If you’re under a certain age or have only relatively recently ventured forth to the wild and wonderful world of fan conventions, you’d be excused for thinking that so-called “mega-cons” that seemingly cater to every fan’s interests have always been the standard. Hardly.
Long before San Diego and New York became the epicenters for the now-commonplace mega-con, it was all about the small, local convention whose footprint was often no bigger than just a couple hotel banquet halls. Indeed, that’s exactly how San Diego began (and survived for many years). I’ve written in defense of the small con before.
When I was a kid, the hotel convention was the norm. I’d go to comic book shows that were literally nothing but dealers and tables full of long boxes. There were no special signings, no VIP ticket packages, and certainly no “media guests.” I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and when I was in middle school and high school, I went to a LOT of Star Trek conventions with my mom. Probably twice a year, we’d make the pilgrimage out to the Valley Forge hotel and convention center. At those cons, I saw every cast member from the original series and The Next Generation (multiple times).
Despite the guests (even when it was Shatner and Nimoy), the crowds were always manageable, it never felt suffocating or claustrophobic, and the shows were just downright enjoyable. In short, they were a far cry from the only-slightly-organized chaos that shows like San Diego and New York have become.
It’s therefore such a pleasure when I discover that small, personal hotel shows still exist. This past weekend was the second annual (Re)Generation Who in Hunt Valley, MD, which is just outside of Baltimore. I attended last year as well, and I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be there every year that I’m able to.
Doctor Who conventions are not exactly a big thing here in the States. Not in the way that Star Trek conventions are. But I don’t need to tell you that the show (and the franchise in general) has become incredibly popular here, obviously since the 2005 relaunch of the series. Despite the fact that (Re)Generation Who is a relatively new convention, they haven’t had any trouble attracting top talent.
This year, the Fifth and Sixth Doctors (Peter Davison and Colin Baker, respectively) were the headline guests. Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) were on hand last year, along with a panel where Tom Baker (the iconic Fourth Doctor) joined via Skype. In its two years of existence, (Re)Generation Who has already featured all of the surviving Doctors from the original run of the show.
On top of the that, many of the shows companions (dating all the way back to the First Doctor), supporting cast, creators, writers, and producers have been on hand to talk to fans and share their stories.
As a fan, it couldn’t get any better. The size of the show is small and accessible, the guests are approachable, and the staff are amazingly helpful and awesome. This is a fan convention run right. And I’m not just speaking from a place of nostalgia (though that’s still true). At the end of a full day at New York Comic-Con, I’m stressed out, exhausted, and cranky. All I want to do is go home and collapse into bed.
At the end of a full day at a show like (Re)Generation Who, I’m invigorated, happy, and excited. All I want to do is go home and watch a few episodes of Doctor Who.
Bravo to the team behind (Re)Generation Who, but also kudos to the countless teams putting on similar shows across the country with dedication and love. It might be Doctor Who, it might be Star Trek, it might be comic books in general. It really doesn’t matter. Don’t overlook your local convention. You’ll have an amazing time – guaranteed.
New York and San Diego don’t have a monopoly on the convention scene. Support your local show, support local creators and retailers, and support your city. Go out to a restaurant for dinner, spend some money outside of the hotel and/or convention center, and wield ye almighty nerd dollar.
Smaller, local shows are where it’s at, people.