Old Post: Doctor Who at the ExCeL Centre

(originally posted 26 November 2013, updated 24 May 2014)

If you have talked to me at all in the last few weeks/months, it will not have escaped your attention that I had the incredible fortune to be allowed to attend the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration at the ExCeL in London last weekend.

I’ve written before about how I am fairly susceptible to fandoms, but this was my first ever full fandom event. And I got to experience it with my Whovian friend Lisa. So that was all really cool.

Being a big fan of dressing up – if you manage to pull up late 1990s files for the Oostvoorne local library, you’ll see that my most-borrowed book was one that had instructions on Halloween outfits, my favourite of those being a vampire cape; also, on the days where I don’t feel like “ah, sod it, I’ll wear something comfortable” I dress up like the persona I want to be for that day – I of course went all out on creating a costume.

My initial plans – back in June – were wildly ambitious. I would sew a full skirt that consisted of layers of leather (or fake leather, more likely), candy striped cotton, burgundy velvet and some black-and-grey chequered fabric. I would wear a white blouse and a red-and-white chequered corset or waistcoat. This would be combined with my tweed jacket, a burgundy tie, brown-and-white brogues, and a recorder.

Oh, and I would devote time to learning how to knit and then I would simply knit a 20-foot orange/purple/burgundy scarf (because I like Four’s second scarf so much better).

Ironically, time got in the way of me creating this – in my mind still rather wonderful – Renegade Time Lord (The Oncoming Storm, the Valeyard, and all that) costume. All Doctors At Once.

Also I didn’t like how it made me ignore so much of my favourite Doctor, the Second Doctor, who was, of course, played by Patrick Troughton whom I’ve since watched in The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The Omen and a bunch of interview on YouTube and have come to appreciate as an actor beyond Doctor Who as well.

This is how my costume eventually turned out:

I would really like to say that there is something political about me making it into a female version with the skirt (and the fact that – really, my body shape will always reveal my biological sex), but the truth is that I simply found this skirt in a charity shop, squealed in delight and appropriated it. I prefer wearing skirts instead of trousers anyway.

Of course, this is still political in the sense that I apparently feel that in any case the gender identity of a fictional character is more than capable of being fluid. A female Second Doctor is still the Second Doctor, in the end.

But let’s leave the gender politics for what they are, for this moment at least. They are really very important, but not central to this post.

I loved dressing up like this. We saw loads of fezzes and full Eleventh Doctors (including that fabulous plum coat), loads of Fours and Tens, but I saw only really a handful of Second Doctors, which left me in the curious position of getting to scope out the “competition” and admiring their efforts at the same time. My coat wasn’t right, which left me to admire this one guy who had managed to somehow find a proper morning coat that was slightly too big (I know where to get them – eBay – but that doesn’t reduce the awesomeness of him having the right coat).

The Fourth Doctor scarves – so, so, so many – were all brilliant. I complimented a guy on his scarf and immediately afterwards I wondered whether “nice scarf!” is Whovian flirting. There was this woman in a fantastic TARDIS dress. Children in Silurian and Weeping Angel costumes – and so well-behaved!

And everyone was nice. Like, so nice. Lisa and I took a photo with this random couple we met whilst queuing for the TARDIS console photo – no idea who they are, but we had a really nice conversation to pass the time. Whilst I waited for a Classic Lounge panel, this American woman talked to me about her convention experiences overseas, and I just felt in awe at her brilliant stories.

We started our morning at the Stratford tube station, noticing children on the platform waving sonic screwdrivers around and grown men in 20-foot scarves and women in Dalek dresses. Good start.

We got off the tube at the ExCeL, spotting Canary Wharf in the distance and me accidentally dropping my bag and exclaiming “oh bugger!” (if I’d been in character, it should’ve been “oh my word” or “oh crumbs” instead), which I really hope didn’t offend the parents of the child standing near me.

We had to queue for our first panel, the SFX Panel, and no one complained about the queue other than “I wish they’d open the gate” and “ah, they’ve opened the gate” when they let us in. The SFX show was fantastic, with a ‘break-away’ Dalek being blown up (apparently, this Dalek has been used multiple times. It breaks away into nicely big chunks of Dalek armour and can easily be put together again. So it’s basically a humpty-Dalekty) and a Cyberman being shot (with squibs! An adorable little boy dressed like Eleven, hardly taller than the great massive gun Rose used in The Stolen Earth, got to use exactly that gun to shoot at the Cyberman, while a woman in a TARDIS dress got to play the companion and fire the squib trigger). There was fire and lasers and fake snow and SO MUCH AWESOME.

