Our Panel Line-Up for L.I. Who 5

Long Island Doctor Who - LI Who 5

It’s about as official as we allow ourselves to be! If you’re planning on joining us in three (!) short weeks in New York for L.I. Who 5, along with 1,500-plus other crazy-excited Whovians, here are our hosted and/or moderated panels for the weekend, including our live podcast recording that is now becoming a legend in our own minds!

Oh No, Who Didn’t! (Friday @ 1:00 pm, Program Room B)

The fast-thinking, high-sarcasm Whovian game from Gallifrey Public Radio is back. A panel of would-be know-it-alls compete through rounds of altered scenarios in Doctor Who. What if your favorite character’s alignment was flipped? What if a despised classic villain encountered a modern Doctor? And never forget the dreaded “Fire, Retire, Admire” round!

Cosplay Building with Foam (Friday @ 6:00 pm, Cosplay Room)                        

Join GPR host Keir Hansen for a presentation and some live demonstration for those interested in learning basics of using EVA foam to create costume and prop pieces. We’ll also discuss where “foamsmithing” sees its advantages and disadvantages, ways to keep costs down, and where to find ideas and inspiration.

The $100,000 Pyramid At the End of the Earth (Saturday @ 7:00 pm, Program Room C)

You know what famous name or term from Doctor Who that you WANT to say, but have to describe it without all the most common descriptive words. The well-known game show gets a Whovian twist thanks to the GPR squad, along with a lot of awkward fumbling and laughs along the way.

GPR Live: Two Whos and a Lie! (Saturday @ 10:00 pm, Program Room C)

Back for another year, the team from Gallifrey Public Radio invite the masses to be a part of their live podcast recording. This time around, they’re bringing a game of strategy and deception, as the audience is asked to identify the false fact from among a trio of odd Whovian trivia. Think you know your stuff? Can you call a bluff? Then come be a part of the game, and the podcast!

 

GPR Panels Announced for L.I. Who 4

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The ink is drying, the program director is getting a much-needed break for a moment, and the weekend agenda for Long Island Doctor Who is starting to solidify. If you’re planning to join the thousands in New York for this momentous event, here’s a look at just a few of the scheduled goings-on that will feature your intrepid (exhausted, slightly punchy) Gallifrey Public Radio team. We look forward to seeing you!

FRIDAY 12:00 PM
Fan Panel: “Taking Our Kids to the Doctor”
Younger and younger viewers are expressing interest in seeing and learning more about Doctor Who, much to our Whovian parents’ pride and enthusiasm. But where are the safe entry points into the series, based on each child’s age and temperament, when it comes to potentially complex or at times scary science fiction? Using personal anecdotes and audience input, the panel devises possible “primer sets” for children to begin their Doctor Who viewing experience safely and enjoyably.

SATURDAY 2:00 PM
Stage Interview: Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso, Jeremy Radick
(Moderator: Keir Hansen)

SATURDAY 8:00 PM
Fan Panel: “The Power of the Spoken Word”
A panel analysis of some of the most emotionally impactful written moments in televised DW, along with discussion over the balance between dialogue and delivery. Do the quotes that sit heaviest on our hearts have the same impact, once separated from the actor who spoke them?

SATURDAY 10:00 PM
LIVE RECORDING: Gallifrey Public Radio!
Recording their podcast live with audience participation, the GPR staff will discuss “classic” elements of Doctor Who that could see a notable success if returned to the “modern” series. From characters, to locations, to technology, crew and audience will consider what could be brought into the current program, with varying degrees of update or rejuvenation.

SUNDAY 5:00 PM
Fan Panel: “The Doctor/Companion Symbiosis”
An analysis of the mutually beneficial relationship between a Time Lord and their traveling associate(s) from both classic and modern eras, as well as some hypothesis on the upcoming new companion for Series 10.

Be aware, the agenda is subject to last-minute changes right up until the event weekend, and locations for each panel and session will be posted both in the official LI Who booklet, and posted in numerous locations throughout the venue. Should anything change, we’ll also try to keep everyone apprised via Facebook and Twitter, so keep tuned in through those networks as well!

BBC Announces New Whovian Spin-Off

In an unexpected and rather unusual social media announcement today, the BBC unveiled plans for a new YA series within the Doctor Who universe titled Class, with the familiar names Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin and author Patrick Ness as executive producers. Shooting in Spring of 2016, it will be set at the famous fictional Coal Hill School, where so much of Doctor Who both classic and new has taken place.

