For those unaware, the Sirens of Audio is a podcast focused on the huge amount of audio dramas that have expanded the universe of Doctor Who during the 21st century. Although unaffiliated with the Doctor Who Club of Australia, it is run by two former members of its executive committee who have been able to leverage that time at the coal face to build a rapport with the stars of the series, whom the cornucopia of audio dramas continue to bring into our lives.
I wax nostalgic because their initial event, featuring Australia’s own Janet Fielding — aka Tegan Jovanka, primary companion of the 5th Doctor — was a welcome return to the intimacy of fan events in the 80s and 90s rather than the corporate meat grinder such things have evolved into. There’s something magic about a community space intended for a couple of hundred where the people on stage can recognise and meaningfully interact with the audience. A magic that is muted in the sort of auditoriums you have at modern mega-cons, built for so many more and where the individual can so easily be lost.
Philip and Dwayne hosted the day with the easy banter you’d expect of long time co-hosts, warming the eager crowd for Janet’s initial appearance. While Tegan is often celebrated as a brash “mouth on legs”, the woman who brings her to life is altogether a much warmer and ingratiating presence, speaking to a career on both sides of the curtain as actor, agent, and advocate.
While I love the expansiveness of allowed to modern fandom by the digital realm, talking with anyone and everyone, watching a video from a convention in another time and place we could never get to, being there at the time remains an essential experience. Even though the anecdotes and reminiscences can be familiar to some of us if we’ve been at an event with Janet before or read interviews with her, what does that matter when we’ll endlessly re-consume favourite episodes or books? The joy is in being part of the telling with other people, in seeing new fans being swept up in hearing the stories for the first time, in remembering when it was our first time touching the glamour of our favourite series.
Without a doubt the best part of the event for the cost of admission was the Q&A session. We might groan at a question we’ve heard before, and Janet might take someone to task, but there’s no cruelty or meanness there; the teasing is affectionate. She knows it’s always going to be someone’s first time asking something that’s burned in them for years or feeling the need to grab for something in the glare of the spotlight that is Janet’s shrewd and experienced focus. Questions showing you paid attention to what she talked to the audience about earlier, or invite her to engage outside the narrow focus of being just an actor on Doctor Who are rewarded with insightful and thoughtful answers.
Sadly, the days when gathering mementoes of our brushes with the famous and the fabulous were free or included in the door charge are long gone. Bringing guests in from overseas and finding somewhere to hold the event all cost money, and keeping the door charge down means its photos and autographs that compensate the guests for the time they’re spending with us. No one can honestly say that such ephemera is cheap, but the prices being asked at these events are affordable and probably less than you’d find yourself forking out at a mega con. More importantly, the more boutique nature of the gathering means you have the chance for a chat with Janet, and she gets a chance to be a person rather than a glorified rubber stamp on a production line.
Janet has two more stops on her trip: Hobart on April 15, and then finally her home town of Brisbane the following week on April 23. Given the chance to see Doctor Who guests in Australia, let alone major stars, is fairly rare this is an opportunity I would strongly recommend Australian fans to grab. Especially locals of the Apple Isle, who generally have miss out due to the exrta complication of having to foot the cost of travelling to the mainland for occasions such as these.
(Sirens of Audio will be hosting a similar event to this with Sophie Aldred, exclusively in Sydney, on May 13).