Doctor Who dwcon-uncut

Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

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Why Weren’t You at the Doctor Who Convention?

As regular readers will know, last Saturday I attended the BBC’s first full, self-organized Doctor Who Convention at the jaw-droppingly awesome Millenium Centre in Cardiff.

Getting there was tricky: as father to nine-month-old twins, relying on your better half to perform all of the parenting for a full day is taking things too far. As a result I opted to travel via London, leaving Ceri and the children at my sisters. The original plan had been to drive to Cardiff on Saturday morning, but thankfully I avoided the horrific fog in the south west by booking a return train at the last minute.

What this meant was that I turned up a little later that intended, but thankfully all of the attractions were staggered throughout the day, leaving plenty of time to catch up.

Of course, if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t know any of this. So, what did you miss?

Well, there was the now-obligatory cosplayers for a start off, with Weeping Angels, countless Tenth and Eleventh Doctors and some ladies who made very imaginative use of some blue fabric to design their own police box dresses.

Meanwhile, the event itself was seeded with fascinating material. I sat through Steve Roberts and his Restoration Team colleague twice just to see the results of some cleaning up work on recent DVD releases, although the fact that they were banned by the BBC from discussing Shada and Ambassadors of Death was somewhat perplexing. Finding a home on the disused Millenium FX stage team every other hour, it remained a compelling talk on each occasion I witnessed it.

Neill Gorton’s team, meanwhile, made full use of the stage space, the audience, the AV facilities in the Millenium Centre and their own craft, creating casts out of the hands of audience members and casting several perfect moulds of the head of a team member. Discovering that their techniques are borrowed from other industries (such as dentistry) was quite an eye opener.

Also in this ground floor area of the venue was a side-room packed with PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita devices for attendees to sample the impressive gameplay of The Eternity Clock. The room was packed throughout the day, and Steven Moffat and his family also popped in for a play later on.

I’m not a big autograph hunter, I’m afraid, so didn’t join the queue to chat to people such as Nick Briggs or Simon Fisher-Becker. Mark Sheppard, meanwhile, must have some sort of gold medal for autograph endurance – I swear that guy was signing all day long!

The first session I attended was Danny Hargreaves very demonstrative display of special effects – all the bangs, X Factor smoke machines and gunshot FX that you see on TV – and it was absolutely great stuff. Hargreaves has a great presence on the stage and was clearly as thrilled to be there as he was to be doing what he obviously loves.

A vast costume display took quite a bit of time to get round – you can see the results in the gallery below – and was pored over by endless fans, with or without their cameras. Near to the entrance to this room was a case with genuine sonic screwdriver props and TARDIS keys, occasionally opened by the prop curator.

Gallery not found. Please check your settings.

As the day went on and I popped out for lunch, I got chatting to various people but nothing could prevent me from getting excited at the thought of being in the same room as Matt Smith and Karen Gillan – not to mention Steven “The Grand Moff” Moffat, a man whose writing has had me in literal stitches of laughter for over 20 years.

Fortunately, other than the fact that both questions I had planned were asked by other attendees before I got the chance to ask how they were enjoying the convention and whether Arthur Darvill hoped to make any other films following Pelican Blood (no, he plans to retire to a cheese making farm in Shropshire, duh) it was a very relaxed session, ending with Matt talking to a small boy accompanying one of the press Q&A attendees. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and it was a thrill to get a glimpse of that side of his job.

Interestingly, he’s also a little shorter than I expected! Having met Tom Baker and been certain that he’s not much different in height to me, I had expected Matt to have a “presence”. Paul McGann has one, as does Sylvester McCoy, although I suspect they can switch if on and off very easily. Matt seemed more like you and I, which is quite strange given how wonderful he is on TV.

While we were waiting for the delayed press Q&A, it turned out that almost everyone else in the building (around 50% of attendees) were enjoying a special screening of the teaser trailer! I suspect some people in the session were quite miffed, but there was little need to worry as we were directed to the huge main room in which the Uncut talk – hosted by the amiable, polished and Dalek-obsessed Barnaby Edwards – took place. With Caro Skinner, Steven Moffat, Andy Pryor and Michael Pickwoad among the panel, there was plenty to learn as Barnaby guided them through the process of bringing Doctor Who to TV. A screening of the trailer followed, then a big question and answer session, before another screening.

To be honest, I was all but Who’d out at this stage, but there was time to hook up with Connor and Georgia from zConnection to check the Ianto Jones/Torchwood memorial wall on Cardiff Bay. Not long after that my time was up – I headed back to London after having an awesome day of Doctor Who wonderment.

Now, don’t give me the fiscal excuse unless you’re absolutely certain that you wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Times are tough, and the BBC know this – which is surely why they put on such a great event.

I’ve been to a fair few Doctor Who conventions over the years of different sizes. Each has had a different focus and attracted different types of guest, and, by extension, audience. None of them have managed to attract such a perfect mix, however, an exceptional distillation of every sub group in fandom.

Such a great day out – I suspect that the BBC are already planning a repeat performance for 2013!

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About the Author

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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+.




17 Responses to Why Weren’t You at the Doctor Who Convention?

  1. avatar daniel says:

    It is the money 100.00 just for ticket…unless you live in cardiff you are really talking an overnight stay.

