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Trakon - A Personal Overview

By Alistair Hughes

It might be said that the last event I reviewed (Silver Nemesis, TSV 11) was seen through armour-plated, bullet resistant, rose-tinted safety goggles. And it might be true.

So, I'll attempt instead to give a personal over-view of Trakon, from the point of view of a visitor to Christchurch, and leave the actual critiques to those more qualified. Being apparently the only Wellingtonian at Trakon, I was somewhat isolated from the frantic activity which must have gone towards the staging of New Zealand's first Doctor Who convention. So, consequently I had to confess to extreme feelings of anxiety about how far everything had progressed since the last Trakon Progress Report (received an uncomfortably long time ago). In other words - would anyone else be there?!

Recently acquainted Christchurch pen friend Pat Albertson and I certainly had misgivings as we pulled-up outside the TUC early on Saturday morning, with apparently very few other vehicles in sight. But a brave walk around the corner soon laid all our fears to rest, as we became rapidly absorbed and numbered among a throng of costumed and variously aged NZDWFC members.

My feelings of relief soon shot to delight at discovering my illustration on the cover of the programme (thanks guys), and after meeting the soon to become notorious Jon Preddle, Pat and I entered the main room to discover a Who fan's paradise. A full sized TARDIS prop dominated (appearing to have just been salvaged after toppling down Peladon's Mt Megeshra) with a stage containing a large video screen, sound board, various costumed loonies, a camera crew from TVNZ and a room full of expectant fans.

A marvellously put together video compilation accompanied by Jarre's Oxygene opened play, before the convention committee tumbled out of the TARDIS to introduce themselves (for a moment I could have sworn Richard Scheib was Arthur Dent!)

I spent much of the morning meeting and speaking to people who, until then, had merely been names at the end of articles in TSV. I could not help but be impressed by how friendly and approachable every-one was regardless of how busy, harassed or hung-over they might have been.

The 'Should the Eighth Doctor be a Woman?' forum soon lost all semblance of civilised discussion, with one female panel member concluding a devastating attack on male-kind with "...yes, it's great being a woman - you should try it." only to be answered "so should you!" from the audience. The whole issue became somewhat academic, however, when another member of the audience demanded "When would the Doctor become a man?!"

Lunch time saw me accompanying various Doctors and companions into the city for some Cantabrian fast food, much to the astonishment of various Saturday shoppers. By this stage most seemed to share that the most difficult part of the convention, starting it, had been successfully completed. The metaphorical ball had been pushed to the top of the metaphorical slope and sent rolling down the other side, left to build its own momentum as the convention progressed (metaphorically speaking of course). Apart from Richard's apparent anxiety over the following day's 'Doctor Who Sale of the Century', most of the organisers appeared visibly more relaxed and looking forward to a great weekend, like everyone else.

Did Jon Preddle and Paul Scoones really have vodka in their glass? Their speech left me in no doubt that they had (how else could anyone have summoned the courage to perform the 'Unfilmed flashback climax to Silver Nemesis?') The 'Rod of Rassilon' indeed! Mark's awesome Omega costume has probably ensured that I'll never be able to watch The Three Doctors with a straight face again! Jon and Paul were very entertaining, however and displayed such a good rapport with each other, and the audience, that at times they resembled an experienced double act. All this and they even managed to answer my changing-colour Daleks question (I'd been losing sleep over that one!)

My curiosity satisfied, I managed to catch some of The Two Doctors, before auditioning for the much nail-bitten about 'Doctor Who Sale of the Century'. These diabolical mind-benders set the pace for the ensuing quiz, which utilised the video screen and consisted of Doctor Who and general Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror questions. Belonging to no particular team, I drifted from group to group, earning myself a pellet of paper in the ear lobe from my previous team, angered at my defection. I think it's accurate to say that everyone enjoyed this part of the convention although hair splitting such as: did the fourth Doctor die by falling from the Pharos Radio Telescope, or from hitting the ground, was discouraged. When a video clip from the same story was shown, and the newly regenerated Peter Davison sat up, one female fan was heard to shout "Yes! The answer is yes!" As for the career of Buster Crabbe, the intricacies of the Periodic Table of Elements and the translation of "Klokleda meniin klatch, naroon, naroon, naroon..." Well you really had to be there.

A very welcome opportunity to ramble was given to me during the art workshop, after appreciating two very different styles of artwork from Mark and Graham. Those still awake after my talk disappeared to find dinner while, with much urgent scuttling, the large video-screen was wheeled back onstage for what we hoped might be sensational TVNZ coverage of Trakon on the 6.30 news. After sitting through two excruciating RTR videos, depressing main news reports about bungee accidents, plane crashes and gloriously irrelevant sports results, we were finally rewarded with sensational TVNZ coverage. As the Trakon TARDIS containing the reporter swirled away into the time vortex, Andrew was the first to remark on the fact that the news report wasn't really patronizing or ridiculing, in fact it painted a very good picture of Doctor Who fandom in New Zealand.

