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SJA Reunion
Monday 14th August 2017 9:23 pm

A couple of weekends ago I went to the SJA Reunion one-day convention in Cardiff. I wasn't too sure about it, I had a bit of "who are these people, how do I know they know what they're doing" as if I know everyone in the world. But Katy Manning (Jo) was going to be there and I've never met her, so I went. If I'd been the sort of person who'd go up to her on the street (or train station platform) I'd have met her at Cardiff station where we were waiting for the train to the tiny little station that was just round the corner from the con. But I wasn't, so I didn't. But since I'd already planned to be a bit late (given that I got up at 6am!) and the train was late, I felt better knowing that at least I wouldn't be later than one of the guests. Incidentally, I ended up getting the same train back as John Leeson.

It was generally not that well organised (although I've seen worse). The instructions said to use the entrance on one particular road. What it didn't mention was that there were multiple entrances on that road. I chose the second one I came to. It turns out I should have gone to the third. Because there were no signs of any description anywhere and I only found anything at all by chance. And the only announcements were in the introduction (I assume). Daniel Anthony (Clyde) was supposed to be there, but wasn't and I wasn't really sure about that until a few days later on Twitter.

The autograph room was a big room with some props around and Mr Smith's screensaver on a big screen, which was pretty cool. But it was also a warm room and the queues were long and snaked around and it was quite hard to tell which queue was for who. Or even who was actually signing - which didn't always match who was supposed to be signing.

I got to meet Katy Manning, but I was incredibly lucky. I was in a long queue and it was still long and non-moving when she was supposed to be in a photo shoot. They cut the queue off after me. Literally, I became the last person in the queue. And then overheard the stewards say that they once saw her take four and a half hours to get through a hundred people, which doesn't surprise me. And that they were supposed to be guaranteed autographs and it didn't look like that was going to happen.

After that I didn't bother with anyone else who had a long queue (unless it was a fast moving one). So when I went back later I got Mina Anwar (Gita) who had a slow moving, but short queue and she was lovely. Then I got Yasmin Paige (Maria) and Sinead Michael (Sky) and skipped everyone else.

I went to a few panels, which were varied. They had two interviewers, one was Scott Handock, who was also there as a guest. He was very good and asked good questions and generally chaired well. The other was some bloke whose name I didn't get, who thought he was funny, but was actually just a bit of a knob. I cringed through one of his panels and frankly that was enough.

The most interesting one I went to was the writers one with Phil Ford, Joe Lidster and Gary Russell. They talked about the SJA budget starting out low and just getting lower, to the point where they could only have one of Rani's parents in an episode! Other interesting snippets included:

  • Russell T Davies named Rani Rani because he knew it would drive the fans crazy
  • The attic set had a vertical beam that was a pain to shoot around, so they took it out... and no one noticed.
  • They once did some shooting outside Rani's house on a Friday, came back on the Monday to find the owners had painted the outside of it yellow! So they added a scene where Haresh is washing the car and mentions to Clyde that Gita decided she needed the house painting yellow.
  • They filmed inside Maria's house, but then the house got new owners, who were happy to have them film outside, but not inside. So Rani's house was sets, hence why it's not quite the same dimensions as when Maria lived here.
  • Sarah Jane's kitchen grows dramatically when the owner got it re-done between series. They filmed in the house less and less as time went on because the owner kept spending the money he got from filming on it
  • Originally The Nightmare Man was going to be set at university, but Joe couldn't make it work. He rang Russell T Davies, purely because Russell had said to call him, and asked for advice. Russell's advice was to have Luke go off to uni at the end of the episode and then it worked. But they didn't want people to think Joe was getting special treatment, so Russell acted like he'd just thought of it and handily, everyone thought it was a great idea.
  • They were thinking that the kids were getting older and they should replace them with younger kids. But the BBC said that actually, the kids in their target audience liked the current ones and wanted them to stay, even though the SJA kids were a lot older than their target audience. But they were allowed to bring in one new kid, hence Sky. But there was also an idea that when Rani left home Gita would foster, thus providing a steady stream of kids for Sarah Jane to take on adventures.

Mina Anwar turned out to be really interesting. She's apparently done a lot of children's TV, although I first saw her in The Thin Blue Line. It amused me no end to overhear someone there say something about "she's from The Thin Blue Line". She's often acted in things with Ace Bhatti (Haresh). Often they're brother and sister, occasionally they're married, which she finds weird because she's used to them playing siblings. She loved the idea of Gita fostering. She's a big Doctor Who fan. She's briefly been in an episode, but if she had the chance to do another, no matter how small or silly the part, she'd jump at it. Someone in the audience mentioned she could be a companion - I thought never mind a companion, she could be the Doctor! She did mention a bit about the Thirteenth Doctor and I heard someone in the audience say to their friend that they originally weren't sure about a female Doctor, but now they were.

At one point, to promote the show, they had the kids doing some games. So they sort of recreated that by getting Tommy Knight (Luke), Yasmin and Anjli Mohindra (Rani) to play some games. Mina turned up at one point and decided to play as well. It was all very energetic and silly and I felt old because these kids are now in their 20s. And energetic.

There was a panel of the girls of SJA, with Yasmin, Sinead and Anjli, but it was moderated by the idiot, so there wasn't much of substance that came out of it. Katy Manning was supposed to join Mina for the last half an hour of her panel, but what with running behind on autographs, she only managed five minutes, and Mina left her to it. Katy only really talked about the story I've heard before, where she didn't know she was coming back as Jo at first, only that people told her not to tell anyone.

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