Tuesday 15 December 2015

Doctor Who Festival - ExCeL Centre, London - November 2015

I've been a bit slow putting this up, but a couple of weeks ago I kidnapped fellow Whovian RV and headed back to the ExCeL Centre in London for this year's UK Doctor Who Festival.  It's been just over two years since the Doctor Who Official 50th Celebration in 2013, also at the ExCeL, so we were well overdue for running around a convention hall brandishing sonic screwdrivers!

Doctor Who Festival 2015

It was a really well put together event, packed full with panels, demonstrations and exhibits.  This was understandably not as huge as the 50th anniversary weekend, but that just meant we got to see a higher percentage of the content!

There was still a big retail area to shop for Doctor Who *stuff* (I may have immediately purchased a Fourth Doctor scarf), with this amazing life-size Lego TARDIS at the centre.

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - LEGO TARDIS

One of my favourite bits of the hall was the great display of props and costumes from the latest series. It's always cool to see things that were actually used in the show, and whilst the display wasn't as epic as the last convention there was plenty to see, including Maisie Williams' little highwayman costume:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Maisie Williams costume

The costumes are all displayed with production notes and photos, if you can get close enough through the crowds to have a look.

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - costumes

This rusty old Cyberman head was pretty creepy:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - cyberman

Being a massive fan of video game Lego Dimensions, I was super excited to see that the first panel we could attend was with Mark Warburton from Lego videogame maker TT Games.

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - TT Games panel

TT Games were at the convention because Doctor Who is one of the many franchises featured in Lego Dimensions - if you've not come across it before you can have a look at my review here.

There's a huge amount of attention to detail in the game; TT have made sure in the design process that every Lego item you see in the game can be built from real Lego bricks. I feel like I need more Lego in my life so that I can test this theory!

As well as a demonstration of gameplay, Mark gave some great insights into how the game came into being. Apparently the idea for Lego Dimensions came over eight years ago, with development starting around the time of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary in 2013. The team had to be given all sorts of spoilers by the BBC to make sure that the game was current at release date - that must have been great fun! They were also given access to the full Doctor Who archive (which even includes unused footage) to source audio for the game, and got to meet Peter Capaldi when he came in to record his own original audio. Sounds like they have really fun jobs!

Next it was on the the bigger panels in the main theatre - first up: the writers panel with Steven Moffat, Peter Harness and Sarah Dollard (writer of recent episode 'Face the Raven).

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - writers panel

I've always loved the idea of being a writer but sadly lack the imagination to actually create stories. Despite this, I love listening to writers talk about their process - especially interesting in the case of Doctor Who where they effectively have to create a new world each time the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS.

After a little break we got to the main panel that I was most excited for - the cast panel! This is where we got to see Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez (Missy) and Ingrid Oliver (Osgood) on stage together talking about making the show and answering everyone's questions. It looks like the cast had some breaks from shooting to take fun pics:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - cast panel

Next it was back to the main hall to see what we'd missed the first time. There was a set from the show to visit (from the first episodes of series 9, The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar), complete with eerily silent Davros:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Davros set

We took a quick break for lunch before heading back for more shopping, where I found many, many things I wanted to buy including some beautiful artwork from Edge Sculpture. These models have such a unique style to them - it makes me wish I had a living room big enough to have a display case! The original model is sculpted by hand (by Matt Buckley, who I think might be the owner of the beard in the background of the picture!) and then made into a mould for the cast pictured below:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Edge Sculpture cyberman

Some people are so clever - I'm very jealous! This is the only Doctor Who sculpt I could see in the range, but the others are just as beautiful with subjects from Cleopatra to cats.

A really fun part of the 50th anniversary celebration convention was the Big Finish audio demonstration, so it goes without saying that we made sure to watch them at this event too. If you haven't heard of Big Finish before, they produce all kinds of audio dramas including a huge range of Doctor Who stories.

Here they are doing a scene from one of their new series of Tenth Doctor stories (featuring David Tennant and Catherine Tate) before inviting the audience up to have a go:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Big Finish panel

Our last panel of the day was from special effects house Millenium FX, creators of lots of the Doctor Who monster effects. Here's one of their most recent projects, the Mire:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Millenium FX panel

They were also joined by writer and actor Mark Gatiss along with one of his creations, the terrifying but somehow adorable red leech Mister Sweet from series 7 episode The Crimson Horror.

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Mark Gatiss

Millenium FX also had a brilliant stand in the main hall where RV got to take bits of the Mire for a testdrive:

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Mire costume

Visibility isn't great, but it looks so cool!

There were lots of great cosplay efforts on show as is usual at these sort of things, but this Davros costume has to be the best I saw. You can't see it in the picture but the back of the chair was signed by many famous Doctor Who types.

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - Davros costume

Overall, this is a really well run event and I hope it runs again next year.  Whilst this is a relatively expensive day out (the ticket was something like £68) I think that the structured nature of the day, with everything based around the main panels, means you make sure you get your money's worth. It was brilliant fun and I can't wait to go back!

Doctor Who Festival 2015 - sonic screwdriver