Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring Memorabilia, Day 2 - Did I Ever Tell You How I Got Barrack Obama Elected?

With Day 1 of Memorabilia drawing to a close it was time to head off to the hotel. Our base for the night was Corley Services just off the M6, I’m not sure the people there were quite expecting the 10th Doctor to saunter through the building, it did result in a few confused looks!

Me with John Levene

The hotel was really good and I recommend staying there to anyone who is at the NEC, it’s cheap and only 10 minutes from the venue. A relaxed night of chatting about the day followed with us retiring to our rooms at around 9 as we were just knackered!

Sunday morning came as a bit of a shock to the system! My alarm failed to go off due to a software glitch with the iPhone as a result of the clocks changing!!

This meant being a bit more rushed than planned, oh well, not the end of the world...

My day started before I even got to the NEC, while getting some fresh air a van pulled up in front of me and a chap jumped out and asked if his son could get a picture with me. The young lad was highly autistic so it was really nice to get a reaction from him.

Being close to the venue the drive should have been fairly easy, Tim took lead in our little convoy, however it appears that his sense of direction was slightly lacking on this occasion and we had a little detour around Birmingham...

Me with Holly (again)
With the aid of my SatNav be finally landed at the NEC, during the walk from the car park to the hall we were stopped by Storm Troopers doing spot checks from Rebels. Tim went slightly pale when they asked him to open his autograph folder to inspect for rebel documents... (The main reason being he had my signed pictures of Kyla Cole and Holly McGuire in there). When the Troopers can across these pictures comedy ensued with them being declared contraband. Eventually we were allowed to continue on, with Tim looking very embarrassed!

Day 2 went slightly down hill when we found that Craig Charles wasn’t able to attend, but for me the day was all about one person, the always lovely Nicola Bryant.

For those of you who don’t know (where have you been?!?) I have a well know liking for Nicola, basically I think she’s amazing and it’s always a pleasure to see her. She’s just really nice, but anyway more on that later!

Me with Nicola Bryant
After the customary post arrival cup of tea it was time to go and see some guests. First port of call was John Levene, after the comedy encounter with the snake on day one he was rapidly shaping up to be “Guest of the Weekend”.

John didn't disappoint, he was friendly and really good fun. Within a few seconds of meeting us he had insisted on straightening my tie, well the Doctor has to look smart.

The tie straightening lead to John regaling us with a great story involving Barrack Obama of all people! It goes a little something like this...

"During the elections Barrack was on stage giving a speech and I (John) noticed his tie was crooked, being a firm believer that how you wear your tie reflects on you as a person I had to take action. 

"I phoned the studio and explained who I was and that the tie defines the man. After a few moments of convincing them this wasn’t a joke I pleaded that Obama’s aid sort out his tie. 

Shortly after this he went off for a break and to my relief when he returned to the stage his tie was perfect! He then proceeded to finish his speech to thunderous applause. 

If Daleks can fly then I can have wheels!!
As a result I think I did my part to ensure that he was elected!"

After having a relaxed wander around the various dealers tables and resisting the temptation to spend lots of money it was time to visit the Fantom Films area and with that see Nicola.

First off I picked up a copy of the Mervyn Stone Mysteries by Nev Fountain (if you get chance give them a read, they are rather good!). Then it was time to see Nicola, now, I’ve met her a fair few times now (she knows me by name).

For this encounter I’d brought with me the Peri figure for her to sign, while there I also picked up one of her limited edition ‘Vanity Mycroft’ pictures as well (Vanity is a character from the Mervyn Stone books, Nicola had done a shoot as that character and was also signing them under that name).

Me with the stunning Kyla Cole
Having dropped the books and Peri figure back at the car and also watching the Garrison/Reel Icons Parade it was time to wander again. One of the random stands that was there was a young chap who was doing balloon models, plate spinning and other ‘circus style’ activities. One of these was ‘a peddle propelled wheel thing’ (I have no idea what it’s called). I was issued the challenge of a) making it go forward, b) making it go backwards and then to do it at speed. I managed it, but I’m still trying to work out how I didn’t break my neck!!

As you may recall on day one I’d had a picture with Kyla Cole and Holly McGuire, I wasn’t happy with my picture with Kyla so decided to go back and get another, as I was having a picture with Kyla it seemed only fair to get another one with Holly as well.

As I may have mentioned before Holly was really nice, really chatty and a pleasure to meet (but that’s enough of me dribbling on about her for one review!!)

Weekend Travellers: Me, Jemma and Tim
Time was now marching on and the event was beginning to wind down, so 3pm we decided to call it a day. The final things to do were to say goodbye to John and confirm his position as ‘guest of the weekend’ and the final thing was to go via Nicola and say goodbye, much to Tim’s and Jemma's annoyance this quick visit ended up as a 15 minute chat ending with them both texting me to hurry up!

