This year’s Chicago TARDIS was a particularly memorable one for me. I always look forward to Chicago TARDIS for the panels, the friends, and the cosplaying, but this year I was looking forward to something even more exciting…but I’m getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll start with a quick run through of the convention itself.
This year’s convention was larger than ever before; the number of attendees just about doubled from last year. There were a few wrinkles (waiting for almost an hour and a half to get my badge on Friday was a bit much), but overall things went pretty smoothly considering the drastic increase in people.
There was a lineup of guests that was appropriate for a fiftieth anniversary convention. There were three Doctors (Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Paul McGann) and a companion from every decade (Frazer Hines, Louise Jameson, Nicola Bryant, Daphne Ashbrook, and Freema Agyeman), plus a wide assortment of supporting characters, behind the scenes people, and Big Finish audio people. I have to say that I enjoyed every panel that I attended.
I had already seen many of the guests at previous conventions, but it was my first time seeing Colin Baker, Paul McGann, and Louise Jameson, so I was looking forward to their panels. Paul McGann was entertaining, even if he did seem a bit jet-lagged. The beginning of the panel felt like it should have been called “Free Association…with Paul McGann” as we learned things like he had taken ballroom dancing as a child, but there was never a dull moment. I really felt that I learned a quite a bit from Colin Baker’s panel. Being a huge Jane Austen fan, I found it very interesting that he compared his Doctor to Mr. Darcy. His plan was to be a bit unlikable in the beginning, but to gradually peel back layers to reveal more depth to the character. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really given enough time to develop his Doctor and show his softer side, leaving the viewers instead with a rather abrasive Doctor.
I also felt that the panel with Frazer Hines was a highlight, even though I had just seen him at Gally. He seems to thoroughly enjoy his time on stage at conventions and has countless stories about his time on the set (and his time working with Charlie Chaplin). He has a great deal of affection for Patrick Troughton, so I love hearing him talk about him. Dan Starkey is also always a great storyteller, so I quite enjoyed his panel as well. I had to miss most of Peter Davison’s solo panel, which was a bit disappointing, but what I missed it for more than made up for it (see how I’m building the suspense here?). I was also hoping to catch his director’s commentary on “The Five-ish Doctors” (and if I wasn’t already so behind on my blog I would have written an entry about how great his anniversary tribute was), but I wasn’t able to make it to that either.
Personally, I quite enjoyed the weekend as well. I enjoy cosplaying and this year’s Chicago TARDIS gave me the opportunity to try out my first handmade costume. At pervious events I’ve cosplayed Amy, since all I really needed to do was to take clothes from my closet (I’m not sure what that says about me) and buy a red wig. This year, I decided to try to master Polly’s Atlantian outfit from “The Underwater Menace.” Yes, that’s right, I decided to dress as a character that many people don’t really know, from a story that has only partially survived. I just love the over-the-top aesthetic in that story (what do you expect from someone who owns the works of Ed Wood?) and I wanted to pay tribute to it. Therefore, I had quite a few people who came up to me asking who on earth I was dressed as, but, much to my surprise, I had several people who instantly knew who I was. It’s still not completely finished (I’m hoping to get it finished before Gally), and it’s nowhere near as accurate and well-made as the outfits many other cosplayers create, but I was proud of it. If you want to see examples of the cosplay, here is a link to the tumblr of Chicago TARDIS (and you can see me as Polly if you click on set 2 of the Friday costuming links).
The highlight of the weekend, however, was the fact that, thanks to my involvement with a podcast, I was able to interview Peter Davison, Louise Jameson, Terry Molloy, and Michael Jayston. I learned about the interviews only a few days before they were to occur, so I had to abandon my blog post about the 50th and, instead, focus on preparing for my interviews. They were all incredibly nice, despite the fact that they probably get asked the same questions over and over, and I had a great time talking with all of them. It was also kind of cool that to get to the interviewing room, you had to walk through the lounge for the guests. It really made you feel like you were behind the scenes when you see the guests just hanging around, eating or chatting with other guests.
I interviewed Peter Davison and Louise Jameson with someone else, so I didn’t get to ask them everything that I would’ve liked to ask. My fellow interviewer was a huge Peter Davison fan, so he had a lot that he wanted to say to him. However, it was really amazing to sit down with him and listen to him talk about everything from his time on the show to his creation of “The Five-ish Doctors.” He was just as funny and charming as he seems and was able to supply an interesting opinion or funny anecdote no matter what question he was asked.
I was able to take a little more control in the Louise Jameson interview, which was great because I wanted to get her perspective on the character of Leela (who is one of the strongest and most unusual companions). As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m very interested in the role of women in the show, so it was great to meet with Louise Jameson and discuss her experiences and how she felt about her character. It was refreshing to learn that she didn’t feel that Leela had a good exit either and thinks that she would’ve left Andred long ago.
The interviews with Terry Molloy and Michael Jayston, however, were completely mine, so I enjoyed them a bit more. I was a bit nervous going into them, but they turned out to be tremendous fun. Terry Molloy was a delight to interview. He was very funny and easygoing, and it was impossible to feel nervous interviewing him. His knowledge about the character of Davros is incredible. To play Davros (and he is the only person to play Davros in more than one story, plus he’s played him on the stage and in the Big Finish audios), he had to try to understand the character. Obviously Davros doesn’t consider himself evil, so Mr. Molloy had to figure out how Davros sees himself. Listening to him discuss Davros gave me a new appreciation of the character (and made me want to listen to his Big Finish audios). When the interview was over, we both had to wait for a bit and he sat and chatted with me for about 10-15 more minutes.
My final interview was with Michael Jayston. I’m actually a fan of his work outside of Doctor Who as well, so I found it amazing that I was able to sit down with him at all. I mean, I was sitting next to a man who has worked with just about every well-known British actor who was around in the 70’s (plus many non-British actors as well)! I had already spoken to him twice at the convention because I kept running into him (he was often outside smoking, so I saw him out in front of the hotel almost every time I entered or left the building), but that was just in passing. He has so many incredible stories about working with people like Laurence Olivier and Alec Guinness. Additionally, he has stories about his friendship with Tom Baker, told me a story that I loved about working with Patrick Troughton, and has a lot to say about his time as the Doctor (yes, he makes it clear that the Valeyard is the Doctor). We talked about his Mr. Rochester being selected as the best of all time (I’d have to agree), Nicholas and Alexandra, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I also surprised him by asking him about The Public Eye, a film that isn’t well-remembered, but I couldn’t simply skip over the fact that he worked with Carol Reed (The Third Man is one of my all time favorite films). The best time, however, came after the interview was over. Neither one of us had anywhere to go, so he sat with me and we talked some more. He told me some stories that were well…off-the-record and very entertaining. He also had noticed that I was using a copy of Persuasion as a way to prop up the mike (it was the only thing I had on me that I could use), which lead to us discussing Jane Austen. Finally, I began to worry that I was taking up too much of his time, so I told him I should be going and he kissed my hand (!) and walked me out while telling me how much he had enjoyed the interview.
Overall, this Chicago TARDIS was a memorable one. I never thought that I’d be in a position to actually interview people from the show. I’m actually quite glad that they were recorded or else I might find it hard to believe that they actually happened! Even without the interviews, though, I enjoyed Chicago TARDIS. I’m already looking forward to Gallifrey One and to next year’s Chicago TARDIS, even though it will be difficult for either one to top my experience this year.