By Susan JAMES
The 22nd Annual North American Doctor Who Convention, sponsored by Gallifrey One Conventions, was held over the weekend of Feb. 18-20 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.
“Whovians” of all shapes and sizes, in costume and out, swarmed the conference rooms where panels on Doctor Who arcanea kept fans enthralled. Dressed as Daleks or Weeping Angels, as one of the Doctor’s many companions or as a favorite incarnation of the Doctor himself, nearly 2,200 fans attended the three-day event.
A classic science fiction television series, the “Star Trek” of Britain, “Doctor Who” tells the story of the last of the Time Lords, a race of extraterrestrial beings who control the vortex of time. After his home world of Gallifrey is destroyed in a war with an evil race known as the Daleks, the Doctor travels time and space in a blue police box/space ship accompanied by a series of human companions. A huge hit in Britain from 1969-1983, the cult TV show was revived by Russell T. Davies, Welsh producer and screenwriter, in 2005.
Introduced in the USA on BBC America, the new series has drawn a wide following. David Tennant (perhaps best known to American audiences as Barty Crouch, Jr., in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) took over the role of the Doctor in 2006 and was succeeded by Matt Stone in 2010.
One of the idiosyncrasies of the Whovian canon is the Doctor’s ability to regenerate himself as one actor gives way to another, each playing the same part.
Fans at the convention were thrilled that the fifth doctor, Peter Davison, was one of the guests who traded behind the scenes memories with two of his on-screen travel companions, Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa). When asked why his Doctor wore a stalk of celery pinned to his jacket, Davison quipped that it was an antidote for intergalactic poisons. Fielding was eloquent both about the treatment of women as actors in the early ’80s and the portrayal of female characters in general. She has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights for the last three decades.
One of the most fascinating panels had make-up artists Neill Gorton and Rob Mayor of the special effects group Millennium FX demonstrate how to turn an ordinary actor into a menacing Silurian, a race of reptile-like humanoids who inhabited planet Earth before humans. Each Silurian make-up generally takes two hours and, as Gorton remarked, a great deal of patience from the actors. Watching Gorton and Mayor turn Gary Russell, writer and former editor of “Doctor Who Magazine,” into a scaly, lizard-like creature was like watching two artists paint a particularly tricky canvas.
In addition to interviews and panels, convention attendees had their pictures taken dodging evil Daleks, shaking hands with Whovian impersonators, or stepping out of the Doctor’s little blue box, his time and space ship the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).
A Whovian-themed art exhibition, merchandise room for collectors and a grand masquerade costume competition rounded out the big bang event for the Doctor’s children of time.