Friday, 6 April 2012

And there was the Third Doctor, having a fag...

My Convention experience. I've said before that this was my first one. I can't say quite why I've never been interested in others before. Possibly all the forced socialising that goes on afterwards. Or the rather tired stories from the guests - eye patch jokes and Debbie Watling's knickers. The cosplay (God preserve us from cosplayers).
This was going to be different. A one day event focussing on the current series and with participation from all the key cast and crew, so a lot more professional and focussed than the usual events.
I elected to go for the Sunday, purely as it fitted my work pattern. I knew both days had near identical line-ups.
As the event was quite pricey, and entailed hotel accommodation as well, I travelled to Cardiff on the Saturday by coach (£10 return and only 3 and a bit hours). I had picked a hotel very close to the venue, so had the Bay and all its cafes and bars close at hand. If you've never visited, I would heartily recommend for a weekend break. The weather was fortunately sunny and warm. After booking in to the hotel I went for a walk past the Millennium Centre towards the bay front. I saw a few people with Convention tote bags leaving the building - as well as thatThird Doctor having that fag. Murray Gold's music was blaring across the Plas from speakers placed outside the venue doors.
 At a table opposite me, when I was having a bite to eat, there was a couple with a young son. He was dressed as the Eleventh and wielding a noisy sonic screwdriver throughout the meal. Still spotting the tote bags being carried everywhere I rounded off the evening with a couple of pints outside a bar close to the Bosphorous Restaurant (which featured prominently in Boomtown). Couldn't get too drunk. Big day ahead and we were losing an hour due to the clocks going forward that night.
On leaving the hotel Sunday morning I followed a River Song and an Amy Pond out the door. Didn't have to queue long to enter the Millennium Centre and be given my own tote bag. Included were a lanyard, booklet, ticket, and a copy of the Series 5 Volume 1 DVD. This latter seemed a little pointless as I don't think there would be many people paying £99 per head who didn't already own this or the Series box set.
There were 2 streams - Silurian and Ood - which dictated what order you accessed the formal panels in the main hall. I was a Silurian.
My first port of call was the costume and prop display. Props were various incarnations of sonics and a few weapons. I was glad to see some older costumes - Varga the Ice Warrior and some Deadly Assassin Time Lords. Others were: Slitheen, Sycorax leader, Pig Slave, Scarecrow, Cyberman, Cybercontroller, Weeping Angels, Peg Doll and Peg Soldier, Silents, Davros, Astronaut and Information Node from Silence in the Library story, Heavenly Host, Smiler, Wooden King and Queen and a Silurian. Bizarrely, there were no Daleks. Maybe they couldn't get them up the stairs... Non monster costumes included the 3 recent Doctors, all the recent companions and characters such as Liz 10 and Senora Calvierri. K9 was sitting beside the Matt Smith TARDIS, and an earlier version was also on view next to the Time Lords.

My first panel was the cast one - Matt, Arthur and Karen alongside Steven Moffat. They were interviewed by  BBC Wales' Jason Mohammed who has played himself in several stories. Questions were thrown open to the audience. These were mostly attempts to gain spoilers about the upcoming episodes or the 50th anniversary. Moffat kept schtum - "Ask me something I can answer" he pleaded. He has a fine line in sarcasm, does Mr Moffat, which he demonstrated when someone asked why the programme couldn't be filmed in Scotland. (It kind of looks a bit like Wales if you don't know...). A Judoon came on stage to signal the panel was coming to an end.
After this we stayed in our seats for the next panel - Gary Russell interviewing the team responsible for The Girl Who Waited. This was to show what went into the making of a single story and I found it fascinating. Amongst those present were writer Tom Mcrae, prosthetics man Neil Gorton,and  Exec Producer Caroline Skinner - the latter sporting a fetching knitted  TARDIS bobble hat. We also had a Handbot come on stage and Neil explained how its design had come about.
Throughout the day I popped outside for a fag of my own. Cardiff's Sport Relief event was also going on in the bay at the time, and I snapped a Dalek competitor who had trundled over to see what was going on at the Centre.

After lunch it was another look at costumes - this time with a Peg Doll roaming around. I attended one of the prosthetics workshops, where they were demonstrating how to make casts of faces and hands. I would have liked to see more of these as they varied through the day - showing different stages - but it would have meant missing the panels. Gary Russell got turned into a Silurian apparently at the end of it (again). The prosthetics demos were interspersed with talks from the Restoration Team who produce the "classic" series DVDs - so it was nice to see the old programmes represented.
Next up was a Danny Hargreaves Blowing Things Up workshop. You'll know him from Confidential where he would show you how to go about Blowing Things Up each week. He is a very good speaker, with an obvious passion for his work and he really engaged the audience. After a huge explosion which made all of us jump a Yellow Dalek trundled on stage. A member of the audience got to shoot a Cyberman. And he made it snow. Indoors. Excellent stuff.
The last panel of the day was the production one, who discussed the series as a whole. Again, questions were mostly spoiler seeking. The new trailer was shown (twice - just so everyone got a chance to record it and stick it on YouTube I assume).
The final part of my day was the photo opportunities. Pictures with Matt had been advertised as soon as the booking opened for the Convention, so I went ahead and booked one with my ticket by way of a nice souvenir. Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan were added much later. I didn't want to pay out on both so went for Arthur (sorry Karen) as I love Rory and he is a fine actor and musician, who I saw last year in Dr Faustus at the Globe. Luckily as I had more than one photo to be taken I got in the fast lane for Matt. He has a great rapport with everyone, including the little boy I had seen at dinner the night before. Naturally these things are, quite literally, over in a flash so you don't exactly get to connect. I did manage to tell Arthur how much I had enjoyed Faustus though.
Once I'd collected my photos downstairs that was it. I headed off into the evening sunshine - and the bars of Mermaid Quay. A very enjoyable day. But my weekend was not quite over. Next morning, there was the (not) small matter of a tour of the TARDIS...

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