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"We Came, We Saw, We Did A Little Shopping...!"

A Guest's Review of Trakon by Paul Scoones

Being an invited guest at a con tends to give one a somewhat distorted view of the proceedings, so I wasn't going to review Trakon, but Andrew did insist! The best thing about the con for me was visiting another major New Zealand city for the first time in my life. Christchurch is a beautiful place, and I can see why so many Doctor Who fans choose to live there. The only drawback was the cold - it was @#%*§#@!!! cold!

Most of the Aucklanders at Trakon went down together on Thursday night, and were taken out for an ice cream feast by the Christchurch Exec. Apparently, they do this sort of thing quite often. It was interesting to finally be able to put faces to the names - people like Andrew Poulsen, Richard Scheib, Janine Gredig, etc, and find out what they were really like!

Friday morning, after a comfortable night at Janine's, Murray Jackson, Mark Roach, Neil Lambess, Jon Preddle and myself were joined by fellow Auckland Chapterite David Bishop, and went into Christchurch central to do a little shopping, sight-seeing and photocopying. The city was so 'English' it almost made me feel homesick - especially the persistent rain! When not freezing to death, we made our way around the city's bookshops - in this respect, Christchurch excels - one secondhand bookshop was three floors of books - I was in heaven! At this point I must thank Janine for her incredible patience in showing us around the city. We really appreciated that.

Friday night was for me the unofficial start of the con. David and I volunteered to go along to the venue and help out with setting everything up. Mark, Murray, Neil and Jon regret to this day not volunteering as well; the 'setting-up' coincided with a party but only after David and I had walked eight blocks to the nearest liquor store. (At this point I must apologise to those fans who don't want to hear about the alcoholic exploits at cons, coz' they can't go by without a mention). Needless to say, my memory of the party is somewhat fuzzy, but I do remember that this was when Paul Sinkovich (co-editor of the early TSV issues) turned up, and I made the acquaintance of Rosemary Shaw. . .or should that be Susan Donovan?! I rather suspect that 'drinkies' may have got a bit out of hand, judging by the state of poor old David's health in the aftermath. Only David, Janine, Keith Smith and myself will ever know the full story of what happened at that roundabout...

Needless to say, David and I felt somewhat shattered when we turned up at the con on Saturday morning. If you were one of those eager young fans queuing up outside the door, then I must apologise for being the shambling wreck in a poor excuse for a Davison costume who stumbled past you somewhat unsteadily. Somehow, by the time of the opening ceremony, I'd regained as much use of my senses as I was ever likely to. Fortunately I was not one of the individuals who appeared on television that night as a result of the footage TVNZ took of the first hour of the con) although I can be seen sitting right up the back wearing the Panama hat in one scene.

The first task Jon and I had was to judge the winner of the scratch-modelling contest. "Stanley the Robot" won hands down, but special mention had to go to Neil Lambess's Dalek Saucer craft - a paper plate! Following this was the panel debate "That the Eighth Doctor should be a woman," which I participated in. Craig Young's article (see TSV 14) makes the panel appear a lot more academic than it actually was, although I was interested to see that many fans weren't openly opposed to the Doctor changing gender. I for one would like to see the Doctor become a woman, but at the same time I rather suspect the popularity of the show might suffer as a result, just as it would if the TARDIS stopped being a police box or the Daleks became friendly.

Trying to find lunch in Christchurch on a Saturday is damn near impossible, as Rosemary, Wendy Toynton and myself found out, and we returned empty-handed in time for the GOH speech. This was actually preceded by a Doctor Who comedy sketch written and performed by members of the Auckland Chapter. Basically, it explained how the Doctor, Rassilon and Omega got together one night at the 'Gallifreyan Arms' and created various things like the Hand of Omega and the Key to Time. Judging by the applause, this was quite successful. Our speech followed - Jon and I talked about our various publishing projects and then answered various questions on aspects of Doctor Who from the audience.

Later on in the afternoon was the Quiz, run by Richard Scheib. This was a great success, and not only because my team, the Alcoholic Inebriates, came second. Following this, I attended another Richard Scheib item - the writers workshop, but to my disappointment (and that of many other attendees), Mr Scheib saw fit to spend most of the time airing his highly opinionated views on writing, rather than telling us anything constructive. I believe I would have been considerably more entertained had I elected to attend Mark Roach and Graham Muir's artists workshop instead.

