With all of time and space to wander the Doctor landed in San Diego last weekend – all of thirteen of them – along with River Song, K-9, and Jamie McCrimmon. I wasn’t going to go this year to the San Diego Who Con, but my husband surprised me with a full membership and a ticket to the Sunday tea. As I sit here reminiscing about the fun, drinking a cup of Gypsy Caravan Tea (a black Chinese smoked tea with rum flavoring), I can’t help but smile.
I arrived late on Friday after driving down from work, missing a couple of the panels but in plenty of time for the evening fun. San Diego Who Con kicked off its second year with the Who-aiian Luau. The Doctors and companions (fans in wonderful cosplay) danced the limbo, played palm tree basketball and coconut-pineapple bowling. Later in the evening, there would be a group hula and karaoke. Two of the con’s special guests, Chase Masterson (Leeta from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon, one of Doctor #2 Patrick Troughton’s companions) joined the guests chatting and enjoying the food. The highlight for me was when Chase picked up an armful of beach balls and told me to do the same, and we started throwing them across the room. Soon others joined in, and a multi-ball game of dodgeball began. The bartender was not amused when some of the balls flew close to his carefully stacked glasses.
Arriving early the next morning, I read my program book trying to decide on which panels to attend. I decided on a panel discussing the Doctor Who canon and trying to understand the timey-wimey ins and outs of the Whoverse, but due to a mix-up in the rooms, I ended up at the panel Rule One: The Doctor Lies hosted by River Alexander Song. It was a game where four of the Doctors (#4, #6, #7, #11, #12) tell the audience about something or someone, such as Queen Victoria or the history of knitting. Everything they said was a lie, except one thing and the audience must ferret the truth out. They were all very convincing, and the winner of the San Diego Comic-Con bag was a young lady about fifteen-years-old.
My next panels were Q&A with the guests. Chase Masterson and Frazer Hines sat together with British comedian Ben Paddon moderated. Chase thanked Frazer for bringing her into the world of Doctor Who, as he was the one who recommended her for a Big Finish production. She has gone on to several others. The two were obviously good friends and enjoyed ribbing each other.
Frazer said two things about his time as Jamie McCrimmon that made me like him even more. First, he credited the late Patrick Troughton with saving Doctor Who, without him and his great performance the show would have been canceled, and we wouldn’t be sitting in this convention. The second was that being a part of Doctor Who was one of the best times in his career, and he hated to leave the show.
Chase also spoke about an organization she founded called Pop Culture Hero Coalition a program using stories “to make a stand for real-life heroism over bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQ-bulling, cyber-bullying, and other forms of hate.” She has assembled a team to develop curriculum to address these issues at the elementary school level.
The next panel of the day was listening to the delightful W. Morgan Sheppard talk with Ben about his career. As a character actor with over a hundred credits to his name, Morgan has played every conceivable role in virtually every genre. He had been a police officer, a priest, a murderer, and a Klingon. The panel was supposed to be a Q&A, but we were enjoying Morgan’s stories and encouraged him to continue. He expressed surprise that Doctor Who fans wanted to have him at the convention, after all, he only spoke about three lines in his scene in the episode The Impossible Astronaut. He talked about his training and how he mentors young actors. He encouraged anyone pursuing an acting career to get some training and find a mentor. At eighty-five, he said he wasn’t going to stop acting, but can be more selective about the roles he accepts.
My next panel of the day was a nerdy one, The Doctor and the Psychology of Identity. Led by Dr. Inns Kanevsky from San Diego Mesa College. She started talking about how identity is formed by biology and environment, then solidifies during the teen years. She proposed the character of the Doctor is in a state of perpetual adolescence. She points to his behavior. For example, he is constantly on the run and with a few exceptions has no strong family or friendship connections. She also noted that with each regeneration he has to rediscover who is, and in the case of the next generation that adjustment will be harder than before.
The last panel was nerdy also. The Sciences and the Doctor. Two professors, Dr. Lisa Chadwick (Astrophysicist) and Dr. Lisa Will (Geologist), from San Diego City College, discussed where the show got the science and history right, where it was wrong, and where it doesn’t really matter. They also discussed how show runners will call for information, and then completely ignore what they were told by the scientists. As for the T.A.R.D.I.S., is it plausible? Probably not, but as long as they don’t try to explain the physics of it and the Time Vortex, the presenters said they could suspend disbelief.
With so many cosplay participants we were treated to a costume parade led by House of Scotland Pipe Band.
Saturday evening the Who Con hosted a “Christmas out of Time” Concert and Dance Party. I didn’t stay for this. Instead, I chose a quiet dinner with my parents at a Japanese noodle restaurant followed by a leisurely walk down in the canyon near their house.
The last day of hanging out with my fellow Whovians started with the panel Diversity in the Whoverse and Beyond. I had been invited to come to this panel by Kate, one of the presenters, as I worked with special needs students and had a knowledge of classic Who that they did not. Yes, Doctor Who was an all-white cast during the classic Who period, but it was the 1960’s and 1970’s and produced in England. Today, they have more diversity with the introduction of Micky, Martha, and Bill. They have also had a deaf actress in one episode. Bill was also gay, but it wasn’t something they made a big deal about, she just was. Then there’s the omnisexual Jack Harkness, enough said there. When it comes to Bechdel Test, New Who did better than most adventure series. The show runners are doing better, but casting could be more diverse.
There was one panel Sunday, I would have liked to have seen, The Art and Madness of Writing Episodically. I couldn’t go because it ran simultaneously with the All of Time and Space Tea Party. I did catch up with the presenter, and she said she would email me her power point presentation.
At the All of Time and Space Tea Party, all the Doctors and his companions, Victorian ladies and gentlemen, and special guests gathered to enjoy some light refreshments and each other’s company. I was seated at the same table as Chase Masterson. Chase took on the role of hostess making sure no one was left out of the conversation. We were treated to finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, scones, and assorted sweets. I had Earl Grey tea, of course. The food was good and the conversation better. There was a drawing for door prizes, I won a personally autographed copy of Frazer Hines’ book Hines Sight.
I mustn’t forget the Merchant’s Room. In this large space, vendors sold hand-made items, toys, books, and memorabilia. The guests had tables where you could get an autograph. There was also a silent auction supporting their charity Pegasus Rising, a program to help veterans recover from PTSD with equine therapy. I bid on and won a canvas bag with the convention’s logo.
This was truly a family-friendly event. As well as the panels for adults San Diego Who Con offered several panels just for the kids and the young at heart. There were also make-and-take crafts in the Merchant’s Room that participants of all ages enjoyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The small numbers meant a more intimate environment where I could get to know the other guests. I learned a few things about the Doctors, his companions, and the show that when I re-watch the shows, I do so with a deeper understanding. I made the acquaintance of several who may very well become good friends. I will definitely consider going again next year.
Until next time . . .
The door is always open, and the kettle is always on.