Monday, 30 May 2016

DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE 500th ISSUE EVENT, Copthorne Hotel, Windsor

Doctor Who Magazine has just reached its 500th issue. I was there at the celebratory day on Saturday 28 May.

All together now. (Image copyright: Tenth Planet)

The family had a quiet day yesterday. For Dawn and myself, this meant a duvet day eating comfort food, Facebooking and watching ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. Say what you like about Terry Nation, but he can do grim and gritty like nobody else. His tale of a World War 2-style Earth occupation by Skaro’s finest is ideally suited to atmospheric black and white… In the evening, we asked Poppy (8) if she’d like to join us – having really got our Dalek on by now – to watch ‘The Chase’. Whenever the Daleks appeared, she grinned from ear to ear, lost in her own private, happy world. As I watched her, I reflected that when the story was originally shown in 1965, I was only a year old. Dawn wasn’t born until 1969. Poppy wasn’t even a glint in someone’s eye.

I’ll always remember Saturday 28 May 2016. I was amazed and pleased to find myself a guest at the event celebrating 500 issues of Doctor Who Magazine. It was very much a rites of passage thing for me. This is going to sound very sentimental, but the mag’s been a constant companion for me ever since I cycled to my local newsagent in Lowestoft in 1979 to buy the first issue. Throughout the highs and lows of my life – romances, college, breakdowns, employment, unemployment, births, marriages and deaths – buying the publication I still call ‘the Monthly’ (it’s variously been Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly and now Magazine) has somehow kept me going. I now write for the publishing franchise that’s been extended to The Essential Doctor Who range and the annual Doctor Who Magazine Yearbooks, so Saturday was very much a childhood dream come true.

There was a significant first. Dawn and I had persuaded her daughters Poppy and Rose (16, left and bottom) to come with us. Some life-changing things have happened to me this year: as well as digging myself out of the ditch of long-term unemployment, I’ve acquired a bride-to-be and a family. For people in Doctor Who fandom who know me of old – trouser-losing antics in Swansea, ending up in Folkestone after an alcoholic night out at the Fitzroy Tavern – this might come as a surprise, but not as much as the pleasant surprise it’s been for me. To have Rose and Poppy with us at the DWM 500, seeing their new old man signing (a surprisingly large number) of autographs, and to watch them listening in rapt attention to costume designer Alexandra Tynan talking about the origins of the Cybermen… the only words I have are ‘very moving.’
The event was also a great way to catch up with people I haven’t seen for years – in one case, decades. I last saw Bill Gallagher when he was editor of the fanzine Web Planet when I wrote for it in 1982. He walked up to my signing table and asked if I remembered him; he hasn’t changed a bit. Bill’s got two children of his own now.

Great memories like that happened all day. Thanks to Marcus Hearn, I got Tom Baker producer Philip Hinchcliffe to sign my novel of Target (left), the tough cop show he made after Doctor Who. This led to me buying him a drink and chatting about his other BBC drama Private Schulz (1981), HBO and my and Mike Kenwood’s imminent Callan guide. We met Target books artist Jeff Cummins in the bar and he revealed that he’d been a huge fan of the series about an existential hitman. So much so, that in the 1970s he’d drawn a portrait of Edward Woodward, who played Callan, and sent it to him. Ted duly signed it and sent to back. Of course, our next question was – hearts in mouth – did he still have it? Watch this space...

Towards the end of the day, all the guests crammed into the photo studio to have our photograph taken for posterity. I was sandwiched between Rob Shearman, writer of the TV episode ‘Dalek’ and all round nice guy, and David J. Howe, owner of Telos Publishing and all round nice guy. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Dawn took Poppy and Rose home in the afternoon as they were a bit tired – after all, we’d had the poor dears up since 6am so we could get to Slough for 10. In their absence, I enjoyed myself to the point I ended up on the wrong train, and had to spend what was left of the night kipping on the pavement outside an Oxford college. Considering the amount of personal nostalgia generated by the event, a confused alcoholic detour on the way home was somehow appropriate (if not inevitable).

Which brings me back to watching ‘The Chase’ with Dawn and Poppy. The little munchkin is very proud of the man she now calls Dad, to the point where she delights in cuddling up to watch the great William Hartnell do his stuff.

God bless Doctor Who. And God bless Doctor Who Magazine.

Carpe diem.

Many thanks to Tom Spilsbury, Peter Ware and Emily Cook at DWM for such a grand day out.

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