Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dimensions of the Third Kind

Let’s just say, I think it was no coincidence that the Director General of the BBC resigned during John Levene’s cabaret act…

Sorry, getting a bit ahead of myself, there. Allow me to explain (sort of): it’s that time of year again, when we bravely sally forth north of the Tyne to the Inn of Holidays at Seaton Burn, for the annual convivium that is Dimensions. We like Dimensions: it’s small but perfectly formed and, Guinness-related incidents aside, an incredibly friendly and relaxed convention. It really doesn’t hurt that we don’t have to go very far to get there, either.

Having learnt our lesson after accidentally winning it the first year we attended, we avoided the Friday night pub quiz and settled down in the bar instead to watch the guests arriving. Granted, there was absolutely no danger of us winning the quiz this year because our ringer Rob Shearman was sadly missing (off being a proper author in Canadia Land), but we still didn’t want to risk it.

Another notable absence was Nick Briggs, who was also beavering away at this here writing malarkey. Nevertheless, the Big Finish crew were there to support their customers’ habits and entertain at their panel, teasing us all mercilessly with veiled hints and knowing winks about the fun stuff they have lined up for the 50th anniversary next year. Still, it was a bit odd not having our annual therapy session with him which, even though we’ve actually only done it twice, has become a proper little Dirty Whoers pre-Crimble tradition.

You can never be quite certain who’s going to turn up to these things until you see the whites of their eyes, so it was good to see Terrance Dicks and Peter Davison arriving on Friday. In fact there was a bit of a cheer as Mr Davison wandered in out of the freezing rain, as he’d had to cancel at the last minute in 2011, with Colin Baker kindly stepping into the breach (something that wouldn’t have been possible this year, seeing as he’s currently upside down eating unmentionables).

There was a distinctly awed hush when Mr Dicks came into the bar later in the evening, and it was lovely to see the genuine affection and reverence the fans have for him, even if that did lead to him being surrounded by far too many glasses of propitiatory wine. Old BBC trooper that he is, though, he was up and about signing autographs at 9am the next morning, when younger, lighter drinkers were still sleeping off their hangovers.

In our usual hopeless idiom, we accidentally ended up having breakfast with two of the guests, something I would never normally do as I firmly believe in them being allowed their privacy at meal-times. And I do mean accidentally: it was very busy in the dining room on Saturday morning so we had to plonk down on a big, long table where a phone indicated the presence of a person or persons unknown. The phone in question turned out to belong to Spencer Wilding (the Minotaur from The God Complex and Vogon Number 1 from the HHGTTG movie), a thoroughly lovely and incredibly tall bloke: so tall, in fact, that it was a relief he was sitting down most of the time as I barely reached his knee when he stood up, and it’s rather tricky to maintain an engaging conversation with a patella. Shortly afterwards we were joined by the beautiful and charming Virginia Hey (Bond Girl and Zahn from Farscape, to name but two) and we had a very entertaining half an hour before getting down to business. Spencer confirmed that Matt Smith is a smashing lad who takes his responsibilities towards his young fans very seriously indeed (as if we ever doubted it!).

We spent a busy day collecting autographs, chatting to friends and listening to panels, the Caves of Androzani one with Peter Davison and Roy Holder being a particular highlight, as was the writers’ workshop with Big Finish’s Mark Wright and Matt Fitton. And then I was dragged to see John Levene’s evening cabaret by the Prof and the naughty people from Tachyon TV and Adventures with the Wife in Space; I accidentally saw some of it last year, for my sins, and it was as if he’d never been away (plus, it wasn’t quite the same when you didn’t have Toby Hadoke’s audio commentary to go with it).

Being lightweights, we went to bed before midnight and therefore missed another evening of slightly tipsy bar-related shenanigans. More autographs and talks followed, including the marvellously wrangled panel starring John Leeson, Nabil Shaban, Brian Croucher and Roy Holder, before podcast friend Bob Fischer of BBC Radio Tees encouraged us to stop being so work-shy and go and do some interviewing. We hadn’t actually planned on doing any this year, but a pixie is always prepared and there were Big Finish guests to mug, er, question.

Beth Chalmers (most notably Seventh Doctor audio companion Raine Creevy) is a very talented lady who we wanted to interview the first year we attended back in 2010, but sadly didn’t have chance to speak with at the time. Well, we’ve finally managed to put that right! Next, we interviewed the stunning and gracious Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan in Blake’s 7 and, of course, Chessene in The Two Doctors). She’s absolutely wonderful, and I will admit to being just a teensy bit star-struck when talking to her (not helped by the fact I kept hitting the wrong buttons on the gadget whilst trying to set up the recording).

Finally, we spoke to Chase Masterson, more familiar to Star Trek DS9 fans as Leeta. She’s recently joined the Big Finish family, working with both the Fourth and Seventh Doctors and currently awaiting the release of the pilot for her own spin-off series, written by Jonathan Morris (he of Festival of Death fame). We can’t tell you what it’s called, or she’d have to kill us. Sorry about that. You’ll just have to listen to the interview…


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