We ended with a few snaps outside the venue with some friends and with that it was time to head back to the car for the drive home....

Overall a really good event and great fun, I’ll definitely be going again!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Spring Memorabilia, Day 1 - Models, Snakes and Sgt. Benton...

It’s been a few months since my last event and as such a few months since I last wrote a review, my typing fingers feel a bit rusty, but here goes!

Prior to Memorabilia I was indecisive (to say the least) about if/when I was going. It started as just the Saturday and then just the Sunday, but after much deliberation and (lack of) planning ended up as both days.

Scarecrow 'meets' the Doctor
Having only decided to do both days the week prior to the event meant booking a hotel was not an easy task, after spending a good deal of time going through the available places we finally decided to stay at the Corley services just off the M6. Hopefully this wouldn’t be a decision we’d later regret...

Being a last minute decision to go also meant that normal convention group was smaller than normal. Our travellers for this trip would be myself (as the 10th Doctor), Tim (as the 11th Doctor) and Jemma (as our Companion).

Having had a disorganised Friday night I hadn’t packed a bag so ended up doing packing at 6.30am on the Saturday morning (I do not recommend this!!). Luckily I wasn’t the only one having a disorganised morning; Jemma overslept and was only woken when I called her at 7.15 to see if she had any concealer!!

Smith and Joneses
Skip on to 10.15 and we arrive at the NEC. With a display of perfect timing both Tim and I arrived in the car park at the exact same time. (Timing, Timelord... there’s a joke there somewhere...)

Neither Tim nor I have much experience with how MCM events like Memorabilia work so the first plan of action was to get our bearings and see where everything was. I have to confess the pre-paid entry tickets work a treat. Book online, have the ticket emailed as a .pdf, print it and take it with you. No need to worry about postage, easy!

One thing that did confuse us was how the photoshoots work, some were advertised at fixed time and others appeared to be on request, I also wasn’t overly taken with the fact that the only proof you had that you’d paid was a raffle ticket with the person’s name written on it, I kept worrying that I’d lose it somewhere.

Tim getting Dirk Benedict's autograph
While at the photo area we also had out first disappointment of the weekend, Brian Blessed had been forced to cancel his appearance due to a family emergency which was a real shame as both Tim and I were hoping to meet him (He is a true legend!!).

Most of the morning was spent wandering round, catching up with old friends and making some new ones. Jemma was patiently waiting for her photo session with Russell Tovey. While Jem was waiting for her photo session Tim and I decided to give Dirk Benedict a visit. It was at this point we came across the concept know as a ‘smiley ticket’. As a concept it works, but what we couldn’t get our head round was why only have this for a couple of guests? Surely all or nothing would be a better idea?

The queue for Dirk Benedict seemed never ending, but there was good reason for this. Dirk was enjoying himself and spending a lot of time chatting to people and making it into an experience rather than a quick encounter, I'm a big fan of guests like that.

Me and Holly McGuire - 'That photo'
After a quick (and not brilliant) lunch, it was time for the Dirk Benedict photoshoot. This for me would be my second little niggle of the day. The photo area was kinda disorganised, after waiting for a good while and multiple queues beginning to form I decided that action was needed, how do you ensure that you’re at the front of a queue? You form one of your own!!

The photo itself turned out rather well (despite me being sceptical to start), it’s just a shame we had to wait so long for it to happen, not that I'm complaining...

After the photoshoot it was time to visit the Kyla Cole and Holly McGuire. I’ve never met a glamour model before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. There are a number of stereotypes of what models are like, but I’m happy to say that in their case they weren’t true.

Kyla was really nice and truly stunning to look at and Holly was a real laugh. When we posed for a picture Holly turned to me and asked “Are you The Doctor?” this took me by surprise so I instinctively answered “Yes”. While this was happening Jem was in the process of taking a picture, the result? A classic picture of us staring into each others’ eyes; which was just asking for a comedy caption.

John Levene - Legend!!
One of the things I really liked about Memorabilia was the fact there were loads of different things there. It wasn’t just guests and trade stands (don’t get me wrong I love the guests and enjoy wandering round the traders). There was also British Wrestling (which looked good!), Robot Wars (oh the memories!) the Evel Kinevel Museum (a piece of history) and also The Tropical Rainforest Roadshow...

Now the last thing I expected to see while walking round the event was a stand with animals from the Tropical Rainforest. Unknown to me Jemma isn’t overly fond of snakes and had never touched one before; this was something that I felt needed to be remedied.

While introducing Jemma to the snake John Levene appeared, it turns out he has a fear of snakes as well! So it was time to convince him to touch one as well, the look on his face during this encounter was absolutely classic.

