Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 36 : Event Report

Panopticon '93

Event report by Jon Preddle

The anniversary event of 1993 would have to be Panopticon, the annual convention run by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS), in Britain. This year, being the 30th anniversary, the event was co-organised with BBC Enterprises and Marvel UK.

Attendance was limited to 1,200 people, and the event was held at the Novotel in Hammersmith. I registered in February and was number 591, so it was unsurprising that the Con was completely booked out three months before the event.

Setting Up: Friday, 3 September 1993

I had arranged to meet organiser Andrew Beech at the Novotel to help set up, the day before the Con. I learned an important lesson that day: never volunteer for anything! Because I was the right height, I found myself volunteering for Cyberman duties! At mid-day, the official press call for the Con was held at the hotel. Myself and one other Cyberman appeared with a Dalek, Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning in an assortment of poses before twenty or more press photographers. The suit was uncomfortable, hot, and I was dying for a leak! I had left my own camera upstairs so I didn't get any shots, but if any of you ever get to see these photos, I'm the Cyberman without the black ears. I did however get to talk to Katy and Jon later. Jon had to change for an interview, so Jon and I (Jon too!) were in the same room standing in our underpants at one point (I hope that never gets out!).

Later, I volunteered again, this time to stand bent over in the back of a truck, supporting the TARDIS console room walls for an hour's drive across London from Andrew Beech's place to the hotel. When I got out of the truck, I couldn't stand straight for quite a while!

Day One: Saturday, 4 September 1993

The Con started at 10 am. I literally bumped into an old friend, Alistair Hughes, and he was eager to learn what was happening 'back home'. Warwick Gray and Kate Orman were also there, so at least there were a few familiar faces amongst the other 1,196 people!

The Con was officially opened by Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) reading from a prepared speech, then we were entertained by a superbly produced video showing clips from all eras of the show as well as 'rare' pieces of footage. This was accompanied by a special arrangement of the theme music which I'd like to see adopted for a new series - or the movie!

Before the first panel, I had a chance to make a fool of myself on stage. During the two days, compere Nicholas Briggs ran PanoptiQuiz, for which he selected people from the audience to answer a trivia question for a spot prize. I was unfortunate enough to be the first selected. I got the answer right - but was told I was wrong! I didn't want to argue in front of 1,199 people, so I simply shrugged and returned to my seat. The next day, Nicholas Briggs apologised for his mistake in front of everybody, but I still didn't get my prize!

The first panel featured Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). They spoke about the primitive days of early TV, the late Jacqueline Hill, and the short-comings of being a Doctor Who companion. Russell revealed how he thought the Daleks were ludicrous. Dalek operator John Scott Martin joined them and told the usual stories about being inside a Dalek casing.

Each panel was introduced by an episode relevant to the featured guests. These provided a break for those who wanted one. The War Machines Episode 4 introduced Michael Craze (Ben) and Anneke Wills (Polly), making her first Panopticon appearance. Wills told of the problems she had with The Smugglers director Julia Smith, but added that this story was her favourite. They were then joined by Frazer Hines (Jamie), whom Anneke hadn't seen in twenty-six years!

Following lunch, The Evil of the Daleks Episode 2 opened the Deborah Watling (Victoria) and Frazer Hines panel. The usual stories about the 'back passage' and Victoria's knickers were told, then Nicholas Courtney joined them on stage. Frazer revealed that Jamie wore lead weights in his kilt and that 'Creag En Tuire' (Jamie's war cry) is Scottish for 'gin and vodka'!

At 2.30 pm, Jon Pertwee arrived in Bessie. He talked about his Carry On movies in which he was always cast in cameo roles playing 'mad' people. He was later joined on stage by Katy Manning (Jo Grant) who talked about her short-sightedness. They revealed that they only ever had one argument in three years of working together - and it was about Brussels sprouts! Nick Courtney made his third (but not last) appearance when he joined them on stage for a photo call.

After a break, Louise Jameson (Leela) and Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane) came on, later followed by John Leeson (voice of K9) on his hands and knees. The two women spoke mainly about being the 'second' to the Doctor. Lis Sladen was then accompanied by Peter Miles (Tragan), and producer Phil Clarke to discuss the making of The Paradise of Death (of which two episodes had already been broadcast).

Following this panel, everyone left the stage, the TARDIS doors opened... and out stepped Tom Baker! He had the stage to himself for over an hour, and in true Billy Connolly fashion, went off on tangents from the questions asked, but still managed to answer them. Such was his power that the audience was totally entranced. This was Tom's first British convention appearance since 1977, so it was a major coup by the organisers to get him. This was a major highlight of the weekend. Tom's appearance was the last event of the day.

