It’s Sunday 28 November, and three Doctors – Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann – plus companion Katy Manning (Jo Grant from the Jon Pertwee era) and Stephen Moore (a Silurian from this year’s Cold Blood) are fielding queries from the respectably sized crowd at Collectormania London. As usual, certain audience members are asking the questions that matter. Hmm, who would win that fight?
“I think it would depend,” replies Colin. “If it was wrestling, I might have a chance. If it was boxing, I think they’d have me.”
I suspect that he’s given this subject some previous thought.
“Paul, what colour was your velvet jacket [in the Doctor Who TV movie]?” asks one chap. “There’s been some debate about that.”
“Yes, there has,” ponders Sylv.
“Bottle green,” replies Paul to silence. “…I made that up.”
He replies: “I’m here under false pretences. I’ve never been a Doctor Who, but I’ve been in a Doctor Who. And, er, that’s about it, really.”
Despite walking with a stick, Sylv takes it upon himself to be the ‘man with the mic’, roaming surprisingly quickly around the audience to take questions. At one point, he’s joined by Paul, and Colin briefly takes over near the end.
Colin is the first guest to tackle a question properly – a surprising moment, given that the question is that weather-beaten chestnut: “Who is your favourite Doctor?”
“Patrick Troughton,” replies Colin, after checking whether the person asking was serious. “He did the first physical part of the whole thing, which is making sure that regeneration actually works. And without him, we wouldn’t be sitting here. And I loved him as a man. So he’s my favourite.”
The audience applaud. Sylv, too, admits a love for Pat, “because he is the very first Doctor I ever watched. I think you tend to like your first Doctor or your first love, and you hang on to them. Now, Jon Pertwee I loved immensely, because he was the funniest man off the stage, and I got to know him. We became great friends.”
Sadly, Jon died a week before the UK premiere of Doctor Who: The Movie, which starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor – his only televisual appearance as the Time Lord (he has, of course, played the Doctor in many, many audio plays for Big Finish). Would Paul reprise the role on TV if he was asked?
“Yeah, I would,” he says. “I’m just waiting for the phone to ring. Seriously. Every year, there are rumours of The Five Doctors and The Ten Doctors, and this, that and the other. I just want the phone to ring.”
Does he think that the TV movie’s ‘US-centricity’ contributed to its failure to launch a new series? Did the film lose some of the show’s quintessential Britishness?
“It was a TV pilot for American television,” says Paul. “That was its remit. It had to please the Americans, and I think that some of the purists, if I can call them that, back in Britain were perhaps a little bit put out that the sets didn’t wobble, and perhaps some of the things which were iconic were set aside. But it had its job to do. I think that, had it been picked up, had it gone into a series, then everything would have been included later on and everybody would have been happy.”
Touchingly, one gent who’s handed the mic admits that, though he’s been a Doctor Who fan since 1982, he hadn’t “seen a Doctor in the flesh” before today, and that it’s really quite something. He wonders whether any of the panel have any interesting stories about fans they’ve met.
Katy tells the tale of her meeting with the mother of a young fan in the snow at Camberwell Green. At the time, Katy was arguing with a “nasty little man” about his rude manner: “All this was going on, and a little voice behind me said: ‘Excuse me, but are you Katy Manning?’ So I thought, do I confess or not?” She did, and ended up signing a book. “And then about a year or so ago, I got on to a bus,” says Katy. “And a little boy came up to me and said: ‘Excuse me – you signed my mummy’s book a couple of years ago that she bought me for Christmas.’”
As the audience are cooing, Colin chimes in: “I want to tell you my fan story!” So he does.
“I am in a hotel in America at a convention, and I open the door in the morning, and lying across the floor outside my door is this girl dressed as Captain Yates. I say: ‘Excuse me, what are you doing there?’ ‘I’m guarding you, sir.’ ‘Well, I don’t actually need a guard, and your guard, even with a dummy rifle, is not very good.’ ‘No, it’s not a dummy, sir – it’s a real one.’ She opens it and there are bullets inside. ‘I’m in the National Guard. They sent me to guard you, to make sure the fans didn’t bother you.’ ‘You’re actually bothering me quite a lot. Can you go and guard somebody else, please?’”
“I did a cruise in the Caribbean,” he says. “At the end of it I was with my wife in the cabin, and a kid knocked on my door. A girl had been at my shoulder all the way through the cruise, even when I went to the gents’ toilet; she was everywhere.
“And this kid said that she was threatening to throw herself off the ship, because she was so happy. She said this was the best week in her life, and she thinks that the rest of her life could never achieve this greatness: sharing a cruise with Doctor Who.
“And the kid said: ‘She’s going to jump.’ And I said: ‘Well, tell her to jump. I’m quite happy for her to go.’”
The audience erupts.
“Luckily, my wife was there,” says Sylv, struggling to be heard above the laughter. “She’s much kinder than me, and she went up and talked her down. This young lady has since got herself married and is living very happily… in a lunatic asylum in West Virginia.”