great story when of course any Doctor Who fan will talk enthusiastically about his ground breaking direction.

    Graeme went on to say that in his opinion Blink! is the best Doctor who story ever and of course made reference to the role the writer of that episode now has. He also added he'd love to come back for the 'new' series.

  5. Tony Jordan says:

    Lovely review, thanks Frank. Time & Again seems to have gone down very well! :-)

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