Saturday night's entertainment was a highly enjoyable dance, DJ'ed by Andrew Poulsen, whom I thought did a very good job, even if many disagree with me on that point. There's no accounting for some peoples' tastes in music. I obviously haven't got any, as I'll dance to virtually anything! I think Rosemary will agree with me on that one.

Sleeping over at the con venue was not one of the most pleasant experiences of the con as it was bitterly cold that night. Thawing out in the morning, Jon and I were on the throwing end of a mad jelly baby scramble - what a feeding frenzy!

Just for a laugh, I had put my name down for the debate "That Doctor Who is more realistic than Blake's 7" - on the negative side! Being almost totally ignorant of Blake's 7, I concentrated on pointing out the lack of realism in Doctor Who, and to my surprise and pleasure, we won by a huge margin! (I've only ever participated in two SF debates and won both times!)

I missed part of Sunday's programme of events as I was assisting Peter Smith in compiling the extensive auction list at short notice. I was called away from this on several occasions, mostly to sign copies of Shada but also to talk about the projects I was undertaking as TSV Specials Editor - I displayed the then-incomplete Doctor Who Listener Vol.1 at that point. Shortly after this, in a very fatigued state of mind, I took my place as one of four contestants (along with Alistair Hughes, Neil Lambess and the ubiquitous Jon Preddle) on the panel for the gruelling Doctor Who Sale of the Century. Apparently this was based very much on the real thing - but I haven't watched it, so I'll have to take Andrew and Richard's word for it. Naturally, as if there was ever any doubt, Jon came first, being a Mastermind veteran, and I think I came last, being an alcohol and sleeplessness veteran. The questions were quite ingenious, and it was all great fun. If only my reactions weren't so slow, I might have afforded Jon some serious competition - I pressed the button for most questions, but too late in almost all cases. A brilliant game enjoyed by all, though.

This was followed by the Auction, of which I was the auctioneer, and I sold off most of the stuff at good prices. Murray Jackson had already made a financial killing with his heavily laden sales table, and he also cleaned up at the auction. Items that did not sell included some annuals of mine with high reserve prices scoffed at by those in the audience. I would like to point out that I sold those annuals at reserve price by mail order only a week after the con. There were several novelty items with proceeds going to Trakon, including a copy of the script for our comedy sketch, Stanley the Robot from the scratch-modelling contest and an can of beer autographed by the Auckland Chapter members.

Like all good things, it had to end, but there was still the obligatory Kaput K-9 party, which went on into the wee small hours of the morning by which time we were well and truly stuffed! Clearing up and moving the stuff out took ages, and at one point the police raided us thinking we were stealing things from the building!

At 4.30 in the morning, Janine Gredig, Keith and Peter Smith and myself drove all around the city in search of food - this was not an easy task. Why can you never find anywhere to eat in Christchurch? Monday was a complete write-off due to some ghastly illness I'd managed to contract (probably that cold Saturday night on the floor). A temporary relief to this ailment was discovered on a sightseeing tour with Andrew, his girlfriend Wendy, and Murray; there's nothing like snow and bitter cold to clear the head!

Monday night, we flew back to the tropical climes of Auckland - a warm 7 degrees - quite possibly the warmest temperature we'd had the whole time we were in Christchurch! I enjoyed Trakon a lot, I'm pleased to say. New Zealand Doctor Who fans are a great bunch of friendly people, and I feel sure I speak for all the Aucklanders who were down there when I say that we were made to feel very welcome during our four day stay. Upon reflection, I wish I hadn't drunk quite so much, and surprising though this might sound, I think I would have enjoyed myself more if I hadn't been one of the guests, and Jon agrees with me on this. The problem was that there was this continual pressure on us to perform and behave in an expected way, which is quite understandable, but I'm not sure that Jon and I were entirely successful at achieving this. The younger fans especially would have much rather seen someone more closely associated with Doctor Who, however impossible this was to arrange. All the same, I don't regret the experience at all, and I'm very grateful to Andrew & co. for inviting Jon and myself down. I'm looking forward to WhoCon already.

Note: This article is a rewritten version of the one I wrote for Model Space No.48, Sep/Oct '89. Any similarity between the two is purely intentional!

This item appeared in TSV 15 (September 1989).