Over Thanksgiving weekend, Best Fest Buddy Tom and I wound up playing detective for a bit, going undercover to see if we could solve the mystery of a missing door panel.
We even wore disguises.
Tom dressed as an Anglo school boy, donning short pants, Vans and a sport coat with patches on the elbows. Sort of like Angus Young from AC/DC on holiday. Or maybe he just wanted to show off his calves on an unseasonably mild November Friday.
I put on reading glasses, well to be able to read small print, but also because that’s how Superman rolled as Clark Kent. Best. Disguise. Ever.
I wore a Darth Vader t-shirt and a Star Wars sweatshirt, too.
See, we were at Chicago TARDIS, a Doctor Who convention at the Westin in Lombard, near the Yorktown Center.
Our garb was in the hopes we could blend in with other attendees, a good many who were in costumery of their own. Most of their outfits related to Doctor Who, the long-running BBC series about a Time Lord who travels in a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which on the outside looks like a police telephone box from the 1960s.
Tom’s sporty English look worked because he could seem like a background character from any number of Doctor Who episodes. My disguise was based on the theory that at any sort of sci-fi related convention, but for a Star Trek one, it’s acceptable to wear anything related to Star Wars.
After getting our convention badges, our first stop was listening in on a panel discussion featuring three women who have played characters over the decades on Doctor Who – Bhavnisha Parmar, Sophie Aldred and Sophia Myles.
My favorite was Myles who frankly admitted that she really didn’t watch the show all that often. She did say when she was a kid she liked seeing Aldred, who played Ace, one of the Doctor’s traveling companion sidekicks, but aside from that, not so much.
Which reminded me. On the Wednesday before the convention, I posited that I would like to be on a Doctor Who panel for really casual fans.
“Hey, I like the show. I know what a dalek is. I know what a cyberman is. I know who the Master is. I know the Doctor can regenerate. If I think really hard I can name most of the actors who have played the Doctor, and I find Matt Smith to grate like cheese. I remember a few of the holiday specials. I liked the episode about VanGogh. Beyond that, maybe if you all refresh my memory we can talk,” would be my opening statement.
My most common answer would be, “You’re gonna have to ask someone else about that.”
Back to Myles. Was it possible she somehow overheard what I said on Wednesday and stole my shtick? Could she know more than she seemed to know?
Then I remembered. I offered my idea in a mostly empty banquet room where the faux TARDIS in question was being set up, not in Harry Caray’s bar in the hotel, where Myles could have been that fateful Wednesday evening.
On that evening, Tom and I were renewing a pre-COVID tradition, where we joined some of the fine folks from Acme Design, a company in Elgin that provides the prop TARDIS to the convention every year in setting it up.
They are a fun bunch of people who specialize in fabricating models, exhibit displays, props and prototypes of all sorts.
This recent Wednesday, when we went to put the TARDIS together, it turned out a panel was missing from the front door. The inside of the door has signatures of some actors who have played the Doctor or characters on the show.
We checked the loading dock to see if it had been left there. They called somebody back in Elgin to check the warehouse where the pieces were being stored. They checked the van that brought the TARDIS to Lombard.
Nada. Zip. Bupkus.
To paraphrase Phil Collins, how could it just walk away, disappear without a trace?
Hence, the mystery that Tom and I vowed that we would try to solve Friday at the convention.
Ruling out Myles knowing much about Doctor Who or anything about the missing panel, we next wandered off for a bathroom break. You never know what you might hear near a bathroom, Tom’s bowel movement aside.
There was a Camp Time Lord room set up near the loos, which gave me an idea for setting up a daycare center once scientists actually figure out how to time travel – which would be another story and a good way to discipline naughty tykes. The one toddler encamped there had nothing to say, most likely because he was two years old.
I checked out the Gender Inclusive Bathroom. It was nice. Just one toilet, a sink and a lock on the door. As such, it was both inclusive and exclusive at the same time, being limited to one person at a time, and all. Private, yes. TARDIS door, no.
Tom and I ambled past all sorts of cosplay people. I thought a couple were from The Handmaid’s Tale, but on closer inspection they were Time Lords. Quite a few looked Dickensian, but Doctor Who is fond of traveling back to those times. Others were dressed as their favorite incarnation of the dear old Doctor from Gallifrey, a planet, not a town in Ireland.
Next, we checked the room with all the Doctor Who merchandise up for sale. From there we peeked into the room with the faux TARDIS, confirming the door was still missing.
Anyone having their photo taken by it with someone Doctor Who level famous would have to PhotoShop in the missing front door, should they be a completist.
We even headed to Harry Caray’s bar for pints in the hopes we might learn something.
LIke the score of many World Cup matches, we had nil.
Here we thought we could crack the case. After all, people have been telling us what dicks we are all these years.
Turns out, we’re neither Abbott and Costello nor, being bald guys, big-haired Hall and Oates singing Private Eyes. There’s no gum on our shoes, and no hopes of landing one of those Brit PI shows on PBS over the weekend where slovenly priests with wacky sidekicks solve crimes in the tropics – or something like that.
We headed back home clueless and empty handed – but for the Doctor Who videos and the video games Tom bought earlier in the day at the Disc Replay Black Friday sale.
Could there be clues in those videos? We are talking about a show dealing in time travel, so it was a possibility, however extinct it might seem.
Past that, I also thought of scouring posts on the Dark Web. That’s where the truth lurks these days!
I would look for cryptic messages from WhoAnon. Perhaps I would also uncover conspiracy about pandemics caused by Sontarans, the tears of Weeping Angel Taylor Swift and her fans being responsible for flooding sports arenas and find the missing TARDIS piece had been teleported to Mark Zuckerberg who is using it as a surfboard.
But all that showed up in the search engine under WhoAnon was stuff about cryptocurrency. That seemed oddly appropriate.
Saturday, Tom switched from sleuth to homeowner and painted his living room blue. The TARDIS is blue. Coincidence? Probably.
We were coming up short. We’ve both been told that before.
Finally, come Sunday night, we tried to watch the most recent Doctor Who episode for inspiration. But Tom’s three little grandkids were at his house, disturbing the peace as they are wont to do.
They had been spending time playing in the cardboard box for the recliner Tom put in his newly blue room.
The recliner box was a bit like a TARDIS in that both are boxes. Kids – at least these three – make everything disappear. Could they be Time Bandits? Wait. That would be an old British fantasy adventure movie, not a TV show.
Which has been a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really long way to say, we never found the door panel. Perhaps it wound up misplaced, then accidentally put in a landfill in another galaxy. Maybe one day, years from now, it will wind up on an Antiques Roadshow from Mars hosted by a clone of Elon Musk.
Either way, the folks at Acme can probably regenerate another door panel, which would be a fitting Doctor Who thing to do.
The mystery remained – at least until Tuesday, when the piece was found in the elevator at the warehouse where it was being stored!
Could my detective work with Tom have led to the piece being found there? Most likely, not.
Its still nice to have our first case under our belts, something else to add to our resumes, and a potential pitch for a Netflix series, to boot.