Official Doctor Who Convention – Review, Part 3

(link to Part 2)


The morning dawned with appropriate level of grogginess following a rather late night, and plenty of the local stout having been consumed among new friends. But it was soon washed away with a shower, a pint of coffee and the general excitement of being there. Happily the weather was beautiful once again, so I went for a stroll around the waterfront before heading to the Millenium Centre. There were big queues in evidence as the crowd waited for 9am to roll around and the doors to open. Cleverly, the scanning of pre-booked tickets and the distribution of goody bags took place as the attendees stood in line, so that once the clock struck the hour it was very quick to get all 1,500 fans inside (would have been a nightmare if it was raining though). Given the success of my previous day’s ticket-less infiltration, I was comfortable that I could run through the organised events for the Ood stream without being too distracted by the other activities, so I was all set for a day of excellent conventioning (that’s probably not a real word, but it should be). Anyway, I headed straight to the queue for the “Creators & Directors” panel in the impressive Donald Gordon Theatre.

This panel focussed on the episode “The Girl Who Waited”, appropriately enough given that the Millenium Centre itself had featured in the episode. The session was hosted by Gary Russell and the guests (pictured above, from left to right) were Neill Gorton (Millenium FX), Robert Allsop (Designer), Marcus Wilson (Producer), and Tom MacRae (Writer). This was the kind of detailed analysis that fans adore, giving Tom the opportunity to describe the various stages that the script went through under guidance from Marcus and the team: Interestingly, Tom described television as a writer’s medium while film was a director’s one, illustrating this by saying that he viewed his script as a blueprint from which the show had to be built. Once this blueprint was out there, folk like Neill and Robert would start to plan their approaches. Good point of trivia is that Rob Allsop also worked on the classic series and is the man responsible for, of all things, The Kandyman. Legend.

From that session I went straight in to the 10:45am staging of Danny Hargreaves’ SFX demonstration. This is where the day was most like an episode of Doctor Who Confidential, with Danny being a familiar face to anyone who watched that show. We were treated to explosions, bullets, snow and smoke and were duly entertained by the Eternal Dalek and characterful Cyberman who were on hand to assist (as well as few members of the audience). I genuinely think that the adults enjoyed it as much as the kids. Afterwards and without a moment to lose, I then strode over to the other side of the Millenium Centre where this made my day….

Now there is a nice story about this picture. It obviously isn’t the “official” photo that was paid for (that is ready to mounted in a nice frame and hung somewhere that my wife won’t mind it being on display), however, it was taken by a girl in the queue behind me, who happened to see me later in the day and kindly offered to email it over. Splendid chaps, these Doctor Who fans, all of them. Once the photo with Matt had been taken I had over an hour to kill before the “Meet The Stars” panel was due to start, however, as I walked back in to the Reception area, I saw the queue was already building up. Having done all my “extras” the day before, I figured that I should join the line there and then in order to get seat closer to the front. Even though I wished I had bought some food and drink by this time, I had a pleasant time speaking with some other fans including a Finnish couple from Manchester and the aforementioned photographer. Time flew, we were whisked in and, before we knew it, we were ready to start with back-to-back panels (“Doctor Who Uncut” was due to follow thirty minutes after the “Meet The Stars” session and we were told that staying in seats might be much easier for all concerned). Meet the Stars was wonderful. I could bang on about it for hours but I won’t, instead you can have a list…

  • Matt, Karen and Arthur leapt on to stage. Actual, physical leaping in celebration of Sport Relief. Steven and Caro did not.
  • Matt showed that he hadn’t let his footballing past escape him as he successfully executed fifty keepie-uppies again for Sport Relief.
  • Jason Mohammed (from BBC Wales and guest spots on the 2005 and 2007 Christmas Specials) was MC.
  • The first half included chats on first memories of Doctor Who, some small amount of talk about the current production with one or two snippets of new news, clips of the three main actors’ best scenes by way of asking them about their roles, all the while the chemistry and fun and camaraderie of the stars was plain to see by all.
  • Loved the turn of phrase about Rory given by Steven Moffat who said of the character, “I love the fact that when needs must, he can get his centurion on
  • I asked the first question in the Q&A (yay, me!), which was “What are we going to do without Doctor Who Confidential?” This prompted some applause from the audience before Caro answered that, once the tears had dried, they had decided to arm Matt, Karen and Arthur with Flip video cameras (most of the footage unsuitable for broadcast according to Arthur) and that lots of behind the scenes stuff was being worked on that would mainly make its way to the official website. Also, in what I think was an exclusive, that a musical number called ‘The Ballad of Amy and Rory’ was being planned as a celebration of Karen and Arthur’s time aboard the TARDIS and would be on YouTube in September-ish.
  • Other questions included (from memory), “What time period is the Doctor’s watch set to?” (love the kid’s questions), “Which Hogwart’s House would the cast be in?” (All Slytherin, if you’re interested), “Why are Karen and Arthur really leaving?” (Been planned for a long time and absolutely by mutual consent), and “What old monster would you most like to bring back?” (brilliantly answered by Steven as follows “I would like to answer that question in the form of a television series returning to your screens later this year.“). If you were there please add extra details to the comments as it’s getting blurry already. Or better still, if you find a video on YouTube please let me know.

