Doctor Who Convention Encounters: Carole Ann Ford

I’ve talked about meeting both Matthew Waterhouse and Sarah Sutton at my first two Doctor Who-related conventions in New York City. The archival evidence (my autograph book) seems to suggest that my next convention visit was in Philadelphia, where amongst other, I met Carole Ann Ford.

(Daily Doctor Who #76)

Carole Ann Ford was part of the original cast of Doctor Who, playing the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman, from 1963-1964. Based on the internal narrative, she is the Doctor’s first companion, and also the first to leave him (although technically, he kicked her out).

The conventions I’d been to in New York were relatively small affairs, with just one (or two) major guests and a decent-sized dealer’s room. By contrast, this event in Philadelphia had a bunch of guests (including Ford, obviously, but also others who we will get to eventually in this series) but a relatively small dealer’s room. I don’t remember it being very crowded, although I don’t really know for sure. This would have been back in 1985 or 1986.

I can remember hearing Carole Ann Ford speaking in front of the audience answering questions. Somebody asked why in the early stories that it seemed like Ian Chesterton was more the main character (he is the one makes fire in the first story, etc), over the Doctor.

Carole Ann Ford seemed uncertain how to answer that, but suggested that maybe it was just because William Russell had such a strong personality.

Someone else asked whether Carole Ann Ford thought that Susan was really the Doctor’s granddaughter. He referenced a story that then-current script editor Eric Saward had written for the Radio Times’ Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special called Birth of a Renegade, which revealed that Susan was not the Doctor’s granddaughter but actually a descendant of Rassilon.

Carole Ann Ford, not surprisingly, had not heard of this and always played the character as if she was what she claimed to be.

I remember her talking about why in the then-recent The Five Doctors, all the companions were shown being taken by the story’s villain aside from Susan. She suggested that maybe that that was done to avoid having to deal with showing the post-Dalek Invasion of the Earth world that Susan presumably lives in.

I remember trying to think if I had a question to pose, and all that really came to mind was to ask her how was it different working with Richard Hurndall on that special, but I didn’t have the nerve so I didn’t put my hand up.

Anyway, I got her autograph (which I wasn’t successful at doing with all the guests who were there). She signed my autograph book, offering me her Best Wishes, which of course is always nice.

I wonder what her best wishes actually are?

My autograph book is obviously something that was made for an elementary school student to get their classmates’ signatures in.

It includes pages devoted to the Pledge of Allegiance, and to write down the names of your classmates and teachers and so on.

But back, when I was in my mid-teens, I wasn’t embarrassed about it. In my adult years, when I brought to a comic book event and got someone to sign it and then they’d flip through it, it’d make me feel a bit awkward.

Anyway, Carole Ann Ford also signed a photograph of her, looking far more glamorous than she ever did on the TV series.

Years later, in 1993, I attended the Visions ’93 event in Chicago, and Carole Ann Ford was there again, alongside William Russell and a bunch of others. This is a blurry photograph of the two of them along with my friend Matt.

I don’t remember anything about her at the time except that she was friendly and genial as we were getting our photo taken.

Carole Ann Ford is 80 years old now, which is a bit crazy to think about. I’m grateful for the chance to have met her on those two occasions, and I wish her all the best today.

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