Monday, July 16, 2012

Archon Hear a Who!

 In case you didn’t grow up reading Dr. Seuss like I did, Horton Hears a Who is a story about a very large elephant who hears a very, very, very tiny civilization living on a dust mote resting on top of a wildflower. Horton tries to convince his friends that these tiny beings in fact exist, but they don’t believe him because they can’t see or hear the microscopic people who inhabit Whoville. Horton doesn’t give up, and in spite of physical pressure and ridicule to give up his belief and destroy the wildflower, he perseveres until the tiny Whovillians make themselves known to all by shouting, “We are here! We are here! We are here!”

David Tennant as the 10th Doctor with the TARDIS

At a “First Friday” event I attended recently at the St. Louis Science Center’s Omnimax theater, a full-house of over five hundred fans watched a double bill of new series Doctor Who episodes featuring nanotechnology. The line to get into the theater snaked throughout the Science Center and out the door. All five hundred plus tickets were distributed—they even had to turn fans away they said because of the fire code. Many attendees came dressed in Who inspired costumes and T-shirts. Many said this was the first time they had realized there were so many fellow fans in the St. Louis area who enjoyed the same TV show they did. Many stated they had never heard of the St. Louis regional science-fiction convention Archon, but they’d attend Archon if they knew other Doctor Who fans and programming would be there.

Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor
But what’s a classic children’s tale got to do with being a Doctor Who fan and a regional science fiction convention? Hang in there, and I’ll try to tie in the analogy the best that I can.

Archon isn’t the largest annual sci-fi convention in the US, but it has been around the block for quite a few years now—thirty-six years to be exact. It has hosted literary, artist, performing/filking and media guests. For purposes of this blog I’ll concentrate on Archon’s media guests. The fans have turned out in large numbers to see and hear these media guests give talks and presentations. The fans have waited in long lines for autographs and photographs. The fans have generally had a good time at Archon discussing and sharing their love of a particular media guest and/or the movie/TV series franchise he/she represents. In recent times Archon has hosted media guests such as multi-talented voice actor Billy West (Futurama) as well as the gang of Cinematic Titanic, featuring many of the original cast of the cult favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000.  (This year’s media guest just added to the bottom of the list: Gil Gerard. You remember him from the 1970s TV show Buck Rogers, don’t you?)

Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor with Amy Pond

With so many wonderful media guests in its past, a sci-fi buff might assume that Archon is not against inviting media guests to their convention, right? But it has come to my attention recently that Archon does not seem interested in hosting a media guest connected to the worldwide phenomenon known as Doctor Who. Why is this the case? I haven’t a clue, but perhaps you and your like-minded friends can help us find out why Archon doesn’t jump on this opportunity to cash in on the popularity of the world’s longest running science fiction TV franchise. 

Our wedding cake shaped like a TARDIS

I use the term worldwide phenomenon on purpose, for in spite of its origins at the BBC,the television series now plays on BBC America as well as on various PBS stations throughout the US. Doctor Who and its spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures have broken the chains of being cult TV shows from Great Britain to become American sci-fi favorites with regular viewers in the many millions on a weekly basis. The DVDs, audio plays, books, graphic novels and other related products can be found in Best Buy as well as your local comic book stores. You could even say it’s given the Star Trek franchise a run for its money.

Producer and writer Steven Moffat
I’m painting this picture so even if you’re not familiar with the series that you will still see how a media guest from the Doctor Who universe would appeal to many science fiction fans and not just a tiny handful living on a dust mote resting atop of a wildflower. Many Who fans would be willing to travel to the St. Louis area and pay the Archon membership fees to see these Doctor Who media guests. More memberships to the convention sold—more money for Archon to host even bigger and better conventions in the future. A win-win situation.

Here’s where the Horton Hears a Who analogy comes into play: It has come to my attention that several Doctor Who connected media guests have actually expressed an interest in attending Archon. Even better, these actors, producers and writers of the series were willing to come for free if their travel expenses were covered, and they’d be willing to travel from within the United States, since they’d already be in the US working on other projects.

Yes, that’s right. Who media guests expressed a desire to attend Archon and were willing to do so for the price of a domestic airline ticket. Increased sales of Archon memberships to fans who’d love to see a Doctor Who media guest would surely cover the price of an airline ticket, right?

The names of Doctor Who media guests who have voiced an interest in attending Archon? Hold onto your hats, folks: 

John Barrowman as Captain Jack

John Barrowman, Steven Moffat, and Alex Kingston. 

Are you able to peel yourself off the floor now?

Alex Kingston as Riversong
Yes, Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood fame, the current producer/head writer of Doctor Who, and the vivacious Riversong who played a pivotal role in last season’s story arc all wanted to travel to St. Louis and meet the fans here in the middle of the country. But, somehow, they were turned away or simply ignored by Archon representatives.

Fortunately for fans with lots of money and vacation time, Barrowman and Moffat recently attended Comic-Con in San Diego, and many of the Torchwood crew will be at Dragon Con in Atlanta later this year. These mega-sized sci-fi conventions will benefit from the crowds Who media guests will draw. Alas, those of us who can’t afford to attend far away mega-cons are out of luck.

My novel about Doctor Who fans who meet a mysterious stranger...

