Sunday, December 1, 2013

Doctor Who Convention

Was thinking about titling this post: A Doctor I Barely Recognize or The Internet Did Not Break.  Who knows, I might still change it...

Before we go any further, know ye this: I'm a fan of the old series.  I'm a dinosaur, a grognard, and a 39 year old vintage relishing nostalgia whore.  I'd rather be watching The Talons of Weng-Chiang than doing practically anything.  I'm into "scifi gothic" from the 70's and 80's, don't you know.

Got back last night from the Chicago TARDIS Doctor Who convention.  Heard about it months ago through a local geek meetup website - those things are useful because there's a lot of stuff one doesn't hear or read about if they're living a semi-normal, occasional geek lifestyle.  Maybe I should have gotten a free subscription to Entertainment Weekly years ago?

Decided to make a short family vacation out of it.  I'm sure my wife pressuring me into taking her and the kids had almost nothing to do with it.  Not because she likes Doctor Who, of course (though she did pretend to enjoy Jon Pertwee running all over Peladon before getting pregnant with our first child), but because it meant a weekend out of the house, in a nice hotel, and why should I get to go off and have fun while she takes care of our two young children for three days.

The trip to Chicago (just outside, actually) from Madison (Sun Prairie, technically) wasn't too bad.  About two and a half hours.  Due to my wife's negotiating with the hotel manager - the art of badgering men with her constant barrage of demands (I'm mostly kidding) - we had a very nice, very large corner room for an extremely reasonable price.  I knew sleeping with both kids in the room was going to be tricky.  More on that later.

After check-in and registration (Nicola Bryant rushed past the line I was in at one point), I got to see a panel of Paul McGann and his companion from the 1996 made-for-TV movie.  So many people were fawning over the movie, saying how great it was, how it changed their lives, gave them hope, thought that he was their favorite Doctor, and so on.  Well, I finally decided to watch it with my wife the night before we left for the convention.  I had low expectations which is why I'd never seen it until then.

Forgive me it you're one of the many (apparently) who love it, but I thought it was terrible.  Riddled with mistakes - from not bothering to get the audience involved with the minor characters before the action starts to... it's pretty much all bad.  However, I thought some of the acting was good.  Paul McGann did a fine job, and his companion was decent and pretty.  Anyways, I'm not surprised that Doctor Who didn't take off again after that sad pile of Gallifreyan fluff.

Beyond that, the moderator, audience, and McGann were talking about something called Night of the Doctor which apparently was six minutes of heaven for anyone who ever enjoyed scifi.  I had never heard of it until then, but a lot of conversation evolved around that mini-sode or however its categorized.

Onto the next!  Accidentally ran into Michael Jayston who played the Valeyard back in the Trial of a Timelord era.  We briefly talked about local restaurants before I recognized him.  My wife said his breath smelled of booze and both of us spotted him smoking a cigarette outside the hotel at multiple points in our 24 hour convention experience.  So, he aged quite a bit, and for good reason.  Shook his hand, and got a less than crystal clear picture with him.

There was a "Dalek Alley" which was pretty cool.  A lot of prop and replica Daleks for all to see.  A nice little photo-op which I took advantage of.  Also, got to have my voice Dalek-ized with a computer simulation of some modulation whatever.  It's been a long time since I spoke nerd or geek fluently.

I saw a fair amount of costumes.  And not just people dressed like Tom Baker.  I saw an old school Cyberman, Ice Warrior, the Master as played by Anthony Ainley, some dude walking around with a mobile K-9, and a bunch of stuff from McCoy on, of which I've never been much of a fan.

Sleeping was hell.  I went to bed extra early (probably around 8pm) because I knew that all four of us in one big room was going to be nightmarish.  Unfortunately, I missed out on a 50th anniversary party downstairs and probably some other cool stuff.  I felt bad about just leaving my wife to struggle with the kids while I went off to carouse.

Next morning came early, but was eventually filled with Briella going swimming with Mom while I wandered around the lobby with Illyria who just turned 1.  More pictures!  Also, my wife and I decided to cut the trip short and leave mid-afternoon, even though I bought tickets for the whole weekend.  The hotel was very accommodating and let us leave early without having to pay for Saturday night.

Listened to Dick Mills give his one millionth talk on making those classic Doctor Who sounds like the Tardis landing, ray guns firing, and the cloister bell.

Finally got to see Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sarah Sutton, and Nicola Bryant talk about various things.  Found out about a 30 or so minute 50th anniversary "film" which was (again!) news to me.  The Five-ish Doctors it's called.  Apparently, that was also mind blowing!

By now I am sick and tired of hearing that "the internet broke".  These moderators obviously don't know how niche this stuff is.  Even a casual fan like myself (20 years ago I would have classified myself as a super-fan) never even knew this stuff existed.

So, a lot of talk about that, some about the new series - of which I've only seen bits and pieces, except for the real BBC 50th anniversary special which was pretty awesome (I thought Tom Baker was dead) - and quite a bit about those "radio dramas".  Apparently, those are still going on.  Back when Doctor Who had been cancelled, I tried listening to those (twice!) but just couldn't bring myself to enjoy it.  Nevertheless, there were several applause breaks for Big Finish.

Before leaving for WI, I went back into the hotel to pee and get change for those god awful tolls.  On my way to the restroom, I walked by Sarah Sutton.  I smiled, said "Hey", and extended my arm.  She feigned a weak smile, knowing she was going to be forced to shake my hand (which she did), and then scampered off to who knows where as I relieved my bladder (in the men's room, not in the hallway as she was planning her escape).  Afterwards, I convinced myself that it was my own resemblance to the Master which made her uneasy.

You wouldn't think I'd be so happy to sleep in my own bed after just one night away... but I was.  We all were.  I'd never been to a Doctor Who convention.  As you can probably tell, I'm not really a convention kind of guy (fan, geek, whatever).  But, since it was the 50th, and happening less than three hours away, I felt it was something I should do at least once.

Next time, and my wife is in full agreement, I go alone.


p.s.  Oh yeah, I also bought a couple Dalek t-shirts and a pink My Little Pony patch for our 2 3/4 year old.  Thanks for reading!

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