Doctor Who Convention Encounters: Sarah Sutton

Last time I mentioned the scant memories I have from meeting Matthew Waterhouse at my first Doctor Who-related convention. Based on the evidence of what order I find things in my autograph book, I find that the guest at my second such event was Sarah Sutton.

(Daily Doctor Who #72)

Sarah Sutton played Nyssa on Doctor Who, from 1981-1983, and while not being the “defining” companion of the 5th Doctor’s era (certainly that would have to be Tegan), she was apparently actor Peter Davison’s pick for favorite. Certainly, she fit into a more classic “companion” mold, not having Adric’s occasional brattiness nor Tegan’s contentious irritability. When you watch then on TV, it’s easy to imagine she is the Doctor’s personal favorite.

The conventions that I started going to in those days were relatively small scale affiars–usually just two days at a downtown Manhattan hotel, with a dealer’s room, an autograph table, and an auditorium with a steady stream of presentations going on. Usually there were only one or two “main” special guests, meaning generally an actor from Doctor Who or Star Trek (or later, Blake’s 7).

I really don’t remember anything about the particular event that Sarah Sutton appeared at–whether she was partnered with a Star Trek actor or not. Or maybe it was the one that Paul Marco, from Plan Nine from Outer Space by Ed Wood showed up at. He was billed at the convention as having played “Space Cop” or “Star Cop” in the movie, even though he is clearly a regular cop.

Actually, it turns out he was playing a cop named Kelton who also appeared in two of Ed Wood’s other films, Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghouls.

What I do remember is that while I was getting Sarah Sutton’s autograph, there was some dude who was begging her for a date. I got the impression he was a convention staff member or volunteer–in my memory he was wearing a Doctor-ish coat and long scarf–and he was asking her repeatedly to be allowed to take her to dinner. She was politely and persistently declining, until he asked if she was married. She said that she was (the internet says that her husband is Mike, that he might be a doctor, they have been married for decades and have a daughter). The guy then began to apologize profusely, with a “Why didn’t you tell me!?”

The other thing that I can remember is that Sarah Sutton apparently autographed pictures of herself in a non-permanent marker! You can see how the ink is fading here. It’s meant that I’ve had to take special care of her pictures so the signatures don’t get smudged off completely.

In addition to the two photos, I also had her sign my trusty autograph book.

Nice signature, right?

I think I was given this thing as something to get my friends sign in elementary school, but then I brought it to a major comic book conventions that I went to even earlier than these Doctor Who events, and ended up using it for these celebrity encounters ever since, even though as an adult I’d find it embarrassing putting in front of people to sign.

Like Matthew Waterhouse, I also had Sarah Sutton autograph one of my Doctor Who novelizations.

In this case, it was Terminus, which was Nyssa’s final appearance in the series. This continued my tradition of having the actors sign novelizations of their character’s final stories, but it also ended it as I never did that again.

Sarah Sutton is nearly sixty now, which is actually less than ten years older than me. I wonder if I knew how close I was in age to her at the time–although when one is a teenager, one doesn’t generally look at someone ten years older as a peer. She is still working, at least for Big Finish, which means we all get to have more Nyssa showing up with the Doctor, which I think is a good thing.


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