There are big cons and there are little cons. The big ones – the Gallifrey event in the States or our own late, lamented SFX Weekender, are thrilling, sometimes bewildering affairs, with thousands of people milling around and multiple panels happening at once. But the smaller ones have their own charms: intimate panels, short signing queues, social groups to join, and the chance to hang out with the guests at the bar. This is very much the case with Regenerations , Swansea’s annual Doctor Who con.(opens in new tab)
John Levene – Sergeant Benton of the UNIT family – was my first panel of the day. Levene has a reputation as something of an eccentric (check out the excellent Living With Levene documentary on the forthcoming “Claws Of Axos” DVD), and he doesn’t disappoint here. His panel is funny, interesting and occasionally quite mad. It was topped off with a heartfelt tribute to producer, Barry Letts.
The guest I was personally most excited to see was Terry Molloy. Davros! He’s wearing the most appalling trousers, but otherwise delivers. He’s a quick-witted and charming public speaker, not afraid to respond to questions with a hint of playful snark. At one point (while regaling us with a tale about his run in with some gangsters) he drops the c-bomb. Davros swearing. What more could you ask for?
Well, for Angela Douglas to cheer up, for one. A surprise guest on the list, she’s clearly uncomfortable. You can’t blame her – her work on Doctor Who amounted to one day of filming for 1989’s “Battlefield”. She’s livelier when talking about her work on the Carry On films, but responding to questions with short, often curt answers, it’s an awkward interview.
It’s a beautiful day outside, but we’re not here for the sun. We’re here to look at Andrew Cartmel. The McCoy era script editor is here on a flying visit to talk about his time on the show alongside “Planet Of The Ood” scriptwriter, Keith Temple – who, it has to be said, looks uncannily like latter-day Morrissey. It’s an intriguingly honest interview, with Temple admitting that he doesn’t think he got his episode right (personally, I always liked that one) and Cartmel talking about the very real possibility that Ken Campbell could have been the seventh Doctor (“ He would have been the monster”).
For this reviewer though, the two-highlights of the day were both in the evening. First was the live screening of “The Power Of Three” as it premiered on BBC 1. A communal watch can be a wonderful experience, and everyone laughed along in the right places. And if there's one thing I never expected to experience in my life, it’s that one day I would watch the latest episode of Doctor Who with John Levene and Anneke Wills in the same room...
Stranger still was the Who -themed quiz. As I sat watching, I noticed that Sir Derek Jacobi sitting in front of me, chuckling along to Doctor Who related puns… What the hell must he have been thinking?!
The highlight of Sunday – indeed of possibly the entire con – was Paul Darrow’s interview. Darrow was, of course, the semi-villainous Avon Kerr in Blake’s 7 . He's hilarious, and doesn't appear to have a good word to say about anyone – though it's clear that this is (mostly) in jest. Darrow relishes playing up his role as a bit of a baddie, and that makes him hugely entertaining. His genuine affection for Blake’s 7 is also very clear.
The UNIT years were represented again by Richard Franklin and Katy Manning. They're both good value – though Franklin spent perhaps a little too long pimping his new book. Manning is a fascinating character. She talks passionately about the acting craft, and about using it as a way to hide while on stage. The whole panel was interrupted by constant stream of dog barks coming from both Franklin and Manning's iPhones, much to interviewer Gary Russell's annoyance and the audience’s amusement.
Unfortunately, due to stupidity on my part, I managed to miss almost all of Derek Jacobi's talk. I did, however, get to see his amazing purple cords. If Molloy had the worst trousers of the weekend, Jacobi had the best. Kudos.
Finally, a double-bill of Doctors. Colin Baker is on first, as charming and genial as ever. It's great to see how much fandom has taken Colin to their hearts, despite the controversies of his era. McCoy, meanwhile, was still on a post- Hobbit high. Asked to run through his Doctor Who stories in order, he mixes up a couple of his anecdotes, but was as funny as we’ve come to expect. He’s a natural live performer.
And then that was it. The closing ceremonies left everyone with a touch of post-con blues – not helped by the unexpectedly torrential downpour outside and the many cancelled trains. Only a drink or two, or maybe three, at the bar could help... Oh, and there’s Davros and the seventh Doctor. Until next year, then, and what will undoubtedly be a brilliant celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who …
Photos by Cary Ivor Woodward
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