I spent last weekend out in Ronkonkoma, Long Island attending the second convening of what I believe has become the east coast's premier Doctor Who convention: L.I. Who.
The convention concentrates heavily on getting a large and diverse group of special guests and this year they really went all out with an enourmous ensemble that touched on all aspects of the show’s history. Headlining were the two Doctors: Colin Baker and Paul McGann; many companions companions: Nicola Bryant, Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, Deborah Watling, Daphne Ashbrooke, and Yee Je Tso; original Davros Terry Malloy as well as the Illustrious author and script editor Terrance Dicks.
Being a relatively small convention the guests and stars were constantly intertwined as we moved through the halls. Yee Je Tso would lead the photo lines in songs he made up on the fly, Paul McGann spent the break between photo sessions playing guitar, and everyone generally hung out and created memories and adventures.
There were near constant panels and events with the special guests and it would have taken extreme effort to attend them all. I did catch several really interesting pieces of panels. Including a great reunion of the cast of Revelation of the Daleks, Colin and Nicola’s retrospective, Nicola’s solo panel and Frazier Hines’s late night home video panel where he made Wendy Padbury so happy she cried.. I wound up getting photos with Colin and Nicola, Nicola alone and Colin and McGann because I was so caught up in everything I abandoned my usual reticence at waiting in lines or spending extra money, and I’m glad I did.
As usual though, for me the convention was more about the whirlwind of my two favorite con activities: cosplay and leading panels.
I had no new costumes to break out this time, so I went with my old favorites the 5th Doctor, Raggedy Doctor, the 7th Doctor and "Angels Take Manhattan" Rory. My car (with Christine, Lauren, and Genesis) got there late on Friday due to terrible traffic so I missed the “Cosplay TimeLine where I was supposed to be in my Roman Rory outfit, but I spent the night as a very well received “Angel attacked” Rory.
Saturday was all 5th Doctor and seemed to be remain well liked. The highlight though was that evening when, after the Masquerade, I was asked to be the 5th Doctor in a full Doctor photoshoot with one of each incarnation. I have some wonderful photos and the whole thing was fantastic.
Sunday was a rush, starting out in Raggedy, switching to 5 for my pictures with Colin and Nicola and then- after having checked out the room- switching to 7 to do a “6-7-8” shot with McGann and Colin. Even though almost everyone else seemed to have the same idea, the picture is too good to have passed up! And then Amy Pond led the Doctor’s out onto the dance floor in a conga line. Fantastic stuff!
The panel situation was a bit of a madhouse. First, the convention needs to make a necessary change- all the panels need a break between them. Without this it becomes nearly impossible to make it from one to another on time and there is no time to breathe if you are panelist on two or three in a row. Here are quick recaps of the panels I was on:
The River Song Panel: I was on this great panel, moderated by Cat Smith, for the second year in a row, and this time had a lively debate with Tara O'Shea, the editor of the brilliant book “Chicks Dig Time Lords,” about the quality of Moffat as a writer and character creator. It was fun time, but we got into some interesting stuff and definitely came out of it with richer sense of the character, her flaws, and her impact.
In Defense Of: This was FANTASTIC- basically a game show where two teams compete to defend indefensible aspects of Doctor Who in order to keep points. The Verity Podcast originated the game, and Deb Stanish was the host and it was hilarious. I had to defend both “I don’t want to go” and “The statue of liberty being an angel” two of my all time most despised moments of the show for a full 90 seconds without stopping or going negative. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to make it the full time to defend Tennant, but I was for everything else, including Peri’s spandex, and my team wound up winning by 1 point.
I was on a few other panels, but the other one I really need to mention was “He Was MY Doctor” moderated by Justin Whitmore and joined by the amazing Brian Terranova and Alice Bryson. This panel was everything I love about the academic side of fandom. Smart, funny, open minded people discussing interesting things and no matter if we agree or disagree coming out of it feeling like we should have these conversations all the time. We touched on some really interesting topics, like the reasons people identify with a particular Doctor, what it means to be “my Doctor”, and sociological and storytelling ramifications of changing the Doctor’s gender or race. It was fun, it was interesting, the audience gave fantastic feedback, and generally I want to do it again right now.
So overall, the convention was fantastic though a few things could have been better:
1. The convention space was already too small last year, this year it was horrid. The hotel does not have enough hallways, rooms, or stairs to do this. LI Who is moving next year and it could not be more necessary.
2. Communication to the attendees was a little lax, things would start late or never happen and no one knew why or what was happening. These types of things are difficult, but a little attention really helps when things go awry. 3. The “Cosplay programming tent” was a disaster. It was cold, it was not easy to find, the tables were the wrong setup, and it was constantly overcrowded. It would definitely be better if an entire segment of the con was not relegated to “second class” status. (In the same way, PANEL ROOM B, never again. Never!)
Despite those issues, many of which I think will be fixed in the move to new digs next year, LI Who was really fun and I wouldn’t trade the experiences, unless you offered me something really cool. Like a Coal Hill tie.
-Clay "GalliClay" Dockery