Doctor Who Convention Encounters: Elisabeth Sladen & John Leeson

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of my favorite Doctor Who (and other stuff as well) actors at conventions, especially back in the old days when autographs only cost the time it took to stand in line to get them. One of the big events I went to was in Chicago, November 26-28 1993–celebrating the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who, the 15th anniversary of Blake’s 7, the 10th anniversary of Robin of Sherwood, and the 6.5th anniversary (this is really how it was advertised) of Red Dwarf. Among other things, they did a special screening of the 30th anniversary special mini-episode of Doctor Who called Dimensions in Time for us.

(Daily Doctor Who #99)

There was, of course, a. lot going on at that convention, and a limited time for me and my buddy Matt to do it all. So even though I have photographic and written evidence that I saw Elisabeth Sladen and John Leeson at this event, I don’t really remember anything about it.

Lis Sladen, as many of us know, played perhaps the most popular Doctor Who companion of the classic era, journalist Sarah Jane Smith, who debuted in the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s last season.

She then went on to co-star with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker for his first two and a bit years.

And then she returned years later for a few episodes which featured the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.

In between, she appeared both the show’s 20th anniversary episode, and in what was then the only Doctor Who spinoff ever created, K-9 and Company, which only ever produced a single pilot episode.

Most recently, Elisabeth Sladen got another shot at spin-off series fame with the altogether more successful The Sarah Jane Adventures, which ran for four full length seasons and one half season which ended early when the actress died of cancer.

Showing up in Doctor Who a bit after Sladen left was John Leeson, who was the voice of the dog-like artificial intelligence, K9. K9 appeared over four seasons of Doctor Who, all featuring Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor (although for one of those years in the middle Leeson had left the role and had been temporarily replaced). Technically, there were actually two separate K9’s in these regular appearances, one built by the Doctor himself as a replacement for the other.

A third version of K9, along with John Leeson, showed up in K-9 and Company, and again in a small cameo in 1983’s The Five Doctors, both times alongside Sladen. Then Leeson came back again for a couple of appearances of the modern series and a handful of episodes in The Sarah Jane Adventures. He also starred in K9’s very own children’s series.

Leeson also, by the way, played a few other voices on Doctor Who, and appeared in person in The Power of Kroll as a character called Dugeen, during his regular run on the series.

Anyway, with some of that in the past and some in the future, both Sladen and Leeson appeared at Visions ’93, and I was fortunate to get both of their autographs. Lis Sladen signed a picture of mine–not the best image of her, I think, but still something I’m happy to have.

John Leeson, on the other hand, signed my autograph book. Handily, he wrote down his character’s name in case I should ever forget.

Up above, I mentioned something about photographic evidence. Well, here it is…

Clearly I was in the room for at least a minute while Elisabeth Sladen and John Leeson were speaking. Or maybe not so clearly, but rather quite blurrily. But that is them, along with Wendy Padbury (who played Zoe in the show). Here’s another picture, which I snatched of the K9 model that was there.

The more exciting photograph was this one, which my friend Matt and I took with the actors. The photograph line and the autograph line were two separate things, so I didn’t always get both for each person…but in this case I did.

As you can see, Matt to sit astride the K9 model, while I got to sit with Ms. Sladen. So, nice for both of us.

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