Saturday, 7 November 2015

Barking Signing - 7th November 2015

Over in windy, rain-swept Barking, today was the latest Tenth Planet event signing session.

Barking Signing -  7th November 2015
The main draw for me today was to meet two of the lead stars from the enigmatic Sylvester McCoy adventure, Ghost Light.

SHARON DUCE played Control in Ghost Light.

Sharon Duce was due to attend last time, but apparently got lost en route and despite repeated efforts, couldn't be found by the event organisers!

Luckily she made it today, so she was a very welcome addition to the line-up.
Sitting next to her was Ian Hogg, her co-star from Ghost Light.

IAN HOGG is best known for his lead role in the BBC1 television series Rockliffe's Babies and its follow-up Rockliffe's Folly, playing Detective Sergeant Alan Rockliffe.

He has also been associated with Doctor Who by voicing the part of General Voshkar in The Sandman, a spin-off Doctor Who audio drama produced in 2002 by Big Finish Productions.

Next to them in line was Jon Davey, an extra who has so far appeared in 35 episodes of Doctor Who, as a variety of monsters and small featured parts.

JON DAVEY has played a variety of monsters in Doctor Who. These include Cybermen, Daleks, Ood, Jadoon, Hath, Heavenly Host, Vigil and Wispermen. He has performed live at may events including The Doctor Who Proms and Doctor Who Live and Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in Australia and New Zealand.

He was a real nice chap, but frankly suffers from the self-importance syndrome that a lot of film and tv extra stuff from.

He is full of (interesting) stories of how its him in that Cybermen costume with one arm; or the Dalek at the back that has the exploding eye-stalk; or the Ood that stands up and touched Rose's shoulder - all well and good, but someone had to be in the costume, unfortunately it was him.

Unlike the rest of the guests, Jon had pretty much filled his allotted space with a shop selling signed Dalek toys (£20), signed Dalek eggs (£19.99 - is the penny difference worth the hassle?) and even an audio-visual display of him being put into make-up from a Doctor Who Confidential episode.

Like I do with every guest I asked for a quick shot of him signing my book, which he insisted on doing clutching one of the toy Daleks to 'Make and event of it'. Succeed.

Frazer Hines played companion Jamie McCrimmon from The Highlanders to The War Games, and again in the twentieth anniversary special, The Five Doctors, and the Season 22 story, The Two Doctors. Outside Doctor Who, he is perhaps best known for playing Joe Sugden in Emmerdale Farm.

DICK MILLS is a British sound engineer who provided special sounds for Doctor Who from 1972 to 1989. He is responsible for the frequently-used Cloister Bell sound.

I already have Dick Mills and Frazer Hines in my book from previous events, so I didn't need them, but I did need Catherine Howe who has been on everyone's radar recently due to the release of The Underwater Menace on DVD.

CATHERINE HOWE played Ara in The Underwater Menace.

She was sitting next to Frazer for the signing, and they were exchanging stories about their time shooting the story, nearly 50 years ago now!

RALPH WATSON appeared in four Doctor Who serials alongside three Doctors, with Patrick Troughton twice. He played an uncredited Generator Scientist in The Underwater Menace, Captain Knight in The Web of Fear, Ettis in The Monster of Peladon and Ben in Horror of Fang Rock.

Her co-star, Ralph Watson was also in attendance, and he was more than happy to sign my book and pose for a photo for me.

Completing the line up was Gregory De Polnay who appeared in Robots Of Death.

GREGORY DE POLNAY played D84 in The Robots of Death. He later voiced Voc 23 in the Kaldor City audio Storm Mine.

After meeting David Bailie last time, it was nice to meet another member of the cast.

Once everyone had got the autographs they wanted, and the professional photos with the guests, it was time for a question an answer session, hosted as usual by Robert Dick.

Dick Mills remembered working on Doctor Who before any film was shot. Alongside Delia Derbyshire, he acted as technician to her creative mind in creating the iconic opening music.

Each episode had a 10 day turn around from first viewing to final dub, which he explained was fine for episode 1, but by episode 23 they were flagging!

Frazer talked enthusiastically about recovering the lost episode. He'd love to see The Highlanders and Evil Of The Daleks recovered, but realises the chances are slim.

Catherine remembered she was very young when she was on Doctor Who and talk fondly of Aneka.

Ralph also recalled the episode, but thought everyone had been quite cruel to the director, who was a Polish Jew who had fled Germany prior to WW2. Patrick Troughton and Julia Smith classed with him a lot, which was sad as he was doing a good job.