Next upon, a large and noisy audience congregated in the video room for the long awaited Remembrance of the Daleks. I'll leave any comment to past or future reviewers of this story, save to say that it was proof to me that excellent budget can necessarily mean an excellent story. Meanwhile Andrew's disco was getting into full swing and I had a little time to participate in various Doctorin' the TARDIS congas and even chorus lines with seasoned veterans before having to leave. The only complaint I had at this stage was the apparent lack of an accessible telephone anywhere in the building. In order to call friends for a lift I had to circumnavigate a block of dark streets before finally locating a cafe that would let me use the phone - although the management and patrons gave me strange looks. It was only later that I realized this might have been due to my Nicola Bryant fan club badge!

Shivering in a sub-Antartic bathroom for 15 minutes while waiting for the shower water to unfreeze, shocked me into full consciousness on Saturday morning. Pat was obviously having similar difficulty waking up, answering his phone with "Christchurch City Morgue" when I called him to sponge another lift to Trakon. The fact that it was another brilliantly sunny day made me wonder if he might actually have been wearing dark sunglasses as shades while driving and not just to disguise his condition. Everyone else looked surprisingly awake and healthy when we arrived at the TUC, soon discovering how quickly friendships can go out the window during a jelly baby scramble.

An ambivalence towards Blake's Seven resulted in Pat and I forsaking the debate and taking in Dragonfire instead. The highlight for most people watching this story seemed to be Mel's departure, receiving an even bigger cheer than last nights Remembrance of the Daleks.

During the break for lunch I accompanied Richard back to his flat to pick up some forgotten items, while he filled me in on some of the background in organising the convention. Very enlightening, and a good reference for my up coming Doctor Who Video Marathon.

The Scientific Accuracy in Doctor Who talk by Nicholas and Michael was very entertaining, although the whole thing brought one of the Doctor's lines from The Wheel in Space to mind: "Logic, my dear Zoe, only allows one to be wrong with authority". Pat and I somehow became involved in our own scientific accuracy conversation regarding Batman, and laughed ourselves hoarse over variations on vintage 'Batman & Robin taking the wrong batpoles' joke including the caped crusaders sliding down back to front and even taking the same pole.

After the fan spot (things certainly happen in Christchurch!) it was time 'Sale of the Century' began. This was a definite hit. The fact that I was lucky (emphasis on luck) to make it to the final obviously had something to do with my personal enjoyment, but the event seemed to have a terrific mass-participation atmosphere. With interests ranging from collecting molds, spores and fungi to bust measurements over 34 inches, contestants were introduced and jammed behind the electric table while the audience applauded and cheer in the right places, even managing to resist calling-out the answers (Heaven knows, the temptation is difficult to resist!) Andrew and Richard (Judith T. Kirk and the one in horrible clothes) did an excellent job with ingeniously fabricated 'Who am I' biographies and taxing questions. Although the possibility of electrocuting ourselves took some incentive away from being first to the buzzer, we were all decimated by Jon Preddle in the final. Well done Jon.

There was a brief chance to recover before launching into another event - the auction. It was a shame to see some attendees mistake this as an opportunity to heckle auctioneers, but it was no skin off the noses of those of us who managed to purchase extremely rare and much sought after merchandise. It nearly broke my heart to see incredible articles go at bargain prices while I hung onto my money, but I was finally rewarded by bagging the 10th Anniversary Radio Times Special.

The Auction also served to make me aware of the actual value of certain items which I've had for years, and wondering, up till know, whether I should get rid of them.

By the time the impromptu story-telling contest had arrived, I sadly had to make preparations to leave and catch my plane. Farewells and addresses were exchanged before my taxi arrived, leaving me to forever wonder just exactly what a 'Kaput K-9' party is.

Without a doubt what I valued most from this weekend was the opportunity to meet and talk to a great bunch of people, with the dedication and energy to unite over 100 fans from all over New Zealand. Thank-you to everyone involved in making Trakon such an enjoyable success; it's the only thing that's ever made me wish that I lived in Christchurch.

[Sale of the Century]
The final of 'Doctor Who Sale of the Century',
left to right, Keith Smith (on buzzers), Neil Lambess, Alistair Hughes,
Jon Preddle, Paul Scoones, Andrew Poulsen (Judith), Nick McDonald (Scorer)
and Richard Schieb (Steve).

This item appeared in TSV 15 (September 1989).