We say “unusual” because in hinting that “huge news” was coming via a tweet four hours prior, the Interwebs (those lovely, creative, hilarious, insane invisible people) proceeded to pitch every conceivable thing that could be done to improve/embellish/expand/weird-ify the Whoniverse. Everything from Moffat stepping down, to the announcement of a 13th Doctor, to the resurrection of Adric was thrown about — such that this seemed anticlimactic in response to some.

Is this necessarily “bad news”, though? Immediate responses online ranged from a collective ‘meh’, to anger at the BBC for “getting our hopes up to miraculous heights, only to hand us a damp ‘runner up’ ribbon”. How fair of an assessment is that, for a slated program that no one has yet to see a page of script from, let alone a single casting decision or frame of footage? (Pre-haters gonna pre-hate…)

So being an admitted Whovian Pollyanna, I’ve a number of reasons why, while the news isn’t a return of Paul McGann, John Barrowman, or the confirmation of the Omni-Rumour, the idea of the Class spin-off is a good thing:

More time at Coal Hill School. Coal Hill has been an iconic location for Doctor Who from the first episode in 1963, to the place of work for current companion Clara Oswald. The executive producers have revived the beloved school, and even given us a wider view of the campus (in The Caretaker, among other moments.) And let’s be honest, here — wouldn’t it be absolutely magical to have the camera track two students around a corridor, chatting animatedly, then stopping short to look up and say in unison, “Good morning, Headmaster Chesterton…”?

Growing a new/wider audience. Just as was done with the Sarah Jane Adventures (to noted success), targeting the YA audience with a slightly different but related program premise is a viable means of pulling in increased audience, particularly if the show is carried internationally. Yes, I realize that we would be missing one of the most valuable and irreplaceable aspects of SJA — our dear Ms. Sladen — but the idea of giving younger audiences something to identify with, enjoy, and from a marketing perspective, to advocate (via social networks), is preparing them to be DW watchers in the years to follow. We all want the Whoniverse to thrive for another 50 years, right?

Preparing a new showrunner…perhaps. While the BBC put Moffat’s face and name all over the press release, they also made it very clear that the full executive production team includes Brian Minchin and Patrick Ness. Many Whovians (correctly) assessed that the Grand Moff has quite enough on his plate, and needs not take on additional distractions — particularly at a time where he is gaining much-needed public favor for the successes of Series 8 and the start of an impressive Series 9. But what if this is more of a preparation ground for his successor after the tenth ‘new’ season? Minchin is a very likely candidate, and has generally been an unsung hero in S8/S9. What if this is Moffat’s attempt at training wheels for the next DW showrunner?

Bringing back K-9. Okay, yes, I’m personalizing this a bit, but if it were handled carefully, and respectfully — and by that, I mean in every way NOT like the failed Australian series — the next mark model of K-9 could be a part of the campus life, or an occasionally called-upon character helping with the monster of the week. I don’t foresee a Hogwarts-like school scenario, where Leela teaches physical education, and Romana occasionally visits to oversee the science fair — because at its heart, the Coal Hill School is a DW location, and while some faculty are cognizant of the “wider scope”, it is still a representation of the overlap between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Tipping that too far for the sake of a spin-off series could have continuity issues for the parent program.

Farming new writers and directors. Just as with SJA, this is an excellent opportunity for those looking to work in the Doctor Who franchise to cut their teeth. According to the announcement, the writing credits are being given solely to Ness at this time, but there may be co-writers involved through the first eight episodes, and if the show sees life beyond its first season, there is certainly opportunity for other writers. Directors would have the same sort of “foot in the door” potential, which can always serve the parent program in the seasons to follow.

So in the interests of positivity, and giving every opportunity to grow, expand, and hopefully improve the entire Doctor Who franchise, I’m taking this news as a “net plus”. Give it time, give it a watch, give it all the discussion and friendly banter it warrants — but seriously, give it a chance. You could be pleasantly surprised.

A Word on Jenna Coleman’s Departure

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We in the Doctor Who fan community had every reason to suspect this was going to happen, but with a single day before Series 9 commences, the news that Ms. Coleman will be departing the program feels bittersweet.

Let me explain.

