To warm the crowd up our host asked the audience a series of questions to win some great promotional postcards signed by Elisabeth Sladen and Katy Manning, as well as some Merlin merchandise. We were then shown two Classic Who clips featuring Katy and Lis’s departure from Doctor Who to get us in the mood, which I must say nearly brought a tear to my eye.
To open the discussion, our host asked Gary the first question of the night: A quote Russell T Davies made about series four recently; it’s easier, and harder after four series as you have to find new ways and new aliens in Ealing, but it just gets better and better. I was going to ask, would you agree with that one?
Gary: It’s not harder, it gets more interesting because you do find yourself after four years going “well we’ve done that, oooh now let’s do this.” And yet at the same time the joy, I think, of doing a kids show like this is actually the people who remembered series 1 are probably at the age now where they’re just coming out of Sarah Jane and going in to Doctor Who. I wouldn’t say you could.. not exactly repeat stuff but you CAN borrow things. And you can do it all over again. Sarah Jane, unlike Doctor Who and Torchwood has a much quicker turnover of its audience, and that makes quite an interesting challenge.
Gary then goes on to talk about the Jackson family’s departure in series 1 and how Luke is now leaving series 4 to go to University, the reason for this being that Tommy Knight is now moving on to focus on his A-levels, but don’t worry fans, it won’t be the last we see of him. Katy adds that Tommy’s end was a “terrific exit” and she particularly enjoyed the scene between Sarah Jane and Luke in the car.
As we’ve been told many times before, Lis talked about how Russell T Davies asked her back to do Doctor Who in School reunion, and then offered her The Sarah Jane Adventures. She said when she received the phone call from her agent, she thought she was going to be given the chance to play a grown up Sarah Jane on Torchwood, little did she know how popular SJA would become. She told us about a “lovely” scene that got cut out of School reunion because she hurt her leg quite badly on the very first day of filming. The scene was supposed to feature Lis and David running, with some lovely dialogue, but it got cut because she just couldn’t do it.
With the audience hanging on the panels every word, and Katy slipping in the occasional naughty innuendo, the talk turns to working with the rest of the cast. Lis mentioned how lovely it is to work with Tommy, Anj and Danny. She said Danny has recently turned 23 but plays Clyde at 17, they go on a night out and then you realise he’s completely different to the age he plays.
Katy then made us all laugh when she talked about filming Death of the Doctor with the gang, “I was being very careful about what I said, and what I did, because I thought they were all about 16 years old. And then suddenly it came to me, I won’t tell you how [audience laughs] I found out that he was far from a little 16 year old boy. [Audience laughs again] NO NO!! I’m just going to shut up now.” Oh Katy, your mouth does get you in to a lot of trouble.
They swiftly moved on from that subject to talk about Russell T Davies, who is in LA but still very much in control of the show. Gary says Russell’s the voice of god, he’s always there at the end of the phone, or sending an email and Katy adds that she got a text every day from him when she was filming. Lis gives us a lovely little story about David Tennant’s leaving party from Doctor Who, they were watching the fireworks with Russell and she says “Oh, well there goes our budget!” but Russell paid for it all himself as he loves the show. She says he’s in charge of everything and always makes it known that he’s there, because he is the executive producer.
Joe says it’s the same with the writers, he emails or he writes. Russell gave him a text the day before to say “ooo it’s Sarah Jane day” he’s totally on it. Katy added “it’s such a treat to have a man like that at the front of things.”
All in all, the evening was extremely enjoyable, the banter was hilarious and the audience went away with an experience they’ll never forget.