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Novacon '91: A Kiwi-Bird's Eye View

Event report by Jon Preddle

NovaCon 1991 was held at Noah's on the Beach in Newcastle, a town some 130 or so kilometres north of Sydney. The con was run by the Newcastle Doctor Who Fan Club, who have been operating for several years, and boasted no less than three guests, namely Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Mark Strickson (Turlough), and Dudley Simpson (incidental music composer).

I arrived in Sydney early on Friday, November 22, and it took a further three hours by train to get to the venue. I was rather buggered by the time I arrived, around 3 pm. The motel was a six-floor building, with the main function room on the ground floor, and the video room and dealers' room both on the Sixth.

That evening there was a cocktail party, which was more or less a get-to-know-you affair. At 9.30 on the Saturday morning the con officially commenced - with a brass band playing familiar TV themes, and conducted in parts by Dudley himself!

Throughout both days the dealers' room was open and I managed to pick up a few goodies, but I chose not to enter the video room for fear of being lured in by the Season Five Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes!

Dudley's talk was the first item on the programme. He spoke of his early childhood and how he became involved in music. His career was varied, with experience in both ballet and orchestration. His first involvement with Doctor Who was way back in 1964 when he was asked to compose the incidental music for Planet of Giants.

From then and right up until late 1979 he composed scores for well over 300 episodes! In fact, he was the first person ever to play a synthesiser - an eight-key device made at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the late 1960s. This device was used to create the music during the Pertwee Era. When JNT took over as producer, he no longer wanted to use Simpson, but the composer was busy with Blake's 7 anyway - he actually scored all 52 episodes, including the theme music!

Simpson has also scored for various other TV programmes, and retired at 65, returning to his native Australia to work in the garden! He was recently offered the chance to tour with a ballet, but declined.

An auction followed Dudley's talk, with several interesting things going on sale. I didn't indulge!

Mark Strickson's talk was after lunch. For those who were at Conflagration or WhoCon in 1990, this would have been dull as he told the same anecdotes, but he also had some new stories to tell, namely about his operations for ulcers, getting drunk both in Lanzarote and at New Zealand conventions! He is now officially a citizen of Australia, and confessed he moved there because he was a beach bum! A signing session followed, where he was selling (at A$2.50 per page!) pages of his only copy of a script for Resurrection of the Daleks. I offered to buy the lot, but he wasn't interested.

That evening was Irongron's Banquet, presided over by King Dudley and Prince Mark. The meal opened with a toast to the Doctor - after all it was the programme's 28th anniversary that very day. After the meal there was a masquerade which sported no less than five Doctors, and to end the evening there was a Dalek cake cut in further celebration. I retired to my room after midnight ready to face the next day.

Sunday morning commenced with a second auction which still failed to open my wallet, and then while we all waited for Katy to show up (she was already 30 minutes late!), Dudley entertained us with a question and answer session.

Katy finally arrived - I couldn't believe how good she looked - thin and wrinkleless, she also wore a tight, short, black... well, er, um... There must obviously be something to all this time travel stuff...! She talked all about her time on the show, reciting anecdotes about the shrinking trouser suit she wore in The Sea Devils; exploding joke cigarettes given to her by Jon Pertwee; building an aeroplane out of chairs in the BBC rehearsal rooms and playing pilots with Jon whilst waiting for the other cast members to show up; prawn cocktails up the nose, mating in a wini-van (I'll leave that one to your own interpretation!), and easter eggs stuck on Nicholas Courtney's trousers! She also entertained us with her voices and impressions. Her Simpsons and Popeye imitations are a scream (she later sold a cassette of her voices for A$ 69 in the auction). She told of the embarrassment caused by her short-sightedness - using a mirror that wasn't a mirror, conversations with lamp shades, and falling off the stage during a performance.

At one point she asked if anyone was getting bored. I happened to stand up at that point, and she proceeded to harass me for the next five minutes! Katy is a riot, and I only hope she can be persuaded to come to NZ for a convention.

After her talk, the other two guests joined her in a game of Blankety-Blanks. This involves two teams, who have to fill in the blanks of a sentence, and if they match the guests' answers, they get points. One funny line was: "The Brigadier touched his (blank) and looked at the glistening on his finger." Needless to say, the answers were all rather rude - with Katy being the worst offender!

Following lunch, Katy and Mark gave a talk on acting. Interestingly, they have opposing views. Whereas Katy does mainly stage work, Mark thinks theatre is "big wank", and prefers TV. Mark related a few more familiar anecdotes followed by an autograph session. The last event was the Double Gamma Awards ceremony, with Dallas Jones taking the award for best contribution to fandom (for the umpteenth time), and Kate Orman picked up three awards for her zine, Dark Circus. Then the con was over. An enjoyable two and a half days and thank you to all involved for putting on such a good show.

I had another week in Australia in which to spend money and see people - I visited Dallas Jones to see how Data Extract was put together. Oh the things you can do with a computer! And at Kate Orman's house, I had the chance to see some McCoy episodes dubbed into German! Rather amusing stuff.

Anyone intending to visit Sydney should check out the museum there. In the prehistoric exhibition there is a display called 'Australia through Time'. It starts with a landscape showing Australia way back in the dinosaur days. To walk on to the next section you pass through an 'airlock' where you are subjected to a flashing blue light accompanied by the sound of the TARDIS dematerialising! This is not to be missed!

Katy Manning is overjoyed at finally getting a chance to meet and be photographed with the ubiquitous Mr Preddle...

This item appeared in TSV 26 (December 1991).