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Why The Doctor Who Companion Exists: A Reflection on the Bedford Who Charity Con

I’ve been mulling over the Doctor Who Companion for some time and don’t worry, this certainly isn’t a “this is the end of the road” piece — the opposite, really. Everyone knows my relationship with Doctor Who is shaky right now — let’s not bang that drum — so why continue with the DWC? It’s hard to put into words exactly, but by the end of this piece, I hope the point comes across…

Because this last Saturday, I was lucky enough to go to the Bedford Who Charity Con, organised by our very own Simon Danes. They raised a HUGE amount of money for many great causes, and I’m so proud to have been involved in even the tiniest of ways. Simon got in some amazing stars too — Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Jemma Redgrave, Mike Tucker, Daisy Ashford, Tim Treloar, Una McCormack, and David Hankinson. A pretty astonishing line-up, and every single one of them was an absolute delight. But this isn’t about those good folk. This about other great folk.

For me, it was a chance to meet a few members of the DWC team in person for the very first time, and wow, I’m so happy that we’ve come together under this umbrella.

I’ve met Simon before; a couple of times, actually. He came all the way to my end of the country to say hello, so we’d spent a couple of evenings chatting Who and our wider lives over dinner. For anyone who has read his articles on the DWC, it should come as no surprise that Simon is a witty, warm, and fascinating man. No wonder he attracts such guests at his conventions. Of course, like everyone on the DWC, he knows his Doctor Who inside out, but isn’t afraid to admit when it’s not his cup of tea or when something is out of his purview. It’s clear he loves it, though. And his dedication is incredible. Nothing seemed too much trouble at the convention, despite his having so much on his plate. He played an exceptional host and this being his brainchild says a lot about how well he understands the fandom and indeed the celebrities. Daphne Ashbrook gave him a massive hug, and Simon is such a nice chap that I was only jealous for the next eight hours, 37 minutes, and 12 seconds.

The first person from the DWC who I saw over the weekend, however, was Frank Danes, another extremely dedicated man who helps the convention run like clockwork. I was a bit unsure of myself when meeting everyone, hanging back and feeling a tad overwhelmed, but Frank immediately welcomed me in with a handshake and a smile. I spent quite some time with Frank over those couple of days and I enjoyed every minute — Frank, similar to his twin brother, is warm and witty, with a sparkling empathy; he connects with you and is really interested in your day-to-day life. He’s one of those quiet geniuses who absorbs information and comes in with considered and valued advice.

That’s something that’s shared by the lovely people I met: they’re all brilliantly smart individuals with a collective cranial weight that would make the Doctor envious. (They’ve not mastered the art of non-technological technology of Lammasteen like the Doctor, though, so maybe we can call that one-all.) Oh, I had to be on my a-game as we discussed books, theatre, languages, and science. Reader: I was not on my a-game. But heck, I did know a bit about the Fisher King from Before the Flood, so ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-nher.

Admittedly, Frank has an edge over everyone else I met — in that he’s also a Dalek. Sorry DWC peers, but how can you top being the supreme being in the universe?

Dalek or not, it felt as if we’d known each other for years.

But Bar Nash-Williams made an excellent point: we have known each other for years. We’ve got to know each other over a decade — only it’s been online, not in real life (“irl” as the cool kids say), and that’s just as valid and important as connecting in person. Then again, Bar is the type of person who makes everyone feel they’d known her for years. She’s incredibly tender yet vibrant; talented and sincere. There’s a lovely understated energy about Bar, this magnetic aura that tells you she’s an exceptionally gifted and enthusiastic person who steps back from the limelight but seems comfortable stepping up to the plate should she need to.

In a way, I’m reminded of a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little she is fierce”. That ferocity is a ferocious intelligence and compassion. And boy oh boy does she know Doctor Who. Bar and I sat together for the fascinating panels and it was a real pleasure to sit with someone who so delighted in facts and in people.

(She’s also an exceptional artist. I’m going to continue to prod her until she lets me displays some of her work on the DWC…)

The last member of our clan who I met at the Bedford Who Charity Con 9 was Ida Wood, someone who asked a question in an early panel but who was at the far end of the theatre so I couldn’t properly see — then when I went looking for her, I was largely unsuccessful. I did spot Ida talking to Frank! But I was in a huge queue to get Jemma Redgrave’s autograph so couldn’t split off, lest I find myself at the back of the epic queue again. It’s bizarre that it took so long to find Ida; I quickly found that I naturally gravitated towards these wonderful DWC contributors.

Fortunately, Bar and I found Ida during a later panel and we spent a good long while chatting. Because Ida is an astonishing ball of knowledge and energy. She’s vibrant and contemplative, and clearly has a deep understanding of Doctor Who, of the media, of journalism, of… well, frankly, so very much.

L – R: BACK: Una McCormack, Daisy Ashford, Daphne Ashbrook, Paul McGann, Jemma Redrave, David Hankinson (not to mention a UNIT soldier and some Time Lords).
MIDDLE: Tim Treloar, Bar Nash-Williams, Simon Danes, Frank Danes, Philip Bates.
FRONT: Ida Wood, and Potato the IKEA elephant.

I’ve been a freelance writer for around 12 years now — professionally, at least, though I’ve been writing for free and for my own projects since long before that — yet I was blown away by Ida’s thorough awareness of this business; so too her enthusiasm and perception of writing and editing at all levels. She has some mind-blowing and affecting stories to tell, but they’re not mine to reveal: if you ever meet Ida, however, spend some time to chat to her because you’ll be amazed. She is rather inspirational.

There are many unifying factors between these wonderful folk, but one I’m especially happy to see is an awesome selflessness. Ida was incredibly focused on helping promote the convention and get good coverage for the DWC: she even stood at the back of one of the panels so she could get a good quality photo of the guests all together on stage, having planned exactly where to stand at the right time. When one of our party was feeling a bit overwhelmed, Bar noticed and took them to one side for a stroll and a chat. And need I say more about Simon and Frank’s kindness when they do so much to raise a lot of money for charity and make sure everyone is catered for, is happy, and has an excellent time?

I’ve not mentioned the rest of the crew who all beavered away behind the scenes to make the Bedford Who Charity Con work so smoothly. What seems effortless is the exact opposite, as is often the way. I’m afraid you’re too numerous to mention (though I will single out Andrew Moul, the Stage Manager, who worked tirelessly to make the day such a success — while also being extremely welcoming and friendly with newbies like me, even arranging for me to come along to dinner in the evening when I would’ve otherwise have been let loose alone on an unsuspecting Bedford… by which I mean, I would’ve probably grabbed a Big Mac and hibernated in my hotel room). Either way, thank you very much to every single one of you.

So thank you, too, to everyone who has contributed to the DWC in one way or another over the years.

And that is why the Doctor Who Companion continues.

Oh, but I can hear Bar’s voice in my head, instructing me to say something nice about myself. Well, Daphne Ashbrook gave me a massive smile and said “you’ve got dimples! Oh, you’re so cute!” Gosh, I need to lie down for a few days.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Why The Doctor Who Companion Exists: A Reflection on the Bedford Who Charity Con

by Philip Bates time to read: 6 min
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