The worlds of New Who and Classic Who collided at London Film and Comic Con, as actors from both eras sat down for a chinwag.
The panel took place in the second stage area of Olympia in London. Soon seats were filled, and some were even happy to take in the talk standing at the very back of the hall. They were all gathered to see three of Who’s finest actors; Rusty Goffe, Lalla Ward and Mark Strickson.
Goffe is known for his work as Little John from Series 8 Episode 3 ‘Robots of Sherwood.’ He was a memorable addition to Robin Hood’s gang, providing quick jolts of comic relief and vigour. This came in great use for the talk, as Lalla Ward and Mark Simpson arrived late, leaving Goffe to entertain the crowd. However, he didn’t shy away from the proceedings and knuckled down to give some great jokes and anecdotes for the crowd’s applause. After all, with his booming charisma, there was no sense that two of the stars were missing.
With no small dose of humour, Goffe spoke of filming on set. Of course, filming Doctor Who can be so immersive and secretive…until a few fans start showing up. Goffe describes that “We were on set in the woods. And there we are, and I say to the Assistant Director ‘there are people in the woods with cameras. There are people in the woods with cameras!’ He said, ‘oh yeah yeah, we get them all the time, they come down to try and see what we’re doing.’ I get back to my hotel, and there we are on Wales Online – our names, who we are and what characters we’re playing!” While fan enthusiasm obviously keeps shows like Doctor Who afloat, spoilers are obviously irksome. Still, Goffe seemed to keep it all in good stride, and definitely saw the funny side.
Goffe then proceeded to round out his solo effort with high praise for the production and its stars. He detailed the experience as “amazing, it was amazing. Two or three weeks of my life down in Wales, really relaxing. The whole production team and Peter Capaldi and Jenna (Coleman) were absolutely terrific to work with.” The on set atmosphere of Doctor Who has always seemed vibrant and energetic. It is great news that this atmosphere has not been lost during the many changes of showrunner and cast. He also saw the finished result and made it known that he was pleased.
After these compliments, Lalla Ward and Mark Stickson took to the stage to a thundering applause. Of course, Ward is famed for portraying the second iteration of Time Lady Romana, assuming the role after Mary Tamm. Unlike Goffe, Ward became particularly aggravated at many of the read-through sessions. She admitted that “Tom [Baker] used to go mad at me. You know that thing where someone makes a statement like ‘we’re going out for lunch.’ And then someone will say, ‘they’re going out for lunch?’ All the time, repetition of the sentence before. Why am I asking this? I’m not deaf! I heard it the first time, the audience is not deaf!” She has a valid point, as much of the classic series is spent with a companion wide eyed and confused. However, the companions are of course no longer used in just a way to make The Doctor shine. Today they are their own personalities brimming with characterisation.
Strickson served as companion Vislor Turlough, travelling alongside Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor. He spoke along similar lines as Ward, stating that Janet Fielding, who was famous for playing Tegan, experienced the same difficulties. Strickson recalled that “Janet was very feminist. So she would thoroughly object to lines that made her look stupid, we tried a few times to swap lines with Peter [Davison].” The resistance to these old ideas is largely part of the charm of Doctor Who, which must constantly push forward and evolve. Ultimately, the actors are not just slumming the script and the part but actively engaging with the material. Such an approach is far more beneficial than many might credit, and an actor who cares about the production will always put in a better performance.
This panel turned out to be very informative and a great insight into the world of Doctor Who behind the camera.
London Film and Comic is sadly over for this year but will return in 2018 courtesy of Showmasters.