Image Credit: James Ashworth
Image Description: Jason Haigh-Ellery, India Fisher, Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook at Panopticon Lite
By James Ashworth
Panopticon is a name likely to be familiar to fans of a certain generation. From its inception in 1977 until its last event in 2003, it had been the grandparent of all Who conventions that would follow. After a wilderness period of its own, Panopticon returned this year, though in a way more muted than the show’s. But with the rise of the huge conventions like LFCC and MCM, do fan-run conventions still cut the muster?
Planned as the first of a number of smaller conventions in the gaps between Panopticon proper, Panopticon Lite focuses on a small set of guests – in this case, those from the era of the Eighth Doctor. Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook and India Fisher were all in attendance, as was Jason Haigh-Ellery, whose efforts with Big Finish have done much to expand the Classic era beyond the realm of TV and literature. Something that Panopticon Lite was keen to advertise was the intimate setting and engagement attendees could have with the guests. On this, it very much delivered. Whether it was Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook singing along to The Doctor Who Years, or chatting freely with the guests during the meet and greet, the convention was able to offer something that the bigger events cannot. Were the event to have been filled to capacity, it is something that it too could’ve had problems with, but this is something likely to be refined for future events.
The fan connection was also something that was apparent in the interviews hosted with the guests, or in Jason Haigh-Ellery’s case, by them! Large conventions can suffer from interviewers having a lack of detailed knowledge about the guest, but it was clear that this was not an issue here. The guests were put at ease, and a series of well-thought questions prompted suitably interesting answers in return.
While there may have been teething troubles, Panopticon Lite certainly impressed from an outsider’s perspective. A great lineup of events was delivered well by the core team, and promises greater things to come. Its Heathrow setting may also, like the airport itself, allow room for further expansion, with at least one attendee flying in just for the day. It all goes to show that sometimes, the originals are still the best.