Science Fiction Convention Encounters: Danny John-Jules

As I’ve mentioned lately, in November 1993 I took a bus to Chicago and met up with my friend Matt to attend a big convention:  Visions ’93.  The promotional material declared that it was in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who (which debuted in 1963), the 15th anniversary of Blake’s 7 (which started in 1978), the 10th anniversary of Robin of Sherwood (which had premiered in, uh, 1984, actually), and the 6.5th anniversary of Red Dwarf (which had kicked off in early 1988.

(Daily Doctor Who #147)

Full disclosure—this post really has nothing directly to do with Doctor Who, except for the close proximity of Red Dwarf celebrations to Doctor Who celebrations at that event are some evidence that two fandoms are likely to overlap a bit.  Certainly, they do with me.

Red Dwarf, as you may or may not know, is a science fiction comedy about a titular mining ship which ends up housing the last human in the universe (at least, that was the original premise), along with a hologram re-creation of his odious bunkmate, a humanoid descended from cats, and a nervous android.  To date, it has run for 13 “seasons” of varying lengths (the most recent being a single TV movie).

Anyway, the guest who represented Red Dwarf at this event was none other than Danny John-Jules, known to Red Dwarf fans as the Cat.  John-Jules is one of two actors to appear in every episode of the show.

I also know Mr. John-Jules as Officer Dwayne Myers on the light-hearted mystery series Death in Paradise.

, which is a little bit like Doctor Who in that its lead character keeps “regenerating” (ie, getting changed out with suspiciously similar substitutes), and one of them was played by Kris Marshall, who is always present in those “Who will be the next Doctor Who?” speculations every time the incumbent actor decides to trade out.

Amusingly, Danny John-Jules alternate character on Red Dwarf was another Dwayne, the fashion-challenged Dwayne Dibbley.

You can also see Danny John-Jules in the Wham! Music video for Edge of Heaven, dancing next to George Michael. 

Anyway, I didn’t know any of that back in 1993.  I just knew that Danny John-Jules played the Cat, who was a pretty funny character.  The Cat is always full of funny sayings from his Cat society, and I asked him to write one with my autograph when I had the chance to meet him. 

Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of one, so I said that it wasn’t important.

Now, if I recall properly, Danny John-Jules was grouped together with the guys from Robin of Sherwood for his autograph session, and it was at this time that the Robin Hood guys (John Abineri, Mark Ryan and Jeremy Bulloch) all started teasing my friend Matt for having a roll of toilet paper with him–for his runny nose, I am assuming (you can read about it here).

I don’t have any photographic evidence of the toilet roll, unfortunately

This might have been the thing that distracted Mr. John-Jules, because when he went to sign my autograph book, he accidentally started writing:  “To Matt”.  (My name is Ben, in case you didn’t know).

He was pretty embarrassed, and I told him not to worry about it, and just address the message, “To Matt and Ben…”  So he did that, but then added a bit more to try to make up for it.

Pretty funny, right?  So now I have it—on the authority of Danny John-Jules, I am better than my friend Matt. 

Luckily, Matt is a pretty confident man and can take that cold, hard truth.

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