    As exciting as it would have been….times are too hard

    • avatar Steve G says:

      Couldn’t agree more, in hard financial times, the convention is put on at a tricky location for me and at a frankly ridiculous price. It’s nice to see coverage by the sites and mags, but they probably got in for free anyway.

  2. avatar Simon Spencer says:

    What I’d really like to see is a full, unedited video of the Q&A session released on iPlayer or the BBC’s Youtube channel; a few people recorded it but only have the bits they enjoyed, not an uninterrupted version.


    • A strange comment Simon – we’ve already featured the full press conference, uploaded onto our YouTube page (albeit with the first question snipped slightly)

      There are no skips or jumps, this is the full deal.

      • avatar Simon Spencer says:

        No, that’s the Press Conference; I’m talking about the on-stage Q&A with the audience (the one with the big, red sofa!)… but I guess either it wasn’t recorded, or was but can’t be shown for some rediculous legal reason.


        • Ahh, right okay difference in terminology. On the day the Q&A you refer to was billed as “Doctor Who Uncut” whereas the press conference was listed as a “Press Q&A”

          There were three Uncuts, I think, two with the cast and Moffat and one with production personnel and the Moff. I’m certain a lot of people were recording it. Sadly I was too far back in the theatre.

  3. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    I absolutely WILL give you the fiscal excuse Christian! I am very pleased for yourself and every other person that not only managed to scrape together the price of admission but also all the other additional costs attached to attending the event. And i hope you all had a fantastic time (sounds like you did). Sadly, myself and my young family could not as it was an expense that, although justified, could not be met with our current situation. Such a shame as not only myself, but my wife and 5-year-old daughter would have absolutely loved to attend such a convention. Maybey one day they will have a similar convention here in Edinburgh at a time we can muster together the funds!

  4. avatar Mendou says:

    I would have loved to have been there, but unfortunately I live on the wrong continent and cannot justify the expense of a transoceanic flight for one (admittedly spectacular) convention……

  5. avatar farsighted99 says:

    My experience was a bit similar, however I never made it to the restoration thing (didn’t even see it); and missed the prosthetics show. However, the highlights for me was the TARDIS tour, because that was so fantastic being there on the set and being allowed to play with the console. I’ll never forget that and thanks big-time to Steven Moffat for allowing that to happen. It’s a bucket-list item for me! Seeing Matt up close and getting to chat a bit to Arthur and Karen was really cool. The Meet the Cast panel was really great, but I ended up in the back and it felt more like I was watching TV. Heh should have gotten there earlier.

    It was worth the cost. Walking around Cardiff was wonderful, the weather was great, and meeting some the Silver Cloak residents of Cardiff was another reason why I had a blast at this con. Don’t miss the next one if you didn’t get a chance to attend this.


  6. I would just like to say I was being quite flippant when I wrote:

    Now, don’t give me the fiscal excuse unless you’re absolutely certain that you wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Times are tough, and the BBC know this – which is surely why they put on such a great event.

    …as (hopefully) demonstrated by the second sentence, so I do hope I didn’t offend anyone! Apologies if I did.

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      Christian, you did not offend me at all (i love Kasterborous.com and your website’s contents! I think you’re excellent). But you cannot honestly tell me that the price for admission plus all other expected costs to those of us outside Cardiff are realistic. I’m sorry, but times are clearly not that bad for you if you can afford that experience – especially if you have young twins! You and your young family are lucky – the same cannot be said about myself and my young family! Don’t boast about your solo trek on such a wonderful site!

  7. avatar Bridget Conley says:

    I live in the United States (that’s probably the biggest reason right there), don’t yet have a passport (working on that) and might not have enough money for airfare/a hotel and so on. And the closest Doctor Who convention to where I live is always Thanksgiving weekend so we never go no matter how much I plead to. But there’s always the Doctor Who panel at a small local convention for all things geeky (I hope it’s happening this year…I might cosplay a companion for once).

    • avatar Stlshawn says:

      Chicago tardis!! Here I come!!!
      Luckily, I have people who can watch the kids while me and the wife head that way this thanksgiving !

      Gonna be a BLAST !!

  8. avatar paul blume says:

    Why didn’t I attend the convention?
    Easy.
    Because I didn’t hear about it until the day it opened.

  9. avatar Gavin Noble says:

    I didn’t attend purely because I wasn’t interested in it for the money being charged. I’m quite selective about the type of events I am prepared to shell out for.

  10. avatar Francis Cave says:

    By all accounts this was a well run and enjoyable convention for those who attended.

    If there is one in 2013 (which is very likely) I’d like to see the following:

    A guest and programme list which covers all Who – not just the current series.

    A more affordable admission price. Perhaps offer bronze, silver and gold levels. I for one don’t need all the extra stuff being offered with the £100 this ticket this year – i.e. tote bags and the like.

    Whatever way you slice it, £100 for any one day event is too much.

    In terms of the location, I’d prefer something more London based but you can’t have everything.

  11. avatar Philip Bates says:

    I didn’t go because I’d be too nervous to meet my fave TARDIS team, Matt, Karen and Arthur, and my writing inspiration, the Grand Moff. I hope to get over this, so I can go to one next year (if it does, indeed, materialise).

    It was an odd feeling, knowing that Who Heaven was happening, and I wasn’t there.

    Plus, I heard Christian was going to send all his contributors to it, free of charge. Maybe I just dreamed this? Or maybe it happened in a parallel universe?

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