A burning hot day in Weston-super-Mare and stars of Doctor Who gathered in the Playhouse, a theatre tucked a little way back from the seafront. TimeWarp, a new convention, hit the town, organised by Ian Fraser after a long absence from holding events.
It promised something a little bit different. But did it deliver?
The only other conventions in the area are autograph-centric, charging through-the-roof prices for a brief chat and a scribble on a DVD cover. Nonetheless, the annual Stars of Time attracts the fans and a lot of money always changes hands. TimeWarp, however, offered autographs and merchandise – but also the chance to really get to know the cast.
And what a selection of guests! Headed by Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker (a regular in Weston), there were companions-a-plenty: Wendy Padbury, Deborah Watling, Louise Jameson, Mark Strickson, Nicola Bryant, Richard Franklin, Sarah Sutton and Katy Manning were all on hand to regale the crowd with stories.
Joining them were Terry Molloy (Davros), Dee Sadler (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy), Damaris Hayman (The Daemons), Derek Martin (Image of the Fendahl; HAVOK stuntman), Will Thorp (The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit), and Script Editor for the Seventh Doctor era, Andrew Cartmel.
Really, the guest list was exceptional.
That’s why it’s such a shock that turn-out was so low. Where was everyone?! The amount of effort, work and – yes – love that went into TimeWarp should’ve garnered massive crowds. Sure, it was the first such event in many, many years, but I think the main reason for its disappointing amount of attendees was that, as Fraser told me in his interview, it was a last-minute decision to do and so publicity hadn’t been ramped up enough.
With all the positives that TimeWarp boasted, the Internet should’ve been rife with excited chatter, there should’ve been leaflets everywhere, and the hype would be at least akin to the Bristol Comic Expo (which this year, I might add, was exceedingly disappointing). I can’t stress enough what a shame it was, considering also the lack of conventions in the South West and the fact that if TimeWarp were successful, subsequent events were planned.
Now, it’s up in the air.
Nonetheless, ample autographs were obtained by one and all. Katy Manning, for instance, signed 28 items – from one person. The queue to meet her was astounding, but she gives you such a welcome, you can see why she’s so popular (she gave this reviewer a hug and kiss, not that I’m bragging or anything). Her devotion to the fans remains heart-warming: after a particularly-lengthy talk, the cast were supposed to have a break for lunch; she protested, saying that she didn’t need lunch while there were so many fans to meet.
The talk in question was one of the highlights of the weekend. Generally, they lasted about 15 minutes, but with Katy, Damaris, Richard and Derek chatting about the Third Doctor era, the audience was entertained for a good hour or so!
Their love of their co-stars, notably Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney and Roger Delgado, really came across beautifully, as the four discussed, in particular, the atmosphere on location for The Daemons. Katy telling Damaris that she is one of her main acting inspirations was a lovely moment, one bookended by further sentiment that reaffirmed the group’s affection for each other.
Derek’s recollections of stunts and occasional accidents that ensued were really interesting – and shocking – and their anecdotes about Pertwee’s possessive love of Bessie were a funny insight into a Doctor Who legend. Katy revealed that the only time she and Pertwee argued was over her bad map-reading, a result of her misplacing her glasses (if you’ve ever met Katy, you’ll know this happens quite often… and was even alluded to in The Sarah Jane Adventures). She called Death of the Doctor, in which she acted opposite Lis Sladen and Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, a perfect end to her role as Jo Jones née Grant.
The talks, spread at intervals throughout the morning while signing sessions were underway, weren’t the sole opportunities to hear from your favourite companion, of course: the big advantage of TimeWarp was the chance to chat to the stars away from the limelight. Some chats naturally drew a crowd – the wonderful Louise Jameson talked to about eight people at once as she tucked into an ice lolly – while others were more intimate. Sarah Sutton, Deborah Watling and Mark Strickson, in particular, all proved what genuinely lovely, insightful and clever people they are in one-to-one conversations with a few attendees.
There were hiccups, but that’s to be expected. There was quite the run-about after printers packed up and inks ran out, but they got there in the end; guests had to leave early due to terrible traffic (it was held on the same weekend as a few other nationwide events, causing chaos on the roads); the overwhelming heat obviously irritated one or two stars; and the space for dealers was really limited, so much so that only three were at the venue!
In my eyes, though, TimeWarp was a success. Its aim was to let visitors mingle with the people they’ve always looked up to, and that was, without doubt, achieved.
The best part of my weekend was talking to Mark Strickson, one of my favourite companions who showed what a great guy he really is. In one of his talks, looking towards Sarah, he said a big reason he came to conventions was to be reunited with family.
After all, isn’t that what Doctor Who really is?
(Thank you to Ian. Photos by John Bates.)