Hello, I’m back from my second year of (Re)Generation Who! I promise this recap will not be as long as the previous one, since I won’t have to describe my surroundings or costume as thoroughly. Sorry, didn’t take as many photographs this year; it always makes me feel a little awkward, and I saw a lot of folk this year in the same costumes as last time, so I didn’t feel the need. I did get my picture taken twice though, and got a lot of compliments on my Donna costume.
Once again, I went as the 10th Doctor’s companion Donna Noble in her “Journey’s End” outfit. (Yes, these pictures are from last year, sorry it took so long to upload.) This time I had a belt that didn’t try to fall off every five seconds. I also got a new wig, one that didn’t require as much trimming. I’m still not completely happy with the bangs, but eh, I’ll nail it eventually. I did see several other people dressed as Donna in her purple Greek outfit from “The Fires of Pompeii,” but no others from “Journey’s End.” (There were a LOT of River Songs this year!) I really want to get one of Donna’s other costumes though, probably the one from her cameo in “The End of Time,” which I could wear in warmer temperatures.
FRIDAY, MARCH 18
Unlike last year, my Friday did not start in a leisurely fashion. There was a staff meeting at work that I was not allowed to skip, so I was up and out of the house by 7:30am. As soon as the meeting was done, I skedaddled down the highway to Timonium and checked in to the Red Roof Inn there, the same one I’d stayed in last time. (In fact, they even put me in the same room!) This time I’d decided to take my Chromebook Kirja with me, so I had internet access. I must admit, that made a world of difference. Originally, I thought the con started at noon, but none of the panels began until 3pm, so I had some time to relax and get myself situated.
While unpacking, I noticed that I’d forgotten two very important things: the styrofoam head for my wig and toothpaste. The head I could do without, but I needed the toothpaste. A quick online search showed a Rite Aid nearby, and also a sushi restaurant, so I called in an order and decided to walk since it was a sunny, albeit windy, day. When I returned, I settled down to watch the latest Doctor Who Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song,” which I actually hadn’t seen yet. The timing worked out perfectly for me to pull on my costume and drive to the con.
Traveling was much less stressful this time around, as I already had an idea of where I was going and what the road was like. When I reached the Hunt Valley Inn, I got my badge and trotted downstairs to my first panel of the day: “Bioethics in Doctor Who.” It was an interesting panel, although I didn’t feel like the topic was as thoroughly discussed as it could have been. Of course, there’s only so much you can do in an hour, and they brought up some of the interesting questions of clones or autons as well as the identity crisis of the Osgoods.
Next up was “Eight is Great: Celebrating the Eighth Doctor.” I freely admit that I haven’t watched the 1996 movie, but from everything I keep hearing about it… I’m kind of glad that I started with the Big Finish audio-drama Storm Warning. Sword of Orion is fantastic, and I can’t wait to get to the acclaimed and award-winning story Chimes of Midnight. I will watch the movie. Eventually. Kind of feel like I should get the rest of Classic Who finished first since Sylvester McCoy regenerates in the film. For now, I’ll keep going through the Big Finish audio-dramas featuring Paul McGann and India Fisher as his companion Charlotte, or “Charley.” I’ve only listened to the first four so far: Storm Warning, The Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice, and Minuet in Hell. Charley is a wonderful companion and I could listen to Paul McGann talk all day. Storm Warning is quite good and introduces Charley. The Sword of Orion is amazing, both vivid and eerie, and I highly recommend it. The Stones of Venice is okay, a little meandering without an especially compelling plot. You can safely skip Minuet in Hell. (Is it a running theme for the Eighth Doctor to lose his memory? Seems to happen an awful lot…) At any rate, it was fun to listen to writer Robert Shearman and “the voice of the Daleks,” Nicholas Briggs talk about writing for the Eighth Doctor. It was funny because apparently whenever the script spends too much explaining, Mr. McGann says, “We’re on the good ship Exposition.” (Brilliant! Adding that to my editing tool-kit.)
By this point I was feeling under the weather. Like last year, it seemed like my sinuses had decided to rebel and none of the usual remedies worked. I realized that the walk I’d taken earlier probably exposed me to the lovely allergens of spring… and I hadn’t brought my face mask. Ugh. Still there was no way I was going to miss the next panel, which was a Q&A with Nicholas Briggs and Peter Davidson, the Fifth Doctor.