-As we on GPR have pointed out many times over the past six months, Jenna weathered the criticisms received for how the Clara character was written and presented in the latter half of Doctor Who‘s Series 7 — criticisms that should have been directed at the producers and writers, rather than at the actor. (You work with what you’re given, and in that context, she still did an admirable job.) With the more concise, structured and focused Series 8, particularly the “single iteration” of Clara the viewers were given, it gave opportunity to truly meet, learn about, and develop an emotional connection to the character, and moreover, opportunities in the scripts to increase dimension and complexity. This put greater demand on the actor to deepen and broaden the role, to find nuances that garner attention, respect, and affection. Coleman took this challenge on, and frankly, drove it into the stratosphere.

With storylines that demanded her character to be at times more forceful, resourceful, commanding, or inversely, more tender, concerned, introspective, even maternal, Jenna demonstrated an ability to meet these demands with commendable skill. Putting her in a relationship may not have been what some viewers wanted (those preferring an untethered companion who could witness the wonders of accompanying a Time Lord without “obligations at home”), but nonetheless, her scenes with Samuel Anderson were convincing and solid — both the pleasant and unpleasant moments.

She has proven to this viewer thatjlc3 as an actor, she is only limited by the room her character is given to grow, and the opportunities that EPs and directors give her to demonstrate her skills. Like any young talent, diversity of role and challenges in productions forge a greater thespian, adding tools to their repertoire and subtleties to performance that only such career variety can develop. That said, she is certainly qualified to move on to new roles, and perhaps she sees this as her time to take risks, explore, strengthen, and in doing so, prove to the public and the industry of all she is capable of accomplishing.

Finally, as I was processing the announcement from the BBC just this morning, and carrying on a few hasty conversations with other Whovians and podcasters on the subject, I realized that with full public knowledge of her departure, made clear and certain before Series 9 begins, that odds are good that Moffat, Minchin, Gardner and company will have a spectacular swan-song for the Clara character, one that gives Jenna Coleman all the room in the world to shine, impress, and warm (of not break) our hearts in the performance.

I, for one, look forward to the both bitter and the sweet of it.

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One L.I. Who 2 Remember

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gpr_liwho2_01We knew we had arrived at a very special place when the little Nissan compact in front of us had license plates from over 1,800 miles away, and a plush Dalek hanging from the rear-view window. Unpacking the recording gear and heading towards the lobby, the unmistakable “Official TARDIS Chase & Recovery Vehicle” owned and operated by the gifted TARDIS Tara dominated the first two parking spaces like a Whovian shrine. A glance to the right displayed a small sign posted down among the flower beds with a Dalek silhouette and the caption, “CULTIVATE!”

Let me retract just a bit. Using the term “special place” may not do this justice. Long Island Doctor Who Con was like coming home — and we’d never set foot in Ronkonkoma, New York in our lives.

gpr_liwho2_13Showrunner and creator Ken Deep, program director Billy Davis, and operations director Brad Hausman had assembled a staff of volunteers, contributors, artists, vendors ready to handle a con twice its size, and when taking into account the fact that this was only the second year hosting the event, his efforts bordered on Herculean. You would think that from the star-studded guest roster, this was actually going to be twice the size it was — the line-up had us at GPR reeling from first mention of the convention. We arrived early in the first day to conduct interviews and meet with staff, but by the time general registration tables were open, and the Whovians descended upon the Clarion Hotel, it was clear that Ken had met all these challenges, and created something incredible.

gpr_liwho2_04Take a moment to think about convention atmosphere. There’s a particular charm and intimacy of privately-run gatherings that target a single fandom, as opposed to the multi-faceted industry-driven circuses like NYCC and SDCC, or even the fan-structured but densely populated DragonCon or WizardCon. Within the Whovian milieu, the mind immediately jumps to Gallifrey One (and we did bump into their program director Shaun in attendance), but the controlled size of L.I. Who allowed for a more familiar and approachable tone to the weekend.

gpr_liwho2_02This was even apparent among the guests, who were able to walk casually and unrushed through the corridors and panel rooms, chatting and enjoying themselves as much as the public. Colin Baker commented on cosplayers, and his ‘dashing’ likeness in portraits on artists’ displays as he headed towards a signing table. Yee Jee Tso borrowed a fan’s guitar to serenade early attendees. I stood at an immensely crowded bar waiting 15 minutes for a glass of wine, and when bumping accidentally into the shoulder of someone next to me, I turned to find myself apologizing to Paul McGann. (I’ll take that Malbec with a side of surrealism, please and thank you.)

