Invasion 2008

Invasion VIII - March 1st 2008

There were guests aplenty at this years Convention, though Tom Baker and Paul McGann were by far the most popular. The day was packed full of discussions, stage talks and photo sessions, with lots of time for people to pick up items at the various merchandise stalls to get signed later in the day.

The day ran very smoothly and pretty much to plan, with actors being ushered to their various rooms in readiness for the next event to take place.

This review focuses on Paul's day, as he was my reason for being there, but all of the actors were doing similar sorts of sessions.

The Venue

This year's convention was held at Castle Green, in Barking. It is a newly built venue and leant itself well to the occasion. The facilities were better, the day seeemed to flow very smoothly and all visitors could hear the talks at the same time in the large hall. There were changes to last year's event, in that all of the photo sessions, talks and coffee lounge events took place during the morning, then the hall was cleared and the afternoon was spent with all guests signing autographs.

Paul's Day

9.00am ~ Photo Studio

Paul's first session was in the photo studio, a chance for fans to have their photograph taken with the 8th Doctor. Many people came through the doors, some in costumes, some with mementoes of the show, some came alone and others with friends or family. There were some fans he recognised from previous events but, whether he knew people or not, Paul took time to chat to everyone - though the stewards were trying to rush people through as they were very aware of their time schedules, this didn't mean much to Paul!

9.45 ~ Coffee Lounge

This was the first of two coffee lounge events that Paul was scheduled to do. These sessions are designed to allow a smaller group of fans to ask questions in a more intimate and sociable atmosphere. There were around 25 people in the room and they had an hour to chat with Paul. This started off quite slowly as nobody seemed sure what to ask to start with, but soon got going. Several subjects were discussed though not much of it to do with Doctor Who! Paul discussed The Hanging Gale and the odd situation they were in at the time. He and Stephen had arrived in this small Irish town where they were staying and one of the first things they did was to go shopping. However, after selecting thier goods, they were not allowed to pay - the shopkeeper was honoured to have them in his shop! The same happened when they went next door to the chemists. Later that evening, as they were sat in the dark, in a sauna (that had presumably had lights at one time!) a voice suddenly spoke, asking "which ones they were"! It was quite a surreal experience for the four of them, made worse as time went on by the stories that abounded in the press at the time surrounding Paul and his relationship with Catherine Zeta Jones as they had been photographed together. The Irish community they were staying in had been incredibly protective on the whole though and had kept the press away from them. He then went on to discuss the pressures of the paparazzi and when asked, said that he doesn't generally have a problem as he largely goes unnoticed. He talked about growing up in Liverpool and how he and his brothers had talked recently about various girlfriends they had had - some had been out with more than one of the brothers as, being similar in age and not many girls to go around, it was inevitable!!! He also discussed the filming of Withnail and I and was asked whether he would consider writing a book, as Richard E Grant has done, about his career so far. He said that would be difficult as he can't remember much from the early days of his career - Richard apparently kept journals right from the beginning of his career. He did say that it would be interesting to write about The Hanging Gale though, and the process of writing and research as well as the filming of it. The conversation eventually got round to Doctor Who and he did say it would be nice to do something with all of the Doctors before they 'pop off'!!! The session was then brought to an end as it was time for his on-stage talk.

10.45 On Stage

Paul came on to the stage with Nicholas Briggs ~ voice of the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Judoon and executive producer of Big Finish Productions.

Paul was first asked what he was currently working on and he said he was filming a documentary, but gave no forther information. He also said that he may be in Liverpool in November, doing something with his brothers for Rememberance Sunday.

They discussed the new audios which are due to be released shortly - there is apparently an exciting ending with Paul and Sheridan, which will inform on the new series. Paul then suggested getting Noddy Holder and Roy Wood in the next episode, or for a christmas special!

he then went on to discuss his childhood in Liverpool in the 60's and told how he and his brothers would be dressed up in Beatles suits. As they walked around the city they would be stopped by people wanting to take pictures of these cute little boys. Paul also mentioned the fact that, being at an all boys school, he and his brothers often took female parts in productions. He remembers playing Cleopatra, as well as Cicely in The Importance of Being Earnest. He also mentioned how he was into sports, particularly track and field events and wanted to be a sportsman. Then he talked about the regeneration of the Liverpool and urged people to visit in this, the year that Liverpool is the Capital of Culture.

Towards the end of the talk, questions were invited from the audience. The Monocled Mutineer was discussed, as was Alien 3 and Danny Webb. Inevitably, Withnail and I was mentioned. Paul felt that there wasn't much of a cross-over of fans - he siad that Withnail fans are very obvious as the minute they see him they start quoting lines at him. The Doctor Who fans, he said, are the ones you least expect!!!

The discussion finished with talk, instigated by Paul, about the possibility of doing an illegal Doctor Who with a rogue splinter group. Nick tried to steer the conversation away, but Paul was having none of it! He kept asking what would happen if he did it and got people involved.... Nick valiantly tried to change the direction of the conversation, but it ended with Paul saying "I could get Johnny Depp"!

He left the stage to much hilarity for what was supposed to be his break, only to be requested to go back to the photo studio as they wanted all the actors together for some groups shots.

11.45 ~ Coffee Break.... the promised 15 minute break, the first of the day, never materialised. Neither did the coffee. Re-called to the photo-studio, the actors were required to pose for several shots for the benefit of 10th Planet, then also for the local press who turned up for more pictures.

12.00pm ~ Coffee Lounge

This coffee lounge session followed a very similar format to the first. Again, around 25 people got to ask him questions on whichever subject they chose. This time there was a lot more talk about Doctor Who - the film, whether he would reprise the role and discussion of the audios. As the session was drawing to a close, Sheridan Smith walked in, to the delight of the attendees and Paul. He and Sheridan obviously get on well and during the afternoon she proved to be very popular with the fans and was a genuinely nice person.

2.30 - 5.30pm Autographs

The afternoon was taken up solely by signings - all of the guests sat at one end of the hall and attendees queued up in front of them. There was some confusion as to which queue people were in and towards the end less autographs were allowed per person due to time constraints, but everybody was very good natured and it all went very smoothly. Many people arrived with the photos they had had taken in the morning and asked for them to be signed, others arrived with audios, dvd's or videos, magazines, scrapbooks etc. All manner of things appeared in front of Paul and he signed and chatted with people throughout the afternoon very good naturedly. He had to leave promptly at 5.30 due to family commitments but it had been an extremely busy day for him.

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