Then Lisa and I both went on our separate adventure, she to take a picture with Jenna Coleman, I to attend the Classic Panel with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford.

We met up again afterwards to take the TARDIS Console picture and also snuck a photo of the TARDIS console itself.

Time passes so quickly, and at 1pm it was time to queue for the next show, the Regeneration Panel, which I had been most looking forward to, as it had the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker;

the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy (sans spoons, unfortunately);

the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison;

And the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.

These four absolute LEGENDS got to talk at the audience for a good while about having been the Doctor, and the fandom now, and the 50th, and everything.

This was over far too quickly, but was followed by another big Panel, the Eleventh Hour, which had Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, Steven Moffat (whom we initially disliked but came to like through this Panel) and the producer, Marcus Wilson.

This Panel made me really sad to see Matt leaving by Christmas, but then on the other hand we’ll get Peter Capaldi, who I’m sure will blow us all away, judging by his appearance in the 50th.

Again, time for independent adventures: I sent Lisa off to another Classic Lounge panel and then I scurried off to queue to get William Russell to sign my copy of this month’s Doctor Who Magazine.

All the while I stood in that queue, I had cool things to say in my head. Like, “you’re so cool! Ian is my favourite companion!” and all that. But then I actually stood in front of him and my mind blanked and, in a move of self-protection, my mouth didn’t want to speak either – which kept me from making a drawn-out ‘EEEPP’ sound.

So he signed my magazine

And then I took a picture with him

And he seems to be such a sweet man, he did seem so nice. I felt awful for not being able to say anything beyond “could you please sign my magazine and do you mind if this person here takes a picture?” but at least I didn’t say anything embarrassing, which is perhaps something I should be sort of grateful for.

I then hurried off to follow Lisa in  her adventure, which was to secure seats in the Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling Classic Lounge panel. This was brilliantly hilarious, with them cracking so many jokes and just generally seeming to have lots of fun.

We ended our ExCeL experience by attending a screening of Caves of Androzani pt 4 (which I had insisted on, it being one of my favourite episodes) and then having a look about the display area where they had loads of stuff from the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.

Like the Second Doctor costume

But, as Time will do, we had to catch the tube to Greenwich to go to the O2 to watch the Day of the Doctor, which blew us away.

No, but seriously.

In 3D.

Especially the appearance of Tom Baker at the end (though we were sadly deprived of any mention of jelly babies) made an impact, having seen him just hours before.

I personally am extremely happy that they’re bringing back Gallifrey and the Time Lords. The Classic Series episodes where the Doctor visits Gallifrey are among my favourites (including the last episode of The War Games), especially the one where the Fourth Doctor basically waltzes in all arrogantly, demanding to take up his post as Lord President and it all turns out to have been a defence strategy (The Invasion of Time). There is something magical about this highly intellectual society living in what basically amounts to fear of the outside universe (I see parallels with academia).

Of course, the whole episode in itself feels a bit Deus Ex Machina, in the sense that suddenly, in one episode, the whole New Series is reset and the Doctor didn’t kill all his people, he just thinks he did. But it was cleverly done, I think, and there were enough nods to the past to shut up my inner critic and just enjoy the ride.

And perhaps I should just watch it again (update: I did watch it again. And Again. And Again. And my head now makes better sense of it. Less deus ex machina).

On the way home we stopped by Burger King, which isn’t in itself significant other than the fact that it led me to remark later that it had been “a brilliant day of Doctor Who and Burger King!” which had Lisa in a fit.

There were comments on facebook about a Sherlock teaser so once we were back at the hotel we fired up my computer to watch the teaser (and the teaser for the Christmas episode), then watch The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, which Lisa termed (I’m paraphrasing here), the real 50th Anniversary Celebratory show (update: half a year on, it’s still gloriously funny).

It was hilarious indeed, especially as our internet connection was, for lack of a better word, crap, and froze every minute or so, leaving us time to fully appreciate and laugh at each joke before we saw / missed the next one.

It also led to some minor facebook fangirling over Peter Davison (there are too many funny Tristan Farnon gifs on Tumblr) and Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker.

In short, I had a fantastic birthday weekend.

And let me now close by quoting and paraphrasing the First Doctor:

“Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.
Goodbye, readers.
Goodbye, my dears.”


Author: Ilse A Ras

There are times when I am doing research on crime news and language; sometimes I'm obsessed, sometimes I'm bored, and sometimes my tea is getting cold.

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