My First Doctor Who Convention: Longleat 1983

Back in 1983, I was one of many who thronged to Wiltshire for the now famous (infamous?) Twenty Years of a Time Lord. Before I reminisce and reflect, a question: how many segments of the Key to Time were there? Write it down, I’ll get back to it later.

Back to April 1983. As anyone who knows me will testify, I’m allergic to planning. This meant I arrived in Warminster on Saturday with no ticket, no accommodation and no idea what was to come. I could write a whole novel about wandering around trying to find somewhere to stay, travelling to Salisbury and making my way back to get a crowded coach on Sunday, April 3rd. We had no idea, nobody did, as to how busy the day was to get. I got in fine and made a massive schoolboy error. I decided to queue for some autographs (Davison and Leeson, amongst others). The error was not realising how many hours I would queue. I came away with my signed postcards and these have long since vanished. What I didn’t do was take the chance to watch the then newly return Dalek Invasion of Earth, or to wander, photograph and take advantage of what still remains a unique and fascinating melange of fans, casual viewers, actors, crew and sundry others.

I made up for it somewhat in the later part of the day, and did get to see some of the sets for various locations, and even side-tracked myself by having a look at the time travelling saucer used in The Flipside of Dominick Hyde. I also watched as various props and other items were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Photo by Jonathan Appleton

This has stayed with me over the years. Longleat was not my first ever convention, though it was my first ever Doctor Who one. I first went to the world science-fiction convention Seacon ’79 in my home town of Brighton. There I also wasted a lot of time queuing for signatures, and you might have hoped I’d learned my lesson then. Suffice it to say, post-Longleat, I don’t queue for signatures any more.

My second ever convention was Hitchercon ’80 an intimate gathering of Hitchhiker’s Guide fans in Glasgow. Plenty of fascinating stories from there for another time. What I did manage to do was bid for a signed script of the first TV episode of HHGTTG, win it and then have to survive two days with almost no money for food, never mind the journey home from Glasgow (at least I had a ticket). This did break me of bidding for items at auctions, much to my chagrin when I look back at what was for sale at Longleat.

Now, how many segments of the Key to Time? Anyone who said six see me later; anyone who said five good effort, must try harder. The answer? Nine. I know because I saw them get sold. Let me explain (and this is very geeky).

The Doctor and Romana only ever collected segments one to five. But, the prop department had to make various combination of partly assembled Key. This meant they made 1+2, 1+2+3, 1+2+3+4 and 1+2+3+4+5. This means in total five individual plus four combined props, or nine altogether. Where are they now? I don’t have one, do you?

So, I had a good day, made my way back to Salisbury and dutifully tried to do better on the Monday. By now lessons had been learned. Did I have a ticket? No. Did I get in? No. Am I any wiser when it comes to conventions? That’s another story.

Photos by Jonathan Appleton.

  • Mack59

    I don’t go to these gatherings, guess you could say I’m an unconventional guy.

    • Dr. Moo

      Oh dear. That was terrible.

      • Mack59

        Yes it was ( said in the voice of 11 )

  • Dr. Moo

    If you’re wondering where the segments of the Key to Time are now you should know that I have the power to do anything I like, absolute power over every particle in the universe, everything that has ever existed or ever will exist as from this moment. Are you listening to me? ‘Cause if you’re not listening I can make you listen, because I can do anything. As from this moment there’s no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There’s only my will because I possess the Key to Time.

    • TheLazyWomble

      Maybe it’s time for a return of the Black & White Guardians.

      • TheLazyWomble

        They could become minstrels.

        • Dr. Moo

          I’m totally in favour of bringing them back.

  • TheLazyWomble

    I went to a couple of DWAS organised conventions starting with Panopticon in 1981. They were much more intimate affairs and the guests mingled with the fans- and there was no charging for autographs. Longleat was an early indication of what would happen to a BBC-run convention: bigger scale but a bit less personal.

  • ghost whistler

    I went to this con! A tenth birthday present.

    Peter Davison drove by the crowd (he touched my hand!) in Bessie. There was an American fan who couldn’t pronounce Troughton properly, and I tried on a Sontaran and Cyberman helmet courtesy of the BBC special fx display.

    There was also, for some reason, a triffid.