‘I collect the things that captured my imagination when I was younger, the things that really resonated with me’
When I was really young, I thought everyone had a Dalek in their house. I’m not kidding, I didn’t know any different. We’ve had Daleks, TARDIS’s, all sorts, since before I was born, and all because of my dad, Mark Lenton, arguably Sheffield’s biggest Doctor Who fan.
I spoke to him last week about his impressive memorabilia collection, consisting of everything from easter eggs to life-size cutouts – all Who themed of course! He kindly gave me a sneak peek into his collection, and into what it’s like living a life in the bigger-on-the-inside world of a life-long Doctor Who fan.
A self-proclaimed Dalek builder since the age of 8, Mark’s collection consists of things which sparked his imagination as a child – reminders of the Doctor Who universe, including a number of life-size replicas of costumes, props, and monsters.
Cybermen loom down at you from a high shelf, sonic screwdrivers perch on special stands and a weeping angel leers through the window of Mark’s conservatory, while a life-sized replica of the TARDIS stands proudly in the centre.
‘I loved the idea of the Police Box. There were loads around when I was a kid and I liked the idea that everyday things could be part of it (the show)’
The collection focusses around the Doctor’s time machine, the TARDIS, with its iconic blue police box design, from tiny models to the life-size, and they all have to be spot on to meet Mark’s high standards of TARDIS critique. He is clearly still haunted by the undoubtedly naff Doctor Who toys that were available to kids during his childhood, with their misshapen appearances and dull colours.
The same can, of course, be said for Daleks, another favourite design of collectors like Mark, them and the TARDIS together are the most iconic symbols of the BBC series. ‘It’s offensive to my eyes when they get the Dalek design wrong’ Mark laughed, of course in reference to the multicoloured version of the Daleks which appeared in several Steven Moffat stories (before being booed off stage by fans), lovingly referred to as ‘Tellytubby Daleks’ in our household.
None of us could hide from Dad’s Doctor Who enthusiasm, and mine and my brother’s childhood was made up of Comic-cons, Doctor Who live shows, The Doctor Who BBC Proms and full days of our holidays spent looking for Doctor Who filming locations. I think I could name every actor who played the Doctor by the time I was 5 (there were 8 of them at the time) and by then it was time for the series’ reboot in 2005.
We’d had a life-size Dalek in the house for as long as I can remember, and one year my Dad and some of his friends took it to my primary school for the summer fair so people could have their photo taken, while two guys dressed as cybermen marched around spraying people with water guns!
“I remember being about 8, trying to build a Dalek out of cardboard boxes.”
Then there was the summer that my Dad built a second Dalek, a new series one in bronze and gold, and the time he took my brother and I to Cambridge for the day – to pick up a life-size weeping angel and drive it home in a van.
Plus the many nights when he’d come home from a day at a convention or meetup, ready to show us the photos he’d got with yet another Doctor!
When I asked him about the Doctor Who community, he said “it’s great really, we get to talk about things and we’re all there because this stuff fires our imagination and you can get involved with it,” He laughed “Some people get a bit too heated though; you have to remind them that it’s all just for fun.”
Considering he’s met pretty much anyone who’s anyone when it comes to Doctor Who, I had to ask who his favourite actor to meet was.
“John Barrowman,” He replied without much hesitation. “He was a big fan of science fiction and stuff before he got involved with it all so he’s really into it. He’s a collector too, got a house full of action figures.”
To finish up our discussion I asked my Dad about his Doctor Who favourites, and the Classic Tom Baker Story ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ surfaced as a firm favourite, a standard Saturday afternoon repeat in my household growing up. With an interesting and imaginative storyline, along with the childhood nostalgia and quirky wit of Tom Baker as the Doctor.
‘Blink’ surfaces as another favourite of his, the episode that my friends at school wouldn’t watch when I was young because of the eerie power of the weeping angels. “It’s a really clever and effective story.” I’d have to agree.
His favourite Doctor; Tom Baker, of course, because who’s favourite Doctor isn’t their childhood hero? And Sarah Jane Smith gets a mention as probably the best companion to date.
Undoubtedly, my Dad is one of the biggest Who fans there is, and it’s made everyone in our families lives a lot more exciting. Doctor Who has been something we can all relate to and enjoy, together. We’ve all got our favourites, and the one’s we don’t enjoy so much (ask my mum about ‘Adric’ portrayed by Matthew Waterhouse and you’ll get a very pointed glare! It’s become a running joke in our house) and the Doctor Who community brings us all together in some shape or form.
Plus, having a life-sized Weeping Angel around the house comes in handy -always an answer to the dreaded ‘tell me a fun fact about yourself’ or when wishing to frighten off unwanted visitors – or postmen!