Jon joined Who during series two, when he attend an open audition along with around 50 others. After passing the 'marching in a straight line with your eyes closed' test, he went to Millennium Effects where he discovered he was shortlisted to be a Cyberman. The final criteria was to fit the costume, which he did, so got the part.
A colleague one day brought in some bathroom scales to weigh himself in costume, subtracted his body weight, to work out the costume weighed 4 stone!
The mouth had LED lights inside, so restricted breathing, meaning the only airholes were through the eyes.

This reminded Dick Mills of an instant during his appearance on The One Show.

They had an old and new series Cyberman on set, but the producers thought the old one looked tatty, so they used silver gaffer tape to smooth over the wrists, elbows and around the neck. They didn't realise that all air circulation had been cut off and the actor in the costume FAINTED!

Sharon shared more scenes with Sophie than Sylvester, so her memories were more of her than him. Ian remembers having great respect for Sylvester for learning long passages of script.

Sharon acting stage manger at York repertory theatre. Following a long run of quality plays the cast were told they would be doing Stop It Nurse, a comic farce. Brought in to star was none other than Tom Baker, who she described as having came with pop-out eyes and toothbrush in top pocket.

Like much of the male cast, Gregory lusted over Louise Jameson in what little costume she had, and felt first-hand the friction between her and Tom Baker.
But he did manage to break into Tom's crossword circle when he cracked a particularly difficult Times crossword clue, after which he enjoyed a gin or two in the bar after rehearsals.

A week or so prior, Greg worked on the Space: 1999 episode The Lambda Factor as Chief Engineer Pete Garforth.

The lead stars are American husband and wife team Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. He recalled they were on £22,000 a week, with plush hotels, chauffeur driven car, silver service lunches, while the rest of the cast were on £8 a week, including the buy-out fee!

Inspired by tales of the Landau's excesses, Frazer told a tale of catch a lift to Television Centre with Eric Morecombe. Upon arrival the commissionier, who only had one arm, would each day usher Eric to a reserved space. At the end of the week he asked Eric if there was a chance of two tickets to the Christmas Show, one for himself and his wife. Eric said the wife could come, but he couldn't. Affronted, he asked why. "You can't clap!", Eric replied!

As well as starring with Patrick Troughton in The Underwater Menace, Ralph also appeared alongside Tom Baker in The Terror Of Fang Rock. Unusually this was recorded at the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, and he recalled Tom's barely contained rage at the change of studio, tearing him away from his beloved Soho. He remembered Louise's tipping moment when Tom went through a door onto set too quick, causing the camera to miss her entrance. Luckily Paddy Russell, the director was strong and helped patch things up.

All in all it was a good panel with lots of lively stories and discussion. Well worth seeing!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Barking Signing - 12th September 2015

Today I took yet another trip to Barking Library for the 10th Planet Events signing session.
Barking Signing - 12th Sept 2015
Over the past few months the guest list has been slowly expanding to quite a lineup, only for it to shrink back down.
In the weeks prior to the event Nigel Betts, Wendy Padbury and daughter Charlie Hayes as well as Carmen Munroe have all had to cancel. In the end even Sharon Duce, who was scheduled to attend, failed to show up! Maybe they’ll rebook them for future events so we’ll get to meet them.

Last minute additions who did then show were David Bailie and Nicholas Parsons no less!

NICHOLAS PARSONS played Reverend Wainwright in The Curse of Fenric.
Best known for hosting Sale of the Century and Just A Minute, he was awarded a CBE in the 2014 New Year Honours List.

I was struck by how frail Nicholas seemed when I was getting my book signed. He didn’t appear how he comes across when you listen to him on Just a Minute. then again, he is 91, so it is fantastic he remains active and engaged.

Amusingly, given that he played a vicar in Doctor Who, he remarked that my River Song diary looked like a prayer book! When I pointed out it’s cover is like the TARDIS, he got the reference.

DAVID BAILIE played Dask in The Robots of Death and later played the Celestial Toymaker in the Big Finish Productions audios. Outside of Who he is well known for playing Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

I had a nice little chat with David and I asked him a little about being in Robots Of Death and the weird face-paint make-up.

JOHN NETTLETON played Reverend Ernest Matthews in the Doctor Who serial Ghost Light.

Like Nicholas  John Nettleton also played a vicar in a McCoy era adventure.

It’s like they had a thing for vicars that year!

SHARON DUCE played Control in the Doctor Who television story Ghost Light.

After waiting around for ages, and the organisers sending scouts out to find her, Sharon was a big no-show for this event.
Let’s hope she just got lost rather than intentional didn’t bother to come.

