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Fans celebrate a sci-fi legacy at WhoFest 3

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Fans of the long-running Dr. Who franchise gathered at the Westin DFW Airport Hotel in Irving for the third annual WhoFest. For three days, starting on April 22, fans met with actors from various eras of the show, displayed their own costumes and custom props, and attended panels exploring every facet of the show and its fandom.

WhoFest was first held in celebration of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of the Doctor, which was produced in 2013. So many fans attended the event that the following year saw the attendance of guests such as Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor). Unlike other conventions, WhoFest is completely run by volunteers, and a great deal of emphasis is put on the fandom as whole.

“This is a great way for fans to come together and do some good,” charity coordinator Beki Brinkmeyer said. “It’s created by fans for the love of the fans. We go out of our way to make it the best experience for the fans possible. For instance, at, say, Dallas Comic Con, you never really have enough time to talk to the special guests, but here we let the fans talk to the guests for a while.”

The special guests include actors from multiple eras of the show, including Eve Myles, who played Gwen Cooper in the spinoff series Torchwood. Script writer Andrew Cartmel signed copies of his book, Script Doctor — The Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-89, which is an account of his work with the series. Actors from the “classic” era of Dr. Who included two companions of the Second Doctor, Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot).

“Being part of this show is just amazing,” Padbury said. “Originally, it was made for children’s television, but it appealed to everybody. It’s an absolute phenomenon. When I joined the show in 1968, I couldn’t imagine that I’d still be talking about it in 2016. The doctor’s regeneration is absolutely brilliant, because it means the show could just go on and on.”

“Working on this show was three of the happiest years of my life,” Hines said. “Fifty years ago, I’d have never thought that a children’s television show would take me all over the world. In some ways, American fans are more appreciative of meeting with the cast than British fans. Americans seem to be very grateful that we would come all this way to meet with them.”

Fans were also given a chance to showcase their talents, including the volunteers responsible for organizing the event. Master craftsman Max Kirkland showed off his phone controlled, screen accurate (meaning the same measurements and hardware as the original prop used in the show) model of the Tardis, the Doctor’s iconic vehicle.

Paul Barrett brought a working model of the Doctor’s robotic dog companion K-9. The robot incorporates three different processors, and LEGO gears are used for some of the parts. The robot is even equipped with sonar, which lets it recognize obstacles. Naturally, these models got a lot of attention from children at the convention.

“You can’t buy the props they use in the TV show, so you’ve got to make them yourself,” Kirkland said. “It takes a lot of time, and I really love building these things and improving them.”

A group of younger fans also got some recognition at the convention. The Lamplighter School’s Dr. Who fan club had a special presentation talking about their club’s project: creating an episode guide of the series. Currently, they have written guides for 95 episodes out of over 800.

Their guide has attracted over 600 subscribers. At the end of their presentation, the kids were surprised with the announcement that their club would be featured as the cover story for the Celestial Toyroom, the official magazine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

Throughout the convention, a charity auction was held to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Many of the guests donated autographed paraphernalia and other items to the cause. Various fans also sold handmade crafts related to the show.

“Doctor Who has one of the best fandoms out there,” Sharla Break-way said. “We all connect with the Doctor on some level. It’s great escapist fun. It’s like this sub-cult—it’s small, strong, and powerful. Everyone has a favorite Doctor and we are all very passionate about specific episodes, and it’s great that we can all celebrate the show and what it’s created.”

The high spirits and fun of WhoFest 3 were marred on April 23 when the event’s co-founder, Ed Dravecky passed away. He was 47 years old. Also known for co-founding FenCon, Dravecky was well known among those who host Dallas area cons.

Donations to help the family with the sudden expenses related to his loss are being accepted at pages.

Caption: Donning an outfit the Doctors themselves would approve, fans stop by to get their books signed by Andrew Cartmel. / Photo by Adam Stephens

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