Heroes & Villains Fanfest: Confessions of a Con Geek


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I attended my first convention when I was 15 years old (I won’t tell you how long ago that was). It was a sci-fi convention in New York City – guests included cast members from classic Star Trek, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, authors like Isaac Asimov, and more. I’ve attended quite a few since then – Creation Cons, I-Cons, you name it. I admit, many things have changed over the years, but some things remain the same.

A sense of joy, enthusiasm, community, and creativity pervades these events like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Luckily, this remains the same. For shy, quiet nerds like myself, there’s a sense of belonging – an opportunity to express yourself (costumes are optional, but a marvel to behold – sadly, I don’t have that level of creativity or dedication). It becomes a party with strangers you feel you already know – a celebration of fandom – weird and wonderful. One where you are welcomed with open arms.

At many conventions, fans have an opportunity to meet and mingle with the stars of their favorite films and TV shows. I remember meeting George Takei (Sulu – Star Trek) as a teen, hearing his booming laugh from across the room, and the late James Doohan (Scotty – Star Trek), whose smile lit up the auditorium as he regaled us with Star Trek stories, sporting various accents (which he learned by ear). I met Jimmy Doohan several times. He is sorely missed. These memories still make me smile.

There are some changes – the crowds are a good deal more diverse and more women and families attend these events now. It wasn’t cool when I was growing up to let my geek flag fly, especially being a girl, and a Latina. Now it’s downright chic to be geek. I admit it, I wear it like a badge. I’ve been out of the “Geek Closet” for a long time and proud of it.

Attending as media, I feel an obligation to be a bit more restrained and behave (not that I aim to misbehave – wink to Firefly fans) and not geek out. I feel the need to step back into observation mode but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get a bit star struck after all these years  – I’ll always be a fan first.

After a 6 month wait – thanks to Snowpocalypse January  2016 – I finally got a  glimpse of the irrepressible John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Arrow), the fun-loving Stephen Amell (Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), the adorable David Mazouz (Gotham, The Darkness), and others from the DC Comics TV EU. It was certainly a treat.

With thousands in attendance (over the course of the weekend, or so I’d heard), the main floor was buzzing with activity – vendors tables, cosplayers, and actors running between panels and autograph tables, kindly greeting fans with smiles. I can only imagine how exhausted they were. There was so much to see and so many people to squeeze through, I was exhausted just being there, but I enjoyed myself and met some great folks.

I had a quick, but lovely chat with Sean Pertwee (Alfred on Gotham – IMHO the best and most badass Alfred to date). He recalled his experiences with conventions growing up, attending with his father, the late Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who/The 3rd Doctor). I met Jon at a con a few years before his death and he was larger than life. Sean saw fandom full throttle then and he’s a part of it now. Sean is incredibly gracious and kind to fans, as evidenced by his struggle to speak with a hoarse voice (his signature raspy voice even raspier), he kept going, signing autographs, taking pictures and attending panels with co-stars. Like his father before him, Sean Pertwee is beloved by fans and quite the mensch.

I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with actor Maximiliano Hernandez (The Last Ship, Hand of God, Winter Soldier, Sicario). I caught up with with the busy film and television actor at HVFF and we chatted about his career and becoming part of the Marvel EU. I hope to have that interview up soon.

I also met some fellow writers and musicians, and remembered why I started this journey in the first place. 15-year-old me would be proud.

If my muse cooperates, I hope to have more for you in the coming weeks. Until we virtually meet again…

SylverWhisper

Christopher Lee Remembered

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Christopher Lee

From immortal monster, to Jedi, to powerful wizard. He had worn many faces throughout his long and distinguished career. This week, the world mourned the loss of veteran stage and screen actor, Sir Christopher Lee.

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“Chiller Theatre” opening sequence. This creeped me out so much as a kid.

My introduction to Christopher Lee came one night, well after my bedtime, staying up to watch Chiller Theatre. 

I enjoyed (usually with one eye open) many Hammer Horror films, most of them starring Lee, starting with Horror of Dracula (1958), with Lee in the title role and co-star Peter Cushing (another favorite of mine and fellow Star Wars alum) as his nemesis Van Helsing. As a little girl, hiding under the covers, peeking out just as he was about to strike at some unsuspecting victim, I was both terrified and mesmerized by Lee’s gaze. I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was hooked.

