By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Over the second weekend of December, the British media convention Anglicon proves not every pop culture event has to be super-sized. This intimate event offered to fans used to corporate shows a taste of what a typical science fiction convention is like. These smaller events offer the same amount of fun — an art show, an exhibitor space for craftspeople (and other similar conventions) to vend from, a space for board gaming, a short film festival and a dance. For the latter, there were two nights for attendees to rock the night away. Even the traditional staples (costume contest) show not all costumes have to be about Doctor Who. A few furries were seen running around, and we’re not talking about Bentley the Corgi, one of the three guests of honour.
People from all ages were present. A comment I often heard as I bounced around is how cozy this show is when compared to Emerald City Comic Con. Folks from as far as Alaska and nearby (Victoria, British Columbia — where I hail from) had fun. I even made a friend from Spokane! While the stars from the 2005 revival can attract huge crowds (especially John Barrowman) than the classic, this event can hold its own. Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor, All Creatures Great and Small) and Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor and Radagast in the Lord of the Rings) provided great moments for fans to remember, which includes a musical performance and lesson with the spoons.
On Saturday, these two entertained thrilled fans with stories from their time in Doctor Who and their work (both before and after taking on the role), talked about The Five(ish) Doctors and answered many questions. A second Q&A was added to those who could only attend Sunday, and Davison had to explain what he meant about how the program will soon be shifting from offering a male role model to female. He’s confident Jodie Whitaker will do an admirable job, but is concerned about what the BBC are up to. Are they doing this switch because it’s the politically correct thing to do or is it a ratings grab? Only time will tell.
McCoy’s quick wit during his panels had me regularly laughing. I could not help but think he would make for a great Master, should this nemesis of the Doctor ever come back. His piercing gaze easily mesmerized me and another fan asked him that question during his Q&A. Audiences were thrilled with the idea.
To see him play off Davison was hilarious (picture in slideshow). There was definitely some straight man funny man antics going on when they took to the stage together.
Bentley, the Corgi from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency warmed many hearts. There was a canine parade on Sunday which delighted many fans and although I was at another panel when this happened, I now have regrets at not being there. I have to thank Sandy Sheehan for allowing me to post her photographs.
Thankfully, I did not want to miss an opportunity to get some early Star Wars geekdom on. A Skype interview with special effects wizard Brian Johnson (Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back) was offered on Sunday morning. He talked about the changes in the industry where digital effects dominate and said a harmony can exist in using both the physical and electronic realm. Of particular interest among fans who was introduced to him through Space 1999 is his reveal of all the versions of The Eagle he’s drawn. He sketches quite often and has an agent in Los Angeles to help pitch his ideas. If the studios take to one, perhaps he’ll come out of retirement to direct!
Unlike the big shows which does not give fans a clue in what can transpire next year, this one announced during the middle of their event their plans for 2018. Nicola Bryant will be attending. She’s best known as the Sixth Doctor’s Companion. This convention plans on growing and they are being very careful in not to expand too fast.
The only criticism many will agree on is the lack of official Doctor Who and British merchandise in the exhibitor / vendor space. There’s a few unlicensed items if one looks hard enough; The vendors at Emerald City Comic Con do a better job (especially when I was on a mad hunt for a prop to use for a photo op with guests Alex Kingston and John Barrowman later that day) at having additional product fans can buy and get signed. Eventually, other vendors (like Bobakahn Toys) will take an interest when they hear how well sales can get. Even artists have a tough time, thinking their work will sell. After noticing a very beautiful Freddie Mercury print in the art exhibit, I opted for the Buy It Now price and have no regrets.
Perhaps some added sponsorship from the likes of Big Finish (providers of many an audio adventure) can help this convention grow. When this organization is non-profit, the team behind the show has to be careful. While talents from recent iterations of this programme are in theory out of their budget, eventually some may lower their appearance fee. I’m hoping for the convention committee to extend an invitation talents outside of television. I really like to meet Cressida Cowell, creator of How to Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once, along with Neil Gaiman, a man who needs no introduction. Another talent is John Barrowman. If he’s willing to put on a concert, I believe he can easily pack and bring down the house! If it can be made open to the public to attend (con-goers get first dibs at buying tickets), the revenue generated can easily help pay off some costs for next year’s show, if not extend beyond.