Saturday, 17 January 2015

Meeting Sylvester - Big Finish Day 6

This weekend I was off to sunny Slough again for the sixth Big Finish Day.

Organised by Tenth Planet Events, it’s a format of convention I’ve increasing enjoyed and been finding myself drawn to. So much so I’ve booked myself up for most of their events for pretty much the rest of the year!

The main draw for me today has been Sylvester McCoy who I have a reserved page for in my autograph book, opposite Sophie Aldred who I got at the recent Timey Wimey event in Brighton.

The day kicked off with Sylvester’s stage talk, hosted by Dalek voice Nicolas Briggs. After introducing the guest, Nicolas said “shall we sit down?” and after considering for a second or two, Sylvester pointedly said “No!” So the whole talk was done standing and moving around the audience, something I’ve seen him do before (in a motorised scooter back at the Time Quest 2 event in early 2010!)

Sylvester said, “You know, Peter Jackson owns one of my original Doctor Who costumes. He directed The Hobbit, y’know. Did I mention that I’m in The Hobbit?”, thus casually dropping it into conversation.

“You wait for a Hollywood film, and three come along at once!”, recalling his frustration in finding out he had been upstaged by a variety of CGI characters he had little knowledge of whilst filming.

After a relatively brief exchange, the questions were quickly opened to the floor, and it was Sylvester who took the microphone to the fans. You could see he was in his element.

Someone asked about Sylvester's meeting with Matt Smith for the anniversary. To paraphrase his reply, he described him as an "Afghan Hound puppy! He comes bounding up to you all excited, his tail waging and he's all over you, shaking your hand and licking your face. He was delightful!"

Next up was my photocall with Sylvester, for which I had brought along two books to use as props. In Dragonfire The Doctor is seen browsing Doctor’s Dilemma by Bernard Shaw, and in Remembrance Of The Daleks he is reading Doctor In The House, by Richard Gordon.

He's always enormous game, so I happily took the book from me when I offered it to him, asking if they were the original screen used - so he clearly remembered having them in the series.

In a room closely was Ellis George, the girl who played Courtney Woods in several episodes of the latest series. She didn’t have much of a queue, so I took the chance to chat to her a bit before moving on. She was quite excited to have got the part in Doctor Who, and beyond her first read through which she found intimidating by the number of people in the room, Ellis thoroughly enjoyed her time on the show.

She revealed that the intention was for her to only appear in the brief flashback scene in Deep Breath, but they kept asking her back to do more and more scenes, until finally she featured extensively in Kill The Moon.
This was one of her first conventions, and she's looking forward to doing more in future. Her eyes lit up when I told her about Gallifrey One in LA. She would like the organisers to know she awaits their call....

On the way back to the main hall for the next panel, I caught a couple of autographs I needed for my book. Lalla Ward and Dalek writer Rob Sherman (who I needed) were on hand for free signings, alongside Louise Jameison and Jamie Anderson (who I had or did not really want!).

Rob drew me a cute (but in his own words, “shit”) cartoon of a Dalek!

It’s a funny arrangement: if the guest is through Tenth Planet, then you pay per signature; if they are there as guests of Big Finish, they are free and happy to sign as many as you want.

Also on hand for autographs was Mike Tucker, one of a handful of crew who worked on both the classic and new series.

I ducked into the Big Finish Time Share Sales Pitch - I mean panel - where they talked about some of the upcoming additional ranges they are adding to their catalogue in 2015.

Amongst them is The Prisoner, something which I think they will struggle to match the depths and subtly of the original, given that there is virtually no surviving principle cast player available.

I fear it becoming one of these ‘reimagining’ reboots we have so extensively these days. The Prisoner is a show that has a visible plot, but is driven by an ethos below the radar which can’t easily be captured. I wish them luck.
For those keen for news - there isn’t any at the moment. It is being written by Nicolas Briggs and no casting has been finalised as yet - so it’s early days.

I left just before the end so I could join the queue for a photocall with all three of the Fifth Doctor companions, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse. Janet commented to me that I must have dozens of these photos now - I only have a few really, and this was the first with the three of them together. Pity Peter wasn’t there too.

Back in the main hall the Blake's Seven panel was well underway, with Jan Chappell as the headline guest. It as interesting to hear how they put these things together, often with only half the cast due to budgetary constraints. A couple of the cast aren't involved with the range, so they have to be written around too.

