Archive | October, 2013

An audience with the lords of time.

21 Oct

I wrote this piece a number of months ago, left it till now to upload and publish to coincide roughly with the 50th anniversary, share & enjoy.

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The Lords Of Time in Sydney is the biggest Dr Who convention that I know of in Australia, it’s also hosted in Brisbane. The audience I recently experienced is the more intimate one, there’s approximately 260 guests in a room, on stage there’s four former time lords, a former time lords companion, the voice of K-9, to top it off, the scary voice of the Daleks and the cybermen. I normally read about the events like this after they happen, most times it’s a case of, “oh well,” I haven’t missed anything. This year it’s was a different matter, there’s going to be four of the classic Dr Who actors coming to stage. This I think is something that will probably not happen again anytime soon. I’ve priced the tickets online, already the goal posts have been moved much further away than I had imagined. As the saying goes, “You pay for quality.” Now I don’t mind paying good money for meeting great TV or movie stars, it really can hurt the hip pocket is all I’m saying. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to fork out a lot of money to meet said celebrity. I had to evaluate what I really wanted to do this year, Supanova or the Lords of Time gathering.

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Its at this time I think to myself quite selfishly, why not try for both. How can I achieve this outcome? The promoters nearly always give the fans an opportunity at different times the chance to win free entry to the event they are hosting. Win a ticket to this, I will still be able to attend Supanova, don’t win, I still go to Supanova. All I need is to be the winning entry, yeah righto. The question being? Tell us your favourite Dalek Story and why, and you could tell Nicholas Briggs yourself. For those that don’t know, myself included at the time, Nicholas is the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen, he has also provided the voice of the Judoon. Without a doubt the best episode for me was always The Genisis of the Daleks, the introduction of Davros was scarey, half man half Dalek. And with that simple answer I won.

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It wasn’t a hard choice who to take as my plus one, my youngest daughter decided for me as soon as the news left my lips whilst carrying out a nerdy happy dance round the house. Having already had some experience in getting to these shindigs early we decided an early rise and drive would ensure us a better chance of getting excellent seats and less time lining up to get the tokens for signing and photos. We planned to get ourselves photographed with the four doctors seeing as this would’ve covered the cost of entry anyway. We arrived at the Rydges world square Sydney hotel roughly around 8:00am, an easy drive from home that time of the morning, we skipped breakfast just in case we hit any traffic also as we thought to get great seats. The first hurdle is approaching, the line is already forming, that’s ok, there’s not many people there yet. The overwhelming smell of coffee and bacon wafts through from the dining room, tummies are grumbling but that’s ok, we are up front in the line. We are told after standing in line for roughly 10 to 15 minutes only the VIP’s need to line up at the moment and the other tickets are assigned seating anyway. That explains why the tickets were to be picked up as you enter, this I find out later keeps costs down for the day. All of the staff are all there on a voluntary basis. VIP’s go in first, ok, we are now able to dash for coffee and be back in time. During this time I remember people are going to be dressed up, there is a stunning variety of costumes being worn, some very convincingly, then there’s the case of, you know the saying? “look at yourself in the mirror before venturing out in the world.” That does sound rude but sometimes you just have to shake your head in wonder. Having said this, there was a couple of excellent Doctors, one in particular was a David Tennant Doctor, there was a cute little baby dressed in a home made Dalek dress, the young lady dressed as Clara the impossible girl was one of the best, also lots of different Doctor Who & Dalek T-shirts and I remember at least one bow tie and a Fez. Anyone that’s travelled through the time vortex would know, “bow ties are cool.”

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The stars of this gathering are as follows: Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. They are joined by Janet Fielding who portrayed Tegan Jovanka, John Leeson who voices the adorable K-9 and also Nicolas Briggs who I’ve mentioned earlier. They all get stage time to reminisce about their time on Dr. Who, as well as a question and answer time. This is the time to think of really important questions to put towards the stars, some where excellent, there were also some so disturbing I was cringing in embarrassment thinking you’ve got to get outside and maybe ride your bike in the sunshine for a change buddy. The best questions would’ve undoubtedly been the costume related ones, did they have a decision for their specific wardrobe? No surprise most of them didn’t, if they had a choice it would have been a leather jacket and jeans, the real tough cool look, but no, that wasn’t in keeping with the way the show was being directed. You hear a deep sigh from the actor being questioned, oh well, and then they point out how cool Christopher Eccleston looked when the re-boot actually happened. Do you remember his clobber? Leather Jacket and jeans.