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Lee as Count Dracula in many Hammer Horror films.

I credit my love of gothic horror to those early films. Lee’s Dracula was silent and menacing. He was far from repentant, and no, damn it, he never sparkled – he compelled – as any good (or in this case, bad) vampire should. He’d given me many nightmares, and later in life, he was also a source of inspiration for many of the stories I’d go on to write.

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Lee as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.

Years later, I was thrilled to see him as Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and again in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies as Saruman the White. Nearly 80 when he took on those roles, Lee showed no signs of slowing down. He even recorded the Heavy Metal Christmas album in 2012. Still cool, still relevant and still doing things his way at 90, I couldn’t help but admire him.

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Christopher Lee in Vatican City (1944).

Lee cast a long and imposing shadow, standing a full 6 feet 5 inches tall. He was a giant in every way to someone like me. From everything I’d seen, Christopher Lee was a proud man, a powerful man and a serious man.  He had served in the military, was in the RAF during World War II, and had received various honors, including knighthood in 2009. The man certainly seemed the stuff of legend.

Christopher Lee kept acting into his 90s, always sharp and full of purpose, and he left quite a legacy. I thought somehow he’d live forever… He was an original. We’ll likely never see another like him, and he will be sorely missed.

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Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Peter Cushing

Christopher Lee passed away on June 7, 2015, at the age of 93. He has gone to join his friends and former co-stars, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine (all gone, but not forgotten.. nothing is ever forgotten…) – best known for their horror/sci-fi roles. I’m sure they welcome him with open arms. Oh, the stories they must have to share.

Farewell… and many thanks, Sir Christopher Lee. I owe you more than I ever realized…

-SylverWhisper

Attention Female Sci-Fi Writers: Doctor Who Needs YOU!

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Sandman and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman

Recently, Sandman and Neverwhere author Neil Gaiman, commented on the lack of female writers in Doctor Who.  He would know, having penned two stories himself (The Doctor’s Wife, Nightmare in Silver) for the current series.

But that can’t be right, can it? I thought long and hard to myself, and truthfully, while I can recall female directors and producers (after all, the series was birthed by the late Verity Lambert and producer Julie Gardner was instrumental in helping Russell T. Davies bring back Doctor Who in 2005), I can’t – off the top of my head – recall female writers for the series. This really gnawed at me.

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Verity Lambert and Russell T. Davies

FROM FANDOM TO CALLING THE SHOTS

Often, I cite Paul Cornell as one of my top writers for the current series. Paul writes compelling science fiction and drama, as evidenced in The 10th Doctor story (originally written for 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoyHuman Nature and Father’s Day (for 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston). Even upon repeated watchings, I am always moved to tears by these episodes.

Back in the day, it was Robert Holmes who wrote some of the best stories for the classic era, including The Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng-Chiang (for 4th Doctor Tom Baker) and Caves of Androzani (for 5th Doctor Peter Davison). Surely, my favorite sci-fi show of all time had just as many female writers, right? Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I owe Doctor Who for inspiring my love of science fiction and desire for self-expression. I was one of those fanfic and fanzine writers who felt compelled to expand on The Doctor’s universe. Yep, I was one of the ones people snickered at. We found refuge at conventions and dared not share our creations with the uninitiated. They wouldn’t understand… They just wouldn’t get it. 

Times have changed, and some of those same con-geeks and nerds are among some of the most successful writers and producers in film and television today. Fanboys Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and of course, Steven Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock), all started as fellow nerds and Whovians. But that’s a rather testosteroneladen list.

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Buffy, BSG and Torchwood writer Jane Espenson

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

What about the rest of us? Geek girls, fangirls, nerd girls – whatever label you choose. We’re out here, ready to produce the next Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars, given the opportunity. And yet, my short list is, well, rather… short. This shouldn’t be so hard…

Maybe Buffy and Battlestar Galactica alum Jane Espenson (she also wrote for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood starring Arrow’s John Barrowman) should have a go as head writer/show runner for Doctor Who? She’s written for just about every sci-fi/fantasy series in recent history (the ones I care about anyway), including Game of Thrones and Firefly.

