Over 21 years from 1981 to 2002 I attended dozens of Doctor Who conventions and events reviewing many of them at the time for various print fanzines. In this series of posts I’m reproducing some of those reviews which hopefully capture the spirit and flavour of what conventions and also smaller events were like. They remain largely unedited except for anything completely embarrassing! These are very much personal opinions of the events, what I saw and the people I shared them with.In late November, Edinburgh played host to the second social of 1981, and those who attended enjoyed themselves a great deal. Set in the impressive structures of the University, the formal side of things kicked off with a showing of `Beyond the Sun`. a story which perhaps lacked pace but certainly fell in no way short on drama. It was an opportunity that gave the cast a chance to stretch out a bit (yes, they all got to lie on the floor) and a tense atmosphere was quickly attained by the increasing tension between just the main four characters. Some scenes were literally gripping - such as Susan running riot with a pair of scissors, and Ian trying to throttle the Doctor, who himself has a blazing row with Barbara. As the story went on, there was a gradual change from confusion to fear and finally hope. When their problems were at last over, the relief flooded over to the audience such had been the conviction of the acting and script. Definitely an adult story, though, which probably lost the younger audience at the time.
(Originally published in 1982 in `Frontier Worlds`)
(Originally published in 1982 in `Frontier Worlds`)
In between these episodes came an interview with Matthew Waterhouse, who confessed the difficulties in an adult playing a child. After lunch came `The Rescue` a year on from `Beyond The Sun and thus displaying the delightful changes in William Hartnell's Doctor with his more whimsical, mellow style to the fore. At times, he reminded me of Tom Baker (an indication that the fourth Doctor was closer to the heart than we think). Maureen O'Brien also impressed, managing to get hysterical, but not going over the top (as Carole Ann Ford was prone to do). Koquillion's mask was particularly striking, and good use of light was made in his temple scene, which surprised me - Hartnell was actually fighting; so much for my idea of him being an inactive Doctor.
The remaining trio of guests were all writers. Andrew Smith seems to be keeping busy, working on many shows as well as finishing his novelisation of `Full Circle`. He also expressed a wish to become a producer some day so you never know - he might end up at the helm of Doctor Who. This interview was punctuated by the sounds of coins dropping out of interviewer Ian McLachlan's pockets!
Don Houghton (attending his first DWAS event) delighted the audience with several tales from his distinguised career, notably his brief at one time to kill off Crossroads! Unfortunately his orders were later changed but he said he would always be sent in as a "hatchet man" to finish off programmes. He also discussed his two classic Doctor Who stories. Not to be outdone, Terrance Dicks recounted his strange involvement with Space 1999 and also cleared up a lot of questions about the Doctor Who books.
A raffle (in which Jeremy Bentham won a set of a `Doctor Who Monthly`!) was held as was a small fanzine sale. The latter contained mostly DWAS and CMS material, though Paul Trainer was valiantly trying to sell his one off zine `Mentor` Oh yes, and there were those people flogging a zine called something like `Front Tyre Whirls.`
Of course, it was called a Social, and would not have been complete without same, held at the Doric Hotel, which the guests also attended. An excellent buffet was provided, and it was very enjoyable to talk to so many people you had never met before! It also gave members a chance to collar the Executive, hence people queued up to insult Gary Russell about CT (sorry Gary, `Celestial Toyroom`) and demand of Richard Walter "Where's my TARDIS?" It was an excellent event, hopefully not the last of such smaller gatherings. A big thank you to all the guests, and to Gordon Roxburgh and co- who organised it all so smoothly. It didn't even rain!
Interface 2 1982 (Originally published in 1982 in `Shada`)
I awoke with a start: bells were ringing in my ears, darkness closed its steel claws about my body, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on an assortment of clothes (which all happened to be red) and crawled into the cold air of the neon silence. Sorry am I being too dramatic? I'll start again.I was on my way to London for Inter-Face 2. T'was held in Central London Polytechnic, the venue for 1980's Inter-Face I and last April's Social and a very suitable building for such purposes.
On arrival, the traditional fanzine sale was underway with David Howe wearing his Menoptera coloured pullover, managing to scare everybody away from the awesome collection of coloured card covered wares that the Reference Department wished to foist upon us. Elsewhere Martin Wiggins actually gave back to its editor a free fanzine that he didn't want - obviously didn't have one of his articles in it.
Back in the lecture theatre, the MC for the day was Gary Russell, who did so well in the job that it precipitated a couple of well known alcoholics from Liverpool to chant his name at the end of the day. More about that later. The Exec. panel sprawled over a table and the morning, while plants in the audience fed them cues so they could tell a few jokes. No, really, there's a great value in this idea as it allows both sides a chance to express publically their opinions on the way the society is developing etc and it allows Tony Clark to publically hide.
To allow us to recover from their sporting wit and intellectual banter, an early lunch was called and it wasn’t long before we got our teeth into ferociously oversized buns, except for Steve Mercer and John Bok who settled for the ferociously overpriced drinks. A "man from the Exhibitions" turned up and lurked anonymously and JNT himself was also in attendance. Later he delivered a few items of news, most important of which was the news that Patrick Troughton would be going to the BBC’s equivalent of Woodstock- the Longleat event. Patrick who? You might well ask. Although Interface 2 was dedicated to the second Doctor it was only in the afternoon that he made his visual appearance. No,don't drop this zine in amazement – I meant on the video, not in person.
Five episodes were shown:
The Underwater Menace episode 3 – Panned in the booklet, it did seem a little overacted, especially on the part of Zaroff who is rather like a 1950 B Movie villain. The Fish People were tatty and unconvincing but Troughton was on form.
i) The Moonbase episode 4- Apart from the ridiculous bit when Hobson suddenly realises he hasn't fully unlocked the Gravitron - "Oh of course” - this is great stuff with masses of Cybermen and great acting especially the aforementioned base leader. The demise of the Cybermen left more than a wry smile on the faces of the audience, I imagine.
j) Enemy of the World episode 3 - The cook, Griffin, was an excellent character while the Big T's dual role was well executed, though Salamander had a tendency to be reminiscent of an Italian gangster, with a line in menacing looks.
k) Web of Fear episode 1 - Sadly all that remains from this furry classic. Archetypal film music and atmospherics mark the death of Silverstein by the awoken Yeti. Very realistic tunnels and a gem of a performance from both Travers's and the Robin Day soundalike journalist.
l) The War Games episode 10 - What can I say·that hasn't already been said? Well as you may have guessed I’ll manage something. I found found the trial better than subsequent attempts, the Time Lord's fashion though has dated badly. Superb suspense build up - and of course Patrick Troughton’s final moments in the role were classic ones.
Guesting was Michael Craze, who played Ben in the early months of Troughton’s reign. He was interviewed by lan McLachlan for an hour and recalled enjoyable, if a little hazy, moments from his time with the series. As someone who isn't an avowed Troughton fan, Inter-Face 2 I went more to meet friends than anything else, but I have to admit it certainly made me more appreciative of that era than I had been previously.
After the end of the formal events, we trogged down to 'The Cock Tavern' for a few drinks and things. I couldn't end without the obligatory Wonderful Persons List, bunched at the end to keep the critics happier: so hello and thanks to Gary, Russell Atkinson, Ian Thompson, David Owen, Graeme Wood, Jon Cox, David Howe, the guy who insulted David Howe in the pub, David Saunders, Peter Anghelides and Peter Lovelady, Mark Woodward, John Bok, Steve Mercer, Martin Wiggins, David Stead and the bus driver for being up so early.