After seeing Jan at a recent Blake’s Seven retrospective at the BFI, she bemoaned how her character had enormous promise when she joined, but was often relegated to teleport duties on The Liberator, which the men went on away missions. This would often mean a location shoot with an overnight stay at a hotel, thus missing out on a break from the studio grind.
Big Finish have given her the chance to explore the character, and go on away missions, abet still without the need of a hotel stay. Oh well.

I then watch most of the Meet The Actors panel, where Siobhan Redmond, Alex McQueen, Tim Treloar and David Sibley waxed lyrical about recording their Big Finish productions.

Siobhan and Alex are notable for playing The Rani (in The Rani Elite) and The Master (in Dark Eyes 3) respectively, and Tim Treloar took up the challenge of recreating the distinctive tones of Jon Pertwee alongside Katy Manning and Richard Franklin.

This wasn’t the most popular panel, but I had the chance to seat hop down to the front row and remain in my seat for the next panel featuring the Fifth Doctor companions.

As it happened, the panel was hosted by Simon Guerrier, who a couple of months back interviewed me for Doctor Who Magazine.
He had the unenviable job of wrangling Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, and most of all Janet Fielding. I'm sure half of what is said is an act, but sometimes Matthew so richly deserves the ridicule he receives, based purely on his own comments at panels such as this.
Before Simon open the questions to the floor, he offered a prize for the best question.

I put my hand up and eventually I got to ask Janet if she would like to see Big Finish explore what happened to Tegan between Time Flight and Arc Of Infinity. She ‘left’ at the end of season 19, only to return at the start of the following season - although she did not skip an episode, we actually get no sense of how much time elapsed between the two adventures, leaving it open for Tegan to have had her own adventures - I’m seeing a multi-disc box set here.

She lit up at the idea and said at least it would mean not having to work with Matthew!
Janet then took me aback a bit by pointing at me and saying “Great question, Steve!” She knew my name!!

Questions continued and another member of the audience asked if Janet would do the further adventures of Tegan, after she was left wearing a black leather mini skirt and high heal in a deserted dock in 1980s London. All manner of innuendo followed - after all Tegan would have had no money and shed need to get by....

I was trumped! The question - vaguely based on my own - won the prize! At least it was only a tatty and dog-eared copy of the Four To Doomesday Target novelisation!!!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bonhams auction - 10th December 2014

Can’t believe 2014 is nearly over - so to confirm its immenant demise Bonhams are holding their usual December Entertainment Memorabilia sale.

The Caretakers uniform originally sold at the Bonahms auction in 1991.

The Panama hat was in a sale earlier this year, though went unsold. Its estimate then was £800 to £1,200.

Lots 139 - 140
Blake's 7 (June Hudson designs)
Lots 141 - 142
2nd Doctor (1967-1969)
Lots 145 - 160
Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

Lot 143
Doctor Who: Paradise Towers, the Chief Caretaker's uniform,
1987, comprising a grey military-style jacket with matching trousers bearing label to the waistband inscribed in black ink Richard Briars (sic) 1, the jacket with black vinyl and silver braid detailing, matching belt and cap, as worn by Richard Briers in the serial.

Estimate £1,000 - 1,500
Sold for £2,000

Lot 144
Doctor Who: Sylvester McCoy - an original screen-used and signed trademark Panama hat, a silk Paisley handkerchief attached as a hatband, the inside signed and inscribed in black marker This belongs to Sylvester McCoy, inner band stamped Panama Type Bates 21A Jermyn Street London SW, Size 7.

Research indicates that this hat was likely to be that worn by Sylvester McCoy during Season 24 of 'Doctor Who', in 1987.

Estimate £600 - 800
Sold For £1,000

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Question-mark Umbrella -
official replica launched!

AbbyShot clothiers have become well known for making replicas of a variety of film and television costumes, most notably their Doctor Who range.

This week they have added a prop to their range, in the form of a the Seventh Doctor’s trademark Question-mark Umbrella!

AbbyShot - Seventh Doctor’s Umbrella
For the $34.99 price tag it looks to be great value.

It’s not an easy replica to make as a day-to-day item, so there has to be a level of compromise between screen accuracy and practicality, but from the photos posted it looks to have found a good middle-line between the two.

I quite like that it comes with a cover - emblazoned with question-marks!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dalek and Cybermen parts on eBay

On eBay recently I’ve spied a couple of Dalek and Cybermen body parts!

