Regular readers may remember an interview with a talented young artist who kindly granted me an interview, and the opportunity to share his artwork on my blog. If you haven't read the interview, you can check it out HERE. Sam, like myself is a huge fan of Big Finish Audio and, in particular, their superb Doctor Who ranges. Recently, Big Finish held a convention, which Sam was fortunate enough to attend. In this guest post, he shares his experience of BFD8. And I'm not at all jealous. Not at all.. Honest...!
Big Finish has been a massive part of my life for the last six months or so - originally I struggled to get into the Doctor Who audio adventures - but eventually I caved, and now I am in awe of the wonderful things they produce. Earlier this year, I heard about Big Finish Day 8 - now, as a sufferer of depression, I had recently made it my goal to finally start getting out there and going to conventions as a way to meet new people, and just enjoy myself for once! So, I spoke to my father - and as my 18th birthday falls upon the 24th of January - my dad ordered me a ticket, and a photo opportunity with my favourite Doctor, as a week-early birthday present.
The day started at 10am with Sylvester McCoy doing a Q&A session in the main hall. Now, Sylvester likes to have a portable microphone so he can run around and actually get up close with the audience. It's extremely fun, and very intimate. There were so many laughs, as Sylvester recalled working with Sir Laurence Olivier, or how he was so very close to becoming a priest - and even the mention of his younger, wilder days where he may have smoked a few 'funny cigarettes'. I met Sylvester for the first time back in October of 2015 at MCM Comic-Con London. He was such a joy to talk to, and I'll never forget it... but our second encounter, to me, was far more enjoyable...
So - here I am, sat near the front of the room, in my question pullover, with my question mark umbrella and my specially made custom-printed question mark shoes! I raise my hand, and after a while over he comes. I explained that he was my favourite Doctor - which ensued much laughter because he made me say it again louder so that everyone could hear - and Nick Briggs asked me again just to make sure everyone had heard! Then I got to my question, which was simply - does he ever get tired of question marks, after all - they are rather the trademark of his Doctor. I showed him, as well, my specially printed shoes - and he asked me what mental asylum they let me out of for the day, it was very funny.
He ranted for a while about the question mark jumper and how he hated it and was to have gotten rid of it in Season 27, which obviously never aired due to the shows cancellation after 26 Seasons, but how he has come to love it because it has become somewhat iconic - like Tom Baker's scarf, or Colin Baker's multicoloured coat. And, although he wandered around the room whilst he chatted away, he never stopped talking to me. It felt as though he was still answering my question to me, even though there was a whole audience surrounding us.
Then he started to take other questions, and soon his time was up and he had to leave. As he walked out of the room, he walked specifically past me, and patted me on the back with a smile. And, as silly as it sounds - that made my day!
Then I went for my photo-op with him, and he remembered me from the Q&A, and demanded I get my shoes in the photo! We had a good laugh over that too!
At that point, I was already missing the next talk in the main hall, which was not a problem really as it was just the generic Big Finish talk. So, I took the opportunity to go and talk to some of the (free) guests there.
Now - going back to the custom printed shoes again. I had these shoes printed, and they sent me them wrong! They sent me them mirrored, so the outer sides of the shoes had BACKWARDS question marks on them. I was not happy, as I am sure anyone can understand. I was able to get myself some replacements, but I then had a new conundrum - what on Earth was I to do with these inaccurate, backwards shoes? I realised the best idea would be to get a handful of guests to sign my shoes.
First, I had Lisa Bowerman, who plays Professor Bernice Summerfield in a plethora of Big Finish audios - as well has a handful of other characters too, sign them. God, she's lovely. What a lovely, lovely woman. She was ever so kind to me. I went back to her later in the day, after purchasing a couple of CDs from the store area, which she featured on. Then David Warner, who has played a handful of Big Finish roles, but probably most-notably one of the Unbound Doctors, signed them! Now, I was expecting him to charge me a few pounds for it, but he did it for free! There was a warning that the guests would only sign three Big Finish covers for free - and then anything else might have a charge. Thankfully - none of the guests asked me to pay a penny!
Then I got the shoes signed by Barnaby Edwards, most probably known for being... well... the Daleks - or at least the man inside of them, who I had a good laugh with about them being printed backwards, and then Beth Chalmers who plays so many Big Finish characters I would be here for eternity just checking I listed them all, but she did play the Seventh Doctor's companion Raine in the Lost Stories and UNIT: Dominion - now she is also a FANTASTICALLY lovely woman. My god, she was so kind and fun to chat to. I wish I could have sat and chatted to her for longer - but there was a queue growing!
Then, I queued up for Jacqueline Pearce, who recently starred in the new War Doctor boxset, Only the Monstrous, alongside Sir John Hurt. Now - the queue to meet her was ALWAYS long. It never stopped being a long queue. But, eventually, I got to say hello to her, and she was really pleasant, and I congratulated her on how good The War Doctor boxset is. I was surprised she did not charge me for the signing either, if I am honest! But it seemed to me that so many of these guests were in awe of the effort I had put into my shoes that I don't think they minded.
And then finally I got Kai Owen, Rhys from Torchwood, to sign my shoes. He and some others from The Martian Chronicles were oddly shoved in a tiny room out of sight - so nobody was in there! Well, luckily I found him, a he signed my shoes too - and then recorded a little message for my friend who also loves him but could not make it. I did wait around for Nick Briggs, I REALLY wanted him to sign my shoes - but alas he fell ill and could not make the signing desk. I'll get him next time though!
Now, I did also meet the wonderful Ian McNeice, who plays Winston Churchill in both the TV show, and the new boxset from Big Finish; The Churchill Years. You had to pay to meet him, but apart from Sylvester I didn't pay to meet anyone. However, he walked into the shopping area to look at the physical copies of the Churchill boxset, and I spotted him in the corner of my eye and ran over to him. As he was about to leave - I managed to catch his attention, as I just wanted to tell him how marvellous he is in the boxset (and believe me, he is ruddy good!) and he thanked me, as that was the first fan feedback he had heard, given that the boxset only came out a couple days prior. That was another highlight of my day, because he could have easily told me to go away, as I had not paid to meet him - but instead he was kind and charming, and just an all-round nice bloke. He told me he was hoping to do more of the Churchill audios - so I shall keep my fingers firmly crossed!
I only sat in on two of the talks, as I had to leave a couple of hours before the day had actually ended. However, both panels, the Sylvester McCoy Q&A and the War Doctor, were both fantastically entertaining. I am quite sad I missed the Torchwood and New Series panels, but alas I had to leave.
The day was a triumph. It was one of the best, and most enjoyable days I have had in a very long time. Not only did I meet some fantastic guests at the event - but I also met some fantastic Big Finish fans, who a stood around with for hours chatting too. And I have to say - the whole environment and feel of the event was... glorious. I was around my brethren! The people who understand me, and the things I like. There is no judgement there, and everyone was polite and kind. I can't wait to go again!
Don't forget to check out Sam's extraordinary artwork in the interview (and if you're feeling flush, go and buy some!). You can also give him a follow on Twitter @SamRBentley and my thanks go to him for taking the time to share what was clearly an extraordinary event, especially for him. And I'm still not jealous...!