Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW: The Official Doctor Who Convention

You know the expression: "You can't spell Doctor Who without 'ooo'"? Well last weekend's Official Doctor Who Convention doubled the 'ooo's and added an 'ah'...

Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
The wonderful Millennium Centre in Cardiff was home to the cast and crew of the world's greatest television show along with thousands of its fans (also the world's greatest). And, as you may know, Blogtor was down for the experience! So enjoy my take on one of the best experiences of my life and certainly the best Doctor Who fun I've ever had.

The day was split into various events, talks and demonstrations so I'll broach each one individually. I should state, however, that I didn't do any autograph/picture type things (not really my thing) and I neglected the "video games" room featuring Doctor Who titles (again, not really my thing). First up...

Special Effects Studio
To kick~start my day, I had SFX Supervisor Danny Hargreaves (familiar to Confidential fans) blast stuff into my face in a hugely entertaining demonstration of practical effects (including pyrotechnics). Danny is an immensely engaging fellow and kept the packed~out auditorium amused and informed with his bangers, explodeys and tales from filming. His involvement catered for all ages and the show was without fault, though it did serve to remind what a huge loss Doctor Who Confidential is/was/will be.

Costumes and props displays
Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
As you might expect, this was a display of costumes and props. #obvious I visited this room a few times. There's such a rush when you're beside a Silent, the TARDIS or even a Slitheen (yes, even a Slitheen). Each time I was there the excitement was tangible and on hand were people who had worked on Doctor Who to chat and inform. I imagine that most who witnessed it wished it could have been even bigger, such is the pull and allure of actual props and costumes (or prostumes as I shall now refer to them as). I have to be honest, I did start to well up when I came across Donna Noble's outfit (Series 4 finale) and then Elisabeth Sladen's. A powerful reminder.

Prosthetics demonstrations
Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
This was a show, of sorts, that took place throughout the day with Millennium FX getting to grips with and revealing the secrets behind Scarecrows, Gangers et al. Like the Visual FX demo, this was a huge hit and each time I walked by or sat in, the crowd were enthralled. Again, audience participation was used to great effect and I'm positive that some kids will remember how they were transformed into a Doctor Who monster for a few moments. for the rest of their lives. A heart~warming experience.

Lost Episodes Talks
Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
This was slightly inaccurately named and, to be honest, rather poorly advertised; taking place in between the show times of the above demonstrations. The talk was more concerned with the restoration process and just how the guys at the Restoration Team (Steve Roberts and Peter Crocker) do the amazing job they do when they bring in old episodes to produce for the "classic" DVD range. It was a fascinating discussion and, at times, mind~blowing in the magic they manage to create (or recreate). Sadly, the event took place in the open resulting in the screen showing off all their talents rendered somewhat useless due to the light; an enclosed room would have been much more suitable. I should state that this is the only "complaint", such that it is, about the whole Convention and it should be said the guys were in great form.

Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
Meet the Stars
I don't think it's much a of stretch to say that this panel, taking place the main and exquisite theatre in the Millennium Centre, was the most anticipated and certainly most excitedly received (I'm not sure what the collective noun for Squee~ers is but this was it). Featuring Steven "Nice Try" Moffat, Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillan and new (ish) executive producer Caroline Skinner this was a real treat and the gang worked very well together, regaling stories, dropping hints and gently ribbing one another.

Hosted with some style by Welsh newsreader Jason Mohammad (who has himself appeared in a number of Who episodes), it was a stylish affair and the floor was opened up to questions; of which there were many. It was an utter delight to see Matt swap Jammie Dodgers with a fan's Jelly Babies. Proving, once more, what a legend he is. 

Karen, too, provided some chuckles when a Silurian sneaked on stage and gave her a right old freak~out on stage. The poor girl did have the ignominy of having her giant "moon face" mocked by her co~workers (much to everyone's amusement). Full marks and a gold star go to SteeMo (pictured below) who managed to raise a smile with every answer to any question seeking a Pandorica~sized crack in his impenetrable spoiler~busting facade.
 
I'd like to also give plaudits to Caro, the "newcomer" to the gang, who could have quite easily been overwhelmed by her more famous colleagues but fitted in perfectly (especially with her TARDIS headgear) complementing them whilst adding a new voice. The group clearly work together well and enjoy their company, translating wonderfully to the stage. I could have quite happily spent all day listening to their warm and friendly antics.

Creators & Directors
Former script editor and author Gary Russell, another genial character from behind~the~scenes, hosted a Doctor Who Confidential style seminar with producer Marcus Wilson and the always charming, writer Tom MacRae (The Girl Who Waited). His most recent episode was discussed in~depth and appropriately so as much of it was filmed in the Millennium Centre. The examination of the filming and production process was insightful and delivered impeccably (bonus points for explaining how a particular scene in the aforementioned episode was filmed with no CG trickery, just good old~fashioned moving stuff about quickly chutzpah).

Doctor Who Uncut
The affable Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator, fact fans) took to the stage for one of the day's final events featuring a gaggle of members of the production team (Caroline Skinner, Production Designer Michael Pickwoad, Casting Director Andy Pryor, Director of Photography Stephan Pehrsson and director Julian Simpson). It was a comprehensive panel, with Skinner really shining here, but was slightly overshadowed by the most welcome inclusion of a surprise for the Convention attendees - the Doctor Who Series 7 trailer.

It was a remarkable gift for fans to glimpse the scintillating scenes from a few episodes that have just finished filming. The gasps around the theatre told their own story - particularly the final shot of the Dalek eye stalk. Doctor Who as a collective experience was quite the thrill. Again, there was a superbly handled Q&A featuring some interesting questions from the floor whilst the panel clearly appreciated the interaction.

TARDIS Set~Tour
The inclusion of the set~tour was a stroke of genius (especially considering that a further bus journey had to be taken into consideration). Walking around the actual TARDIS was not unlike a dream; the experience was such an unbelievable one that I'm glad I have pictorial evidence to affirm my presence there. Being left alone, well almost, in the console room for a half hour or so is pretty much, I imagine, what most fans would love.

Even better was the fact that we could touch the buttons, pull the levers and stomp the foot pedals. The joy in the room was palpable and the buzz was electric as we all played Doctor for a few minutes. Certainly another moment that will love in the memories of those who attended.


Of course, if there was one journey I could have taken in Gallifrey's finest ship of choice, it would be to go back to the start of the day to enjoy the Doctor Who Convention all over again. Some of you have asked about highlights and I can honestly say that there was not one; everything was a highlight. Even just tooling around the Millennium Centre tightened the trousers of my very soul, witnessing the numerous signings, famous faces and dolled~up fans.

I sincerely hope the BBC don't regard this as a once in a lifetime event and ensure that many more fans can share in what surely was the most pleasurable Doctor Who experience you will get anywhere in the universe.

BLOGTOR RATING 10/10
RECENT POSTS
Series 7 news [Spoilers!]
Matt Smith chats Jenna & Convention
Series 7 trailer breakdown
New Earth - What Did YOU Think?
Series 7 Trailer!


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