TREVOR MARTIN played a Time Lord in The War Games and an alternative Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday. He also provided the voices for several characters in the BBC Radio audio story The Paradise of Death and for Professor Capra in the Big Finish Productions audio story Flip-Flop.

I met Trevor at The Day Of The Doctors back in March, so I didn’t need to get his autograph today.

ROBERT ASHBY played the Borad in the Doctor Who story Timelash.

Robert was something of a dark horse when it came to his panel discussion. He revealed that during her time on Doctor Who, Lousie Jameson was his partner, so he would have to sit through the episodes when they were shown, and he’s get set-reports of the goings on behind the scenes!

PETER ROY is a British extra who has appeared in several eras of Doctor Who, from the 1960s to the 1980s. He has appeared in James Bond movies, Superman IV and even being a part of the Harry Potter Franchise.

Peter is one of those seasoned jobbing background artists that you’ve probably seen in a hundred films, but never noticed.

He explained how owning a police uniform got him most of his work, resulting in over 1,000 film appearances!

 Once the panel discussion kicked of, Nicholas became the more out-going persona we know from Just A Minute.
he recalled being in costume on location and a member of the public coming up to him to ask about booking the church hall for a event, before realising he wasn’t the right vicar!

Robert told us how he was up for the part of Avon, losing out to Paul Darrow - who he then appeared with in Doctor Who.
He also told us how he lost a lot of weight due to the awkward facial mask-up he wore for his appearance in Timelash. Covering only half his face it made eating very difficult.

Trevor had vivid recollections of preparing for the Doctor Who stage play. With such a challenging production the technical run-through dragged on for almost a week, compared to one or two days for a more conventional production.
Ultimately the run was cut short due to IRA bombs going off on The Strand close to their theatre. Audiences stayed away from the West End, and the play closed.
Very sad.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Day Of The Doctors 2

I headed back to Slough today for the second Day Of The Doctors convention.

Day of the Doctors 2 - 8th August 2015
For me, last year's was a stalking horse event with a number of surprisingly interesting guests, all of whom were connected by having played The Doctor in one for or another, no matter how tenuous.

So I'm attending today very open minded to what's on offer and what may be instore.

Headlining is Tom Baker, who will be doing photoshoots, with and without Matthew Waterhouse and Geoffrey Beevers, as well as spending the rest of the day signing autographs. Sadly he's not doing a stage talk.

The morning is given over to an endless list of photoshoots, as well as autograph opportunities. I'm only going for one photoshoot with the Troughton brothers, David and Michael. I've never met them before and it's a wonderful chance to meet them both together.

While waiting for my call for the photoshoot, I gathered a few autographs in my book.

Edward de Souza, was notable for starring as Marc Cory, the lead character in the only Doctor Who episode to not feature The Doctor in any shape or form. Also starring in Mission To The Unknown was Jeremy Young, who was signing autographs next to Edward.

Next to Jeremy was David Garfield, who appeared in Leela's introductory story, The Face Of Evil. The moment I walked in the room I saw David catching my eye. I wondered if he had recognised me, as some twenty-five years ago I visited him a this home to interview him about his fleeting appearance in The Prisoner. He only had one line, but his memory of filming it was clear as day. He delivered the line perfectly, but his shot finished with a crash zoom on his face, but the crew had a problem with the camera and there was a shudder, ruining the shot. After over 30 takes they finally got it right.
David remembered me visiting him and we had a good chat about it.

Also attending is Sylvester McCoy, and although I have him in my book already, I want him to sign something special for me.

Back in 2010 I attended the Bonhams Doctor Who Auction and bought the Seventh Doctor hat and handkerchief lot. I subsequently sold the hat and two of the hankies, keeping one for myself which I have framed on the wall of my workshop.

I asked Sylvester to sign the mount, titling it with SEVENTH DOCTOR HANDKERCHIEF, and signing his name at the bottom.

Next to Sylvester were the two Troughton brothers, so I got them to sign my book on a page prior to where I have the autographs of their father's three companions, Frasier, Wendy and Debora.

Chatting to David it emerged that in the 1970s I had attended the same theatre club at the Arts Theatre in London. The brothers were at the Unicorn Theatre during the early 1970s, and I was there for the latter part of the same decade.

At 2pm it was time for us all to take our seats for the interview panels, which took up the rest of the day’s proceedings.

2pm Sylvester McCoy
The organisers of these conventions have learnt (maybe to their cost) that it is near impossible to wrangle Sylvester and do a sit-down interview with him.

So, at the very outset, all they did was introduce him, hand him a microphone, and set him loose on the audience!

