For those unaware, I was lucky enough to attend the Doctor Who Festival at the ExCel in London on Saturday 14th November. And let’s start off with a confession; I loved every second of it. I made lots of new friends, met lots of fellow content creators, met some extremely talented actors, learnt some interesting titbits of information about the rest of Series 9 as well as the Christmas special as well as spent a fair bit of money.
As this was a personal experience, it’s impossible to review in the same way as an episode of Doctor Who. I’ve decided to break down my review into parts, The Talks, Peter Capaldi, Michelle Gomez, Big Finish and The Overall Experience.
I attended two of the three main talks at the Doctor Who Festival; ‘Meet The Writers’ followed by ‘Meet The Cast’. The reason that I didn’t attend the MFX Show was because I had seen the majority of the show at Sherlocked earlier this year, as well at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Doctor Who in 2013.
The first talk was the one that interested me the most, as scriptwriting is where I want my career to head. The panel was hosted by Matthew Sweet who has a lot of connections with Doctor Who; he also hosted a panel during the 50th Celebration and presented a Culture Show special, ‘Me, You & Doctor Who’. Sweet was interviewing Peter Harness who wrote The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion this series, as well as Kill The Moon last year, Sarah Dollard who has written Episode 10, Face The Raven and finally, Steven Moffat who we all know as the head script writer and emotional torturer.
As opposed to my experience of Moffat on panels from the 50th anniversary, this panel was incredibly light-hearted and honest, talking a lot about how writers are all people who can self-loathe and self-edit as well as people who never think that they’re good enough. The answers seemed a lot more open to those from the 50th, and Moffat spoke about how he emailed Sarah Dollard, asking if he can use her episode for ‘something unthinkable’ and ‘something I can’t bring myself to do’. It won’t be long before we find out exactly what it is, as Face The Raven airs on Saturday.
The next talk, ‘Meet The Cast’ was also a great hour, hosted by Toby Hadoke, starring Peter Capaldi who plays The Doctor, Jenna Coleman who plays Clara Oswald, Michelle Gomez who plays Missy, Ingrid Oliver who plays Osgood and also featured Steven Moffat again, probably so he can make sure the cast keeps quiet. Whilst the talk featured these four talented actors, it was apparent that most of this hour was dedicated to Jenna, especially with the news that she’ll be leaving the show by the end of this series. If there’s one thing I noticed in this panel, it was how much Peter really cared for Jenna and how much he will miss her on set. Moffat even joked that Jenna ‘dumped them’ to go and play Queen Victoria. (“Will she know that werewolves exist?”). In this talk, there was a lot more time allocated to questions from the floor; some personal highlights were Peter saying he’d dye his hair ginger (“Get #PlanetOfTheGingers trending”) and that Michelle Gomez doesn’t want a screwdriver, and would prefer a Mojito.
If you haven’t guessed from the picture at the head of this article, I was lucky enough to get a photo opportunity with The Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi. Just because I like the picture so much, I’ll put it here too. Due to the obvious time constraints, nobody was able to have a long, in depth conversation with this fabulous actor, but even with the short time you had, which was probably not even a minute, Peter Capaldi made sure he shook everyone by the hand, looked them in the eye, smiled, had a brief chat, “I run a website called GallifreyArchive.com” “Oh that’s fantastic, I’ll write it down and check it out” and posed in any way you wanted. The thing that made me realise that Peter was such a great human, as well as a phenomenal Time Lord was the way that he acted with the small children. To them, he’s not Peter Capaldi, he’s the Doctor; and he seemed to understand and relish that. No matter how small, he’d crouch down, get on their level with a grin, give them a hug or a high five or a handshake and treat them with as much love and attention as possible, he truly is a gentleman.
Another honour was being able to meet Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman with such magnetic energy, so much charisma and charm. It’s clear that Michelle Gomez is a Whovian at heart. Like Peter, she really seemed to care about the fans; I got a handshake a warm smile and a look in the eye as she spoke to me. You forget when you watch the show that, in real life, Michelle Gomez isn’t a murderous psychopath. She is a comedy genius, able to make anything funny. One thing I particularly noticed whilst queueing for the photo opportunity was that she seemed to be having as much fun with the photos and meeting the fans as the fans themselves were. Like Peter, Michelle was absolutely amazing with the children, pulling faces for the photo, making sure they weren’t scared of The Mistress and ensuring that they’ll have memories they will never forget. She even chocked an Osgood with her scarf. Whilst Michelle Gomez plays a villain in the show, the way she acts around the fans proves she is one of the Heroes of Who.
It’s no secret that I adore Big Finish, I shout it from the metaphorical rooftops as often as possible; my love has only grown after being at the Festival. First of all, I’d like to let my admiration for Lisa Bowerman, one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Not only is she incredibly talented; having both starred in and directed Big Finish audios such as the recent release ‘Jago & Litefoot & Strax’ (Review coming soon) but she’s incredibly warm, approachable, kind and friendly. I was fortunate enough to have her sign a copy of the aforementioned ‘Jago & Litefoot & Strax’ and have a brief conversation, where I told her how much I enjoy her characterisation of Bernice Summerfield and she seemed honestly flattered. Another person whom I admire in the world of Big Finish was David Richardson, one of the Producers who produces some absolutely amazing titles; he also happily signed my copy of J&L&S and also seemed touched when I thanked him for all he’s done.
Another aspect of Big Finish that I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as the Big Finish stand, was the talk they had, hosted by Barnaby Edwards. It was less of a talk and more of an insight into how a Big Finish audio gets made, the thing that was an unannounced treat was that the extract that the actors performed was from the upcoming Tenth Doctor Adventures which isn’t being released until May 2016. After the professionals gave us a performance, they gave the audience a chance to partake in the adventure. After the lucky members of the audience got to become the Tenth Doctor, Donna and others, the floor was open to questions. This, for me, is when Barnaby Edwards really shone. All of his answers were eloquent and filled with passion for Big Finish, which wouldn’t be a hard job with the stellar work they produce, but he gave every question a lengthy, satisfying answer and gave a real insight as to what it’s like to work at Big Finish.
The Overall Experience
The rest of the Festival was absolutely amazing, there were dozens of stalls for you to buy a range of different merchandise from, from Fourth Doctor scarves to Sonic Screwdriver Pizza Cutters. There were also exhibits you were free to peruse, from Davros’ Sick Bay seen in The Magician’s Apprentice to a costume area where you could see a variety of costumes, from the open Dalek to Me’s dress from The Woman Who Lived.
The one thing that I was slightly disappointed by however, was that the ‘Iconic Set Photo’ was set in Clara’s living room. Whilst I still got the photo as I had previously paid for it, I was slightly miffed that at the 50th, the iconic set photo was inside the TARDIS. That didn’t dampen my spirits at all though.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Doctor Who Festival, I will give a rating of: