I had certainly never been to a Fan Convention.
Sometime in the middle of the year I became aware that Doctor Who and I shared our birthday year and were celebrating our anniversaries together. I wondered if there was a way in which my 50newthings and the Anniversary of Doctor Who could collide in time and space.
My childhood bond with the series was the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, he of the intense, slightly mad eyes, colourful scarf and curls almost as unruly as my own. Just as important to my love of the show was his first companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) curious, enthusiastic, adventurous..a woman with a career, out there seeing not just the world but the universe. Able to travel anywhere in time and space with a startlingly intelligent, unpredictable being..hmmm….sign me up!
More personally it was a love I shared with my maternal grandmother Ruby Pearl (Pearlie).
Her mother died when she was about ten or eleven. She didn’t have an easy life but everyone who knew her, loved her. One of her three daughters described her to me as the best mother you could ever have. The thought and memory of my grandma remain a source of strength to me to this day in dealing with difficult things. Her character the one I measure my own against although I fall far short.
At the Convention, the crowd massed in the hotel foyer and there was an atmosphere of excited anticipation that was contagious. Many fans were in costume including the distinctive scarf and hat of the Tom Baker incarnation, suits and fez and even a woman dressed up as a Tardis. Quite a few sonic screwdrivers were wielded and there was one young boy with his mum who looked as if he was about to burst with excitement. I knew how he felt as I proudly wore my Tom Baker inspired commemorative pin on my Tardis Blue dress.
It was pure fun. The atmosphere bubbled with enthusiasm. It was friendly and sparked with shared passion and a diverse mix of people. There were hard core fans enjoying VIP access and a whole system for autograph and photo taking. As a first timer, I puzzled them out the best I could. I made a nervous bid at the auction of memorabilia and chatted with fellow geeks.
The 50th Anniversary also brought a great exhibition to the foyer of the ABC studios complete with life size Dalek and Tardis, lots of creatures and the history of the series displayed all about. At a shop that conveniently popped up closer to home, I bought a Tardis teapot, the commemorative pins representing each of the Doctors and a few other bits to mark the year. I watched the very first episodes from 1963 and tried to catch up on many of the Doctors that weren’t part of my childhood.
Even suburban front yards were not safe from the reach of Dr Who as I discovered staying with friends in Sydney overnight. Taking a walk through a nearby corridor of bush where locals were doing regeneration work we emerged onto the street and there it was. I was entranced. Every bit of the front yard was dedicated to characters from the series. The sight was hilarious, amazing and just a little bit scary.
By the end of the year I’d fallen in love with Dr Who all over again. With that sound. The unmistakable sound of the Tardis. The sound of infinite possibility. I’d remembered what Dr Who was about. For all the sci-fi stories, monsters and action, that the familiar can be extraordinary, that things are not always what they seem, and a hero who confronts darkness and evil with wit and intelligence is one worth celebrating.