There is an opportunity through the day to get your photo with the stars, buy merchandise, books, DVDs, clothes even a wide variety of sonic screwdrivers. What I failed to notice at first was the guy sitting in the “dealers room” with excellent pieces of artwork on display for sale. Stewart McKenny is a talented artist who has worked at DC Comics, Dark Horse and also Marvel comics. I first met him last year at Supanova where I brought a copy of Star Wars tales with Boba Fett on the front. Stewart had no worries about signing it for me at the time, he is very approachable guy very eager to give up his time as well. Now it sits pride of place in my Star Wars cabinet, stil in mint condition, still unread. My daughter was quite excited after buying a print of Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood fame Stewart offered to sign it. There was at least one happy teenager there on that day. After we lined up, brought our photo tickets and signing tokens we’ve realised he’s selling a special print for the day for a fraction of the price of what we just spent on the photo. I have already failed in following my own advice of doing your homework before making your purchase decisions. As a result the only other purchases we made was a Tom Baker scarf brought by my daughter for me when Father’s Day comes round later in the year. I can’t wait to wear it through the UK for our holiday at Christmas. I’m already regretting not buying the TARDIS beanie. Why not a sonic screwdriver? As everyone that knows me I’m a regular Frank Spencer with any kind of tool whether its a simple screwdriver or one of these high tech ones. (Yes I know they don’t actually work).

The program for the day is a little confusing for first time attendees such as us. I assumed the dealers room would be closed whilst different guests were on stage. This wasn’t the case and it was this fact that nearly cost us dearly, I don’t like to belittle the voice actors but its during the time John Leeson was on stage the photo sessions were being carried out, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too interested and seeing as our seats were right at the back I took the opportunity to go back into the dealers room and succumbed to buying a print from Stewart, I’m ashamed to say I brought a Star Wars print of the bounty hunters and not a Dr. Who print. While he was signing it we got to talking about Supanova and how I made a purchase last year, the nerd factor hit and I showed him a photo of my modest Star Wars collection, feeling very pleased, he noticed the previously mentioned signed comic. When I vaguely hear “last call for photos with the four doctors!” What the heck? Panic sets in, I go racing back into the seated section and drag my daughter back into the dealers room, quick find the tokens, fix your hair up, are my eyebrows straight, do your zip up. Like herded cattle we were pushed in, a quick hello to the stars, stand here, snap, ok please exit this way. Were my eyes closed? Was I smiling? Is that a piece of spinach in your teeth? Do we get a do over? Two minutes tops I think we are in there. Truth to be told they probably have sore faces smiling for so long themselves. Big sigh of relief. Lets do lunch dad, I’m starving. We quickly peruse the program and we have at least two hours to spare.

It’s decided the Irish pub down the road will serve our needs for refreshments, counter lunch and a pint of bitter always goes down well. After lunch a quick visit to Kings Comics. Why is it when I walk into a cool comic shop I can never pick something I will be satisfied reading at the end of the day over a hot chocolate? There’s way too much to choose from. After ten minutes I throw my hands up in despair and walk out empty handed across the road to a second hand book store, sometimes you’ll find the book your looking for, most times it’s in the window display not for sale. Empty handed again back outside with the empty feeling of a wallet full of cash.

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Once back in we pick up our photo, I’m not going to discuss it other than to say, “photobomb”. The main part of the day is about to begin, well it’s supposed too, waiting, waiting. As part of the VIP ticket you have the luxury of sharing lunch with all the stars, or at least the stars come around the tables for five or ten minutes and you get to casually chat while downing a fair amount of wine & food, nice touch. Unfortunately it goes way overtime by roughly an hour or so, three quarters of the audience are patiently waiting. The natives are very restless. Finally Nicholas Briggs comes out on stage for his Q & A. It’s very interesting to see how he changes his voice to suit the different characters he portrays onscreen. As it turns out the other actors and actresses find they are able to respond better to Nicholas actually being there on set then responding to a recording of his voice while filming scenes. A trivial fact I’ve recently learned is that he’s actually had a part in Torchwood. He played the part of the Deputy Prime Minister in the Children of Earth episodes. He also directs many of the Big Finish Production audio plays. He has to go a little overtime to cover for the main stars. Finally it’s time, Geronimo!!

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Paul McGann walks out on stage, the applause starts, there’s a feeling of paparazzi taking photos, flashes from every camera in the room. Paul (can I use his first name as if I know home personally?) is a very unassuming person who quietly goes about reminiscing about his time as the Doctor, as he explains it, he was technically the Doctor for only 6 weeks whilst filming was carried out for the cult Doctor Who movie, it was a failed reboot in 1996. In other words a whole entire episode that also starred Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso, Eric Roberts and of course Sylvester McCoy for his regeneration scene. As a result of the failed ratings in America Doctor Who had to wait till 2005 to be on TV again. I’ve only seen this once but still rate it up there with the great episodes. Nowadays Paul enjoys varied success on TV and movies, but for the fans he still lives on in the audio dramas of Doctor Who.