Here’s the call to action: If the BBC is  still willing to send a Doctor Who media guest to Archon in the future, would you be interested in attending and supporting the con with your membership? If you are, please consider joining with the local Who fan club, the St Louis CIA, in signing a petition, sending an email, or letter to the Archon committee expressing your support for Doctor Who media guests. This link takes you to Archon's contacts info page. Please be polite and to the point in your communications. If you have any other ideas on how to bring Who media guests to Archon, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

The original Star Trek fans were able to bring their beloved program back on the air back in the late 60s, so perhaps a letter writing campaign can demonstrate to the Archon powers-that-be that we aren’t invisible, dust-mote-dwelling denizens. We are many, and we have supporters like Horton who aren’t afraid of helping us to make our voices heard.

Let’s shout together as Doctor Who fans, “We are here! We are here! We are here!”


Anonymous said...

I already sent a very nice email to the guest liaison there explaining what I heard and how to remedy this (namely, if they are just a few hundred dollars off, allowing us to sponsor a guest).


Cindy A Matthews said...

Thanks, Katrina! Yes, the STL-CIA might be able to sponsor a guest or have the contacts to bring in Doctor Who media guests for free or very cheaply... It would be nice to see if the Archon staff is open to the extra help in bringing in some quality media guests. :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't bought an Archon membership for this year as I've been rather disappointed with the programming options. If any of those three guests were to be announced, I'd be buying a membership post haste.

Cindy A Matthews said...

I know several dozen people who'd fly, drive, crawl...whatever to get to Archon if a Doctor Who media guest appeared, so I understand where you're coming from Tigger. And you are correct--the media programming has been slipping in recent years at Archon. What few DW panels that are on the schedule are crowded to overflowing. If programming and guest procurement committees don't think there are many Doctor Who fans, then they're not in touch with reality, are they? I truly believe some of them think the show wasn't resurrected in 2005 and have no idea how wildly popular it's become in the last 7 years... Plus the 50th anniversary of DW is next year. What a draw (money-maker) a Doctor Who media guest would be!

Mary said...

I am the Media Guest Liaison for Archon, and have been in that role for more than ten years. We have not been contacted by these guests, their representation, or any other Dr Who related guests. If BBC America wanted to send them we would be delighted to have them as guests at Archon. The reality of the situation is that the cost to bring in these folks would be, conservatively, well into the thousands of dollars, each. Please check your facts.

Cindy A Matthews said...

Mary, have you talked with the St. Louis CIA (Doctor Who club)officers? They have said they have talked to Archon members and have been routinely ignored. This I feel is wrong. They have resources that could make a Doctor Who media guest possible, but the window may be closing if the Beeb feels Archon isn't a friendly convention like Comic Con and Dragon Con. Please, I encourage you to not become defensive but to reach out and accept the STL -CIA's contacts and help. Everyone wins in that situation. (Sort of a take off of the 9th Doctor's line in "The Doctor Dances": "Everyone lives!" :)

Mary said...

Cindy, I'm not being defensive, merely stating the facts. I'd be happy to talk to the CIA, even worked with them in the past with Gateway. However, nobody has reached out to me. And to be fair, this was an attack on Archon, not a kind request to talk to the CIA, I feel obligated to set the record straight. If folks want Who guests, fine, tell me that, reach out to me, don't put out a blog stating that big name guests have reached out to us and we rebuffed them. It's simply not true.

Cindy A Matthews said...

This is not meant as an attack on any one person or institution. This is my blog, so this is my opinion of the facts put before me. Doctor Who fans have expressed that they felt routinely ignored when offering suggestions to Archon in the past. I had no idea who or what committee was in charge of obtaining guests at Archon, so this is not a personal attack against your abilities as media liaison. So please, don't take it as such, but please work with the fandom and everyone will be happy.

Kathy said...

I don't care who reaches out to whom, but it would be fabulous to have a Doctor Who guest come to ARCHON. I am pleased with the fact that the GOH is someone a bit different this year, and as a filker I'm pleased that Vixy and Tony are coming. The new announcement of Gil Gerard coming as a media guest is excellent news even though he was just recently in the Midwest (Planet comic con in KC area in March). Since I have yet to hear of any WHO guests making it to the Midwest it might be good to pursue one for next ARCHON and since it's the 50th perhaps some will be touring the states so the cost of getting across the Pond will be spread out.

Cindy A Matthews said...

Good point, Kathy. The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is going to be huge, so what better way to draw in the crowds than by celebrating with a Doctor Who guest? :)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious who has such an inside track with the stars of the DR Who franchise that they would know these stars have actually even heard of Archon, let alone hear from them that they are willing to forgo appearance fees and attend for the cost of travel. "The Beeb" is aware this is just a local sci-fi con, and not at all on the same level as Comic-Con or Dragon Con, right? I don't expect anyone to name names, but I'm curious where this groundbreaking info came from...

Cindy A Matthews said...

BBC America does have reps in this country and these reps do have friends and contacts. They don't exist in a vacuum. I was informed that the BBC America has been interested in promoting their programming to all of America (not just the west/east coasts) and have tried to make contact but they're not feeling very welcomed. If other conventions are more convivial, they'll reap the benefits of said media guests. That's why I don't want Archon to miss out on such great opportunities. Now is not the time to be timid. A little money/effort could pay off big time, especially with the upcoming 50th anniversary. You could say one DW related media guest is sci-fi gold, and it will draw in lots of new fans, both young and old.

After hearing folks cry "fandom is aging and dying off", isn't it a good thing to encourage the young and the newbies to join in and revive it? Why let fandom in STL area grow old and die? Why keep things the same if they're going to kill off the very thing you profess to love? Change can be good. ;)

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