The event is the second official Doctor Who event to be held in London, following the 2013 celebration of the show's 50th Anniversary. It was sold out on all three days, proving there is a large appetite for these conventions with people attending from around the globe.
Thee was plenty to see for even the most dedicated fan, with audience panels, photo sessions, sets, talks and a hall full of merchandise to browse. Unlike the 50th Anniversary Festival, this one was firmly dedicated to the Capaldi era with all the main guests reflecting the latest series of the show. For those used to the more intimate smaller conventions the big official event can seem intimidating, but the crew worked hard to make the occasion as informal as possible.
The highlights for many included the three panel shows, hosted in the massive main arena at the venue. The meet the cast panel was the one everyone wanted to see and the crowds weren't disappointed when Peter Capaldi, Michelle Gomez, Ingrid Oliver and Steven Moffat, also joined by Jenna Coleman on Saturday and Sunday, took questions from moderator Toby Hadoke.
The team were witty and entertaining and Hadoke chaired the session with style. It could have been longer as the 45 minutes flew by and with five on the panel, some were better served than others. The love for the series shone through and the packed hall was very entertained by the whole affair.
One thing that could be curtailed were the number of questions taken from the audience. While I applaud the aim is to involve the fans as much as possible, the whole process does drag with many of the same questions coming again and again, mostly aimed at the two main stars and excluding the rest of the panel. With hosts as competent and knowledgeable as Toby Hadoke the random selection of questions is just not needed and a more balanced and informative panel could be held without it. Maybe in future audiences could send in questions in in advance and the best ones chosen to avoid the endless What's your favourite episode? query. Having said that the panel handled the audience with style and handled some of the more undiplomatic comments with just a modicum of irritation.
The other panels were just as entertaining and not to be missed. The writers talk gave an insight into the perils and pain of being a professional writer. The participants varied each day with all the Series 9 writers being represented at some point. It can't be easy as a writer, used to working alone with a keyboard, to put yourself up before an auditorium full of many opinionated fans. The team dealt with the various queries with tact and style. Matthew Sweet made a great host and showed his own love of the series.
The Millennium FX panel, which featured Mark Gatiss, took the audience through the creation of a new Doctor Who monster while showing how some of this series creations were realised. It was informative and entertaining and well worth watching and gave a sneak preview of this week's monsters The Sandmen.
Away from the main stage there was much to enjoy. Several sets had been transported from Cardiff giving fans the chance to visit the Viking village of Ashildr or to wander the corridors of The Dalek city of Davros. Some areas could have done with more space, the costume and props display in particular was crammed into a small square in the centre of the arena, resulting in gridlock throughout much of the day. Those who persevered were greeted with a range of items from the current series, including the two Osgood boxes.
Clara's flat was recreated, giving fans the opportunity for a picture lounging on her sofa.
In The production Village the Assistant Directors who work on Doctor Who gave a presentation on just how the show is shot and how labour intensive the whole process is. In a very slick, quick fire 30 minutes they took the audience through a typical day on set, explaining what happens when, and just who is involved. If you ever wanted to know what the Gaffer does, or who types up the call sheets, then this was the show for you. The team were joined during the day by Production Designer Michael Pickwoad and Costume designer Ray Holman who described their roles in the series.
Over the other side of the hall Real SFX and Danny Hargreaves entertained the crowds with some of the many bangs and explosions from the series in a very entertaining show. Meanwhile in the Drama school there was a chance to learn how to act like a Dalek or become a Director, while Big Finish held a master-class in voice acting.
The fan involvement was encouraged and some of the cosplay on show was incredible. The USA may have come up with the concept, but modern UK fans have
taken the process to their hearts with some incredibly clever and inventive outfits on show.
For those with money left in their pocket the shopping village contained enough merchandise to sate the appetite of the most dedicated fan, with all the main official brands represented. A tent, erected by the Horror Channel, screened archive episodes.
All in all it was very successful event as evidenced by the satisfied comments filling the forums and the happy faces leaving the venue. Yes there queues were to long sometimes and the venue a little crowded, but the organisation was superb with the events running like clockwork.
Let us hope the success of this years event helps persuade BBC Worldwide to make the Festival an annual event.