Nor-Con 2014, a small, organised and well attended convention set on the outskirts of Norwich in England’s farming county of Norfolk. A rather pleasant sprinkling of sci-fi guests and artists were billed, including Doctor Who‘s Dan ‘Strax’ Starkey and Ben ‘Sheriff Of Nottingham’ Miller.
I caught Ben in the late afternoon and asked Ben if he was aware of some fan stirring in 2013 owing to whispers that he might just become the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor.
‘No, I had no idea,’ he laughed, ‘I would have been delighted if that had been the case. I think we all would [like to be the Doctor], wouldn’t we? We all watch Doctor Who as we’d love to be Doctor Who!’
I asked Ben if he knew there had been similar stirrings this year for him to play the rumoured return of the Master. ‘No, I’ve not heard that rumour,’ he said decisively. This was a response that surprised me, especially late afternoon at a sci-fi convention staged the day after his Doctor Who début. Could I be the first person to suggest this? I suggested that now he was fully informed, Ben could go forth and spread this rumour himself. He laughed. ‘I’ve only heard it from you – today,’ he said, reaffirming his position, ‘and John Simm is the Master.’ This wasn’t said as a suggestion that Simm would return, but again to clarify his position on the topic: to him, the Master is John Simm – until we all learn otherwise.
Be it Ben took up my challenge to spread this rumour, or, far more likely, other fans had come to the very same conclusion from watching Robot of Sherwood, the question of Ben playing the Master reared its head later at his Q&A session. Again, he was candid: no he wasn’t linked to the Master, nor did he personally think the Master was one of the cards Moffat planned to play this series. I got the impression Ben was very keen not to overstep his position in Doctor Who as a stage player by saying something that could misrepresent Steven Moffat or the development of this year’s arc. Whether or not the Master returns – and in what form – we will find out later this year, but however the story plays out, Ben clearly feels his place is not at that rumour mill.
The tight-lipped nature of Doctor Who had come up in my own conversation with Ben. Being loyal to that mandate was something Ben was keen to uphold. Everyone involved in Doctor Who is sworn to secrecy, Ben had explained with little encouragement. In fact, Ben was a little nervous about crossing the line in his answers to me. I said I’d keep my questions as generic as possible and he laughed once more as he considered his answer further. ‘It’s a very welcoming set,’ he told me referring to his time on the show, ‘it feels like a very a very small job when you do it, as the machinery is huge. In terms of the time you spend on set, it’s very relaxing and friendly.’
Ben’s Q&A was insightful and enjoyable. A very pleasant, relaxed dialogue between him and his interviewer, impersonator Richard Ashton, fully garbed in Capaldi attire and vocal chords for the session. Ben touched on his respect for Rowan Atkinson’s improv skills in Johnny English as well as his time on Death in Paradise. He specifically noted his incredulity as to how the realism of the DI Poole’s wool suit is always called into question by fans, but not some of the more loose interpretations of police work in the show – apparently such attire is factually accurate for an overseas police officer in the Caribbean!
Before I left, I grabbed a couple of Who fans to get their feelings on Robot of Sherwood. One of which was aforementioned interviewer Richard Ashton who again, gave his opinion in full Capaldi mode.
‘I thought it was amazing,’ the Doctor explained, ‘it had all the aspects of Doctor Who – how it should be. It had the humour, it had the jeopardy, it was an all round very good story that was well put together and I can’t wait for more and more for season 8 of Doctor Who.’
‘So you don’t miss the other guy?’
Finally I spoke to Sixth Doctor enthusiast Chris Ore, donned in a multi-coloured outfit and followed by a faithful K-9 unit. What did he think of the episode?
‘It was the best episode so far,’ he told me, ‘the pace was fast, the Doctor’s banter – even though he didn’t like to call it banter – was good. Being a Colin Baker fan, there was Colin in there. Absolutely terrific.’
Both Doctors were in firm agreement that Ben Miller was excellent and great casting. Always nice when those Doctors can find something to agree on. They too had suspicions that their mortal enemy might be lurking behind those eyes. Time will tell – it always does, doesn’t it?
You can find Chris Ore and impersonator Richard Ashton on Facebook as ‘Chris Kingbees‘ and ‘It’s an Ashton‘ respectively. Follow Ben Miller on Twitter @ActualBenMiller. Thank you to Mark Dean at Nor-Con.
And finally, if you’re sad to have missed Nor-Con V, this video by DalekSram should give you a good feel for the event.