Doctor Who may be a worldwide phenomenon unlike any other today, but back in the 1970s, its fandom was small, although growing, and one organisation, the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, was at the forefront of celebrating the BBC’s best-known science fiction hero. it’s still going today and it was a delight to be a guest at their latest event, Capitol IV, in Crawley this weekend, invited to mark this year’s 40th anniversary of Doctor Who Magazine alongside fellow former editor Tom Spilsbury.
It’s been a while since I went to anything like this, and it was rather good fun.
There was clearly plenty to entertain the some fans attending over the weekend, including appearances by some of the Doctor’s companions on TV and on audio, including Peter Purves, Katy Manning and Louise Jameson. Daleks trundled through the hotel on a regular basis, pouring out of lifts and reigniting childhood fears of them in bemused hotel staff, who I saw sneaking an early morning peek at a room full of the pepper pot perils.
What’s said in the Green Room stays in the Green Room, but both inside and out, with Series 12 of the “Modern Who” on its way, as you can imagine there was much discussion about what it might feature and, behind the scenes, what would happen on completion, as regards the production team and core cast. There was, inevitably, plenty of rumour a-flying.
Being a guest at an event like Capitol IV is might be different to being an attendee, but it was still a delight to catch up with fans who’d loyally bought Doctor Who Magazine back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Marvel UK inexplicably appointed me its editor in record time. I was delighted too, to meet artist Chris Achilleos for the first time, whose work on the Doctor Who novelisations for Target Books back in the 1970s captured my imagination, particularly when as a household, we didn’t have a TV.
It was also wonderful to catch up with artists Colin Howard and Alister Pearson, neither of whom I have seen for many years but who both provided terrific covers for some editions Doctor Who Magazine during my “era”; and Ian and Mary Wheeler, the former of course a downthetubes contributor and publisher and editor of the brilliant Eagle Flies Again comics zine, published some time back now, later issues designed by myself.
As usual, there were new people to meet, too, including Celestial Toyroom editor Rik Moran – which led to an interesting discussion about an upcoming anniversary for that long-running DWAS title, which has come a long way since the first issues I saw way back in 1978.
(Rik tells me the organisation are slowly digitising all their productions, a treasure trove of interviews and more).
I do hope the panel on 40 Years of Doctor Who Magazine with Tom Spilsbury, hosted by Tony Jordan, didn’t prove too arcane and impenetrable for the early Sunday morning crowd who’d packed the main hall to listen to us. From chatting with attendees afterwards, I don’t think it did, even though I probably rolled out stories they might have heard before the last time I was a guest at a major Doctor Who event, around fifteen years or so ago, perhaps.
There will be more detailed reports on the event on the DWAS web site and within the pages of Celestial Toyroom in due course, and I’ll be cropping up on the Diddly-Dum Podcast soon, as well as terrifying unsuspecting fans with a video appearance on the DWAS YouTube Channel, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the weekend and thank the organisers for inviting me.
They’ve already announced Capitol V for next year, so keep an eye out for that!
Doctor Who © BBC Studios
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.