Dancing with Daleks: Time Lord Fest in Tampa
This Sunday I met a mechanical dog, danced with some Daleks and hung out with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. I purchased an original t-shirt (“Optimus Time”) from the artist himself, met some authors, and attended a costume contest judged by Robert Allsopp, prop designer for both the classic and new Dr. Who.
I did all this in a bizarre storefront event venue in a Tampa shopping plaza. The neighboring bar (sporting a sign that said “Welcome, Time Lords”) and the Mr. Empanada were happy to serve the motley crew of Doctors, Companions, Tardis’ and Daleks, whose cleverly decorated vehicles filled the plaza parking lot. Inside the venue, fans of BBC’s “Dr. Who” eschewed the empanadas for fish sticks and custard, fish and chips and “Hot K-9s.”
The whole scene reminded me of Grateful Dead tour in the 1980s. All of a sudden, a freaky group of fans in weird clothes with unusual bumper stickers can bring magic to the most mundane of places.
Where was I? It was Ken Spivey’s “Time Lord Fest 2014,” of course.
The venue, Tampa’s Event Factory, was a fanciful and surreal place to hold such a timey-wimey event. Behind the strip mall doors is a glittery, Styrofoam-looking medieval castle resplendent in fairy lights and bountiful fake flowers. There is an enchanted forest, a Camelot-style courtyard and many sumptuous ballrooms. One might find it either cheesy or breathtaking, but one would have to admit the kitsch added to the ambiance of Time Lord Fest.
One of the things I love about Dr. Who is its diverse audience. Because Dr. Who is a fifty-year old institution; the Doctor has fans of all ages. Dr. Who, and its spinoff, Torchwood, both reflect real inclusivity without being preachy.
That inclusivity showed itself in some of the cosplay. There were recognizable Doctors and Captain Jacks wearing skirts, and folks of all ethnicities playing people of many species. The youngest Tardis I saw was three months old; the oldest was much older than I am.
There were an impressive number of panel discussions and presentations. I especially enjoyed the guest of honor, Robert Allsopp. I was a bit disappointed with the panel discussion of “Supernatural and Occult Elements in Dr. Who.”
The panelists were personable, intelligent and interesting. Two of the three panelists were horror writers. For them, supernatural and occult elements are tools for creating horror stories and nothing more. The discussion may have gotten more informative. I left; frustrated that is was about “scary” storylines and not the occult elements in Dr. Who at all.
I was hoping to hear about true occult symbols and themes used in Dr Who, such as the tarot reading received by the Seventh Doctor. Next years’ Time Lord Fest could use a real occultist who also happens to be a Whovian. I can tell you for sure we exist.
It feels weird for me to be such a fan of a TV show. I don’t even watch broadcast TV! I have often accused big media companies of taking creativity out of the hands of common people and giving it only to the select few. Yet Time Lord Fest was an awesome display of individual and original creativity. Dr. Who, and the rest of fandom, inspires costumes, music, stories and art. Time Lord Fest wasn’t just about a TV show, it was a celebration of art and creativity.
I worry sometimes about the thin line between fan art and copyright infringement. On the other hand, I was thrilled to see so many people inspired by fifty years of Dr. Who.
The final events of the day included a performance by the Ken Spivey Band. The interesting thing about this three-person line-up is they have some actual and impressive musical cred.
I love that the Ken Spivey Band plays “Time Lord Rock,” and that “Time Lord Rock,” or “Trock,” is an actual genre. I would love to hear more songs inspired by Dr. Who.
The Dalek Dance was one of my favorite moments of Time Lord Fest.
Next year, I’ll come in costume. For the final event, I’d like to see fewer chairs, and more dancing; because if you have a chance to dance with Time Lords, Daleks and other aliens, you definitely should.