I loved the short film that Mr. Davidson and his fellow Doctors made called “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” (which, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading right now and go watch it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.) Back? Okay. Last year we had Colin Baker (6th Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (7th Doctor) attend (Re)Generation Who, plus a live Skype with Tom Baker (4th Doctor). This year, the Sixth Doctor was back and with the Fifth Doctor in tow! It was lovely to see Mr. Davidson in person; he’s got a great dry, self-depreciating sense of humor and you can see how much he enjoys being part of Doctor Who. Like Colin Baker, Paul McGann, and Sylvester McCoy, Mr. Davidson records a lot of audio-dramas with Big Finish.
After that panel we had the Great Companion Gathering. We had three returning guests: Nicola Bryant, who played Peri, companion to the 5th & 6th Doctors; Deborah Watling who played Victoria alongside the 2nd Doctor, and firecracker Sophia Aldred, who was Ace with the 7th Doctor. This year they were joined by Wendy Padbury, who played Zoe with the 2nd Doctor; the other companion at the convention, Frazer Hines who played the 2nd Doctor’s Scottish highland companion Jamie McCrimmon, was the only one who wasn’t present at this panel. They were great fun to watch and had plenty of stories to share about their time as Doctor Who companions; a few of them also continue in the audio-dramas.
At this point I was in enough pain that I decided to call it a night. Painkillers and sinus meds were doing nothing, and while there were several panels I wanted to attend (“Intro to Big Finish,” “Antipode Dance Performance,” and either “Timey-Wimey? The Timeline of Modern Who” or “Sex on Doctor Who”) but my head hurt too much. I grabbed a chicken & bacon club sandwich from a McDonald’s, ate what I could, then crawled into bed by 9pm.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19
Sleep is a wonderful (dare I say it?) regenerator. In the morning I felt MUCH better, got some food in me, read a little Doctor Who on my Nook, then got dressed in my Donna costume and headed to the con. I pretty much spent from about 10am-11pm in panels with a brief break for dinner in the Wyndam Hall’s restaurant. (Had fried calamari and was served by possibly the sweetest waiter I’ve ever encountered; he was so polite and adorable!)
The first panel of the day was “Doctor Who: The Wilderness Years” with John Peel (the author I met last year), Nev Fountain (also a writer who was at the first (Re)Generation Who), and the newcomers to this con, Jason Haigh-Ellery the co-executive producer from Big Finish, and author Rob Shearman. It’s wonderful listening to writers talk about all of the different media that was put out during Doctor Who‘s long hiatus.
Right after that was a panel dedicated to “The Five-ish Doctors” with Peter Davidson. It’s interesting to see the evolution of a small, simple fun project into something much bigger than originally intended. Much of the script was made up the night before and a lot more people got involved, including Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen! (In fact, the only person who didn’t get back to them was Tom Baker… but probably because he was in the 50th Anniversary special!) Mr. Davidson said it was strange being the director of the project. When they got together to film, he said he was waiting for someone to say, “Action!”… and then remembered that he was the one who had to do that! Of course there were calls for a sequel, but I’m happy to say that he doesn’t plan on making one unless he has a good enough idea for it.
After that panel, I headed back downstairs for “What If…? Doctor Who America.” (If Doctor Who had been made in America, it probably would have had a lot more killing and explosions. More Indiana Jones than Sherlock Holmes.) I think I would have enjoyed it more if I recognized the American actors suggested by the audience and panelists. With no mental image of them or idea of their acting style, I was pretty lost. So I bailed early and headed back upstairs for “Anneke Willis is Polly Wright.”
Ms. Willis is a riot. She’s got great stories of her escapades, a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor, and an unabashed enjoyment of a very interesting life. It was a lot of fun listening to her and John Peel talk about her time as the First Doctor’s companion as well as other projects that she’s been part of. Polly was one of the first two companions to see the First Doctor regenerate, which must have been a real shock for the characters and the original audience.
