Event Report by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
London’s biggest con is back and bigger than ever. There were stalls galore, the original 66 Batmobile flanked by the Bat boat and bike (a bittersweet reminder the late great Adam West was due to attend), a cosplay stage and talks both paid and unpaid throughout the 3 days of the event ran by Showmasters and held once again at London Olympia on 28th – 30th July 2017.
“Meeting our heroes really can turn us all into children in the best possible way.”
With the likes of Kevin Smith, Alyson Hannigan, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sylvester McCoy, John Cleese, Matt Lucas & half the cast of Game of Thrones they really swung for the fences on huge name guests from a diverse range of TV shows leading to a packed out Saturday when I attended.
There were a number of free and ticketed talks to entertain vistors over the weekend across two stages. I attended the Doctor Who free talk featuring Lalla Ward (Romana II), Mark Strickson (Turlough) & Rusty Goffe (Robots of Sherwood, Little John) As someone was late escorting Lalla & Mark to the talk it was down to Rusty to start the thing off with tales of his being brought out of retirement for the Who role.
‘I had retired, but the phone rang and this lovely BBC voice said, “Oh hello Mr Goffe, would you like to do an episode of Doctor Who?” “YES!” When he was done filming he proudly went home to his wife and said “I have now retired”. He went on to say that he couldn’t say to people for the rest of his life his last job was “something up in Scunthorpe”.
When Mark and Lalla arrived on stage they were asked if they had watched Peter Capaldi in the role of the Doctor. Mark confessed
‘I’ve watched maybe half an episode… I live in New Zealand now… It’s not that hard I to find the time to watch Doctor Who but I have a proper job making documentaries, so I sort of just don’t get around to it’. He went on to say about a the casting of Jodie Whittaker ‘It’s interesting we are now going to get a female Doctor, because when I was in Doctor Who John Nathan-Turner wanted to cast Lynda Barron as the Doctor. She would have been rather fun I think’.
When answering about watching Doctor Who now Lalla similarly said
“I don’t find time. I love Peter Capaldi, I think he was simply sensational in the Thick of It”
Mark was asked of his memories of one working on the 20th anniversary special for Doctor Who ‘The Five Doctors’ and he remembered a mishap on location
“When you’ve done a scene someone says “Check the gate” and what the gate is, a thing in front of the camera what keeps the lens clean, keeps the film clean… So they check the gate and if it’s fine you know you’ve got that scene done. I went away after filming. I eventually arrived at my great aunt Margrets up in Stratford-upon-Avon and she said “Mark, Mark, the BBC are after you. Have you heard it on the radio? It’s been on all the local radio stations. They’re trying to find you. They told me, it’s something to do with there was something on the gate.” And there was, there was something on the film so I had to go back to do it all again.”
He later told me in a one to one interview it was two scenes worth of filming needed to be reshot. The joys of a world before mobile phones!
Lalla talked of the respect she and Tom Baker always had for Douglas Adams when he would work on Doctor Who
“James (Watson) has this seriously good line which I love, “If you’re the cleverest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”… And Douglas was cleverer than most of us and Tom recognised that perfectly well”
I had a one to one chat with Sacha Dhawan. He said he was embargoed from talking about his work on Marvel (so at least we know he is still under contract for them), but he talked to me about working on the biopic of the early days of Doctor Who ‘An Adventure in space and time’. I asked him about getting Warris Hussain’s (first director of Doctor Who) voice right
‘He was standing behind me at the read through which was quite nerve wracking and then he said to me “It’s good what you’re doing”. I was like ‘phew’. He’s a lovely guy’.
As Warris is a gay Asian man I wanted to know if that felt like an extra pressure to get it right for Sasha ‘It totally was… he kind of paved the way a little bit… Being Asian, homosexual, it was a difficult time for him… For me, such a responsibility to portray him… and also stepping into the world of Doctor Who is also nerve wracking and I remember me and Jessica Raine at the first read through for an ‘Adventure in Space and Time’ and we’re Doctor Who virgins as it were and we both look across at each other and we were like ‘wow, ok, we’re here’ and all these head honchos who make up the Doctor Who world were there and it was nerve wracking but such a great honour to be a part of it.’