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“Outlander” author Diana Gabaldon with her two Jamies

Perhaps Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, should try her hand at writing for our favorite Time Lord? Considering Outlander’s connection to Doctor Who it wouldn’t be a stretch. I wouldn’t mind a return to purely historical Doctor Who stories like The Aztecs, The Crusades and Marco Polo (from the William Hartnell/First Doctor era).

Fellow Whovians, which female writers would you like to see pen a Doctor Who script?

NEXT UP

Series 8 continues… Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoFlatline.

Airing Saturday, October 18th at 9pm on BBC America.

Peter Capaldi and Katy Manning Recreate Some Special Doctor Who Memories


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Earlier this week, former Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) companion Katy Manning, known to fans as UNIT agent Jo Grant, visited the set of Doctor Who. She and current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, had a blast re-enacting some scenes from her time with the series. The 67-year old actress truly enjoyed her time with the 12th Doctor, and it showed, calling him “one of the most charming men I’ve ever met.”

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Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

I can’t believe how happy these pictures made me feel. It struck me how right they looked together – Doctor and companion – together again. Thus proving that Peter Capaldi is the man for the job.

Katy loved returning to her old (if renovated) home, the TARDIS, and getting treated to a sneak peek of the upcoming Christmas special. “I know is going to be the best Xmas DW special!” She said.

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Days Gone By…

My only regret, these pictures weren’t part of an on-screen adventure with the 12th Doctor. I miss the late Lis Sladen (former companion Sarah Jane Smith) terribly and the last time we saw Katy in the “Whoniverse” was when she reprised her role as Jo Grant alongside Lis and 11th Doctor Matt Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor. I’m still holding out hope for a classic companion to return to the series… A girl can dream. I wonder what ever did happen to Jo Grant and her son…? But I digress… as I often do…

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And as The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) says to The 5th (Peter Davison) in  Time Crash, “all my love to long ago…” We sincerely hope to see Katy on board the TARDIS again soon.

NEXT UP…

In the meantime, Series 8 continues. Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoThe Caretaker.

Airing tonight on BBC One at 8:30pm and at 9pm on BBC America.

Into the Heart of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

Apologies for the late, post Labor Day check-in, fellow Whovians, but here are my thoughts on last week’s episode of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek – just in under the wire – written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat.

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Not Just for Kids…
Many fans of the series, like myself, grew up with Doctor Who (we’re loyal to the last). Things that frightened us (or made us hide behind the couch) as children, no longer scare us. Suspending our disbelief was a lot easier when we were young. And while it’s true, kids are more sophisticated now, and special effects have evolved, there are certain truths that reach deep inside and take hold of us all… shaking us to the core.

There has been some debate whether or not Doctor Who is a kid’s show. From the outset, Doctor Who was designed to be, and still is, a family show – meant to appeal to both children and adults for different reasons. It is meant to entertain us, frighten us, and move us… meant to make us feel… whether we want to or not. I doubt there was anyone who didn’t shed a tear when Adric died (Earthshock), even if you had mixed feelings about him. That last shot of his shattered Badge for Mathematical Excellence lying on the ground, as silent credits roll by, still stirs strong feelings in me years later.

I grew up during the Philip Hinchcliffe era and was introduced to Doctor Who via episodes like The Talons of Weng Chiang and The Brain of Morbius. With an overdeveloped fondness for Hammer films, I am particularly predisposed to enjoy the darker, more horrific side of the Whoniverse.

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That being said, Doctor Who always finds a way to get me, even now… because at its core, it wrestles with moral dilemmas we all wrestle with. It moves us deeply on an emotional level. Doctor Who can hit you hard, usually when you least expect it.

In spite of The Doctor’s vast age, Death is always at his shoulder, his constant companion. As we got older, we started to realize our hero is a rather complex man with demons and secrets (beyond his birth name) of his own. He lives more in the gray than we’d like to admit, and with a darkness in his hearts even he would rather not look too closely at. Perhaps that’s why he is always running…

Nature vs. Nurture…
Into the Dalek resonates for me on an emotional level and harkens back to earlier episodes of Doctor Who. Reminiscent of the themes presented in Genesis of the Daleks (Tom Baker – The 4th Doctor), Resurrection of the Daleks (Peter Davison – The 5th Doctor) and Dalek (Chris Eccleston – The 9th Doctor), and the moral dilemmas therein.