Then we got into Doctor Who Uncut. This was a bit similar to the earlier Creators and Directors panel, but came at it from a different angle and focussed on the process of making an episode rather than the script to screen routine. This was hosted by the extremely affable Barnaby Edwards and brought back to the stage Producer, Caro Skinner along with Michael Pickwoad, Julian Simpson, Stephan Perhsson, and Andy Pryor. The latter giving some insight in to the casting of Jemma-Louise Coleman while the others seemed to focus their discussions on the Gangers episodes, due to the trickery of making the monastry from no less than five separate locations in Wales, all giving good insight into the difficulty of production. Of course, the much publicised part of this panel was the world premier of Series Seven footage.

One of the most interesting questions in the Ood Sunday version of this panel was “Will there ever be a 3D episode?“, which brought about an emigmatic “Possibly.” from Caro. Expanding upon this, Stephan explained that the necessary cameras and their size, complexity and other challenges would require double the usual filming duration, not to mention the extra cost. After dipping their toe in the 3D water at the Doctor Who Experience, it would not surprise me if this crystalised in to something real at some point in the not-too-distant future, highly unlikely to be Series Seven though. This was the panel that, on the previous day, we heard the revelation that the Ponds’ last episode (number 5) was to be shot in New York and feature Weeping Angels. As soon as I heard this I jumped to the following conclusion… statues > New York > Staue of Liberty > clearly a Weeping Angel permanently quantum locked thanks to the fact that there is always at least one set of eyes on it. 2+2 = 5, perhaps, but what would you give to see the Statue of Liberty marauding through the streets of lower Manhatten getting all Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on the residents?

Panels complete and the day nearly done, it was time for one more autograph and two more photos. I headed to the autograph and was slightly bemused to find that there was an option to purchase one autograph with each of the three main stars in the single time-slot and then get entered in to a fast-track queue. If I had known this I may have been tempted with the triumvirate of signatures, but as it was I just got Karen’s auto in my Brilliant Book (I had taken my copy of The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012 in which to collect all my sigs. Eighteen in total after the weekend was done). However, I also added both Matt and Arthur’s photo to my collection after that and, with that, the weekend was over in a flash. Other people have been writing about the weekend and I include a select few of the links at the end of this blog, in case you want to hear what other people thought.

To be honest, I heard some disgruntlement in the early months since announcement about the steep prices, the lack of activities for younger fans and the overall poor communication that led to much confusion as to the why’s and wherefore’s on the con. However, even as someone who almost never attends conventions, I have to say that the price was completely value-for-money (assuming you have that kind of disposable income to shower on your favourite TV show), and the lack of younger fan activities made the whole thing feel like it was targeted towards a fan like me. A more child-friendly approach would probably have been to the detriment of the event. The early confusion, I have to confess, was a little disconcerting in terms of who you could book to see and when but these are mere ripples on the pond when you consider how much access there was and how much there to do and enjoy. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that this was the best Doctor Who experience that I have had since becoming a fan in 1978. And, just in case you want to see what other people are saying, here are a few reports….

BBC News Report and pictures

The wise words of Cameron at Blogtor Who

Wales Online

SFX Magazine

Toby Whitmore

  1. Loved the conference. The best part for me was going to the TARDIS and meeting Karen and Arthur. Didn’t get to talk to Matt though, but it was still okay. Way too short and not enough time to do everything, but it worth every penny. Loved Cardiff and met some really fun people.

  1. March 30th, 2012
    Trackback from : Amy Who? « Demon's Run
  2. November 3rd, 2013

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