Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who York City - Asylum of the Daleks Preview Screening and Q&A

When BBC America announced that they were again hosting a preview screening of the Doctor Who season premiere in New York, I along with many of my fellow Whovians did a dance of joy. I was unable to attend the screening last year, as I had just started a temp job and had no days off, so I missed the epic epicness of stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill handing out donuts to the intrepid fans who had been camping out since the night before to get into the theater. This year, however, was going to be different; they were actually selling advance tickets.

The debacle that followed as thousands of Doctor Who fans scrambled to purchase one or two tickets out of the approximate 700 available led to a great deal of frustration, as the website was inadequately prepared to deal with the onslaught of purchases, crashing multiple times and just plain malfunctioning. I was sent back to the "select tickets" screen at least three times before the site crashed on me all together, and though I was eventually able to enter in my payment information, I did not get through to actually purchase tickets. Many people had problems similar to mine; a friend of mine was able to get through fairly early but her order was stuck on "processing" for the better part of an hour, and some people even reportedly were given other people's payment information on their confirmation screen. All the while, BBC America remained silent on the issue of tickets. Though it apparently sold out in twenty minutes, it was an over an hour until this was officially announced. BBC America's radio silence on the matter continued for almost eight hours, until they finally made a statement, which consisted of them asserting that they'd booked the largest venue possible, and they were overwhelmed by the response.

Let me state for the record that I was not upset that there weren't enough tickets for everyone. Obviously not everybody who wanted in would be able to attend. The issues I had were with the malfunctioning website and BBC America's complete lack of acknowledgement of any problems. Although I much preferred this to having to camp out for admittance -- I had to work and would not have been able to line up. At least this way, I had a chance of getting in.

Also, I refused to believe that they continue to be surprised at the strength of the fanbase in this country. This is the third time they have done something like this -- last year they had overflow seating, a second screening, and they still turned people away. People started lining up for tickets at seven o'clock the night before. Hall H was filled to capacity for this year's panel at San Diego Comic-Con. There is no way they can't know that Doctor Who fans will come out en masse for something like this.

Regardless, a friend and I headed over to the Ziegfeld on Saturday afternoon to see if we could catch a glimpse of Matt and Karen as they arrived. When we got to the theater, we discovered there was a standby tickets line, which surprisingly was not that long, so we attached ourselves to the end of it. We made quick friends with the people standing around us, as often happens in situations such as this, and eagerly waited for the screening to start to see how many, if any, of us would be allowed to enter.

Unfortunately, being unwilling to lose our spots in line meant that we did not have good views of Matt and Karen arriving at the Ziegfeld -- in DeLoreans.

Six o'clock ticked ever closer with no idea of how many available seats there were in the 1100+ venue, but then finally the line started to move. We inched ahead as the line slowly dwindled, and the security guard announced that there only three ticket left...five people away from me. But then he went, "Oh, no, wait, there's more than three tickets left," and we skipped gleefully inside, clutching our hard-won standby tickets.

Thank you, all of you people who purchased tickets in advance but were unable to make it, because your inability to attend resulted in at least fifty people getting in via standby.

My friend and I had seats in the second to last row, but we didn't care, because we were about to see an advance preview of the Doctor Who season 7 premiere, complete with Q&A from Matt and Karen, moderated by Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick. As someone who not only missed the screening last year but wasn't able to attend the panel at SDCC because she was in line for a different panel room, I was practically vibrating with excitement.

I am bound by Whovian code of honor not to reveal anything about the episode, "Asylum of the Daleks". Matt Smith himself begged us all not to spoil the many, many Whovians throughout the world who have to wait until this Saturday to see the new episode. Not that I would spoil it, but when the Doctor tells you to do something, you don't ask questions.

I will say this: Matt Smith said, both before and after the screening, that he thinks it's one of the best episodes they've ever shot. At the Q&A, he admitted that it was also one of his favorites.

It certainly was an amazing episode, and I am fairly certain the legion of fans will not be disappointed. It does what Doctor Who manages to do so well -- it keeps you on the edge of your seat, gripping the armrests, because it's filled with action-packed sequences that will have you cheering. One Rory moment in particular was greeted by raucous applause (which Karen was very nice to relay to Arthur, who was unable to attend the screening, via Twitter). But it also hits you right in the emotions, particularly the scenes between Amy and Rory, because if their relationship doesn't get you in the feels, you don't have any feels to be felt.

It's also a great setup for the rest of the half-season, as we count down to the Ponds' final episode. (Matt and Karen warned us that it's going to be very emotional, as though any of us were expecting different.)

The Q&A afterwards felt brief but was certainly entertaining, as Matt speculated who might be a good candidate to play the twelfth Doctor. He tossed out names like Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp before he stopped because he was "talking himself out of a job". Karen fangirled over Community and "Inspector Spacetime" and expressed her admiration for the various .gifs and graphics that grace Tumblr on a regular basis. (Especially after Matt mentioned having seen a great album cover for Karen and the Babes.) They both said that the Silence and the Weeping Angels were their favorite (and the scariest) Who villains, and that "The Eleventh Hour" was the most challenging episode to film.

All in all, it was a truly momentous evening, and I am unbelievably glad that I thought to head down to the Ziegfeld even without tickets, because it honestly never occurred to me that there would be tickets left. So this is a lesson to everyone: always consider that there might be a standby line!

