Devoted to the Doctor

Doctor Who fans Rob Thrush, left, and Nick Scovell

Doctor Who fans Rob Thrush, left, and Nick Scovell

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From the moment Nick Scovell clapped eyes on the weird gliding army with its rows of sucker arms and chorus of electronic voices, he was hooked.

Settling down in front of the family television, the four-year-old was mesmerised and terrified by the merciless mechanical villains with the unfortunate tendency to ‘exterminate’ anything in their path.

Doctor Who fans have recreated Power of the Daleks, originally starring Patrick Troughton

Doctor Who fans have recreated Power of the Daleks, originally starring Patrick Troughton

More than 35 years, hundreds of episodes and several Doctors later and Nick is as enthusiastic about the Daleks as ever.

But unlike many other Doctor Who superfans, he’s had the opportunity to scare new generations of kids out of their wits with his own stage and film productions of Dalek stories.

Nick, professional film-maker Rob Thrush and a team of fellow Whovians (as the fans are sometimes known) have made their own versions of some of the adventures from the classic TV series.

And as viewers are treated to trailers featuring wall to wall Daleks for the new TV series (starting next Saturday), Nick identifies the appeal of the ruthless regulars of Doctor Who stories.

‘I think it’s their design that makes them so effective and scary. There’s nothing human, nothing you can relate to until they speak,’ he says.

He also explains the significance of the Daleks, which first appeared in a Doctor Who adventure in 1963. ‘The ratings shot up after that. It was Dalek mania that launched Doctor Who.’

It’s a ‘60s adventure that Nick, Rob and the team have re-imagined for their fan film Power of the Daleks.

Some of the older episodes are missing and Rob, 46, from Portsmouth and 40-year-old Nick. from Portchester, have made their own version of the lost original, which starred Patrick Troughton as the Doctor.

Some of their film is available online but the adventure as a whole will be screened for the first time at a Doctor Who convention in Fareham next Saturday (see panel).

Fan films tend to be tolerated as long as people don’t make money out of them and Rob stresses the screening is not part of the ticket price for the charity event.

He adds: ‘We’ve worked extremely hard on this and tried to make something with quality and integrity. It’s not a mickey-take or anything.’

The story was partly filmed at Ferneham Hall, where Nick works, and the Daleks could be seen gliding down the venue’s corridors.

In the film Nick, a part-time actor, plays the Doctor. ‘I’ve created my own character, although he’s probably most like Patrick Troughton. I lean towards that style of Doctorishness,’ he says.

Troughton’s scruffy recorder-playing incarnation often fooled foes into writing him off, but he was as sharp-witted as the rest – a kind of cosmic Columbo.

But Nick has developed a unique style in the plays and films of lost episodes put together by himself, Rob and other fans.

The team started staging the charity plays in the ‘90s when Doctor Who had been off air for almost a decade.

‘We weren’t very cool then. Of course we’re uber cool now,’ laughs Rob.

The quality of the plays was such that they received rave reviews and raised £60,000 for charity.

Rob and Nick were even invited to a Who premier and received hugs from Russell T Davies, who revived the show in 2005.

The success of their efforts can also be measured by the fact that they left kids screaming.

‘This 16ft Emperor Dalek came out and got a massive round of applause, although some of the kids couldn’t handle it, ‘ says Nick.

He’s delighted that a new generation, including his daughters, are interested.

Although he and Rob would encourage people to try vintage Who. ‘People talk about plywood sets and things,’ says Rob.

‘But they are really great engaging stories.’

Although he was a little surprised to discover as a child that the discs on some ‘terrifying’ robots hands were actually bicycle reflectors.

Some have complained that the modern series are becoming too complicated. Mysterious cracks in the universe left gaping holes in some people’s understanding.

‘The new stuff is fantastic, though. There’s more emotional content and a great understanding of how to tap into people’s primal fears,’ says Nick.

He’s not kidding – angel statues that move when you’re not looking?

But as creepy as new era monsters the Weeping Angels are, they’re unlikely to topple everyone’s favourite stalwart assassins from the top spot.

DOCTOR WHO CONVENTION

It’s unlikely you’ll see Cybermen punching their way out of manhole covers and marching through Fareham town centre next Saturday.

Whovians don’t tend to go that far (well the underground bit anyway) but there might be some dressing up for the Ferneham Hall convention, says organiser Doug Inman.

‘Occasionally though you’ll get people in Christopher Eccleston-style leather jackets rather than dressing like the more flamboyant Doctors. Then they can just say ‘what, it’s just my jacket,’ he says.

So if it’s 30 degrees, men in leather are probably heading for the Who event.

Power: Reimagined will feature guests including Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards and former Doctor’s companion Anneke Wills. There will be a Dalek masterclass, giving visitors the opportunity to get inside a Dalek, which in the TV series is just the casing for a creature.

And visitors are also invited to see the fan film of the lost Patrick Troughton adventure Power of the Daleks at 4.45pm.

The event next Saturday is being held to raise money for Cancer Research and Children in Need. It runs from 10am and costs £17.50 for adults and £12.50 for children. For bookings and information visit power-convention.co.uk

DALEK INVASION

We’ve had ‘angelic’ statues that can snap your neck, shop window dummies that come to life, giant spiders and maggots and creatures that replace their worn-out body parts.

But no foe of the Doctor has ever reached the notoriety and popularity of the Daleks.

Fans are so fond of them they spend months making exact models and there is even a Dalek Builders’ Guild.

Stuart Currie, from Langstone, made some of the full-size ‘exterminators’ for fan film Power of the Daleks and explains the accuracy that Dalek builders in general achieve.

‘They’re reverse engin-eered, over the years people have had access to them and worked out how they’re made. We share plans and parts and things,’ he says.

Stuart says it’s also a case of improvising with everyday items like towel rails. In fact the BBC did just that when they added the sink plunger arms.

Convention organiser Doug Inman is also a Dalek builder and has made the TARDIS too. ‘The cover sits over the front door to my office. I thought that would be quite fun,’ he laughs.

Stuart though can equal that boast. The 51-year-old computer programmer says: ‘There are more full-size Daleks in my house than people.’

Thankfully his wife, two children and their friends love them. ‘Ask kids if they want to sit inside a Dalek and you should see their faces. That’s what it’s all about really.’

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