Next was “The Ninth Doctor: A Celebration” with Robert Shearman and Kara Dennison. Christopher Eccleston and his portrayal of the Ninth Doctor are often underrated and forgotten in the wake of heart-throbs David Tennant and Matt Smith. And yet, rather like Patrick Troughton when the First Doctor regenerated into the Second, Mr. Eccleston’s Doctor was key in reviving the series for a modern audience. He’s very relatable, especially at first glance with his very normal outfit and northern accent. He’s funny and fierce and, in his own quirky way, alien. But he also shows anger and fear in a way that wasn’t common with the Classic Who Doctors, if at all. This is most evident in the episode “Dalek,” which Mr. Shearman wrote. There’s a whole gamut of emotions from fear and rage to pity and sorrow. It’s when I kind of sat up and took notice, where the series gained a sudden depth that I hadn’t noticed before. Strangely enough, I didn’t realize how much I’d come to love the Doctor until he regenerated for the first time in the new series. So give Nine some love; he’s my Doctor.
As this was the second (Re)Generation Who, there was a special “Tribute to the Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton” panel with his son, Michael Troughton and four of the Second Doctor’s companions: Jamie, played by Frazier Hines, Victora, Zoe, and Polly. The interactions were hysterical; Mr. Hines in particular seemed to enjoy goofing around. And it was interesting to hear how different things were back then, how one could and probably should keep their personal and professional lives separate, a notion that Mr. Pat Troughton lived by. I really want to read the biography that his son wrote, Patrick Troughton: The Biography of the Second Doctor Who.
At this point I had about an hour before the next panel, so I headed upstairs to spend a lot of time (and money) in the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley. Less time and more money, actually, but worth it, I think. I got to chat with several nice people, including a lady who made gorgeous automated steampunk animals, included a touch-sensitive horse and T-rex. (I swear, the horse just loved being petted.) I always feel a little guilty walking around those places because I always feel like I should buy something from everyone because so many put so much time and effort into their creations and I wish I could help support them all. But I can’t, which is sad. Still, I always try to buy from at least one vendor and one artist each con, so I’m glad of that. My greatest finds were the full edition of the awesome mini-series Frank Herbert’s Dune plus another excellent sci-fi film called Moon, AND I broke down and purchased a full physical set of one of Big Finish’s latest audio-dramas: The War Doctor: Only the Monstrous. I. Am. So. Excited! And they even gave me a little Seal of Rassilon pin! Lovely! (I do wish there had been a little more 8th Doctor merchandise; thank you again, Big Finish, for the introduction!)
Speaking of Big Finish, at 6pm it was time for the next panel, which was entitled “The War Doctor” with Nicholas Briggs. This was neat because the first box set of the War Doctor was just released with a second on the way. Big Finish only got the rights to do audio-dramas involving the new series, including the War Doctor and the Time War, fairly recently. The Time War was, apparently, something that Russell T. Davies came up with pretty much out of the blue, possibly to explain why the Doctor had been absent from television for over a decade. Now Big Finish, and possibly other media, will be able to delve into the Time War. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the idea of the Time War is fascinating with lots of opportunities for great stories that I’m looking forward to hearing/reading/seeing. On the other hand, I think part of the allure of the Time War is because of its mystery. The lack of knowledge about it makes it interesting, allows our imaginations run wild.
Next up was “Keith R.A. DeCandido: Writing for Fictional Universes.” I’d attended a panel of his last year and bought one of the anthologies that included his work, but the thing is writers is there’s always something next to talk about after a year. Especially in Mr. DeCandido’s case. I asked him how long it takes him to write a book: 10 days was the shortest (which was hell) but he preferred 2 months. (…I really need to get my butt in gear. Oy!) Also, there were pieces of information which I personally found intriguing enough to write down in my ever-present notebook. The first was a question about what books Mr. DeCandido would recommend for aspiring writers to read. That’s a pretty tough question, but he did recommend Ursula K. LeGuin, especially for science fiction and fantasy writers. Which means I need to take another crack at Wizard of Earthsea; I abandoned it years ago. The second was a piece of advice: “Talk to experts if you don’t know. Tell them you want to get it right! (You won’t get them to shut up.) Also, the Internet is your friend.” True dat.
The last two panels of the evening were “Big Finish: Looking Back at 15 Years of Adventure” with Jason Haigh-Ellery, and “Gender Identity in Doctor Who” with Heather McHale, Kathleen Schowalter, Charles Martin, and Joy Piedmont.
