Wednesday, March 05, 2014

BritSciFi: A Tale of Two Halves

It was BritSciFi this weekend and while our Sunday visit was not quite the military-planned smooth ride we had last year, it was fun nonetheless.

Our problems stemmed from the fact I could be accused of being slightly laid-back in my ETA due to a particularly tasty glass of orange juice at breakfast. We arrived just after 10am, picked up our preordered tickets, for the con only to find we were at the back of an enormous queue for tickets. By the time we got to the front all of the ticketed Doctor Who and Red Dwarf events had all sold out.

This solved the conundrum of do we go to see the Minister of Chance Sonic Movie or the Red Dwarf Q & A.

Unfortunately it did not endear me to my other half who had compromised on going to the first Minister panel in exchange for the promise of us seeing the entire Red Dwarf panel instead of the Sonic Movie panel. Only the promise of a nice post-con dinner mollified her.

Unfortunately this queuing for nothing seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the day. However if you were anywhere near me in a queue you were probably inflicted with my witterings to help pass the time. There was a lot of time in those queues. I think some births and marriages may have taken place. Certainly I could've filled out an application for a pension to while away the hours.

So, snark aside, BritSciFi seemed a lot busier this year. Apparently Saturday was very quiet. Perhaps it was because of the high profile guests that day -  the entire Red Dwarf crew (sans Holly/Norman Lovett, who funnily enough we saw in stand-up last weekend on Leicester High Street) were due to appear as were several big hitters in the Whoniverse, most notably Paul McGann, Lalla Ward and John Leeson. Naomi reckoned Paul's awesome turn in Night of the Doctor might have increased people's enthusiasm for his autograph.

A lot of our chums showed up even later than us without preordering and it seemed everyone had the same problem - the panels were all sold out. Several of them, after paying for admission and realising anything to do with their two favourite shows was full left to console themselves on pizza and beer. However we were not to be put-off, we went to both Minister of Chance events and Naomi reckons I appear to be a scarily zealous fan of the Minister of Chance. They know our names now.

ACTING! Apparently it isn't that easy y'know.
(This image will get replaced with a less shaky one when I find me camera)
The first panel involved getting the actors present, Paul McGann, Lauren Crace (I still haven't got over them killing her character Danielle off in Eastenders, yes I just outed myself as a watcher of Eastenders) and Julian Wadham, to read a script whilst playing different characters.Then they handed it off to the audience to do the same scene. Thankfully I decided not to have my big-break in audio, though if there is ever a part for a Scottish guy everyone thinks is American, I'll be there with bells on.

The second event was a writing workshop with the head-honcho of the Minister of Chance, Dan Freeman, where he took us through his writing process and distilling the themes of movies, and talked about how to apply that process to our own writing as well as the challenges of writing for audio. I was of course my usual obtuse self when answering his questions but he was very patient with me.

We went from the Minister events to lunch and then... lurking at the Minister desk. Clare and Dan, the brains behind Minister, were super-cool enough to introduce me to the stars of the audio drama (Lauren plays the companion, Julian the Minister - he's also in some new Avengers audios from Big Finish). I was slightly star-struck, but the Minister of Chance people really are that super-cool and made the con for us. We also got to look at the various props and costumes from the Minister of Chance micropilot, as well as their award.

After that began the second half of the con, which I called "Waiting for McGann". Things got a bit confused. Lots of people around me got a bit grumpy. I wittered on to random strangers in a queue for a good few hours.

You see, while Naomi sensibly looked around the con I joined the autograph line to get Paul McGann's scrawl on the latest Dark Eyes boxed set. Except he was elsewhere, probably doing the aformentioned Q&A. The staff kept asserting he would be along in a minute. Whilst in that queue I managed to get a cool Minister of Chance poster signed by Dan, Julian Wadham - the Minister of Chance himself - and Lauren Crace. I suspect they undercharged me for all those signatures, so I also bought an awesome Minister of Chance T-Shirt. I can now appear even more the superfan at the next event. Lauren Crace even offered to hold my place in the queue of eternity. That was pretty cool of her. Did I mention the Minister of Chance people rock?

Finally it was revealed by a steward that Paul McGann and the others were not signing until 4pm. After a short refreshment I divested myself of a lot of the junk I'd brought to the con. I'd decided by then that the 8th Doctor knitted doll I'd been carting around was getting a little heavy/warm to carry in the Space Centre (though every female in 5 miles thought it was adorable). I also didn't think Paul'd be impressed by my showing him my 8th Doctor animation effort and holding up the massive queueso I dumped my Android tablet in the car.

Getting back in, I discovered, despite the fact it was only 3pm, the autograph queue has reformed and that the guests were definitely signing at the end of the queue. I decided to join it rather than actually look around the con, and was lucky, as the stewards stopped people joining the queue almost right after I joined. One little girl in particular didn't seem too happy about this. Naomi offered to give me the girl's stuff to get it signed, but she really wanted to meet Paul McGann. I should add this story had a happy ending as Paul decided to let her sneak in at the end and she was last seen crying tears of joy rather than disappointment.


When the Con organisation seemed a little off, it seems all the guests really stepped in to be extra-friendly.
Paul was grateful for the use of Naomi as a human shield
from the blithering fanboy on the left. (Nah, he was awesome).

After much queueing I got his autograph, and Lalla Ward's. As she signed my Shada CD I told her I'd seen the Ian Levine Shada. She asked how it looked and was mildly amused about my comment about how she looked like "Doctor Who on Ice". It was pretty clear they were all tired by the time we got there. I certainly was. It was time to buy my patient girlfriend a post-con dinner. Thankfully there's a pub near the Space Centre that does great nachos with pulled pork.
So, while I got to do most of what I wanted really, I didn't get a lot of time to look around the con. Next time, no matter how good the orange juice is, go to the Con early!

Also, don't get surgery done on your feet and then 2 weeks later stand for several hours against Doctor's orders.

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