Official Doctor Who Convention – Review, Part 1

This past weekend on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March, BBC Worldwide, as you are more than likely aware, have hosted The Official Doctor Who Convention in the glorious sunshine that bathed Cardiff Bay’s Millenium Centre. Well, it was sunny outside at any rate. Inside, among the clean, modern, air-conditioned corridors, rooms and theatres, the convention goers couldn’t have cared less about the weather, something more important was happening: The first BBC-run “convention” since the heady days of Longleat in 1983 when it celebrated a now meagre sounding “Twenty Years of a Time Lord”.

Since Doctor Who blasted back on to our screens on this very day in 2005, a number of official events have been hosted alongside the plethora of unofficial gatherings. The Galactic Dinner in aid of Children in Need, musical concerts including a Prom, The Doctor Who Experience currently on hiatus during its relocation, and Doctor Who Live, which was a kind of Doctor Who pantomime have all entertained in there own ways but there is something intangibly different and possibly more exciting when you label something as a “Convention”. And when you go so far as adding an “Official” to the front, then perhaps it just stimulates the Fan Gene in a way other events don’t quite manage, but even I (as someone who studiously avoids conventions) was encouraged to purchase my ticket at the first possible opportunity back in November and set my expectations to “high” accordingly.

So first things first, since the announcement we have been drip-fed details about the content of the event and the whys and wherefores of how this thing would hang together. Some puzzling omissions and changes along with regular additions, even up to a few days before the doors opened, meant that planning your time, your travel and your bookings (and thus assessing value for money) was a little grey around the edges to say the least. In short, £99 would get you in for a day, with the events of Saturday being duplicated on the Sunday so that attendees only had to pick one. Tickets were limited to 1,500 per day and then each day’s attendees were further sub-divided into two streams, Silurian and Ood, allowing for two-interlocking series of events and avoiding over-subscribed crushes in the theatre panels.

On offer were the following…

  • A handsome looking Tote bag on arrival (including souvenir tickets, DVD, lanyard, exclusive art cards, glossy brochure)
  • A “Creators and Directors” discussion panel (focussing on one episode “The Girl Who Waited” with writer, producer and effects team)
  • A “Meets The Stars” discussion panel (with Matt, Karen, Arthur, Steven Moffat and Caro Skinner)
  • A “Doctor Who Uncut” discussion panel (discussing the end-to-end production process)
  • A “Prosthetics Demonstration” (with Neil Gorton and team)
  • A “Special Effects” demonstration (with Danny Hargreaves and team)
  • Autograph opportunities with a selection of guest stars and behind-the-scenes crew (too numerous to list)
  • A display of “Props and Costumes” from the series
  • A talk about the work of the Restoration Team (with Steve Roberts)
  • Playable demonstrations of the newest two DW video games (The Eternity Clock and Worlds in Time)
  • A coach trip to Upper Boat Studios and the TARDIS set itself

All of these were included with the price of admission. In addition, there were add-ons in the form of guaranteed photograph and autograph opportunities with the three main stars of the show, Matt, Karen and Arthur, at £20-£25 a pop. Now, that is pretty expensive kind of money for many people to spend on something that could easily be considered frivolous but I think it turned out to provide genuinely good value.

My plan was to arrive on Saturday late-morning, have a mooch around the outside of the venue and try and figure out the lay of the land. I had my TARDIS tour booked for 5pm and a loose plan to meet up with some Twitter friends in the friends in the evening. And that is almost exactly what happened except for the mooching turned into something immensely more worthwhile. More about that when I return in Part 2 of the review very soon indeed.

In the meantime many many more pictures can be seen over on my Flickr page, where you’ll find 10 sets of pictures from the various parts of my weekend.

(Link to Part 2)

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  3. July 15th, 2012

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