Saturday's Dr Who day (Doctor Who: The Science Behind the Scenes, University of Central Lancashire) was great fun, as these things always are. When people come together for an occasion like this one, there's an air of cynicism-free joy that's completely at odds with some of the online griping you see. Which leads me to think that maybe the online griping is just the Grinch joining in with the fun.
Key to it all is the presence of the bright and very young, I think. The day was advertised as 'for ages 12 and up', which is in contrast to those BBC-backed fan affairs recommended for adults only. Dr Who is a children's show that doesn't talk down to its audience, and they rise to meet it as children will. Which makes it a canny move by UCLAN to stage the event, and not to dumb it down. It was effectively an Open Day for future undergraduates, with real lectures in a real lecture theatre, the odd quiz, and cosplay and props courtesy of Hyde Fundraisers.
(If you think that raises unrealistic expectations for student life, you've obviously forgotten Freshers' Week.)
I showed up for my bit, but I stayed all day. Even had a signing line which meant that I missed the beginning of Dr Sarita Robinson's talk on The Psychology of Dr Who - but no worries, I got to catch up with her to-camera piece for the Special Features on the Day of the Daleks DVD. This wasn't soft stuff. The point being that the imagined wonders of Who open doors to real questions of cosmology, psychology, and the nature of time itself.
I've one regret, which is that at the end of my Q&A, when asked what advice I'd give to aspiring writers, I kicked off with, "Don't go on courses, don't trust books," which is a pretty ungracious thing to hear from a guest in an educational setting. The fact is, I've friends who run courses. I've shown up and done guest spots, and I've mentored screenwriting students. What I meant to urge was an attitude of mind; don't expect to be guided, don't look for a map. Approach such things as an explorer, with an eye to what you can steal and co-opt to your purpose. If I'd been a bit less shoot-from-the-hip, I'd have had the wits to say so.
I was rubbish at the quiz, as well.
UPDATE: There's a report by David MacGowan on the full day here, complete but for mention of Dr Ian Turner's entertaining and informative The Science of Doctor Who, which was conducted with s great sense of fun in the persona of the Doctor himself. David was watching a screening of Warriors' Gate during that hour, so I guess he's excused.