As is tradition, Best Fest Buddy Tom and I headed to Chicago TARDIS for some post turkey day fun.
Actually, Tom had pheasant pot pie for Thanksgiving. I visited some friendly neighbors and had two plates filled with bird and fixings.
I used to hit six or more homes for the holiday. Cardiology happens. Friends move or, sadly, pass away. As I don’t have a TARDIS, I can’t revisit the past. Maybe my waist will, one day.
By the way, a TARDIS is a Time and Relative Dimension in Space craft that looks like an old fashioned blue English police box.
If you’re already confused, you haven’t watched Doctor Who. The show centers on a time lord from Gallifrey who treks through time and space in the TARDIS. The Doctor travels with human companions. He sometimes tells strangers Gallifrey is somewhere in Ireland.
Doctor Who has been on and off TV for 60 years now, which is some sort of Guinness record. It’s now a Disney property.
We will see how that goes. It might become like Star Wars or Marvel, with lots of spinoffs – not to mention all the bedspreads, sheets, soaps, shampoos, toys, clothing, candles, TARDIS salt and pepper shakers and other merchandise for Walmart, Target and Kohl’s to sell. If nothing else, the show will have way bigger budgets than when it was solely a BBC show.
The collectibles already exist, albeit mostly at the online, hobbyist, convention and comic book store level.
Which brings us to Chicago TARDIS, a convention for fans of Doctor Who that’s been around since 2000. Tom and I have been going not that long, but long enough. A buddy of mine provides a prop TARDIS used for photos taken with Doctor Who celebrities.
My friend and his crew used to put the TARDIS together the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in advance of the weekend’s doings. Tom and I would help. Time does seem to fly. I can’t believe it’s been a year since we did this, down at The Westin in Lombard, by Yorktown Center.
There’s a good deli not far from there, Frankie’s. Try the muffuletta. Be sure to ask them to put the olive spread on the sandwich.
Muffuletta would be a good name for a Doctor Who nemesis. Instead, the Doctor has Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, former classmates and others to contend with and battle across the universe. The Doctor has human companions to help him and keep him company. And he’s particularly fond of Earth.
Oh. The Doctor also regenerates, which means other actors get to play the part.
At the convention you get to meet a good many of the various actors who have been the Doctor across the decades. Other former cast members and those involved with the show (and its audio version) talk at panels, too.
There are games to play, cosplay on display, stuff to buy and who knows what else. We typically go on Friday. My pal Tony was in town for a wedding, though, and I caught up with him that day. His dad’s been dead almost two years now and his mom almost a year. Oh, time.
Back to the time lord who is Doctor Who. Lest you think conventions like this are of this century, nah.
Colin Baker, 80, played the sixth Doctor for three seasons, starting in 1984. He told the audience before he even went before the cameras, he made a guest appearance at a Doctor Who convention somewhere in Florida.
Peter Davison, 72, played the Doctor right before Baker did. Sylvester McCoy, 80, played the Doctor right after Baker. They all made guest appearances at Chicago TARDIS.
Considering the men’s ages, for Doctor Who fans seeing the three Doctors together on the same stage must be what it will be like for rock fans to see the Rolling Stones this coming summer at Soldier Field.
Time waits for no one, indeed.
Time, of course, is one of the central themes of a show about a time lord, and the panel discussions were filled with looks back.
At one session, Davison jawed with Janet Fielding, 63, who played Tegan Jovanka, one of his Doctor’s traveling companions. During the part I caught, they were rambling about traveling through Europe to attend other conventions. It reminded me of listening to someone else’s aunt and uncle talk about their vacation.
McCoy, who’s part Irish by the way, graciously let an 11-year-old named Ellie interview him.
He got a laugh when he said he was astounded that the late Sean Connery, a Scot, couldn’t pull off an Irish accent in “The Untouchables” per Scotland only being 12 miles away from Ireland.
The girl asked him what it was like when he was 11. He said what it was like was that it rained all the time back in Dunoon, Scotland when he was a kid. He had an “Angela’s Ashes” tone to his voice when he said this.
Cheering things up a bit, he noted his idol was silent film/comic genius Buster Keaton.
And when an audience member rambled on trying to form a question or two, McCoy brought things back into a focus.
The man said the Doctor Who shows had helped him through tough times. McCoy said that’s what’s most impressed him over the years about the show – that it’s made a positive difference in people’s lives.
What else did I learn? Well, Baker and a question-asker – for some reason or other beyond my middling understanding of the “Whoniverse” – mentioned writer Stephen R. Donaldson. Donaldson wrote the original six volumes of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which is a modern fantasy lit series. I had never heard of these books. Maybe I’ll get one for Tom for Christmas. If it’s big enough, if he doesn’t like it he can use it to throw at squirrels or something.
I also learned about a show called Tales of the TARDIS, a Doctor Who spinoff available online through the BBC iPlayer. It gives former Doctors a chance to play the part again. So do occasional newer episodes like “Adventure in Time and Space.”
Former PBS pledge drive host Charles Martin oversaw a big panel featuring the three aforementioned Doctors and a bevy of their traveling companions. That panel convened just before the latest episode of Doctor Who was set to debut stateside on Disney+, a special timed for the 60th anniversary.
Alas, Tom and I had to travel to Midway to pick up Tom’s brother and his two nephews. They went to Jamaica for Thanksgiving.
I was going to wear a kilt to the convention, to blend in as one of the Doctor’s travel buddies in the 1960s, Jamie McCrimmon. Instead, I wore a leather coat to look like the ninth Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston.
Actually I looked like any number of modern Irish gangsters. That’s a better look for hitting Midway.
Tom donned a Matrix-like coat, albeit with a huge scarf like one of the two versions worn by the fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker.
Okay. Judge me. Now. But is this any different than wearing a football jersey to a Bears game? At this point in time, shouldn’t a Bears jersey on an adult elicit more laughs?
Anyway, past the airport, we headed back to eat sandwiches from the aforementioned Frankie’s. The guy forgot to put the olive salad on the muffulettas. A TARDIS would have come in handy.
Once at my house, I turned on TV to see that there was a PBS pledge drive showing the new Celtic Woman special.
The Celtic Woman act has been together for 20 years now. The women of Celtic Woman were all wearing blue. The TARDIS is blue!
I’d end there, but y’all know I’m long winded.
Instead, I’ll end on Sunday when I took Tom’s 8-year-old granddaughter to the library where she made friends and ran into old ones. Old, by an 8-year-old’s standards, that is. Noting her new-found, hyper local fame, the girl said she felt like a library celebrity.
We looked at Christmas decorations on a drive back to Tom’s in my blue car.
For dinner, she slathered bacon strips with mayonnaise. The dog had some, too.
Adventures come in all shapes, sizes and flavors.
Which makes this as good a way as any to end this.
Mike Danahey lives somewhere in Illinois and writes for a living. If you need someone to scribe something for your wedding, bar mitzvah, birthday or other occasion, leave him a message in the comments section for this piece. A comment also makes Mike happy that someone read what he wrote all the way to the end.