A day at Dallas FanExpo is like a day on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with any Marvel or DC movie and a lot of comic book characters thrown in. Thank goodness the Dallas Convention Center is as large as the Death Star. It can hold us all!
Friday was a day to remember; a moment frozen in wonder and excitement; a day we will never forget! Sarah Sutton cosplayed (that means dressed up in a costume and pretended to be a character for those of you still living in the 20th century) River Song; Casey cosplayed the Eleventh Doctor; and I WAS the War Doctor. If you don’t know those characters then the rest of this post may not mean as much. All three are from our favorite television experience, Doctor Who.
We spent from noon to 2 PM getting ready to go into the huge, and I really mean ginormous, exhibit hall. With forethought and careful planning, I had brought my father’s scooter with us. Let’s just say by 3 PM I had run the battery down going back and forth from one end of the hall to the other getting in line to exchange tickets and picking up special event tickets. Thankfully, I had purchased a VIP pass to the convention and was able to go to the front of every line. Money well spent. Not to mention getting to hang out in the VIP lounge in the peace and quiet away from the crowd any time of the day with snacks and water provided.
After procuring a large, and by that I mean it really was bigger on the inside, Star Trek themed bag, we went on a short shopping spree and then back to the Lounge to catch our breath. Next, photo op with Freema Agyeman, who portrayed Martha Jones, the Tenth Doctor’s companion after Rose Tyler. Silly me, thinking she might recognize me as the War Doctor, an incarnation of the Doctor coming after she left the show, I said, “I don’t believe we’ve worked together.” She gave me a puzzled look and replied. “I don’t think so.” Snap, flash, move on!
Our big event for the evening was the “Evening with Doctor Who”. I purchased Gold Tickets for Casey and me. For Sarah, a silver ticket, but not to worry. Shhhh! We saved her a seat on the second row and she got to sit with the Golden Ticket people! Just don’t tell anyone at the convention.
This was the most anticipated event of the day! And, man, we were NOT disappointed. We had seen Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Michelle Gomez from a distance earlier that day as they arrived for autograph sessions. It was surreal seeing them in real life. Very surreal. Now, here we were not 20 feet away from the stage as they were introduced. And, true to her character, Michelle came out wearing a set of cat ears! Yes, furry cat ears.
Jenna came out second wearing an ensemble that would have worked for any of her appearances on the show. Capaldi appeared wearing a dark gray blazer over dark slacks and a dark gray tee shirt with the Texas Star on it (black, of course — the man does like his dark colors).
The next hour and fifteen minutes were filled with laughter and tears and was just the most delightful evening in my memory. These people were so kind and grateful to the fans and so open and accommodating to questions. No pretentious. No arrogance. Very humble and grateful.
The questions were legion and I’ll try and give some of them justice. Let’s see. If Missy could pick any room in the TARDIS to design, it would be a huge, black leather Gucci purse filled with tea and biscuits (that’s cookies for us Yanks). Her favorite villain of all time? Well, she said, not me, Hillary Clinton. Her most awkward moment? During Dark Water, having to kiss the Doctor while holding Clara’s hand! AWKWARD!
Jenna’s favorite Doctor (besides Peter) David Tennant. Her favorite episode was the Snowmen because it was so much like a fairy tale with the spiral staircase and the TARDIS in the clouds.
Peter’s favorite villain, Dracula. Specifically, Gary Oldman’s Dracula. Whose idea was it to play the guitar? His. Whose idea was it to come in on a tank? I think it was his. Whose idea were the sonic sunglasses? Moffat’s. He said toy companies all over the world groaned when he put on the sonic sunglasses but “Ray-Ban sent me a whole pile of them.” And, he said he would wear sunglasses any time of the day or night.
At one little boy’s request, he did the voice of the Daleks in a terrifying and lengthy monologue. It was awesome. They start shooting in two weeks! His favorite doctors were the first four — the classic Doctors and the dark clothing he prefers as the Doctor were based on One and Two. Although, he acknowledged, “the only reason they wore black and white is because the show was on a black and white television”. But, he went on to praise all of the actors who portrayed the Doctor, some of whom were given poor scripts and little money and he credits their acting skills with making the best of a bad situation and keeping Doctor Who alive for so long. He really was so gracious and thankful for the entire enterprise.
When asked how they felt about fan created media, Capaldi praised it saying it informed them of what the fans expected and wanted out of Doctor Who and made everyone in the business realize how special Doctor Who is to the world. Jenna mentioned the title sequence from series 9 coming from a fan. And, there was so much more.
After the session, Casey and I were whisked away to a photo op. She told Jenna how inspiring her portrayal of Clara had been. I walked straight up to Capaldi and said, “I’m looking for the Doctor” a line from “The Day of the Doctor”. Michelle Gomez said, “He’s right there.” and pointed to Capaldi. Capaldi took my hand, shook it and said, “Wonderful wardrobe.” Jenna tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We’ve met.” Then we posed for the photo. Snap, flash, move on!
