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Chicago TARDIS Convention 2014 - Report by 'That' Paula

Chicago TARDIS Convention
November 28-30, 2014
Westin Lombard Yorktown Center
Lombard, Illinois

Report by Paula Black


This was our fourth TARDIS con and to us, possibly the best. This year we did not have a Doctor to grace the stage, but we did have a number of companion trios and quite a number of actors and behind-the-scenes people from the Doctor Who universe.

The actors attending this year are as follows: Annette Badland (Margaret “Slitheen” Blaine), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Ellie Darcey-Alden (Francesca in “The Snowmen”), Joseph Darcey-Alden (Digby in “The Snowmen”), Sonita Henry (Colonel Meme in the 2013 Christmas Special), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Deborah Watling (Victoria), and Billie Piper (Rose Tyler).

Non-actor guests included Nicholas Briggs (actually Nick is an actor and voice of both the Daleks and Cybermen) and Jason Haigh-Ellery from Big Finish Productions, authors Graeme Burk and Robert Smith who authored “Who Is The Doctor?” and other books, composer Dominic Glynn, BBC Special Effects master Mat Irvine, L.M. Myles, editor for the anthology “Chicks Unravel Time”, and Michael Damian Thomas, publisher and co-editor of the online magazine “Uncanny”.

TARDIS con is, and has always been, a fan run con and that is an important point. Many, many volunteers are needed to organise and run the convention, and we would have nothing without them. This year TARDIS con truly got into the cyber age with online registrations, photo and autograph sales and just about everything else. It made for a smoother time queuing up for things, and less time wasted in line. I salute them for that at least.

There seemed to be something for everyone this year. If you wanted photographs and autographs with your favourite actors, they had that. If you wanted to sit and listen to actor panels all day, you could do that. If you wanted to either host or just listen to a fan panel, there were dozens, and they ran the gamut from designing your own cosplay costumes, to running a fan club, to feedback on Big Finish stories, and so on. There was a designated room for children called Camp Time Lord and the kiddies could play games or do artwork, or even make their own badges for the convention. There were costume displays, costume contests, a concert by Dominic Glynn, a few quizzes, the BritRock Cyberkaraoke Party, the annual MST3K spoof and this year it featured “Tomb of the Cybermen” with Patrick Troughton, the Chicago TARDIS Masquerade, plus puppets, interviews, the Chronological Cavalcade, and Kamelion’s Circus, Podcasts, plus a lot more I cannot even name let alone remember.

There was even a section of the hotel called Dalek Alley, where people who had built full-sized and actual moving Daleks could show off their handiwork. And not to forget, there were two video rooms going 24 hours a day and a large Dealer’s room where you could drop astonishingly large amounts of money on everything from Big Finish discs to t-shirts of every description, to Tom Baker scarves, or Fezzes and bow ties, or anything you could imagine. It was a virtual play land for the Doctor Who fan.

We arrived at 4pm Thursday afternoon, ready and willing with our Blake’s 7 t-shirts and badges. It may have been a Doctor Who convention, but we were not below subverting a few Who fans to our side. The first thing after registration was the Contributor’s Party. This is for the All-Access and Reserved tickets as a way of saying thanks for contributing a bit more so the convention committee could have ample resources to hire and house the actors for the convention. We were herded together in a large room and fed pizza and drinks and as we ate, the actors would go from table to table chatting with the attendees. This year we sat with people we met last year and as we ate, we were visited by Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines, Annette Badland and Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

Jason spent quite a bit of time at the table fielding questions from Brad and me. Brad pointed out that I was 'that' Paula and Jason comically scooted his chair away from the table in mock horror. I then pulled out my Scimitar disc and my lanyard with the photo of Del Grant on it and flashed said items at Jason. He realised he was going to get an earful and listened dutifully. As requested, we brought up a 4th series with Glynis Barber, bringing people like Bayban, Avalon, Deeta, and Carnell back for the Big Finish discs - and Jason took it all in and nodded that he would take it all back to producer Cavan Scott. We felt satisfied that we did our part for the fan club.

Friday started early with panels and getting an autograph from Noel Clarke. We then spent the rest of the day either listening to actors in the main ballroom or in smaller venues for fan-run panels. Mat Irvine held a panel about the history of the BBC’s Special Effects department, much of which is covered in his book “VFX”. I am happy to report it was a full house and very interesting too. We sat with Mat’s wife in the front row after Mat introduced us as the friends he had met in Steventon earlier in the year. Afterwards, we spent considerable time in the Dealer’s room buying Big Finish discs. Big Finish took up the entire center of the room with tables filled to the brim with their product. They even had the entire line of Liberator Chronicles there, which made me proud. I think we eventually got away with about 250 dollars worth of Big Finish product by the end of the convention.

Friday night saw the Chronological Cavalcade, a non-judging cosplay show which was split up by Doctor Who era. There were some quite imaginative costumes to be seen and it’s always fun to see the fans give it their all to complete the perfect costume. After that was Kamelion’s Circus, a game which participants were asked to do something creative like recite a poem off the top of their head, or draw the TARDIS blindfolded, and crazy things like that. And to top off the day, a concert by composer Dominic Glynn, who not only worked on series like Doctor Who, but Red Dwarf and The Simpsons, too.

Saturday saw us attending more panels with the likes of Camille Coduri and Billie Piper. Mat Irvine conducted a panel called The Complete and Utter History of a Mechanical Mutt, also known as K-9. This was also very interesting and quite fun as Mat has a million stories and behind-the-scenes tales from the days of classic Who. Later in the Dealer’s room I got Mat to sign my VFX book of his and I also got Dominic Glynn to sign it too.

Saturday night brought the fabled Chicago TARDIS Masquerade contest. This is hosted by ‘The Master’ (of ceremonies), an enthusiastic and talented fan who does a very good imitation of the Roger Delgado’s Master. There were nearly 40 entries, with various Doctors, companions and assorted aliens. Annette Badland and two Time Ladies judged the competition and fun was had by all. After that, we had the Mysterious Theatre 337: Tomb of the Cybermen, a spoof of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. Volunteer fans imitate Joel and the Bots and follow along with the video spouting smart and often funny remarks to the screen. After that concluded, Frazer Hines presented some videos he had brought along for the occasion - but by that time I had called it a night, and was in bed resting up for Sunday.

Sunday came and we watched the third and final Big Finish panel. Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery kept us in stitches all weekend with their stories and jokes and downright hilarity. For some reason, they called their panels Big Finish at the Speed of Sound, or Big Finish on the Run, or the last being Big Finish Over America. Both Nick and Jason answered audience questions - and some of ours - and always left us laughing. The Sunday panel was the most fun, as for some reason Nick insisted on using the phrase “it’s a big old world out there” about twenty times, always to a roar of laughter. And then for some weird reason, the notion of putting a squirrel in a blender became the joke du jour. It degenerated into giggles after that and we all left with smiles on our faces.

Soon the convention came to a stop with the Closing Ceremonies and I think we all were secretly glad of it as it had been one fast-paced and exhausting weekend. But we’d do it again in an instant, it was so much fun. After trotting out the guests for one last bow, we all vowed to reconvene next year come Thanksgiving Day and do the same wacky and fannish things all over again. We even heard upon his leaving the stage for the last time, that Jason Haigh-Ellery will be back next year. Good, that gives us all that time to think up new ideas and wishes for our beloved Blake’s 7 audios from Big Finish. Be prepared, Big Finish, and be warned: ‘that’ Paula’s attending again next year!

***

Photographs by Brad and Paula Black

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