… I am so sorry, but I did not catch the last woman’s name. 😦 (Thank you, Kathleen for identifying your third panelist! Much obliged.) The former was a comprehensive look back at the various challenges and rewards Big Finish has gone through over the last decade and a half regarding audio-dramas. I wish I had a recorder because I can’t do the explanation justice here. So go look up the history of Big Finish if you want to know more. ^_^;; The latter panel was interesting, although an hour isn’t nearly enough time to go into such a broad and sensitive topic. The fact that the Doctor (so far) has always regenerated as a man and that Time Lords and Time Ladies also appear to have a gender despite being so fluid was a large part of the discussion. Ms. Schowalter offered an intriguing explanation: that the Time Lords are probably beyond our ideas of gender identity, but because we can’t grasp that, the TARDIS language translator has to interpret such concepts into something we can understand and relate to. I like that piece of head-canon and will incorporate it into my view of Doctor Who. Thanks!
After that, I returned to the hotel satisfied with the day’s accomplishments. I was able to stay at the con and in costume all day with no ill effects, which I am profoundly grateful for.
SUNDAY, MARCH 20
The last day of a con is always a little weird. You’ve spent the first two days getting oriented and settled before suddenly uprooting and going by to “real life.” But the day was still full of great panels, so I packed my things, got into my Donna costume for the final time that weekend, and headed for Who-ville.
The first panel I attended was called “Nicholas Briggs: Actor, Writer, Producer, Director, Composer.” Wow. With that kind of professional creative resume, I had to attend and see how he managed it. (The answer is, by not sleeping. ^_^;;) Craig Cobalt asked some questions, then opened up the floor to the audience, which included a hilarious Dalek voice challenge when Mr. Briggs discovered a mic on the table that had been synthesized to help produce the proper “Exterminate!” I also found it interesting to hear that although he composes, he doesn’t know how to read music. I asked him how he keeps track, if he has someone write it down, has his own writing system, or just records it. (The answer is, he just records it; no writing down involved.)
Next was the highlight of the con: having the Fifth and Sixth Doctors together on stage. Mr. Davidson and Mr. Baker are already really funny on their own, but put them on stage together and it’s hilarious! I do hope that video of the panel makes it onto YouTube. I think my favorite question from the audience was when a kid asked them who their favorite Doctor was. There was a pause, then Colin pointed and said “Peter,” and a beat after that, Peter pointed and said, “Colin.” Totally impromptu, which made it even more hysterical. I also learned a little more about the different projects they’ve worked on with Big Finish and outside of Doctor Who. Mr. Davidson has been in several TV series, including All Creatures Great and Small and A Peculiar Practice. And Mr. Baker dressed in drag to play Marelene Dietrich on stage. (Google it. You will not be disappointed.) I also learned the delightfully British saying for the last drink of the night: “One for the gutter.”
The following panel featured Robert Shearman, one of the writers for Doctor Who, interviewed by Ben Tyler. This is another panel that I hope was filmed (in fact, I hope all of them got filmed!) because I can’t reproduce most of it. But I know that as a writer myself, I could empathize with the glee at being able to write for something that you love. Being able to play in those sandboxes, and contribute to them… Granted, I haven’t done that professionally, but still, that’s gotta be fun. Really, when you write a Big finish audio-drama entitled The Maltese Penguin… well, that just begs to be listened to. ^_^ Apparently the story Jubilee is rather dark and yet funny… I don’t know if that will be my cup of tea, but I have some friends who might find it to their taste. And of course I want to reach his award-winning Chimes of Midnight. I’m really curious to see (or rather “hear”) how that goes. Another one called Scherzo has had mixed reviews from people (some like it, some don’t), but a lovely piece of artwork by Saimain on DeviantART makes me think I’ll like it.
After this panel, I debated on whether or not I should try to get an autograph this year. At the first (Re)Generation Who, I got John Peel’s signature, because yes, I would rather have autographs from the writers than the actors. Slightly less intimidating. ^_^;; Still, I walked back and forth a few times before working up the nerve to return to the panel room and ask for an autograph from Mr. Shearman. Luckily he was still there, chatting with some other con-goers. I drifted over to listen because, yeah, that’s what I do. I hang on the fringes of conversations until I’m invited in or have to move on. But Mr. Shearman noticed I was there so before long all of us were talking. Well, I did more listening. Cause I was nervous as hell. (At least I was in good company; Mr. Shearman said that the plane ride over was rather nerve-wracking from being around so many actors involved in Doctor Who.) Before we had to disperse, I did receive an autograph… with an adorable picture! Mr. Shearman asked if I was staying after the con (I would be for a little while), and said we should have a sit-down for a proper chat. I had no idea what to make of that; I mean, I’m not exactly witty or stellar company. But I said I would try.