In this format Sylvester is in his element, walking around; meeting the fans; holding the microphone so they can ask questions; then going off on his entertaining tangents before finding another eager fan to ask a question.

One of the first topics of conversation was the TARDIS. Sylvester explained how his TARDIS prop was getting old and battered, having served a few Doctors before him. It was cramped inside as there was often one prop-hand at the back holding up the roof in case it collapsed on them; another prop-hand would be sitting in a corner with a car battery and two wires to touch together to operate the lamp on the top; and - in a soft and lingering voice - there was Sophie....

He talked about filming Survival and how hot it was on location. he felt sorry for the extras all dressed as leopard people with thick fur costumes on. Finally one of the extras got claustrophobia and stripped her costume off before running over the sand dunes never to be seen again.

Sylvester told the ever popular tale of filming with Daleks under the arches of Waterloo station where the explosive special effects were mistaken for an IRA terrorist attack.

Someone asked about Dimensions In Time, and Sylvester remembered working with Louise Jameson. Shot in a weird form of 3D, it required the camera to be constantly moving to sustain the illusion of depth. So for his scene the camera encircled the pair of them, twisting the leads around their ankles. He didn’t seemed too upset at being pressed close together with Leela!

The subject of sonic screwdrivers came up - something his Doctor never had, so when he was required to use one briefly in the tv movie he wasn’t sure how to use it. As it turned out he was holding it back to front and the producers had to blur the head of the sonic to disguise Sylvester’s ignorance of how to use it!

Finally the subject of his costume came up and to illustrate what he was talking about, a cosplayer in Seventh Doctor costume was pulled from the audience to model for him.

THE HAT he explained was his own trademark and he wore one to the audition. It seemed natural for him to wear one in the part.

THE UMBRELLA was partly Sylvester’s idea, and he seemed quite pleased with the result.

THE PULLOVER was not his choice, and the excessive question marks all over it was a bit to blatant for Sylvester’s liking. He much preferred the waistcoat worn in the tv movie.
THE JACKET was nice and simple, but at his request it was given large pockets. These he used to keep his script pages, having them from one side to the other as they were finished with.

2:45pm Michael and David Troughton
This panel was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for me. I've been aware of the two Troughton brothers in a variety of productions down the years, and they have both made appearances in the new Doctor Who: first David in Midnight, then more recently Michael in Last Christmas.

You could feel the sparks of brotherly connection between them from the moment they sat down, playing with the interviewer as to which was which, leaving him and the audience confused from the outset.

Michael had written a biography of his father, so he took the lead discussing their dad. He talked about how prolifically he had worked, playing untold character parts for years prior to Doctor Who. The series had taken its toll on him, both with his nerves and private life. He was terrified of being typecast and never working again, something which his IMDB page clearly proves was unfounded.

3:30pm John Guilor and Tim Treloar
Interesting as this panel was, it didn't keep my attention for very long.

Both voice actors are very skilled, but I struggled to maintain focus as they told stories of being repeatedly asked to do comical impersonations of a number of Doctors. Big Finish are nothing if not prolific, but I still do not accept their work as being canonical to the main series.

3:50pm Edward de Souza, David Garfield and Jeremy Young
I was quite looking forward to this panel, as all three actors had played character parts in a lot of films and tv series I love from the 1960s.

Edward de Souza, of Portuguese and Indian heritage, starred in a couple of Hammer films (The Phantom Of The Opera and Kiss Of The Vampire) plus a number of appearances in The Avengers. He had an Avengers-off with Jeremy Young who also had made multiple appearances. Edward recalled Joanna Lumley, who he would say “Hello LumLum, show us your bum bum”. She never did apparently. They both remembered Patrick McNee fondly, though Edward chipped in that he was a nudist and went to America. “He’d show you his bum bum”.

4:30pm Matthew Waterhouse and Geoffrey Beevers
This panel proved to be a gem - not for anything of significance that came out of it, but just simply to watch Matthew make his usual prat of himself.

The panel opened with discussion about how each were writing novels. Yes, you did read that right.
Mathew would apparently speak his book into a recording device, performing the unfolding text like a live show akin to a talking book. Geoffrey, on the other hand, would just write it down.
By all accounts Matthew's finished book was quite tortuous, centring on a love story that sounded like teeth being pulled.
Geoffrey had written a piece in the 1980s, only publishing it now. Beginning in a monastery, it explored how the past views the future, and the future views the past involving a non-sci fi time travel.
Sometimes these a lot to be said for print-on-demand self publishing, and sometimes there is not.

4:50pm cosplay competition
The day ended with the usual cosplay competition which was won by the Ood!