(Charles Illumination's convention guide, from the PanoptiCon '95 booklet)
The Way It Is...
So this is your first Doctor Who convention, and you don't know what to
expect? Fear not, for Dominitemporal Services Limited has generously arranged
for your education. Charles Illumination, a veteran of a thousand conventions
(well, he's three short of attending a full half-dozen actually), presents his
guide to fan gatherings
Attending a Doctor Who convention is a bit like coming home to find an elephant
uni-cycling around your living room whilst singing "When I'm Cleaning Windows":
unusual. I have compiled a few notes explaining some of the more common
problems experienced by people trying to live and breathe Doctor Who for an
- Badges - I have no doubt that somewhere within this booklet there
is a reminder to wear you convention badge at all times. After considerable
research I can reveal that however likely it is that you will be ejected from
the building for not pinning that scrappy little piece of paper to your breast,
you are far more likely to be dumped unceremoniously on the hotel's door step
for failing to wear clothes. I know of someone who in the excitement of attending
a Doctor Who event turned up in the main hall wearing only a pair of odd socks
and a smile. Embarrassed stewards had to escort him back to his hotel room.
Of course, far fewer people would have witnessed the event had the person
in question not been organising the convention and standing on the stage giving
the opening speech at the time. I am not mentioning Andrew Beech's name at
- Seats - Everyone wants a good seat at the front of the hall where
they can feel Jon Pertwee's aura, or where they can try to look up the companion's
skirt (be it Nicola or Frazer), or where they have some chance of hearing
when the sound system packs up, which it will do at various points during
the weekend. But how do you secure such a seat? Convention organisers are
wise to fans who leave bags on seats to save their place and frequently close
the hall so that they can search the bags for illicit drugs, bootleg videos
of The Power of the Daleks or soiled Terrance Dicks paperbacks. There
are two ways of keeping your front row position. Firstly you can cover the
seat with some sticky substance so no one wants to sit there (although this
does mean that you have to walk around with a sticky stain on the seat of
your trousers for the whole weekend; this might not cause you any problems?).
Secondly you can walk into the hall and start a rumour that Tom Baker is doing
a signing in the dealers room: this usually clears the hall completely in
under thirty seconds. This routine is unlikely to work more than twenty or
thirty times at any one convention... and now that everyone has read the convention
booklet, it might not work at all.
- The Bar - It is not a good idea to try to outlast the rest of the
attendees at the bar. More specifically, it is not a good idea to try to outlast
the audio/visual crew. Indeed, there is a medical term for this sort of behaviour:
"Complete Stupidity". If you look up the word drunk in the
dictionary you will find that it makes some reference to "acting like
an a/v crew at a Doctor Who convention" . If you still remain to be convinced
that outdrinking the a/v crew is a bad idea, consider this: the first ever
Doctor Who convention was in 1977, and no one has seen a sober member of the
- Autograph Queues - Autograph queues are boring. This is a great shame
considering how many convention goers seem to spend a large proportion of
their weekend stood in line. The most frustrating experience is to find that,
having waited five hours to see Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison,
when you arrive at the front of the queue the organisers have rotated the
panel and you are about to meet an unidentified extra from The Underwater
Menace, Sylvester McCoy's mother, Nicola Bryant's orthodontist and Keff McCulloch.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to persuade the people in front of
you to leave the queue. Eating chilli and garlic crisps is usually quite effective,
but there is no food that will irritate the fan who hasn't removed his anorak
for at least three years and is therefore immune to all smells.
- Anoraks - Doctor Who fans don't wear anoraks, they wear ski jackets.
- Stewards - Don't assume that the stewards know what is going on.
If there is a change in the schedules they will be the last to be informed,
indeed they probably won't have been told what was supposed to happen in the
first place. They are always so ill informed that it is a miracle to me that
they ever turn up at the right hotel. Don't feel embarrassed about asking
a steward where the lavatories are (even if it means waking them up to do
so) because this is the one question to which they are likely to know the
answer. Don't ask them difficult questions like "What day of the week
is it?" That's just being cruel.
- The Video Room - The video room isn't very interesting unless you
actually want to watch Doctor Who. It is more usually used as a place
to sleep by people who can't afford a room in the hotel. This is why most
convention organisers schedule The Web Planet, The Sensorites
and Four to Doomsday between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.
- The Dealers' Room - You always expect the dealers' room to be a treasure-trove
of Doctor Who merchandise that you will immediately want to buy. In actual
fact you will walk around the room at least five times in each direction and
still not find one new or interesting piece or merchandise for your collection.
Despite this you will somehow manage to spend your salary for the next five
months and have to walk around the hotel for the rest of the weekend carrying
around seventy five plastic carrier bags. Sad, huh?
- Daleks - At every convention there is bound to be someone who's job
it is to trundle around the event in a Dalek: it's tradition or an old charter
or something. Normally the Dalek operator is a quiet accountant from the West
Midlands and the wildest thing in his life is a cup of coffee. But once in
the machine, he is a changed person - innuendoes fly from his modulated vocal
chords and he shoves his sink plunger into places that he wouldn't normally
dare mention. Pouring lager through the Dalek's ventilation slats is childish
and immature. It is also a lot of fun.
- The Convention Booklet - Don't read the convention booklet. It's
not as if the magazine's editor has read a word of it*. Let's face
it, if he had read this article, he wouldn't have printed any of the above.
And if you do by some chance read the booklet, don't believe a word of it.
*Editor's note: If I hadn't read it, it would still have had nearly as many
spelling mistakes in it as the Evil of the Daleks Novelisation.
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