Conventions: a means of getting a lot of nutty fans of science fiction into one building together. I’ve been a fan of science fiction since the age of 3, and Doctor Who since 8. I’ve been to a number of conventions over the years. Sadly not many are close enough that I will make the trek and they often cost too much to make it worth the time. Time and money are commodities that most of us, myself included, do not have in abundance. But several years ago I had met Fraser Hines at a convention and after a really great conversation, took some photos with him that were somehow lost. (I’m still really upset about that!) So when I saw that Fraser would be in Long Island, a mere 100 miles from my home, I considered going. Then I looked at convention prices and almost collapsed: $25. Did they leave off a number? No: $25 for adults, $10 for children. I instantly bought tickets. They did have higher priced options available but even the “Dinner with the stars” option was only $100 which I would have purchased had they not been sold out. A $300 package was also available including a hotel room for Saturday night and breakfast the next morning. Long story short: this convention was priced right! When I bought the tickets, I received an email confirmation and was blown away one more time: Ken Deep, an old friend who used to have a podcast called Doctor Who: Podshock, was running the show. Though it’s been a decade since I’ve spoken with him, I was delighted to reconnect. A great guy who cares that people are having a good time at the con, he walks the floor frequently checking on, well, everything. He explained to me that his goal is to allow fans to get up close and personal with the stars, and he delivers.
The layout is simple, but very effective. There are a number of rooms for panels: 3 “Program rooms” and a “library alley”. But the hallway linking all of them is where the actors and actresses sit, signing autographs and talking to fans. This means that they can chat with everyone, like real people. For instance, I had a nice conversation with the lovely Sarah Lousie Madison, a Weeping Angel, that should absolutely never be behind a mask. We talked about how they apply the make-up and what it’s like being a part of the Doctor Who family. This is so far superior to things like NY Comic Con, where the stars are bustled out faster than the President in a terrorist attack. Those photos always come out as a blur, as if you were a Bigfoot photographer! No, this gives us a chance to actually spend time with these guys; it’s amazing.
Along with the stars, another group of celebrities roam the halls too: robots! Some of those interacting with everyone and allowing for some great photo ops are: a perfect reconstruction of R2D2; he even has a girlfriend: pink and able to do more than he can. She has panels that open, arms that come out and a periscope that raises from the top. (I don’t know if R2 had the periscope.) A miniature battle Dalek wandered the halls too, along with a fully built Remembrance of the Daleks Emperor. And a working K-9!
Cosplay is an amazing thing. To see how people express fandom is exciting and wonderful. There were Harley Quinn’s, a truly stunning X-man, Rogue, that might have been lifted out of the pages of the comic book, and even a warrior princess that looked incredible. But the regenerating Cyberman was truly something to behold. When I first saw him, he was a Mondasian Cyberman, then later a Moonbase one, and still later an Invasion one. I wonder if he stuck around until Sunday: would the regenerations continue?
Then there’s a dealers room but I understand the three-edged sword that this represents. You don’t want to be distracted from the main event: meeting the guests. You also don’t want to blow money on stuff when you have such easy access to getting selected items from the guests. And there’s only so much room if they also allocate space for photos with the stars. The selection of “stuff” was good, but not outstanding. Again, this convention is geared toward people who want to spend time with their favorite actors, not necessarily to buy, buy, buy! That said, there were only two negatives about the dealers room: there was a guy who had a Theremin there. You know, one of those electronic “musical” devices that make the Doctor Who theme? Yeah, any interest I ever had in owning one was destroyed as people came to it and made noises that crippled mental fortitude. It was so mentally devastating that when one table offering home improvements (!?!?) assaulted me, I actually entertained it. That, by the way, was the worst part: how did a home improvement table show up in the dealers room?
Of the guests, I was focused on a handful. A die-hard fan of Babylon 5, what I consider the best-written science fiction series for television, I could not turn down a meeting with Captain John Sheridan himself. He was polite, but not particularly talkative. That’s always a danger meeting ones heroes: they can disappoint. I won’t say he did that, he was certainly nice enough, but it was our counterparts from across the pond that really made it worth while.
Paul McGann, the 8th Doctor, is like talking to an old friend (in point of fact, I have met him before and chatted with him, but I have no reason to believe he would remember me!) We talked about Jodie’s time on the show and how he enjoys interacting with fans. He even shared a story about Chris Eccleston attending his first convention. I was going to describe his as a gentleman, but no. I think more than that: he is a friend. When you walk away from Paul, you get the impression that you have truly made a friend and I can’t say how much that means to a fan. Then came the opportunity to replace my photos with Fraser Hines and you know what? Another friend! Fraser is not just friendly but thoughtful as well. Our conversations ranged from our first meeting years ago, talking about the TV show Homeland to driving in the States. We also talked about miniature figures because he had some at his table. When Wendy Padbury came over, she was less talkative, but she looks fantastic. Did Fraser and Wendy forget to age? Good on them, I say! You’d never know it’s been 50 years since they’ve been on the show!
I sat in on one panel: the War Games commentary with Wendy and Fraser. It was fun to watch the final episode of The War Games and hear them speak about it, but the questions that followed were even better. Fraser does a seriously impressive Pat Troughton impression too, so the stories were enhanced by having “Troughton” there for some of it.
There are also perks that we forget to talk about when writing about the conventions. We have a chance to make new friends. I don’t know if Jim or Magenta or Jerry will jump on the blog with us (I have invited them) but I spent a part of a great day with each of them; they made a great day even more enjoyable by sharing a part of it with me.
I left the convention with a smile on my face, ready to tackle a 100 mile drive home right after getting my photo with Wendy and Fraser, who hours after we chatted, called me over by name. There may be bigger conventions out there, but Ken Deep puts together a convention that gives us access to the people we admire, our heroes, and I’m looking forward to what he does next year. ML