Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Interview - Fanboy Mastermind (Part One of Two)

JON PREDDLE
Interviewed by Matt Kamstra (in 1998)

(Matt) Let's start from the beginning. What were your first memories of Doctor Who?
(Jon) I was born in August 1964. My first memory of Doctor Who comes four years later and is the scene from Planet Of Giants in which two figures (the Doctor and Susan) climb down a plug-hole and water pours past them. My only other memory of William Hartnell's Doctor is his regeneration at the end of The Tenth Planet. Curiously, despite their later impact on me, I have no recollections whatsoever of the Cybermen!

Patrick Troughton had more of an impact on me because I was older by the time his stories aired in New Zealand. I do have very vivid recollections of seeing The Moonbase, The Macra Terror, The Evil Of The Daleks, The Tomb Of The Cybermen, The Web Of Fear, and The Wheel In Space. If you chart out when the stories screened—as recorded in Paul Scoones' Listener guidebooks [now online here]—you can see that these Troughton stories aired around June through October 1969, 1970, and 1971. We didn't own a television set, we only rented one during the winter months, which explains the 'gaps' in my viewings.

And yes, I can honestly say—although it's an embarrassing cliche to admit to—I did watch the show from behind the sofa, or through a crack in the door! I can remember being scared to go to sleep one night, an eye on the open bedroom doorway, afraid that a Cybermen would come in and take me out of my bed (obviously after watching The Moonbase), and then almost having a fit when a dark silhouette suddenly appeared in the doorway—my father coming to bid me a good night!

So when was it that you first realised that Doctor Who was more than just a casual fancy?
There are two significant dates: one is 1979, the other 1984 ...

I had watched the programme on and off during the Pertwee years and the early Tom Baker seasons (we had bought our first colour TV during that period), but due to the show always screening on Saturday afternoons I missed a lot of episodes. I can say however that I did see at least one full episode of every story that screened between 1975 and 1979.

1979 could be considered the turning point as it was when I first started reading the Target novelisations. To cut a long story short I started collecting the books when I managed to buy about ten of the books very cheaply in a book exchange. New paperbacks were considered expensive back then at $1.25 (rather cheap by today's standards!) because I got only $2 a week pocket money! But from that point on I made it a goal to collect all the books as there were only about forty at that time.

I had no idea of the story order for the books, but in 1982 I got a copy of Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke's book The Making of Doctor Who which contained an episode guide up to The Hand Of Fear. Soon I was able to recite the broadcast story order off by heart—the first real sign of being a true fan! I also started to subscribe to Doctor Who Monthly around that time. So Who was becoming a hobby ...

In 1982 we got our first video recorder and I was able to tape Part Four of Logopolis a week later, which I played and played and played to the point where I could literally recite it all word for word. And then in 1983 I started taping the Peter Davison episodes.

As I stated earlier, 1984 was another significant year. It was when I met a fellow fan who had obtained 'bootleg' tapes of old Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee stories from another fan in Australia. You can imagine my reaction! After much pleading (!), she kindly made copies for me. From that point on I became a Doctor Who video junkie. And that would be when Doctor Who became more than just a casual fancy—I was now a FAN, in capital letters.

And, alas, now a super fan! You must have a favourite moment in fandom/as a fan? Would I be right or wrong in guessing your appearance on Mastermind?
Actually you're wrong! Mastermind would have been my favourite prior to 1990, but subsequent events superceded that experience.

I have three really favourite moments as a fan, and all of them took place in England! The first was in 1990 when I appeared on the fan quiz slot during the BSB Doctor Who weekend. I got to talk with many of the stars from the show during the set-ups. I'm still 'recognised' by British fans for that brief TV appearance.

Another favourite moment as a fan would have to be attending the 30th Anniversary 'Panopticon' convention in London since it was the fandom event of 1993. The five surviving Doctors were there (I even got to share a dressing room with Jon Pertwee!) as well as many of the companions. It was also a chance to rub shoulders, if you like, with some of the 'new' Who writers such as Gary Russell, Paul Cornell, Kate Orman, and Gareth Roberts, as well as a chance to meet up again with some ex-pat Kiwis like Warwick "Scott" Gray, and Alistair Hughes, who were there also.

The third moment was another convention, 'Space Mountain', which was also in 1993. Again, it was an opportunity to meet fans, and stars, and production personnel from the series.

As for Mastermind, that was ten years ago, and I see it now as having been a challenge from a personal level rather than as something I did as a fan. It's something which I'm a bit embarrassed to talk about now, especially with non-fans. It was still fun to do though.

But if I had to single out one of the above as my favourite, favourite moment, it would have to be 'Panopticon '93'. That was simply awesome!

Yes, well, not much has been written about either of your television experiences. Perhaps you could fill us in a bit?
I applied for Mastermind in January 1988 and was subsequently called up for an audition. A few weeks later I received a letter stating I had been selected for the series—incidentally the programme's thirteenth season (but I'm not superstitious!). I had about two months before recording to brush up on my general knowledge. I knew from studying previous series of Mastermind that they have a mix of recent current events, sports, history, pop culture, and music questions.

They record three editions of the programme at a a time. I was in Heat Seven, which was the second of three editions being recorded that day. They record the show from start to finish, with only two brief pauses between rounds. After the first round (the specialist topics) I was in the lead. After the second round (general knowledge) I was tied with one of the other contestants, but I answered one more question. If it had resulted in a tie, I think I would have still won on the basis that whoever had the least number of 'passed' questions wins.

I was more nervous watching the televised programme than making it. I hadn't told many people, only family and friends. I was a bit scared to show up at work the next day—I was hoping that no one had seen it. Unfortunately one of them had, and he'd told the others!

The semi-final was recorded a few weeks later. Unfortunately due to nerves, I stuffed up the first question which lost me valuable time. I came last! Judith Medlicott—who is a lecturer I believe at Dunedin University—was the winner that year. She got a 100% score.

As for the BSB appearance, I was on holiday in England for three months during late 1990. One of the satellite TV stations, BSB (now defunct), was running a forty-eight hour screening of Doctor Who episodes one weekend in September. They sent a film crew along to the Fitzroy Tavern, a pub in central London at which fans gather once a month, to film 'fans in action'. I was there and when they heard I was visiting from New Zealand they asked if I would appear in the fan quiz in order to give it an international flavour. Naturally I said 'yes'. I was picked up by taxi very early one Saturday morning and taken to the studios. During the day various Doctor Who people came and went to film interviews and links for the weekend. It was very long and tiring—but exciting day. I got to meet and get autographs of many of the actors from all eras of the show.

You mention Mastermind as something you did on a personal basis. How do you see your Mastermind appearance in light of your appearance on BSB?
While Mastermind was a 'serious' experience, the BSB quiz was nothing more than a bit of fun, something which only fans would even see or appreciate. I remember reading a review of the weekend in a UK fanzine which said the people in the quiz were a bunch of 'bores' (my fellow quiz members were John Nathan-Turner, and UK superfans Andrew Beech, and Jean Riddler. The questions had been set by David J. Howe.). Only two of the UK magazines that covered reviews of the weekend even mentioned the quiz, and one of them spelt my name wrong!

David Ronayne asked me to ask you if you ever got your prize from BSB?
No, I didn't! The swines. It was to have been a jersey knitted using one of the pictures from the Doctor Who knitting book. I chose a black jersey with a Dalek. Sadly BSB were subsequently bought out by Sky to become BSkyB, so obviously my prize wasn't seen as an important part of the merger! I did get paid for my appearance though.

TO BE CONTINUED

1 comment:

Paul said...

You might want to 'activate' that link in the second paragraph...