Also at the con was an Exhibition Hall open to the general public as well as con attendees. At 6 pm it closed to the public, so I went along for a look. The Exhibition featured a selection of original props and costumes (mostly acquired at Bonhams' auctions) and copies on display. Among the more interesting items was the original model of the Trojan Horse from The Myth Makers, one of the scale balsa wood models of Arbitan's laboratory set from The Keys of Marinus, the original Key to Time prop, and the blue crystal from Metebelis 3 (which was up for bidding in the auction but failed to reach its reserve price). To the general public, a lot of the costumes would have been meaningless as not one of them was labelled. There were even some on display that I didn't recognise!

The hall also featured no less than ten dealers' tables, selling various merchandise. During the weekend, various Doctors and companions appeared for photos (£12 a shot), and autographs (£5 a signature). Needless to say, at these prices, I didn't bother.

For those who had paid £15 (NZ$40) to attend, Saturday evening featured a buffet held in the main hall. This was a total rip-off considering the price and what you got for it - simply finger food and no drinks. Many people, including myself, complained about this, however all was not lost because the con guests and other Doctor Who names were invited to attend. I got the chance to talk to David Banks, Terrance Dicks (who seemed delighted and keen at my suggestion that he visit New Zealand, and gave me his address), Derreck Sherwin, Philip Hinchcliffe, Morris Barry, John Lucarotti, John Wiles and Victor Pemberton (who had just returned from NZ, having visited the NZ Film Commission to arrange co-finance for a new children's TV series to be filmed in New Zealand!). The evening was spoiled not only by the lack of food, but also some stupid band called The Bessies who filked some really stupid songs.

The evening was finished off with the auction, which saw the original TARDIS time rotor (from Seasons 8-20) go for £1250. Other items included part of the wind-chimes from Kinda, the blue Metebelis 3 crystal, some of Gerry Davis's scripts, and a Vogan costume.

Day Two: Sunday, 5 September 1993

The second day opened with the two Romanas - Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward - who came across as wishing they were somewhere else. Mary's favourite story was The Androids of Tara because she got to play three parts. When asked if she'd appear in a reunion story, Mary said she'd only do it if Lalla did.

After a screening of Castrovalva Part 1, Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) and Janet Fielding (Tegan) came on. Matthew seemed to have forgotten all about his time on the series whilst Janet (looking like a thin Roseanne Barr!), made a controversial speech about the bad treatment of the female companions on Doctor Who, making it clear that she'd not seen Season 25 or 26. Nick Courtney came on (yet again) and revealed that he had written a 'Brigadier in Geneva' book, due to come out in 1994. [Update: the book has never been published.]

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant took the stage next, and talked about the 'Stranger' videos. Colin showed a trailer for the latest in the series - The Airzone Solution which also features McCoy, Davison and Pertwee. Colin is a very funny man, and it is evident that had he been permitted to play the Sixth Doctor his way, he would have stayed in the series longer.

Dragonfire Part 1 followed lunch, serving as an introduction for Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred (Ace). Sylv looked like a wild Italian waiter, with his long hair and flowing coat and scarf, while Sophie was very sophisticated in her gown and hat. Unlike the other guests, Sylv and Sophie wandered around the audience. Like Tom Baker they held the audience's attention with their strong partnership as strong off the screen as it was on.

The final event had Pertwee, McCoy and Colin Baker on stage together - and in a surprise appearance, Peter Davison walked in to join them. It was just a pity that Tom Baker didn't also appear to complete the set of surviving Doctors. The discussion mainly focused on The Dark Dimension, and Davison revealed that the entire project had jumped the gun a bit as none of them had seen the script or signed any contracts, and yet it had been announced as if their participation was assured.

When asked what their most dangerous moment on the show was, Pertwee told his 'hovercraft-out-of-control' story, Davison said being shot by Colin, whilst Colin said his most dangerous moment was working with Paul Darrow! Each then spoke of fond memories of Patrick Troughton, whom everyone wished could have been there. At the end of their panel, the four Doctors were joined on stage by the companions for a final photocall.

At 5 pm the con came to an official end with another screening of the excellent 'opening titles' clips video (I want a copy on video!).

Despite the fiasco of the buffet, the con was on the whole very enjoyable. It was a chance to see five Doctors, to talk with many of the names behind Doctor Who, to catch up with old friends, and to make some new ones along the way.

[Picture: Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, and Colin Baker] [Picture: Jon Pertwee and Jon Preddle]

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).