Monday, August 6, 2012

SDCC 2012: A Retrospective

San Diego Comic-Con is, more or less, Mecca for nerds like myself. It's probably not something you can do every year, but you pretty much have to go at least once in your lifetime. What started as a comic book convention in 1970 has, in the last few years, evolved into the largest pop culture convention in the world. Its official name, Comic-Con International: San Diego, could not be more accurate. While there, I met quite a few fans from other countries, such as Canada, England, and Germany. It is a place where nerds of all kinds gather to nerd out over nerdy things with other nerds, perhaps one of the few places where they can do so without judgment. (Except from the Jesus picketers, who showed up around Friday.)

This year was the first that I was able to attend after nearly half a lifetime of seething with jealousy over everyone who got to go, and one of the first things people ask me when they find out I was there is, "Did you have fun?"

Hell yes, I had fun. It was Comic-Con. If you don't have fun at Comic-Con, you're doing something wrong. (Or you're working it. I have a feeling some of the volunteers weren't having a good time.) Because Comic-Con is full of all the things that make me ridiculously excited. It's kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet, only instead of food you get free posters and comic books and t-shirts and panels full of people like Seth Green and exclusive footage from Frankenweenie, and hey look there's Shawn Ashmore just meandering through Artists' Alley and it's the fourth time you've seen him this weekend, I hope he doesn't think you're stalking him.

It wasn't all fun and games, of course. Before I left for San Diego, when people found out I was going, they'd tell me, "I hear it's a lot of waiting in line." Yes, it is. You have to wait in line to pick up your badges. You have to wait in line to get into the convention center, to get into the panel rooms, to draw for autograph passes. You have to wait to purchase merchandise. You have to wait for the bathroom. Over one hundred thousand people packed the convention center over the span of four days, and they all had to go somewhere. Lines for the big panels (like the Warner Brothers panel, containing about eleven minutes of footage from The Hobbit) stretched for upwards of three miles, tickets for the Game of Thrones autograph session ran out before we got up to the table, and the exhibit floor was so crammed with people that I got claustrophobic a couple of times.

There was so much to do and see that you often had to make some difficult choices, like if there are two panels you want to see at the same time, which one do you pick? Should you wait in line for the panel for a particular show or the autograph session? Are you willing to give up an entire day at the convention to sit in a panel room, sitting through panels for shows you don't even watch just to make sure that you have a spot for that panel you're super excited about? Are you crazy enough to camp out on line to get into the panel room in the first place? My friend and I went in with the plan that we would pick one thing we wanted to do each day, and if we were lucky, we'd get to do it. It didn't always work out the way we planned -- we didn't manage to snag those Game of Thrones autograph passes after all, and waiting in line for those guaranteed we wouldn't be able to get seats for the panel, but that meant we got to make the Robot Chicken panel instead.

And I'm not going to lie, it wasn't cheap. My friend and I were in San Diego an entire week, not just for the convention but to be tourists as well, and cross-country airfare isn't what I'd call inexpensive. I'd wager that I spent approximately $1000-$1100 on that trip, and it would have been more if I wasn't worried about overdrawing my checking account or any of my credit cards had wiggle room. (Plus, I had to buy a new phone while I was there.)

The second question people ask, upon finding out I was there, is, "Was it worth it?" Was the experience worth the money? Was it worth the hassle of waiting in all of those lines, of dealing with all of those people?

Hell yes, it was worth it. My sole reason for wanting to go to Comic-Con was this: Merlin. I love Merlin. Yes, the show is a little (a lot) ridiculous, and it's certainly not going to win any Emmys, but it's fun and entertaining and it puts beautiful people on my screen every week, and one of those beautiful people is Colin Morgan, who is a perfect human being. And Merlin, despite airing on Syfy, doesn't do any press in America except for SDCC (at least not in person). They're currently filming season 5 and it's been widely speculated that season 5 will be the last (mainly because I'm pretty sure the producers did an interview where they said they had a five-season plan), and so I figured that if I didn't make it to SDCC this year, I would never ever get to meet the cast.

Anyway, I was able to score passes to an autograph signing for Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath, and like a complete fangirl I brought Colin peanut butter, but I have a picture with each of them in addition to their autograph, and there is video evidence that Colin high-fived me. It was probably the greatest five minutes of my entire life. Plus, we were in the fourth row for the panel the next day, perfectly positioned to have optimal viewing of both the cast and the screen, where we watched the season 5 trailer and bloopers and a hysterical faux interview with Bradley James and Rupert Young.

Plus I met Kevin Williamson, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, and Chris Hardwick. I shook Kevin Bacon's hand (my thirteen year-old-self was pissing with excitement). I was in the vicinity of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. I breathed the same air as John Barrowman and Tim Burton. I got free posters and comic books, a free Superman t-shirt and a Hobbit pin. I bought a K-9 bobblehead and a TARDIS lunchbox. I have pictures of Optimus Prime, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Hulk made out of LEGOs, not to mention some seriously epic cosplay. I was in the live audience for the official SDCC Nerdist podcast.

We may not have gotten to do everything we wanted, or everything we planned, but I got to meet Colin Morgan and get awesome seats for the Merlin panel, which was the reason I was there in the first place. Seriously, those five minutes basking in the presence of Colin made the entire trip worth it for me.

Would I do it again? In half a heartbeat. Provided someone else pays, because I really don't think I can afford to go back anytime soon.