The Doctor struggles in all three stories with his hatred of the Daleks, and with the right course of action take. Whichever way he turns, even the audience is uncertain. Should he have aborted the development of the Daleks in Genesis, or killed Davros in Resurrection? He chose the to take the moral high ground in both those stories, only to be faced with a surviving Dalek after the Time War in Dalek. He had to have wondered then if his inability to take action on those previous occasions could have prevented that fateful day, leading to the Fall of Arcadia on Gallifrey, and the destruction of his world.

These themes come up again in Into the Dalek. The Doctor is forced to help an injured enemy, and in doing so, it challenges him look into to the depths of his own soul. Is there such a thing as absolute evil? Is everyone, even a Dalek, capable of redemption? Can there be such a thing as good Dalek? Or, no matter how much it changes, at its core, does it remain the same – a hate-filled killing machine, bent on destruction? When it comes down to it, the real question seems to be – is The Doctor a good man? He wonders himself and that question troubles him. Even his dear friend and carer, Clara, is not certain…

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Samuel Anderson as Coal Hill School teacher Danny Pink

Not the Tin Dog!
I like Clara feisty. No longer the fawning girl with a crush, she puts The Doctor in his place when he gets out of hand. She isn’t afraid to slap some sense into him, much like former companion Donna Noble (played by the indomitable Catherine Tate). Clara is more than his carer, she’s become his moral compass. Because as Donna once observed, The Doctor shouldn’t travel alone – he needs someone – someone to keep him grounded, someone to hold onto, and keep him from slipping deeper into the void.

Our brief introduction to Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) was promising. A fellow teacher at Coal Hill School (the same school Susan, The Doctor’s granddaughter, attended on Earth) working with Clara, Danny is definitely likable.  There is a mutual attraction between Danny and Clara, but male love interests tend to take a backseat to The Doctor. Hopefully he won’t suffer the fate of previous companions Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Mickey (Noel Clarke) – chasing after women who appeared to love The Doctor more.

Given what little we know of Danny’s past, he was in the military and he suffered a great loss. It is likely, knowing how The Doctor feels about soldiers, there’ll be friction when they finally meet. However, there was friction with The Brigadier (played by the late, great Nicholas Courtney) too, and he went on to become one of The Doctor’s greatest friends and allies.

Perhaps Danny will take on the more traditional role some early companions filled (like Ian, Steven, Ben and Jamie). Once The Doctor(s) started growing younger, male companions started to to become somewhat obsolete, often sidelined, landing themselves in dungeons (like Mark Strickson’s Vislor Turlough, whom I quite liked), or dead (like Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric). As a side note, I would be fascinated to see a companion like C’Rizz (portrayed by Conrad Westmaas in the 8th Doctor Big Finish Audios) on screen.

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Zawe Ashton as Journey Blue

Clearly, there is a traumatic event in Danny’s military career that he doesn’t want to talk about, something that still haunts him, and we’ll learn more as his story comes to light. The chemistry between Danny and Clara seemed a bit rushed and I couldn’t help but get a Coupling vibe from their interaction – after all, Moffat and his wife, Sue Virtue, produced Coupling (which reminds me, I still want to see Richard Coyle on Doctor Who, but I digress).

Even though I quite liked Danny, I think it would have been interesting to see a female soldier like Journey Blue (portrayed by Zawe Ashton) on board the TARDIS to challenge The Doctor at every turn. For some reason, I can’t help but recall Brigadier Winifred Bambera from Battlefield – the first female soldier to make a noteworthy appearance in the Whoniverse. I wonder what she’s up these days? But I digress… as I often do…

The Mysterious Missy…
There have been so many theories about her identity at this point, I’d almost rather not venture a guess. I’ve heard everything from The Master to The Rani (I would like to see her return), to Romana (another character I’d welcome from the Classic era) to an embodiment of the TARDIS herself, but with Doctor Who anything is possible, so I won’t lay odds just yet. Keeping my cards close to the vest, but let’s just say I feel like we’ve been in that Garden before…

Final Thoughts…
I’ve observed that Capaldi exudes the irritability of Harntell, with the alien madness of Tom Baker. Truth is, I see shades of all the Doctors – as it should be – and Capaldi, as a fan of the series himself, clearly embodies the spirit of all that has gone before.