Later, at the autograph session Casey thanked Jenna again for being an inspiration to her and to her friend, Sierra. I told Michelle, “You must be so tired.” She smiled, “Honey, we love it. We’ll sleep next week.” I told Peter Capaldi, “Thank you for coming. We love the Doctor here in America. And, you have made the show so special.” He smiled at me and said, “I just wish we had more time. It’s too short, too short.” Move on!
What a fantastic day! And, Saturday, we meet Arthur Darville, also known as Rory and, of course, the Time Master, Captain Rip Hunter.
Jammy dodgers, fish fingers and custard, and bowtie pasta for Christmas?
Either you get it or you don’t.
It’s not a matter of arrogance on my part. It is a matter of appreciation of a well done, well written story.
(Spoilers, if you haven’t seen the Christmas Special. Skip the next sentence!)
The pivotal one word answer, and I saw it coming, was “pond”.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me enlighten you. Way back in the late 1970’s, I caught a poorly constructed science fiction show on syndication called “Doctor Who”. The Doctor was a tall, bushy haired man with a long striped scarf and a beautiful companion named “Sarah Jane”. I have written in the past of my family’s encounter with the actress who portrayed Sarah Jane, Elizabeth Sladen, on a train from Cardiff, Wales back to London. This show had a strange appeal to me, but its effects were coarse and its story sometimes contrived. It was but a passing fancy.
A few years back, my daughter, Casey, asked me to watch a new show she had caught on SciFi channel. It was about this doctor and his companion. I rolled my eyes. Old news. Bad show. But, she assured me it was a new show; a revival of the old show. I finally watched the Christmas special featuring David Tennant as the “tenth” doctor. Within about ten minutes, I was mesmerized as alien Santas and spinning Christmas trees of death put all of those memories of a poorly executed show to an end. This was fascinating. And so, began my journey into the world of Doctor Who.
It took some doing, but this last year, I managed to get my son, Sean, and his wife, Jennifer interested in Doctor Who. Within a couple of months they were born again companions of Doctor Who! In fact, their fascination with the show put Casey and me to shame. Soon, Jennifer’s sister joined the ranks and we decided that this Christmas we would have a Doctor Who Christmas party and watch the much anticipated Doctor Who Christmas special.
It was grand fun! Casey’s best friend and, essentially her sister, Sarah, also a Who convert joined in. We decided to dress up as characters. Casey dressed up as the eleventh doctor, the “raggedy doctor” with the red bow tie. Sarah blew us all away showing up as River Song in her denim outfit and holster and revolver (only she ended up with a banana because we all know that “one should never come to a party without a banana”)! And, although I am considerably older and fatter than the original fourth doctor, Tom Baker, I dressed up as the fourth doctor complete with scarf, hat, awful wig and a bag of jelly bellies. I also had the sonic screwdriver of the fourth doctor, thank you.
Now, you may think this is insane. But, Sean, Jennifer, and I had this conversation the other day about the doctor. First, you must realize that Russell Davies, the man who brought back the show is an atheist. And, the most brilliant showrunner who replaced him, Stephen Moffett decries “the spiritual”. So, there is never a reference or a reverence in the show for God. The doctor is a Time Lord, bouncing around the universe in his TARDIS through space and time. But, what is amazing to us is that in spite of the writers of this show having disdain for God, the show is incredibly spiritual. Why? Because, without ever uttering the word, the Doctor is a savior. He saves mankind over and over and over. He values the triumphant power of love. He hates evil.
I find it fascinating that the writers, many of whom are atheists or agnostics, return time and time again to this theme of a savior. It is as if they cannot ever walk away from it. Every good story involves a savior. Every thought involves a transcendent power that rescues us from death and despair. And here is the truth: we cannot get away from the utter and complete realization that we MUST have a savior. No matter how hard the writers struggle to eliminate the divine, they keep showing us our need for a savior! Ah, there is that verse again: “God has put eternity in the hearts of all men.”
Go watch the new version of Doctor Who. You will experience moments of nihilism as the writers insert their worldview. But, watch as inevitably, the darkness gives way to light and the Doctor saves the world again and again. Even in our stark, nihilistic race away from God, we cannot escape the need for a Savior. In fact we RUN to Him!
Now, here are some pictures of our little party. Try your best to erase the image of the fat fourth doctor from you mind before the dawning of a new year! But, we enjoyed eating fish fingers and custard (the fingers were, in reality cookies); jammy dodgers; little Adipose babies; fried bowtie pasta (because as we learned last night AGAIN: bowties are cool!); and finally cookies decorated with little TARDIS images.And, so, a new annual tradition is born and we look forward to next year’s Doctor Who Christmas Party. As Clara would say, “Run, clever boy, run. And, remember!”