UnConventional?

Upon discovery that Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook and Sylvester McCoy would all be attending Dimensions 2006 at the Swallow Hotel, Stockton on Tees, I immediately resolved to get the K gang back together, and pay the event a visit.

Brian Terranova was very interested in visiting the UK again for a Doctor Who convention that would give him he chance to see the stars of the 1996 TV Movie. Anthony Dry, too, wanted to show his face, and try and get fellow scouser Paul McGann to come to the pub and watch Liverpool v Arsenal. I just wanted to meet Daphne Ashbrook, and Gareth Kavanagh of Black Scrolls and this parish wanted to bag some interviews…

Gareth, Brian and I have cast our minds back to November 2006 to provide part one of our two-part Conventions special. Below are our individual, unedited recollection of events, mainly concentrating on meeting the three stars, and possibly touching on the presence of other online magazines, the similarity with a cattle market, and a man with a lightsaber…

Christian Cawley

Let me start by saying that I LOVE DAPHNE ASHBROOK. In fact, if I wasn’t married I might well have a court order or injunction against me. My defence of course would be “It’s not stalking, it’s selective walking.”

In the flesh, Daphne was the epitome of lovely. A dazzling smile, strawberry blonde hair, a lovely voice and she seemed genuinely happy to see everyone that visited her table. I remember her seeing my smile, and smiling back at me. Our eyes met… and I drifted away to adventures that we would never have, me as the Eighth Doctor, she as Daphne Ashbrook, leaving her life as an actress to accompany me travelling through the stars. My reverie was of course short lived, but I managed to move myself just before security was called.

Paul McGann, meanwhile was the subject of a slightly unusual request. My other half isn’t a fan of Withnail & I, and moans whenever I want to watch it; I on the other hand, LOVE it. Therefore, instead of asking for an autograph for me, I asked one of Britain’s most underrated actors to sign it to Ceri, on the understanding that she would then let me watch Withnail & I without any obstruction. I suspect that this was an unusual request for Paul, as he seemed initially baffled, but soon came round to my plan, embellishing it by suggesting I should dump my wife if she refused again. This seemed fair enough at the time…

Back in the 1980s, I watched the Seventh Doctor with a mixture of awe and embarrassment. This of course had little to do with Sylvester McCoy, and everything to do with Doctor Who at that time. However Sylvester’s Doctor was fortunate in that his time was extended marvellously by the Doctor’s new printed adventures, and as such his time on Doctor Who considerably shaped the modern era, producing writers such as Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss and others who have gone on to success as writers of Doctor Who novels or in other areas.

On this particular day, Sylvester was looking tired, and apparently had a cold. I believe he was visiting Stockton (not the best place in the world if you’re feeling under the weather) in between performances in a play or some other production up in Scotland, so he had made quite a journey to get to the convention. It was Sylvester who we queued to meet first, and it has to be said that he didn’t appear to be enjoying silently signing pits of paper, although he was perfectly pleased to receive thanks from me – I think it might have been the first time he had smiled all day.

It was while queuing here that I realised that I was at a cattle market. It was like the new world order in miniature. Here I was, shepherded into a queue, then off to another room, told when I could go in, when I could get a signature, when I could leave. Suddenly it all became clear that Dimensions, and many of the other “big” events – particularly those with vast portion of time given over to autographs – are yesterday’s news. There’s nothing new to be learned in these days of the World Wide Web. There are few new stories, and what new stories there are find themselves being saved up for autobiographies and memoirs.

The days of the big cons are over.

Gareth Kavanagh

Well that was the third Dimensions for me. It’s also the first in which I haven’t had a new copy of Black Scrolls to hawk round the bar and dealers room which allowed me to relax and kick back for a change.

So – what was to enjoy? Well, as usual it’s little to do with the actual convention and everything to do with meeting up with your mates, holding court in the bar, having a gossip and marvelling at the sights that greet you. Kudos to the ultra fans too. I’ve worked in Stockton a few times over the years and it’s hard as nails, so these brave souls venturing out to Goldies and Zanzibar dressed as Patrick Troughton deserve every medal going! Good value was also to be had from the TV Movie guests, especially professional scouser Paul McGann who looked pained to be missing the Liverpool v Arsenal clash as he signed endless copies of his complete era DVD box set. The tragedy was palpable…

What’s not to enjoy then? Well, as usual, these things have all the atmosphere of a Nuremburg Rally and the organisation of an Albanian theme park in terms of the autograph queues. Coupled with some seriously over officious stewarding (perhaps these dress up as traffic wardens at home and parade up and down in front of mirrors issuing tickets…) I seriously had to wonder why we put up with it. The guests also seemed to add very little that we don’t already know, sadly. But, given that virtually no-one worth their salt on NuWho (bar Graeme Harper) will be seen dead at these things, and those that do are either ‘no marks’ in a monster suit like Paul Kasey or one-off guest stars who are looking for a quick coin (hello MyAnna Buring) – I don’t see things improving anytime soon, sadly.

So, perhaps as the mighty Cawley suggests; the age of the convention is near to the end. Time for the return of the Olympiad perhaps?

Brian Terranova

The highlight had to be meeting Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and Daphnie Ashbrook. Never have I met three people so happy to meet their fans. And being an American in England they seemed to have taken a bit of extra time to chat with me and I’m grateful for that as well as happy to admit that I would use that excuse again!

But that’s not all, getting to see Christian, Anthony and Gareth again was a real treat and something that should happen more often.

Of course Dimensions was full of all the usual Who goodness and so on and I would never want to down play that but something needs to be said about this shows ability to bring people together. Many friends were made through the love of this show. Now that is real power.

I would like to note that the costumes this year were very plentiful and we even had some of the quick changers back. But one of the most notable was the Ood. Who ever he was he stayed in character the entire time and that was fun to watch.

As for whether or not the big cons represent the past – my take is that if lightsaber guy is there, it doesn’t matter whether its a big event or a small event, that guy is a legend.


Christian Cawley

About

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


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