Remembrance Of The Daleks - Dalek gun



Alternative 7th Doctor costume t-shirt

Back in 2011 Forbidden Planet started releasing a range of t-shirt based on The Doctor’s costumes.

They soon released all twelve Doctors, and have kept the idea alive by doing a few of the peripheral characters as well.

Now they are going back over a few of The Doctors, creating some of the alternative costume variations seen down the years.

You can now get the Seventh Doctor - but with the stone coloured jacket rather than the later chocolate brown.

It even has the red hanky hanging out of the pocket!
7th Doctor costume t-shirt

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bonhams auction - 25th June 2014

It’s that time of the year again and another Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia auction is looming.

There are a number of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures items on offer.

Most of the Doctor Who items are left over the from the previous sale in December last year, now with considerably reduced estimates and reserves.

The McCoy Panama hat on sale has an erroneous handkerchief around it, which is a bit peculiar.

Lots 94 - 100
First, Second and Third Doctors (1963-1974)
Lot 101
Fourth Doctor (1975-1980)
Lots 107 - 121
Torchwood & Sarah Jane Adventures)

Lot 102
DOCTOR WHO: AN ORIGINAL COSTUME DESIGN FOR SYLVESTER MCCOY AS THE 7TH DOCTOR, pencil watercolour and felt-pen, signed and inscribed by the designer, Silvester McCoy Dr Who - April 4th 1987 Ken Trew April 2.87, mounted and framed, 17¾ x 28¼ inches (45 x 72cm) overall

Estimate £4,000 - 4,500

Lot 103
DOCTOR WHO: A COLLECTION OF SCRIPTS FROM THE SYLVESTER MCCOY ERA, TOGETHER WITH LIGHT AND FLOOR PLANS the scripts comprising 'The Curse Of Fenric', Pts 1-3, 'Battlefield', Pts. 3 and and Camera Script, and 'Ghost Light', Recording Order, three various Camera Scripts and Transmission Scripts for Pts 1 and 2, some incomplete; together with some dozen studio plans for 'Ghost Light'

Estimate £600 - 800
Sold for £437

Lot 104
DOCTOR WHO: SYLVESTER MCCOY - AN ORIGINAL SCREEN-USED AND SIGNED TRADEMARK PANAMA HAT, a silk Paisley handkerchief attached as a hatband, the inside signed and inscribed in black marker This belongs to Sylvester McCoy, inner band stamped Panama Type Bates 21A Jermyn Street London SW, Size 7.

Research indicates that this hat was likely to be that worn by Sylvester McCoy during Season 24 of 'Doctor Who', in 1987.

Estimate £800 - 1,200

Lot 105
DOCTOR WHO: 'REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS' - AN ORIGINAL CONTROL PANEL FROM THE SERIES, 1988, comprising a black-painted hardboard panel pierced for triangular and circular perspex sections to the reverse, with yellow, green and red plastic overlays, 18 x 19 inches (46x48cm)

Estimate £300 - 500
Sold for £525

Lot 106
DOCTOR WHO: THE CURSE OF FENRIC, 1989, A HAEMOVORE HEAD, moulded and painted foam latex, a half-head prosthetic mask with elastic backstraps; together with another moulded and painted foam full-head, production uncertain, inside indistinctly inscribed in red marker A.J. Ke.., each approximately 12 inches (30cm) high.

Sold on behalf of the charity, The Haven, London. For further information, visit

Estimate £250 - 300
Sold for £437

Monday, 2 June 2014

DWAS Myth Makers convention -
the Seventh Doctor connection

This weekend I had a great day out today at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

The studios are part of the history and folklore of Doctor Who, having been where The Daleks invaded Earth in 1964, and a couple of years later where William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton.

In fact the iconic scene of Dalek emerging from the Thames was filmed only yards from the studios, by Hammersmith Bridge!

Sadly the studios, currently used for Weekend Kitchen, are due to be demolished later this year, leaving only a fraction of the site still standing.

The event was organised by DWAS - The Doctor Who Appreciation Society - and was a lot more low key compared to a majority of the glossy events that are staged these days.

Don’t get me wrong - I PREFERRED this to the glossy events as it was a lot more intimate, you you got see every part of the days events and damn it, they kept to their published timetable.

The spin on the day was the production side and how the behind the scenes events shaped what we saw on screen, with a heavy bias towards the classic rather than new series.

We kicked off with a one-on-one interview with Philip Hinchcliffe, who produced the first three years of Tom Baker’s era.

