Every year just after Thanksgiving, a die-hard group of Doctor Who fans descends upon a fine hotel in the Western suburbs of Chicago to watch episodes, debate the merits of the latest Who and his companion, hobnob with actors from the show, and in general, geek out. This year, I was among them. And although, with an easily bored five-year-old child in tow, I couldn’t really sit in on panels like “You’re My Doctor,” in which fans defend their favorite doctor against fans of other doctors, or “Who Is River Song, and Why Should We Care?” I did get to introduce my boy to some Daleks, K-9, the fourth Doctor, a baby pterodactyl, Louise Jameson (she played Leela), and the TARDIS.
He wouldn’t spend much time in the video room watching the Doctor, who is too scary, or “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” which is also too scary. And because he was with us we couldn’t really take part in the after hours “adult track,” mainly because we were too tired chasing him around all day (yelling “DE-STIRMINATE,“ in case you were wondering). Still, I did get to grab some great merchandise, including a toy Dalek, audio adventures from Big Finish, and an “I heart Ianto” carabiner from the giveaway table. And I got to overhear some cool things during the three days of the convention, which took place from November 26-28 in Lombard, Illinois.
Classic “Who” actress Louise Jameson, on Amy Pond and redheads: “I think she’s fantastic. I really, really love her work. Yeah, you know, stand up for redheads. How many have we got out there?…My mum was a redhead, a very proud redhead, and my dad always fancied redheads so we’ve never had that whole ginger problem. But it’s a big problem in England, especially men who have red hair. Does that happen over here? Men with red hair get bullied. It’s a big problem in schools and I think it’s based on jealousy. It’s all those Scotsmen that were alpha males.”
Louise Jameson on her favorite episode: “For me it was ‘The Sunmakers.’ I thought Bob Holmes was the best writer certainly for Leela, and I just loved the story, it was freeing oppressed workers, absolutely down my street, the whole left-wing politics of it all, and there were quite a few jokes in there because Bob Holmes, it wasn’t, but Bob Holmes thought it was going to be his last script for the BBC….so it was just full of in-jokes. And because he knew I was having quite a rough time in rehearsals he separated the storyline took Tom [Baker] and I in different directions so I got to lead some of the action for awhile. So for many reasons that story was one of my favorites."
Classic “Who” actor Frazier Hines on his favorite episode: “Mine’s got to be 'Highlanders.' Because if I hadn’t done 'The Highlanders' I wouldn’t be sitting here now. I was only supposed to be in the four episodes but halfway through the BBC said they got letters from the fans, you know, viewers saying wouldn’t it be a good idea for Jamie to come back. And Finnis Lloyd who was producing at the time, a lovely old ex-Naval man, came to see us one day and said, ‘Frazier old boy, how do you fancy joining the old Tardis crew for a year or so?’”
“Torchwood”’s Gareth David-Lloyd on finding out about Ianto Jones‘ death: “Well before we started filming. It was told to me in a way, quite nonchalant. Julie [Gardner, executive producer] and Peter [Bennett, executive producer] asked to meet me for a drink to discuss the new series. And they said We’ve got some great, great scenes with you this next series, and he dies and that was a fall. It was very much like that really. I think they wanted to make it as much like they weren’t firing me as possible and it was all to make the drama. And I still like to think that that is the case. But they were right, I had some great scenes. I wanted to do everything that I wanted with that character in that series--all the bookends that I wanted to see were there-- and I left a happy man. Unemployed, but happy.”
“Torchwood”’s Kai Owen, on his own job security: “Oh, no. I certainly don’t feel it’s secure. I don’t think anybody is safe. Reese is a very killable character. And always has been….’cause it would work so well for Gwen emotionally. But yeah, I’m lucky to still be standing, still be part of it. Yeah, I mean you don’t know cause they can just do anything they want. Who knows? They don’t care.”
Classic “Who” writer Terrence Dicks, on the upsurge of feminism in the 1970s: “Now I’m firmly a believer that the role of the female companion is to be strapped to the circular saw…and scream until the Doctor comes and rescues her. But there came a time when we could no longer get away with that. The tide of public opinion was against us.”
“The Sarah Jane Adventures”’ Tommy Knight, on his impressions of the U.S.: “America is really spacious. It’s just things like your rooms are so much wider, your toilets are different. I love it, I really do. I really enjoy it. I get a little bit nostalgic, I miss my house a lot. And I still don’t understand why your ten cents are smaller than your fives.”
Tommy Knight, on a possible future acting role (one of the many questions asked by kids in the audience): “I would love to be Doctor Who someday. That would be pretty cool.“
In future weeks I’ll be posting an interview with Louise Jameson, along with highlights from some of the panels I attended, so stay tuned for more from “Doctor Who!”