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Monday, March 26, 2012 - Reviewed by Marcus

Official Doctor Who Convention 2012

The Millennium Centre, Cardiff
24-25 March 2012

BBC Worldwide
This weekend the BBC organised the first Official Doctor Who Convention since the series returned to TV screens in 2005 and the biggest Doctor Who event the Corporation has run since the stately grounds of Longleat hosted the celebration of the show's twentieth birthday in April 1983.

Very different to many fan run conventions, the announcement of the event had a mixed response with some fans, with some criticising the entry price and the lack of inclusion of many items that have now become a integral part of many alternative conventions. But an official BBC event is always going to be a very different beast, with different aspirations and objectives than an event purely ran by fans. Each type of event has its own own unique selling points and each will appear to different type of fan. A BBC event will always be much bigger than others purely because it is an official BBC event. Many will attend who would never dream of going to an alternative convention with the event appealing to a far wider circle of fans. So it is bound to lose some of the intimacy that many smaller conventions process.

The unique advantage the BBC has is its ability to get all the stars of the current series to attend along with many of the people who actually make episodes we all know and love. The BBC event has been described as Doctor Who Confidential Live and while that may be a good way to describe it it should not be taken as a negative. Where else could you get the three main stars onto a sofa and see them discuss their feelings for the show alongside the main writer? Where else could you get a chance to see the man behind all the Special Effects in the series since 2005 recreate some of the explosions and bangs and blasts we all know and love? Where else could you seen Silurian Masks being created before your eyes and get a step by step description of the restoration of a Classic episode by the guys who actually do this for a living.

The Panels:

The main reason for many attending the convention was the chance it gives you to see the current stars of the show in the flesh, and the convention didn't disappoint. The Meet the stars panel comprised of Executive Producers Caroline Skinner and Steven Moffat, alongside the current TARDIS team of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, all greeted with tumultuous applause. The affection and warmth shared between the team shone through and kept the audience entertained with tales from the set. Matt Smith is a true star and gave several fans memories they will treasure forever, including one fan who was treated to a hug not only from the Doctor, but the entire TARDIS team , and the young Eleventh Doctor look-a-likes who were treated to their very own Jammy Dodger from their doppelgänger on the stage.

Questions from the audience covered many topics with the team remaining tight lipped about what might be coming up in the future. Ask me something I can answer Moffat pleaded at one point.

The Second Panel of the Day took a look at the making of an episode that was actually filmed inside the Millennium Centre. The Girl Who Waited used several locations around the building and writer Tom MacRae discussed the way he concieved the episode and his annoyance that the Handbots had not yet been made into a toy. He was joined onstage by producer Marcus Wilson who gave an insight into the problems in making the episode and Millennium FX Director Neill Gorton who explained how the ageing of Amy was achieved.

The final panel took a look at the evolution of an entire series with Caroline Skinner returning to the stage to talk about how a series is devised. Expertly chaired by Barnaby Edwards, Skinner was joined by Casting Director Andy Pryor, Production Designer Michael Pickwoad, Director of The Rebel Flesh, Julian Simpson and Director of Photography Stephan Pehrsson who took time to explain their own contribution to the series.

Before the Panel ended an audible gasp when around the theatre when a special preview of Series Seven was shown.


The costume display featured many items recently seen at the Doctor Who Experience in London. Several Doctor and Companion Costumes were on display along with monsters from both the current and classic series. A cabinet was filled with Sonic Screwdrivers and TARDIS keys from throughout the years.

Special Effects:

Danny Hargreaves is the man responsible for all the Special Effects on Doctor Who, and has been since the series returned in 2005. His session was a treat for all concerned, getting off to an explosive start when, halfway through the introduction, the entire west wall of the theatre appeared to explode as a Dalek glided across the stage.

Hargreaves demonstrated many of the devices used in the show, explaining how bullets appear to explode on impact and how snow is made before allowing one young fan to play at being the Doctor and to destroy a Cyberman.

Prosthetics demonstrations:

Millennium FX were based in the main lobby where attendees were treated to live demonstrations of the techniques used in making some of the monsters and villains seen on the show.

The displays alternated with the Doctor Who restoration team explaining some of the painstaking work that goes into restoring classic episodes for DVD release.

Other Guests:

Away from the main hall several guests from the recent series of Doctor Who were available for autographs including Simon Fisher Becker and Mark Sheppard. It's a pity more could not have been made of these guests as I know how entertaining both can be and what a valuable contribution they could have made to any panel.

The Event:

The Convention was clearly a success with BBC Worldwide selling all 3000 tickets in advance of the event. Although not confirmed, plans are in place for more events in the months leading up to the shows 50th Anniversary.

Most who attended found the event a unique, exciting chance to see behind the scenes, and to meet the stars of a series they love so much. One of the most wondrous things about being a Doctor Who fan who grew up with the classic series is to see the shear joy and delight on children faces as the magic of the current series bewitches them just as it has done for their predecessors over many years.