The seventh Bedford Who Charity Con took place in early April, and raised more than £10,000 for Bedford Foodbank. The event featured three incarnations of the Doctor, a world first of two Davroses (if that is the plural; they could not decide), and never-told-before stories from entertaining guests.
With the world as it is, not only was this a record sum raised for charity by the convention but also its most important fundraiser yet as the foodbank now has close to 1,500 clients and every Friday is handing out 2,000 kilograms of food.
The convention itself was split into the usual mix of on-stage talks, comedic performances, and sessions where attendees (many of them in superb cosplay) could get photos with and autographs from the top-bill line-up of guests.
In the first group of guests to entertain the packed out King’s House venue was ‘the villains’: Brian Croucher (Borg in The Robots of Death and best known for being Travis in Blake’s 7), David Banks (more commonly the Cyber-Leader but also Karl and the Doctor themself in stageplay, The Ultimate Adventure), and Terry Molloy (the greatest scientist in the universe, Davros).
Their time on stage looked at finding the ‘villain within’ when playing bad guys on television, while also discussing the pain of literally being the villain within when prosthetics and costume come into play. It turns out playing Davros involved being tortured as well as dishing it out, being a Cyberman can rub away your humanity, and there is no such thing as good visibility in such costumes. Which made it all the more impressive that the Daleks and Cybermen welcoming attendees to the convention knew exactly where to look when taking photos and that one Dalek from Remembrance could so confidently say ‘MAKE. SURE. YOU. GET. MY. GOOD. SIDE’ as it ‘posed’ for a photo with a young fan.
The Doctor Who Companion also got a chance to ask Banks about his time as the Doctor, which you may be able to read at another point in the space-time continuum…
Following their mini-panel was the first comedy performance, as the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Mrs Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) held auditions to find a new companion. The candidates were a grumpy teenager called Ace (Sophie Aldred), a handsome fellow (David Banks), and a grumpy man who looked a lot like Travis from Blake’s 7 (Brian Croucher). In a truly laugh-out-loud performance, the qualities of the candidates is checked via how well they can ask questions such as ‘Doctor, where are we?’, how well they can complement the Doctor, and how well they can scream. There’s one standout candidate, but then a twist…
After that was an interview with the ‘good guys’: Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor, The unbound War Doctor, and The Curator), Miranda Raison, Sophie Aldred, and Mike Tucker (writer and visual effects expert). They talked about how they tried to bring out their fear of the creatures they faced while acting, the process of writing, and how becoming an actor has to be a need rather than a want, and some interesting insights on 1985 charity single ‘Doctor in Distress’ included an original pressing of the record from the crowd listing the all-star ensemble that Colin Baker got to sing with.
The next line-up on stage was possibly the most anticipated, as relative convention newbie and Fugitive Doctor actor Jo Martin shared the stage with Banks, Croucher, Molloy, and Peter Roy (who acted alongside several Doctors during the original TV run).
Whether being a total novice to Doctor Who or a big fan when first working on the show was one big point of discussion for the actors, and the latest incarnation of the Doctor to come to TV told of her excited response to getting to be able to play on a TARDIS set for the first time, and how she got the role. An opportunity to get autographs from the guests came during the lunch break, as well as a chance to visit all the dealers selling Doctor Who merchandise.
Famed production designer Roger Murray-Leach then gave an incredibly in-depth talk about his career in TV and film, touching on how he met a young Peter Capaldi, the difficulties of making fibreglass props for British science-fiction shows, and the importance of working under a supporting director. Of the few questions that were then put to him by the audience, he then went into even more depth on his craft and why one of his proudest Doctor Who creations was the Victorian sewers in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. It turns out in a time before there were reference photos of such sewers, art designers would have to visit them to get their visual cues…
The afternoon progressed into a charity auction that raised hundreds of pounds: a second comedy performance in which Davros appeared on Desert Island Discs and picked the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ as his third castaway track, and Sophie Aldred did an incredibly convincing Kirsty Young impression; more opportunities for autographs and photos; and then a brief interlude in which Baker and Molloy announced they will be touring theatres of the United Kingdom as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
The final panel featured the pair, Roy and Tucker and a version of Doctor Who Magazine’s ‘Questions from the TARDIS tin’. A question about what made them laugh led to several revealing they held great affection for 1967 visual comedy film The Plank, after which Roy rather warmly revealed he actually featured in it.
Mike Tucker then chatted away with Mike Tucker — which for fans who don’t listen to long-standing radio soap opera The Archers can be explained by the fact that Molloy has played a character in it called Mike Tucker for almost 50 years. Molloy met another incarnation of himself too, as he got to speak to fellow Davros actor Julian Bleach for the first time.
The guests had fun on stage, and so did the audience, but most importantly a handsome sum of money was raised for a very important cause.
Bedford Who Charity Con 8 will be held on Saturday 18th March 2023.