How to overcome fear, face it head on.

In addition to the snake I took the opportunity to hold a few creatures I’d never encountered before. A Tarantula was first up, followed by a Scorpion and finally a pair of hissing cockroaches. It’s amazing how such small creatures can cause a crowd of people to take a giant step backwards!!

With that and another cup of tea, it was time to call an end to day one of Memorabilia, time to head to the Hotel and get ready for day two...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Doctor Who Experience - Is It Any Good?

It's now late in the evening on Sunday March 6th, it's been a couple of days since I walked round 'The Doctor Who Experience' so now the initial 'WOW' factor has worn off it's time to have a look back over the experience as a whole and give my thoughts, and don't worry I won't spoil the interactive element if you haven't been yet. 

I've been to a three of the previous Doctor Who Exhibitions (Cardiff, London and Newcastle). My personal favourite was the one held at Earls Court, most likely because it was my first and it just seemed bigger than the others, as such I was intrigued to see how the new 'Experience' would differ from what had come before. 

So, to begin. Tickets..... There were three options. Standard, Silver and Gold. I'd gone for the Gold option (hey, why not!!). 

On arrival to 'The Experience' you get the lift up to the second floor, you can tell it's still fairly new as the staff seemed confused by what a gold ticket did, but I wasn't overly worried by this minor glitch....... 

The 'Experience' itself is split into two sections, the 'interactive adventure' and the exhibition. So not to spoil the adventure part for anyone who's not been I won't say too much about it. However what I will say is that it works, there is a good mix of action and fun as well as fear. If I was 12 again I'd be raving about it. 

The effects are really good and it's pitched well, the only downside with the adventure part was that it was all over a little too quickly, but that's not really a downside is it? 

Matt Smith and Tardis
Once the adventure ends it leads into the exhibition. The first item you encounter is the Pandorica from the end of season 5. It's really impressive up close! 

The exhibition then leads to a life-sized statue of the 11th Doctor standing in front of his Tardis, surrounding it are the costumes of the previous 10 Doctor's. It's a really awesome sight to see, almost 50 years and 11 versions of the same character in the same room. 

Following on from the costumes are the Screwdrivers and Tardis Keys as well as few props from the more recent series including the 'wing mirror, invisible monster seeing device thingy' from Vincent and The Doctor. 

Moving round there is then a Cyberman and Cybercontroller, a great place for a photo op! However, there is a far bigger distraction to draw the eye, the complete Tardis interior used by the 9th and 10th Doctors. 

The Tardis. My Tardis!
It's a really awe inspiring sight and you're able to get really close to the whole thing, it's almost like being on the actual Tardis and, for me, it's was quite an emotional experience. The only thing that took away from it for me was that 10's Regeneration sequence plays on a loop in the background. Personally I'd prefer it if there was a bit of a gap and the Doctors theme played as backing music instead (a suggestion I've made to the curator). 

After being dragged away from the Tardis interior we then got to see costumes from the Master, Timelords and all the recent companions, a real good selection of things to see! 

This then leads onto another Tardis set, this time from Peter Davison’s Era and next to that is the Tardis from Tom Bakers day. 

Following on from the costumes and Tardises, Tardi..... (Erm, what is the plural for Tardis??) come the monsters, more specifically, Daleks. Davros is first, accompanied by the Dalek version of 'Who do you think you are' starting with the 60's Dalek up to the modern day 'LGBT' Dalek. 

After the Daleks is then a selection of both classic and new series monsters. In addition to the monsters there are also a couple of interactive areas, one of which teaches you how to walk like a scarecrow from Human Nature/Family of Blood which was kinda cool. 

Designers Area
In the same area as the monsters is also a mock up of the design offices as well as the mock up sculpts of the Ood heads. 

The final part of the exhibition is the little shop (love a little shop!). The downside to this shop though it is a tad on the expensive side, £55 for a Who season on DVD is a bit much in my opinion......... there is a good selection of stuff though. 

As for the tickets that I mentioned at the beginning, if you haven't been yet I'd recommend just going for the standard pass, the gold does get you a programme (that separately is £10) and a limited edition print but I'm not convinced it's worth the extra. 

Overall, the new 'Doctor Who Experience' is well worth a visit. The exhibition part isn't as big as some of the previous ones but it is very well done and has some elements that should not be missed (Tardis interior!!!). 

The staff are really nice and enjoy being there and are more than happy to chat about the exhibit. While in the coffee shop we had the curator pull up a chair and ask us what we thought would make it better! 

One tip, avoid weekends or school holidays like the plague!! When I went there were only about 12 people in there so you could spend lots of time looking at everything and not feel crowded or rushed. 

I'll be going again for definite.