07 April, 2009

Meeting One’s Heroes

Rochelle and I spent this last weekend in Wellington during which time we promoted Rochelle’s new company Retrospace at the Armageddon expo. Almost the entire weekend was spent selling merchandise and I found that this provided an opportunity to meet many fans that I wouldn’t have a talked to had I been at Armageddon as just another attendee. I was stunned at the number of young pre-teen and teenage girls who professed to be fans of the series and obviously knew all of the new series stories in great detail, proudly claiming to have watched "every episode of Doctor Who" (meaning of course everything from 2005 onwards) . These fans seemed to identify very much with David Tennant’s Doctor (rather than, say, Rose or Martha), and at least a couple of young female fans were dressed up as the Tenth Doctor.

One of the first people I met on the first day of the expo was a young man called Floyd. Upon sighting issues of TSV on the table, he asked me if I knew Paul Scoones. When I explained that I was he, Floyd almost exploded with delight, asking to shake my hand and have his photo taken with me. He’d read TSV since he was a boy, and really was genuinely was awed to meet me. I'm not recounting this incident in order to mock him. Although I felt undeserving of his accolades, at the same time I was also impressed that he had such respect and admiration for my work. I met many more TSV readers over the course of the weekend that had nothing but kind words to say about the magazine, but no one came close to this guy in terms of sheer unbridled enthusiasm.

Later in the weekend I got to take Floyd’s place and meet one of my own personal heroes, the Fifth Doctor himself, Peter Davison. Davison, along with Mark Strickson (who played Turlough) were two of a handful of star guests at the expo.

I had been asked by the organiser, Bill Geradts, to interview Peter and Mark in a panel on stage on both days of the expo. I arrived with a prepared list of questions covering aspects of the careers of both men, only to learn from Bill that the two actors had decided that they didn't want to be interviewed and instead preferred to take questions from the audience. I was a bit deflated at this having gone to some effort and also told a number of people that I'd be conducting the interviews, but at the same time I was also a little relieved. I’d been concerned about how the interview would be received by both the actors and the audience alike. It also freed me up to spend more time on the Retrospace sales table where it rapidly became clear that Rochelle would be swamped with customers for most of the weekend.

Photo: Peter Davison (L) and Mark Strickson (R) on stage at Armageddon.

I needed to present Peter Davison with a copy of the latest TSV issue, which contained an interview that Adam McGechan had conducted with him many months earlier. I waited around until the autograph queue had slowed to a trickle, and then joined the end of the line. The woman immediately ahead of me had a large stack of photos for Peter to sign, and I could see that although he was still being pleasant to her, that he’d really rather be doing something else.

I nipped past the woman and instead struck up a conversation with Mark Strickson, who was sitting next to Peter. I’d interviewed Mark almost twenty years earlier at an Auckland convention, and told him this. Mark understandably didn’t recall our earlier meeting, but it broke the ice and I told him that I was writing information subtitles for the BBC Doctor Who DVDs, and we compared notes on a couple of specific incidents from his stories that I’d been researching.

Peter Davison had up until this point looked to me understandably rather weary at having signed so many autographs, but as he listened in on our conversation his face lit up with a broad smile and he began talking to me, offering his own thoughts on the stories we were discussing. He asked about which titles I was working on and the three of us discussed the upcoming releases. (I won’t go into specifics as all of the titles I’m doing have yet to be announced on the schedules.)

Having gained Peter’s undivided attention, I then got to talking with him about his other roles and I told him about my great appreciation for another of his series, A Very Peculiar Practice. We shared our mutual hope that the second series would one day come out on DVD (Peter felt that the fact that it was made by BBC Birmingham had effectively shut it out of the schedules). He seemed delighted at my suggestion that At Home with the Braithwaites was his opportunity to play a raving unhinged character after having been perhaps the only truly sane one in Peculiar Practice.

I presented Peter with TSV 76, and he seemed genuinely touched that I’d gone to the trouble of handing it to him in person. We shook hands and he thanked me very much for talking to him. I think he was relieved that I’d talked to him as a fellow professional, our common ground being that we both worked on the BBC Doctor Who DVDs, and that I hadn’t asked for a photo or an autograph like so many hundreds of fans had done over the weekend.

I came away from that meeting feeling elated at having met a childhood hero. Peter Davison had been my Doctor when I was a teenage fan, and for nostalgic reasons remains a firm personal favourite amongst all of the actors to have played the role.

As I'm sure Floyd would agree, it can be a thrilling experience to meet one’s heroes.