My third-to-last panel of the day was “Expanded Worlds of Who” with Jason Haigh-Ellery, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Nev Fountain, & game writer/designer Walt Ciechanowski. This reminded me a little bit of “The Wilderness Years” panel, as a lot of similar items came up like the Virgin Novels and comic books. In a way, they had a lot more creative freedom during that time, before Doctor Who became mainstream. Back then, you had a dedicated fan base, but without the vitriol and instantaneous communication of the internet. Rather like Star Wars and Star Trek, there’s a lot of conflicting stories out there. But Mr. DeCandido had a good point: “I don’t worry about what’s real in a fictional universe.” And, relating to that, Mr. Fountain added later: “Is it canon? Who cares. Be artistic, be creative, and don’t worry about it.” This was really refreshing to hear, especially since I admit that I sometimes get frustrated with franchises or long-running stories that don’t have an established canon or some level of continuity. But this was a good reminder not to worry about it and just enjoy the stories.
The final full panel of the day was “The Case for Modern Historicals” with Charles Martin, who had also been on the Bioethics panel on Friday. I haven’t seen much Classic Who, but I did get to “The Aztecs” and “Marco Polo,” so I was aware that Classic Who had more historical episodes than modern Doctor Who. However, I wasn’t aware of how few pure historical episodes there are. While the Doctor and his companions do a lot of jumping into the past, most of those episodes have aliens in the mix somewhere. The closest New Who has gotten to a pure historical is “The Wasp and the Unicorn,” but even that ended up having an alien bug in it. The consensus of the panel was that we would really like to have some pure history rather science fiction. Not all the time. But a few would be nice.
I traipsed back to the large panel room for the final Q&A of “How’d We Do?” with Oni Hartstein, James Harknell, and Kara Dennison. These folks and their volunteer staff are simply amazing; they put so much hard work into this con and the love really shows. There was a lot more children’s programming this year, and despite the number of kids, I don’t recall witnessing a single meltdown. I didn’t stay for very long, as I didn’t have anything I could think of to contribute.
Now I had a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, the con was over and I could head home. On the other hand, I’d also been invited to chat with an author (!!!!!)… but hadn’t actually established where that would be. I admit, I was so nervous I almost went home right then. But I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t at least make the effort (worst case scenario I lurk for a little while then quietly disappear), so I headed up to the hotel restaurant, figuring food and alcohol would draw most of the remaining guests.
And I guessed right! And, much to my surprise, the invite stood! (Seriously, I did not expect this.) I got to sit at the bar for a while chatting with Kathleen Schowalter about the “Gender Identity” panel, briefly saw and interacted with Anneke Willis and Deborah Watling (who warned us not to get the crab soup), and found myself sitting at a table with not only Mr. Shearman and Ms. Schowalter (who are lovely people), but also Kara Dennison (Community Manager/Social Media Guru for the con), Nicola Bryant (7th Doctor’s companion Peri), Ben Tyler (one of the panelists who was instrumental in introducing me to Big Finish), and Nev Fountain (another writer!). (Sorry, I didn’t catch the name of Mr. Tyler’s friend, and I only got the first names of three other folks at the table, Nathan, Lee, and Megan. Please forgive me if I spelled your name wrong!) I was there for roughly two hours, mostly listening to the banter and conversation, which was just fine with me! It was really weird, but also neat to be in a setting where I could converse with real writers! Highlight of the con. (Okay, yes, I know, if you write then you’re a writer, regardless of your publication status but still… ah, you get what I mean.) Unfortunately, around 6:30pm I had to go, as I did want to return home in a more or less timely fashion. So I said goodbye and thank you to everyone and headed out.
I enjoyed (Re)Generation Who 2 as much as I did the first one! Hopefully there will be a third installment, and maybe this time I can actually get some of my fellow Whovian friends to go!