(Diane Martin, a regular at Nerdist’s Node, took a trip to Cardiff, Wales for the Doctor Who Convention. She contributes her thoughts and reactions to the trip here)
What an amazing weekend!
I am certain you have heard all about it by now. One more tale from this awesome weekend can’t hurt, right? The convention had something planned every minute from the time it opened until closing; so many demonstrations, panels and displays. The convention was a vehicle to promote the new Doctor Who Experience opening this summer. It is also, in a way, a replacement for the canceled Doctor Who Confidential.
My favorite panel featured the directors, writers, and special effects people who worked on the episode, “The Girl Who Waited.” The episode provided many technical challenges: Many scenes had to be filmed four different times because of the perspectives involved. At first, they said, were going to use two actresses to play Amy, but Karen Gillan wanted the challenge of playing both roles. This worked out brilliantly.
During the panel we were also treated to a visit from the Handbots. The actress inside the suit described how it felt to be in the costume. The goal was to make the head be a smooth featureless face. Masks and prosthetics were not giving them the look they wanted, so, ultimately, they went with a hard helmet with tiny openings for the eyes. Those eye holes were removed via CGI for the episode. The Handbots were supposed to have a zigzag shape when viewed from the side, but that would have been bad for the actors, so their walk and stance was changed. There is always a balance between the vision of the special effects department and what the actors can physically achieve.
Special effects supervisor Danny Hargreaves demonstrated how to shoot a Cyberman: Someone from the audience played the Doctor and someone else pushed the button that controlled the explosion caps on the Cyberman. Special effects are not all about making things explode; The special effects team works on things like creating environmental conditions, creating the illusion that people are getting shot at, having the Doctor break though a glass door, tossing cars off of piers… He showed us how they create things like fog and snow by making it snow in the auditorium.
In addition to the various panels, the show featured demonstrations. That’s Ruari Mears in the Scarecrow costume; You might also know him as a Cyberman. He told the crowd that because of the shooting schedule and the time it takes to get into a Cyberman costume, he is able to fall asleep standing up as a Cyberman. That is real dedication.
In the prosthetics demonstration, we were able to witness Rachel Cassidy transformed into one of the Almost People. One demonstration made a mold of her face, and the prosthetic piece was made from that mold. The second demonstration showed how that piece was applied to the face. The final demonstration showed how the rest of her face was made up and the prosthetics were colored.
The lost episodes talk was fascinating. Steve Roberts and Peter Crocker talked about the restoration of older Doctor Who episodes. One episode was found in someone’s private collection. The theory is that the BBC would have the most pristine copies, but, sadly, this is not the case. Since film was so expensive, instead of making copies and loaning out the copies to various markets, the originals would get loaned out. As a result, there is considerable wear and damage. Roberts and Crocker showed the crowd examples of their restoration efforts. Film footage that takes seconds to watch often took hours to fix. Their work is really impressive.
There were many costumes and props on display. The fans were allowed to handle various sonic screw drivers. I was able to play with one of Matt Smith’s sonic screwdrivers — that was VERY cool. I was told that it is surprising that it still worked. Because it was used by Matt, the screwdriver was stuck in the open position. The actual sonic screwdriver prop is oddly heavy. I’m amazed how realistic the toys are. I have to say that I was really tempted to create a diversion and run off with it. It took a great deal of self-control to hand it back.
There were all sorts of monsters roaming around the convention floor, like the Ood and Silurians to greet convention goers when we arrived, and Cybermen, Scarecrows, and Daleks. There were some amazing cosplayers in attendance! The most common cosplay outfit was the 11th doctor. There were various Amys, including a very convincing “Sunflower Amy” (Amy carrying around a giant sunflower). An incredible woman was dressed up like the clockwork creatures from the episode “The Girl in the Fireplace.” There were plenty of Tom Bakers. Possibly the best costume was a couple of female angels. I was so amazed at their level of detail. Everyone was taking their pictures. They are even wearing contacts.
There were so many families at the convention. I loved it when the parents and children dressed; Here is an adorable Father/Son pair:
Fans were treated to a unique opportunity: They were able to either have 2 autographs or photographs from Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, or Karen Gillan. I had my picture taken with all three. As I was waiting to get my picture taken with Karen, one of the fans in front of me gave her a TARDIS themed knitted cap. I asked her about her experience of having to film hanging up side down. Karen said that it was very painful but very worth it. It will be interesting to see why Arthur and Karen had to film while hanging up side down.
The TARDIS tour was the cherry on top of the perfect sundae!! So much ancient technology! There were drum pedals, old analogue clocks, heat sinks, a blood pressure cuff pump, bells, hammers, vacuum cleaner tubes, PS/2 ports, levers of all sorts, etc. To stand on the set where so many cool people filmed Doctor Who episodes was AMAZING!!!
Overall the convention was very well-organized and run. They promised that no one gets you closer, and they definitely delivered. Everyone is so passionate about what they do; From Steven Moffat to the people wearing the “I’m here to help” yellow t-shirts, they all love Doctor Who. That made it a truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Want to see more Doctor Who Convention Pictures? Click here!
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