16 September 2016

Good Times! #4 The Anniversary Party 1983 & Interface 3 1984

The Doctor Who Anniversary Party (review published in `Shada` 1984) 
Who would have thought that when Doctor Who began all those years ago in grainy monochrome as a children's show that, some twenty years later it would have provided the impetus for an event like the Anniversary Party, held at the Grand Hotel Birmingham on September 3/4 1983. It's one of the greatest achievements of television that it has brought together as many people from different areas of the country who might not have otherwise crossed paths and if I'm getting unusually philosophical its probably because I'm still recovering from the sheer gut wrenching horror of the Demon Driver, Steve Mercer, speeding out of Brum at the weekend's conclusion as if we were being chased by a dozen homing missiles; hapless onlookers diving for cover. Not that I exaggerate, though if I told the truth about some of the things which went on that weekend, you wouldn't believe a word. So here goes with the (relatively) censored version.

Friday evening - found my clique quickly. You know how it is at DWAS events. There's the Executive clique, the 'Skaro' clique, the poseur's clique etc etc. I suppose we're the MLG plus clique with such stimulating company as Justin Richards, David (my T-shirt speaks volumes) Richardson and of course the ubiquitous Ribena addict Gary (Me, edit your review?) Russell. We spent the time blocking the corridor, lending David Owen money, keeping Philip Ince smiling and hiding the fact we'd brought a dreadful fanzine to sell, but enough of that. 

Saturday morning and we registered with less hassle than usual and entered the portals of the hall, described in much detail last year. Different seating arrangements this time though, making it far easier to see one of the two video screens through which one story from each Doctor (apart from Davison) was shown. `Planet  of Giants` opened the proceedings in an unexpected way. Better effects wise than we've been led to believe, it nevertheless seemed a bit staid and,stodgy -maybe two episodes would have sufficed. The actual plot dealing with Forrester, DN6 etc was drawn out and largely unexciting, though giving the perspective of the dead insects, seen first as giant size corpses by the TARDIS crew and later normal size by the humans was a great help in bringing out the scale  of the problem. Conveying huge matchboxes is one thing but trying to realistically show a giant cat leads to fairly unconvincing use of close-ups of the animal not helpd by amusing B-movie music (which never quite seemed to match the scene it was backing up). So, while it was great to see it (another one ticked off the list) I don't really see its name going up in lights as an all time classic.
`The Mind Robber` is an entirely different matter. Having seen some of the excellent Troughton monster stories, I always imagined I'd loathe this more unusual one. However it was mostly excellent, though the ending was a let down resorting to comic strip/ pulp cliches rather than the measured pace of the story up till then. I don't agree with a reviewer elsewhere who said that the middle section was just padding - in fact it did a marvellous job in putting across the futility of the situation in which the time travellers found themselves and allowed scope for interplay between the leading trio. Visually, there was a trick round every corner - I thought the White Robots were very striking and the MasterBrain a good variation on the obvious computer which has been used so many times. As I said, the end was only to be watched with a wry grin and tongue firmly in cheek. 

This story was spread over lunchtime, which was an expensive salad and a few drinks before dashing back for the rest of it and Mat Irvine, the Beeb's visual effects man (or rather one of eighteen in an overall department of two hundred, he informed us). Ironically, working closely with a programme about time travel over the years, Mat came back time and time again to relate that his biggest headache was lack of time rather than money. The effects, he told us, could be better if filming was less crowded, but it is insights like this which allow us to appreciate more the incredible hard work which is put in for things we often see for a mere five seconds. Mat submitted himself to our ultimate terror - the autograph session and was joined in that task by Peter Moffatt, who wasn't interviewed until the Sunday.
Saturday evening saw the fancy dress come out for those brave (or foolish) enough to flaunt themselves thus. Hence, we had such delights wandering around as Leela, Vorg, various Doctors (including one excellent Troughton get-up) and assorted French schoolgirls (well, Romana actually) and some wally in a Hawaiin T-shirt!. `Claws of Axos` was shown too, a riot of colour (reflecting the evening really), which demonstrated all the successful traits of the Pertwee era - the traditional research centre, the monsters (in this case one of the best I think) and their battles with UNIT together with another tour de force from both Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado.

Talking of tour de forces and that, it seemed there was an unofficial drinking competition between Dave Owen and Steve Mercer which left them both as capable of reality as Hindle after a night out on the tiles. Steve opted far a four hour marathon over (and often nearly in) the sink while Dave dragged me out to the MacDonalds (after Peter Moffatt turned him down). Alec Charles waited for Richard WaIter's offer of a drink in vain (a long standing agreement of feudal origin I believe) and David Saunders pretended he wanted to come to an MLG meeting, all too pithy for David Richardson in his title sequence/squashed tiger T-Shirt. A strange night indeed. 

Sunday morning came the afterburn. Firstly, Steve Howell looking like I'd not seen him since that infamous Blackpool 82 do, then Dave Owen, white as a sheet (and his clothes) and Philip Ince smoking manically. Alec had decided to develop a Brum accent and describe everything as 'brill' whilst Gary just looked at us in disgust (Ribena is good for you!)

