Happy Birthday, Doctor Who (Part 1)

When Americans nowadays think of England, sure we think of tea and biscuits, The Beatles, and the royal family but the Isle Across the Pond also has made a name for itself in entertainment with several BBC programs gaining popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. And for a Doctor Who fan a few years deep in the fandom, I sure did pick a good year to spend studying in London. Saturday marked the 50th Anniversary of the airing of episode one of the long-running drama about a Time Lord who flies around the Universe in his Tardis that looks like a blue police box saving the day. No matter how quirky it sounds on paper (and don’t get me wrong, it is quirky on the screen as well), there is something irresistibly endearing about it. You can watch one episode, have no idea what is going on, and still feel the need to stick around for the next.

All weekend, the BBC hosted their Official 50th Celebration at ExCel London, featuring a host of cast members, both classic and reboot, and crew members who are eager to share stories behind the show’s production. I was lucky enough to get tickets for day one of the celebration and spent all day Friday soaking it all in, from props and demonstrations to pub quizzes and crafts there was plenty to fill your time with between Q&A panels and photo/autograph sessions.

I got there around 8:30am, just when the doors opened. There were posters and signs on the walls with pictures and quotes from the show throughout the years, and while I was still outside I saw a young boy who couldn’t have been older than five years old run up to a poster of the first two Doctors exclaiming, “Here’s the first Doctor! Here’s the first Doctor!” Needless to say, his excitement (as was mine) was just beginning. Once inside, there were Cybermen, Tardises and all kinds of Doctors – and that was just the fans.

Our first panel of the day, titled Regenerations, featured three “Classic” Doctors: Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. This was an entertaining discussion about their experiences being part of Doctor Who. The next panel shifted to the contemporary episodes of Doctor who and included current Doctor Matt Smith, his companion Jenna Coleman, writer/producer Steven Moffat, and producer Phil Collinson. Smith and Coleman enjoyed sharing banter, but Moffat had to block more questions about the Anniversary episode set to air the next day. Not wanting to give away any spoilers, he refused to answer the moderator’s questions about who and what would be in the episode.

The highlight of the day came mid-afternoon when I and my friends had the opportunity to meet Matt Smith. After watching him on stage, we were able to go upstairs for a photo opportunity. It was only a short less-than-half-a-minute during which we got to stand next to him, but that is all it takes to realize that he is genuinely an incredibly nice guy who loves his fans. And who wouldn’t want to be able to say they’ve met the Doctor?

It all wrapped up with a final panel with special effects supervisor Danny Hargreaves, during which we saw a Dalek explode, how to shoot down a Cyberman, and the essential Christmas special snow. Another fun panel, but it was a good thing the day finished with an effects panel because we were all exhausted from hours spent looking at anything and everything Doctor Who.

And so, with our bags full of toy sonic screwdrivers and various Doctor Who memorabilia, we headed home eager to watch the Anniversary special due to air the following night. But that’s a story for another blog post.

 

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