By Sophie Iles
Before I press on to share with you my thoughts next week on Dalek Invasion of Earth, I wanted to tell a story about something very special that happened to me at LI WHO 5 that holds a place in my heart and probably always will.
It all starts with how I got into Doctor Who in the first place. You see, muggins here didn’t get into Doctor Who until she was nineteen years old. This was in 2008. I had heard of Doctor Who, most British people have, in one way or another, but I had never actively watched it. I had seen the end of some episodes before something else was about to be on that my parents were going to watch but that was it. I was too into Harry Potter, Anime, Lord of the Rings and Gothic Horror to worry about another fandom.
So, let me paint a picture for you: It’s Autumn 2008, I had just started university, nineteen and buzzing to start my animation course (I was going to be the world’s greatest animator for Disney, just you wait!) I was for the first time really meeting a load of like minded people, people with blue and pink in their hair, wearing cool fandom t-shirts and owned toys and models. Something that I had attributed to about three people before this and I was in my element.
And then as friendships formed and university got under way I started to show my worth when computers needing problem solving, or someone needed something set up to do with the wifi, that sort of thing. I was able to cotton onto the problems fairly quickly and I always have had a bit of a knack for it.
That’s when it happened, a fellow friend in the Anime Society gave me a big smile, “You’re like K-9. Good job, Soph.”
Now I don’t remember the ins and outs of the conversation, but it ended with me learning about this tin dog from Doctor Who who was a technical support to the Doctor. I was intrigued and the nickname stuck.
That all sounds fun, I said and his other friend said to me with sheer delight, “Oh, you’ve never watched it? Come over this weekend, there’s a new one on!”
And so I did.
My first Doctor Who episode was The Waters of Mars. I was struck by the story, the intensity, and the use of time travel, something that I loved because of Back to the Future in my preteens. Suddenly, I become what’s called a whovian, and in dribs and drabs over the last decade my love for the show in its totality has increased to what it is today:
Utter obsession about covers it.
So, speaking of today, flash forward to nine years later, Autumn 2017. I get to go to my first full Doctor Who Convention. Long Island Who 5 was a wonder, in the nine years of being a fan, I fell in love with the classic series, with the companions. I particularly fell in love with the Twelfth Doctor, and his world and it was something i could explore in the hotel walls with so many others.
But because of that nickname at university, I always had a soft spot for the wonderful K-9 who once I met in School Reunion, I also fell in love with him too.
I found out that John Leeson was going months after I had bought the three day pass. I had had the opportunity to meet him a month before the big New York Trip in my current city of Cardiff but I had wanted to meet him during the big event. After all, it would make our meeting far more unique.
And gosh, it really was as unique as I hoped. When he signed the picture I picked out I told him the story of how I came to be called K-9. This bright twinkly old man who could have been my grandfather who used his K-9 voice to greet me seemed taken aback with joy by my story.
“One K-9 to another, I hope you enjoy this autograph.”
I thought that was the end of it, a little emotional, a little shaky, but boy was I wrong. As the day continued, I found myself going to the bar to find my friends and one particular friend had spotted John Leeson at the bar.
“Should I go over and say hello?” she asked me nervously, and I assured her there was nothing to be worried about, John had been very pleasant to me when I had gotten my autograph after all.
When he saw us approach, he waved, and I introduced my friend, and he shook her hand, and then did something I had never expected.
“Would you lovely ladies care to join me for a drink?”
So here I was, sat with the voice of K-9, partaking in a drink from the bar he insisted on paying, listening to him talk to me about his airplane trip, his opinions on my hometown, and then how much he loved cats and wine, being that they were the other two loves in his life. Honestly, I’ve never felt so blessed to be in a place at a particular time. The only reason why our conversation was halted was because he was discovered by an old friend’s sister, and he excused himself so politely.
Even after that, whenever we ran into each other for the last two days he always greeted me fondly, hand in a wave, twinkly eyed. “Hello friend!”
I’ve never been so touched by an interaction, particularly a celebrity.
The day after the con was over, as our friends gathered to say goodbye and drive off their separate ways, myself included I ran into him one last time. John was also standing in the lobby, and other fans were getting selfies with him as they left the hotel. I decided to say hello one last time and wish him a safe trip home.
And he was of course happy to have a picture with me. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask!”
They say meeting your heroes can be a burden, they can be what you not expect, they can damage your expectations. But I would be mindful to remind others that celebrities are human too, and not every celebrity you meet is going to have the same mindset. If this is the only time I ever run into John Leeson again, I won’t be disappointed. For the rest of my life I will always remember the time the man who my nickname sake, as it were, the reason I got into this lovely sci-fi show in the first place, bought me a drink, and treated me as an equal.
Yes, meeting your heroes are a burden, but it’s always wonderful when you find new ones where you least expect it.