I asked him about what he had coming up soon
“I’ve got a drama coming up on BBC 2, in October, November… this year, called ‘the Boy with the Topknot’ and I play the lead roll of Satham Sanghera and it’s a true story. He’s a journalist for the times and it’s his story basically of him confronting some of his past and it’s really a beautiful story, I can’t wait for people to see it.’ So one to look out for”
And finally from the Smodcast networks ‘Fatman on Batman’ and a writer on the upcoming ‘Castle Rock’ TV show, based in the Universe of Stephen King, Marc Bernardin had a chat with me.
‘’I’m doing great. I don’t have to drive so I can drink all of your amazing beer”
I asked him about Castle Rock. He said he would start telling me, but I should watch out of the J.J Abrams laser snipers who might pick us off at any moment! Whilst I looked out for them he said
‘It’s going really, really well. The cast is bananas like the fact that we get to write dialogue for Sissy Spacek in a Stephen King Universe is nuts. So we start production next week’
I went on to ask what was new in the show and what was taken from the original King books.
“It’s an original show, about original characters that takes place in the Stephen King world. So we get to absorb and synthesise and ping-pong off of ‘Oh yes there’s that location that’s incredibly famous. And oh there’s that character who you might not have seen in that context before and there’s that character before she became an awful leg snapping nurse… Spoilers! But all of those things, you know, that’s possible for us.”
I asked about his joining Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith
“Kev’s business model seems to be, ‘here are my friends who I would be talking to anyway, let’s get a microphone on them and see what we get’. We are 2 guys who love this stuff and love it deeply and would talk for hours after seeing a movie and I think that’s what kind of comes across in the podcast”
One of these recent topics has been Iron Fist maybe not being everything it could be (to put it kindly). So I asked about what that Marc hopes they do going into the defenders and the next series of Iron Fist
‘I think part of what is going to help is, with the Defenders is the four of those characters getting to bounce off each other and seeing them in opposition and relief with one another… I’ve seen the first few episodes of the Defenders and all of them together is kind of a joy to watch, because it’s the street level super friends. ‘What are we going to do? We’re punching things in the face!’ Excellent, we’re punching things in the face. So, that’s kind of what I think that needed. It needed someone else to poke at the insanity. So there are lines where people are like ‘so what are you?’ ‘I’m the Iron Fist’ ‘No really what are you’… To be able to take the piss out of it a little bit… It’s kind of nice that they get a second season, they get to find their legs.’
As a massive Doctor Who geek (if you couldn’t tell yet) I couldn’t help but ask Marc about that show and his thoughts on the casting of the first female Doctor.
“It took me a while to get into Doctor Who. The Matt Smith run was my kind of entry, then I went back to the Ecclestone then to the Tennant. I’m all for it. I feel like that, if there is an undercurrent and a long running theme of Doctor Who it’s change and change is fundamental to that story and to resist change feels antithetical to that show and to being a Doctor Who fan. Is this change what people had in their minds going in? Probably not but that’s what change is. Change is unpredictable and unexpected and the fact that this gets to tell stories in a different way. It’s like rolling the dice and them shooting out of the cup in a way you never could have expected and I’m all for it…”
I rounded things off by asking Marc about his comic’s he was selling on the day.
“Kind of what I end up writing is less superheroes and more what are the movies I would like to see at some point. So there is a book called ‘Monster Attack Network’ that is a work place comedy set on Monsters Island. There is a book called the Highwayman which I’ve been pitching as ‘Cannonball Run’, meets ‘Lethal Weapon’, meets Viagra. Like a bunch of old guys that drive and shoot and blow things up… Then I’ve got this other book called ‘Genius’ that is, if I had to pick a favourite child it’s that one. Which is a book I do for Image with my writing partner Adam Freeman which is about a 17 year old girl born in South Central, that just happens to be the greatest military mind in her generation, who declares war on the LAPD, so it’s not timely at all, there is nothing current in that book at all, it’s just a lark!”
This is always an action backed and incredible day for the fans. I heard of a few people unhappy with poorly lit photos with Pamela Anderson and other organisational snafus along the way, but most seemed to have a fantastic time. For me Comic Con’s in general are summed up by a young lady walking back from getting an inlay slip signed from a CD from a Big Finish audio (Lalla Ward being the last signature she had needed to complete her set) and her shaking with excitement. And the little girl who walked up to Sylvester McCoy and touched her finger to his ET style and running away giggling. And for me personally getting that high five from Matt Lucas and getting to tell Dean Cain as he passed I’d loved his run in Supergirl and Mark Strickson having been a Doctor Who companion when I first watched the show and how much it meant to me to chat to him one to one later in the day. Meeting our heroes really can turn us all into children in the best possible way.