As he was quoted as saying in an interview during the recent Doctor Who World Tour:

“I think this show’s kind of in my DNA. I think it’s sort of part of me. So I think I can recognize when it’s right and when it’s not right.” – Peter Capaldi

That being said, I rather enjoyed Into the Dalek. It was a good follow up to the season opener. We gained more insight into The Doctor’s personality post-regeneration and the demons dwelling within him. I’m eager to learn more as future episodes unfold.

NEXT UP: This week The Doctor meets the legendary Robin Hood (Or does he?) in Robots of Sherwood, guest starring Tom Riley from Da Vinci’s Demons. I can’t wait for this one.

Doctor Who airs Saturdays on BBC America 9pm/8c.

Here is the trailer for Robots of Sherwood.

Outlander Meets Doctor Who

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“The Two Jamies”

I promise, I won’t say “all roads lead back to…” Ooops!

But here is a great photo of Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser in Outlander), author Diana Gabaldon (the lucky lady pictured in the middle) and Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon in Doctor Who). Frazer Hines was Diana’s inspiration for her book Outlander.

Frazer will be appearing in Episode 15 of Outlander as Sir Fletcher Gordon, governor of Wentworth Prison. Can’t wait to see him grace our screens again.

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Frazer Hines Returns To The Scottish Highlands In Outlander

Ok, now I feel vindicated when I say “all roads lead back to Doctor Who“. For those who haven’t guessed by now, the longest-running British science fiction series Doctor Who, happens to be my all-time favorite TV series. Further evidence supporting my “all roads” claim came today in the form of the latest casting news for the time travel drama Outlander.

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A FAN FAVORITE RETURNS

I was excited to hear that Frazer Hines, best known for his enduring portrayal as Jamie McCrimmon on Doctor Who, was cast on the new Starz series Outlander, as Sir Gordon Fletcher, the English warden of Wentworth Prison in Scotland.

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YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD SCOT DOWN

James Robert McCrimmon (Jamie to his friends) joined The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) on board the TARDIS after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.  Jamie valiantly fought Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti and Ice Warriors alongside the Time Lord – when he and co-stars Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield) and later, Wendy Padbury (Zoe Herriot), weren’t running for their lives that is.

One of the few male companions to grace the TARDIS, Jamie endeared himself to fans as the brave, kilt-wearing young Highlander. Inquisitive, fiercely loyal and devoted to The Doctor, to this day, Jamie is considered one of Doctor Who’s most popular companions.

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Frazer left the series in 1969 in the ten part story The War Games, which introduced the Time Lords, on The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. It also saw the departures of Wendy Padbury and Patrick Troughton. The Doctor, placed on trial by the High Council of the Time Lords, was forced to regenerate (into Third  Doctor Jon Pertwee) and exiled to Earth in the 1970’s – his sentence for contravening the First Law of Time. Sadly, Jamie and Zoe were returned to their respective timelines and their memories were wiped. They would no longer remember the adventures they had shared with The Doctor (almost, but not quite as heart-breaking as Donna Noble’s memory wipe, but I digress…).

Jamie was so beloved that Frazer returned to Doctor Who nearly two decades later. He had an all-too-brief cameo in The Five Doctors 20th Anniversary Special (1983), during the Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor) era, and he was reunited with Patrick Troughton in The Two Doctors (1986), during the Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) era.  The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) even uses Jamie’s name in Tooth and Claw (2006).

ALL ROADS LEAD BACK

Author Diana Gabaldon revealed her Outlander books were inspired by Frazer’s portrayal on Doctor Who, and that makes this casting news even sweeter.

As a long-time fan of Doctor Who (and a fan of Jamie’s), I keep hoping for an on-screen reunion between Jamie and the current Doctor. We know how The Doctor hates goodbyes and Jamie isn’t supposed to remember him, but come on, there has to a be remedy for the Gallifreyan Memory Wipe surely?

Jamie does make a welcome return in the BBC sanctioned Doctor Who Big Finish Audios, but, like Sarah Jane Smith (played by the late Elisabeth Sladen), he’s one of those companions we keep hoping will crop back up again in the current series.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing Frazer Hines in future episodes of Outlander.

RECOMMENDED LINKS

For more on the Outlander series of books, visit Diana Gabaldon’s site.

For more on the Big Finish line of audios, please visit their site.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.

Doctor Who returns to our screens on August 23rd.