gpr_liwho2_09Through it all, the staff was so upbeat and pleasant, even in the face of tight schedules and logistic stressors, that the positivity could not help but infect the con-goers like so much “Happy-Bola”. (Yes. I just made that a word, and it’s on the Internet. Hence, REAL.) Even the orange-shirted security staff were smiling and laughing with passers-by, collecting snarky commemorative ribbons, and taking photos of exceptional cosplay when spotted. On that note, we should tip the brown felt fedora to the amazing array of the presented DW characters and icons — so vast and thorough, in fact, that they were able to conduct a ‘Time Line’ of cosplayers, stretching from ‘Unearthly Child’ Hartnell, complete with tea-cozy hat, to a ‘Caretaker’ Capaldi. Companions, monsters, and even a few clever crossovers rounded out the scene, adding more color, LED glow, and accessories than you could shake a vortex manipulator at.

gpr_liwho2_06Want to test the organization and crowd-control skills of the convention staff, while simultaneously assessing the hive-minded behavior of hundreds of overexcited nerds? Pack them into two ballrooms, and present a live broadcast of the Doctor Who series 8 finale. Deciding first to designate a ‘quiet room’ where reactions were laughed/cried/squeed into one’s hands to allow others to hear, and a distant ‘raucous room’ where all emotional outbursts were flung headlong at the projection screen, was a wise move. (Making that second room the larger of the two was a stroke of genius.) The energy erupting from those rooms after the “Death in Heaven” broadcast completed was incredible: strangers embracing; favorite lines being repeated through Tom Baker-like grins (“Bananas!”); hands waving frantically overhead as if trying to shake answers out of an invisible Steven Moffat. The post-viewing L.I. Who crowd was nearly as entertaining as the finale episode itself. Nearly.

gpr_liwho2_07Throughout the weekend, contributing panelists did a commendable job keeping topics related to “classic” Who fresh and interesting, while giving plenty of opportunity to discuss the post-2005 series. From companion analyses, to the changing roles and representation of women in the program, nearly every slot on the schedule filled to capacity — which is likely one of the many factors why Mr. Deep will be looking to a larger venue for 2015. (More on that shortly.) The guests were gracious, affable, and like all others, limitlessy cheerful. No doubt that their enthusiasm was supported by the intelligent and thought-provoking questions posed by moderators and fans. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you how many times I heard a guest like Daphne Ashbrook or Jason Haigh-Ellery of Big Finish reply, “You know, quite honestly? I’ve never been asked that before”, and know they were genuine in saying so.

gpr_liwho2_03The end result was hours spent gathering fascinating insight into production experiences, laughing along to on-set anecdotes (bless you, Frazer Hines!), witnessing side-splitting interactions when assembled guests played games like “The Whovian Match Game” (and we now know that “Asian Child-ed” is a verb, courtesy of Mr. Tso), and listening in awe as guest of honor Terrance Dicks recounted his incredible writing legacy, with sharpness that would make you think he penned the scripts only yesterday.

gpr_liwho2_09bAs mentioned earlier, a convention focused upon one fandom has the advantage of focus and attention to detail. Utilizing an operations and coordinating staff that are, each and every one, also fans themselves, takes that focus and generates an experience that truly knows its attendees and their passions. And lastly, by keeping the total attendance numbers carefully limited, that passionate experience has room to move, see, hear, and absorb all it desires. 2015 will bring Long Island Doctor Who 3, and while it will be moving to a larger venue in an adjacent town, the goal as I understood from those describing it was not so much to increase headcount — in fact, that will still be kept to reasonable levels by anyone’s standards — but to provide a more open, mobile and aesthetically pleasing convention.

gpr_liwho2_11If these brave (mad?) Whovians are able to make the next year’s event just as successful and memorable as this proved to be, they will have done the Doctor Who program and its dedicated fan base a wonderful service. The fact that they plan to further and improve the convention is a feat I personally am eager to witness — and I certainly plan to, because I have every confidence that they can do so.

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[NOTE: Gallifrey Public Radio interviews from L.I. Who 2 will be released in a supplemental cast. GPR guests include Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Frazer Hines, Paul McGann, and Terrance Dicks. Stay tuned!]

[Full photo gallery available on our Facebook profile.]

[Very special thanks to Ken D. and Andre T. of L.I. Who — visit at longislanddoctorwho.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @LIDoctorWhoCon. ]