Having missed Dick Mills on Saturday night (sorry) the events for me kicked off on Sunday with a showing or part two of `Mawdryn Undead` as a prelude to the Peter Moffatt interview. Apparently he was overwhelmed by the DWAS and very happy to talk for nearly an hour on anything (except naturally `The Five Doctors`), proving himself revealing. It's interesting that the Party seemed to concentrate more on the back room boys, because they will often tell you a lot more than the stars which you don't know, though actually our 'in front of camera' guest this time, Mark Strickson, was an exception and gave a lively and very funny interview on his relatively short stay as Turlough (though he seemed to think otherwise). He certainly enjoyed the programme and is only leaving because he 'desperately' wants to get into more theatre work. A lengthy autograph session followed that and then came lunch. 
A word here about the fanzine sale, dominated by the twin towers of DWAS and CMS with various others like 'Eye of Horus', 'Skaro', 'Shada', 'Aggedor', 'Cerebetron Mentor' and 'Time Watcher' selling like hot cakes inbetween. (All starting to look remarkably similar as Peter Lovelady put it). The event did fizzle out a little on Sunday afternoon, with `Pyramids of Mars` being shown. The story was a mite too familiar to hold interest. Still, we reformed the cabal for more jokes at Dave's expense while Alec finally revealed his portable confectionery shop and offered the custard creams around. One by one, people took their leave until a rather weary Steve Mercer broke the sound barrier on the way home to Liverpool.

I was glad that the emphasis wasn't on packing every moment with guests so an actual party atmosphere was suggested and once again thanks to Paul Zeus and company for organising it, and David Howe, your wonderful MC. 

Interface 3 1984  (review published in `Aggedor` 1984)

There's nothing particularly clever about arriving at a convention ludicrously early and being dragooned into dragging clumsy tables up awkward stairs, so guess who managed it? There I was, exhausted before the day had begun. The cause of my perspiration? A long, wooden table. There were plenty of long, wooden tables upstairs in a hastily transformed conference room, which was quickly littered with hundreds and thousands of fanzines. "You can have a table each" said David Howe, as Alec Charles, Richard Marson and I  unloaded Ealing's equivalent of gold bars from Gary Russell's car in the form of  issue six of 'Aggedor'. So, we set it all up really tidily (cunningly next to 'Shada'),whereupon Mr H. returned with the instruction to 'double up'. As lunch wasn't till much later, we took this to mean that we had to share a table. Yes, it was getting cramped. Who should return, with Azal-like certainty, for a third time but the self same Ref  Dept supremo and a new order- "three fanzines to a table". This was too silly to contemplate and we quickly foisted our third label onto another table.
First off, after Gordon Roxburgh had said his piece were the first two episodes of `Invasion of the Dinosaurs`, the featured story for this event. There followed on the guest side both former producer and script editor, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, who, interviewed by Ian McLachlan, explained their shaping of the Pertwee era. One person even tried to get them to reveal other choices for Tom Baker's part, but, apart from the late Richard Hearn, they weren't telling. Terrance Dicks was also quizzed on `The Five Doctors`  claiming "poetic license" in most cases; and Barry Letts, whose first DWAS event it was, seemed to enjoy it, revealing, amongst other things, that Ian Marter had auditioned for the Captain Yates part.
The lunch break was another opportunity to drum up sales for 'Aggie'; and being behind the 'zine table was a different way of passing the time despite all the noise Alec was making (though most of the noise came from his loud red trousers!). It would seem that, once verbally pinnioned, only a few attendees will refuse to buy your wares, whereas far fewer would even bother to look if you didn't shout at them! Without the privileged position held by `Skaro` before the registration desk, we had to resort to the lure of free chocolates to attract people to our table!
The timetable for Interface was very cramped, so the DWAS Exec Panel was dropped (top floor preferably, someone said) though David Saunders did point out on stage that "we've never had a woman". He was talking about people playing the Doctor, of course! 

PM saw the three guests from front of camera- Jon Pertwee, Nick Courtney and John Levene. Thankfully, they steered clear of some of the stories they'd told before, concentrating very much on `The Five Doctors` and `Invasion of the Dinosaurs`. One member of the audience asked Nick Courtney if he ever wore a hairpiece. Jon Pertwee mentioned his forthcoming autobiography, 'Moon Boots and Dinner Suits`,  the misfortunes surrounding  Worzel Gummidge and, in answer to one question, just what will happen to his velvet jackets after his death! 
A few other things which occurred during the day included tributes to Roger Delgado and Douglas Camfield with excerpts from all the former Master's stories, and `Inferno`  (most of which Camfield didn't direct- never mind). There was JN-T, who gave us all a good talking to, and who managed to double DWB’s sales by slagging it off on stage.
'Twas all over too soon, and we packed away quick, before we got lumbered with lifting any more tables, while JN-T held court nearby. There was a social gathering in the evening in the hotel bar that was roughly the size of a postage stamp. The evening played host to a muItitude of happenings including somebody shouting ''well, if that's the way you want
it, I resign!" and storming out, a slightly intoxicated John Levene proclaiming "America is crap!", David Saunders wearing his old curtains, Gordon Roxburgh in some trousers embarrassingly similar to Alec's (made a change from the kilt, though!), some Clapperton guy talking to anyone who'd listen (me), and a certain person from Maidenhead, masquerading under the pseudonym of U. Tillock. Then we all went back to Alec's (well, me, Gary, Richard, Peter Lovelady and Andrew Martin) and we spent the night pontificating on what a brilliant story `Invasion of the Dinosaurs` was.    

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