Philip’s interview was very insightful and interesting, as he had taken over from Barry Letts to launch the Tom Baker era. Much of his first season had already been planned out for him, with the inclusion of crowd pleasing foes such as Sontarans, Cybermen and of course the Daleks.

Since Philip was only involved with the Fourth Doctor era, you can read more about his interview here:
The Fourth Doctor Connection

Next we had a double act in the form of Derrick Sherwin and Terrance Dicks, who had been consecutive script editors spanning the latter days of Patrick Troughton and the whole of the Jon Pertwee eras. Terrance also wrote for the Tom baker era too.

Since Derrick and Terrance was only involved with Doctor Who in the 1960s and 1970s, you can read more about his interview here:
The Fourth Doctor Connection

We then had a break to get the first of the autographs and photo opportunities.

I took along a River Song diary I now use for autographs, and found that there was 'no limit' on the number of items you could get signed, so long as it was within reason.

So I got Philip as well as visual effects expert Mike Tucker, composer Dominic Glynn, and script editor Andrew Cartmel.

I also grabbed a quick - and it was quick - photo op with firstly Graeme Harper, then with Terrance and Derrick together.

There was minimal queuing; the photo was printed in the time it took to pay for it; and they had emailed the digital copy I asked for within minutes (and it was the photo of me, not someone else!). The photo was frankly better quality than at many glossy events, including the official 50th celebration.

It was then back into the viewing theatre for the next one-on-one interview, with director Graeme Harper.

Graeme gave an absorbing interview about his time not only on the classic series, directing Peter Davision in Caves Of Androzani and Colin Baker in Revelation Of The Daleks, but also working on the new series where is helmed the return of the Cybermen in series two.

Since Graeme was only involved with the Fifth and Sixth Doctor eras, you can read more about his interview here:
The Sixth Doctor Connection
MIKE TUCKER interview
Next up was special effects guru Mike Tucker, who is one of a select few who has worked on both the classic and new series.

He reminisced about how as a young boy he watched Pebble Mill At One and saw a feature about the effects on Blake's Seven. Turning to his mum, he said 'I want to do that'. Suitably empowered, she wrote to the BBC and got her son an interview which led to a job in the BBC Visual Effects Department.

He talked at length about the different approaches between then and now on Doctor Who, explaining how productions were allocated by rote. This meant he did not know what he was working on week to week, but had the downside that sometimes staff who hated Doctor Who were assigned to it. He heard of staff who’s attitude was “if I do a bad job, hopefully they won't ask me again”. Which explains the sometimes patchy effects down the years.

The new series by contrast is entirely staffed by freelance workers who want to to their job to the best. Each have a limited task to perform, meaning they are more specialist in what they do.

The biggest surprise for me was the revelation that until Day Of The Doctor, ALL model work had been done on film. The use of digital cameras (necessary for the 3D work) meant results were more immediate giving the opportunity to move on or shoot alternative angles on a scene. It has also resulted in shots being edited into episodes the same day as filming.

Then it was time for another break, during which I got Terrance’s autograph on my photo with him; as well as Graeme's on his photo with me and in my River Song diary.

I also had the chance to get a new photo with Colin Baker, who admired my Matt Smith costume.

Colin seems to know me pretty well now, as he pipped up, “Here comes the tailor!” when I stepped up for the shot.

Back in the viewing theatre we were treated to a double act of Dominic Glynn and Andrew Cartmel who sparked well off each other.

Both had been relatively young when they worked on Doctor Who, and they had similar stories of unsolicited approaches to JNT to get their jobs.

Dominic sent a demo tape to JNT, which seemed to land on his desk at just the right time. After a chat and a meeting he was hired and was writing music for Doctor Who.

Similarly Andrew managed to get a meeting with JNT and was also hired with seemingly little effort.

Both were pretty much left to do their jobs with minimal interference from JNT. He did put his foot down once in a while, but was happier to nurture talent and let it bloom.

The final interview of the day was with Colin Baker, who was on good form.

COLIN BAKER interview
He talked at length about his pre and post Doctor Who fame and looked back on his time with sometimes mixed emotions.

You can read about Colin’s interview here:
The Sixth Doctor Connection

With the main programme over, it just remained to get Nicholas Briggs to scribble in my River Song diary and for Colin to sign the photo I had with him, as well as two shots from meeting him in LA earlier this year at Gallifrey One.

This was the first DWAS event I have actually been to, and I must say it was very well planned and executed.