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Sylvester McCoy! Wow! Ask anyone there on the day what their high point of the day was? I’d take bets, it was the craziness that followed in Sylvester’s wake. After being introduced to the audience he firstly refuses to take to the stage and sit down, armed with his trusty brolly and a microphone you’d best to keep a clear path. The usual order for question and answers flor the day is, the MC picks you after holding your arm in the air for at least 3 regenerations, you are passed the microphone, you ask your question pass it back and you are given an answer. Not so with Sylvester McCoy. He carried out his own Q & A with much hilarity ensuing. Firstly, we get to practice how to pronounce his Lord of The Rings character Radagast the brown, he likes to throw it in all of his friends faces it seems, and relishes in the fact he has a major starring role in The Hobbit, his words not mine. He walks around the audience giving it a very personal feel, if you are chosen to give a question, he will not let you hold the microphone and will hit you on the head if you try, much to the delight of nearly everyone. If your question is deemed good enough you’ll get a great answer. If not, you will be afforded a simple deadpan “no” and he continues on his way. If anyone could work a crowd it was Sylvester, he went way over time and didn’t care, he was here to entertain and that’s exactly what he did. At one stage he described the current Doctor Matt Smith as a 12 year old referring to his young boyish looks and charm. Everything he said was funny, he had an incredible amount of energy working the audience and was thanked with a huge thunderous applause.

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Colin Baker comes out next. For most people in the Who fandom you’ll know how after 3 seasons or series depending how you look at classic episodes, Colin was basically shafted from his position after much turmoil in the BBC. He was asked how he felt about the shabby treatment he received and it was quite clear to everyone it’s still a sore point. I actually squirmed in my chair when this was asked, I felt like it was a crossing of a line drawn in the sand and felt very sorry for him. Colin held his chin up explained how he saw it from his point of view and also went on to say how all the other actors who have portrayed the Doctor after him are fakes, he’s still to officially regenerate. It was Sylvestor who wore a wig briefly as the 6th Doctor for the scene. As with most of the others he now enjoys of more successful stint as the Doctor on the audio dramas. At the time he was cast as the Doctor he had become the only actor to have appeared as another character prior to taking on the leading role. He still remains enthusiastic about his part with much grace.

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Peter Davison was my Doctor when I really started to become a fan as a kid, everyone that watches the show has their own one. I’d first met Peter Davison on my TV back in the day when he played Tristan on All Creatures Great & Small based on the excellent books written by James Herriot. The stories he told about that role were quite funny if not slightly gross. They actually lived like the vets they portrayed onscreen, yep your whole hand up the cows back end was a more notable memory. Peter’s run was also the last time I watched Doctor Who for a fair while after the screen death of the companion Adric. This episode gutted me, the rules of time travel as they have written for this particular fiction have remained the same throughout. This is explained best in the final episode of Amy & Rory Pond, (Spoilers!!) Peter was at the time the youngest person to have played the Doctor, a record he retained for nearly 30 years until Matt Smith was cast. Peter has said he always felt too young to be the Doctor, he says given the chance he’d be better at it now if given the chance. Something I found out later is the fact he filmed a small episode with David Tennant called Time Crash back in 2007, you’ll find it on YouTube as I did.

Whilst Peter was still on stage Janet Fielding aka Teagan the air hostess companion was invited up on stage and the audience is shown how good these two people can still mix it up on stage, very funny, witty and sassy, recreating memories of filming and remembering forgotten and imagined slights, they played the part with great hilarity. We are then treated to all four Doctors on stage, well sort of. Once again Sylvester steals the limelight by carrying out the Q & A’s from the floor walking energetically around the audience with a passion I’ve never seen in a celebrity before, it was a truly great moment to be a part of.

The only thing left of the very long day now is the signings of photos, books posters and whatever else you can think of by the celebrities. Now this part of the day really brings into perspective what a VIP ticket entails. The VIP’s are entitled as part of their ticket, photos with the stars, early entry to the dealers room, lunch with the stars and now as it turns out, first in line for the signings. It’s roughly 6 o’clock in the evening if memory serves me right, and we’ve now just been told how the signings work. Bugger. We are called in basically ten to twenty at a time on the basis of our ticket seating. Yeah… That’s right, we are right up the back and therefore will be in the last handful of people. Battery on the phone is near flat and there’s nothing else to do other than wait and think what’s for dinner tonight? It’s hard to criticise this procedure, it’s just the way it has to happen, it seemed like an eternity, everyone wants ink on something. The one thing I can say when it’s crammed into one day it also takes a major toll on your guest stars. I take my hat of to these guys, by the time we do get in for our signing and a quick snatched conversation they are all still smiling and laughing, they looked absolutely exhausted. This quick chance to say hello, thanks and I admire your work brings forth quite a lot of satisfaction and washes away any doubt you’ve had throughout the day when you worry about the money you did or could’ve spent, for me it was so worth it.

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All said and done it was a good thing to experience. I’m very thankful to Culture Shock Events for the opportunity to attend with the free tickets. Most of all it was a chance to spend a day with my youngest daughter, we don’t often get a chance to share and bond together, something like today will be something we will always be able to have a good laugh and reminisce about regardless of any regenerations we go through as parent and daughter.

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