Note: Extreme geekery follows. You have been warned.
So it’s been a while, but before I left for Japan I’d been mentioning quite a bit my plan to sneak into the Seoul leg of the Doctor Who World Tour.
Sneaking was my intention due to the tickets (made free last minute) selling out within twenty minutes. Mostly because of the scalpers ordering hundreds at a time and then selling them later for $200 apiece…I shake my fist at you.
In any case, hence sneaking.
Providentially, it didn’t come down to sneaking because a friend of mine, AS, decided to help me track down this event and wait in line for standby tickets like a normal human. Considering she’d never seen an episode of Doctor Who before this – nor even heard about the show until a fortnight prior – this was mighty generous of her.
I say generous because…well, as amazing a night as this ended up being, getting to/enduring the many facepalms of this event were such that even diehard Whovians had a hard time weathering.
Finding the event location was something of a struggle to begin with. Marked as being at 63 Grand Sky Ballroom on the official page, this led us to a ghetto swing dance shack which looked incapable of fitting fifty people let alone the thousand attendees the event blog indicated it would be hosting.
Then we found a different blog which stated a new location, this time at a mall. Off we went!
Yet neither was this to be the final destination. Don’t even know why the blog listed it as an option, since there was nowhere in its vicinity which could have held an event. The good news was that it was close to an amazing French brunch restaurant called Brioche Dorée. We stopped for mandatory eggs benedict and baguette sandwiches.
Refuelled and reinvigorated for the next leg of our attempt, we decided to research 63 Grand Sky Ballroom since most of the evidence concurred it had to be there. We refused to believe it had been that shack of a swing club, and googled relentlessly. In the end, we came upon another building: just “63 Building”.
Not having anything else to go on, we thought why not. At the very least, we were a 12 minute walk from this new potential locale so we might as well give it a shot before calling it a day. I felt bad to be dragging AS on a potential wild goose chase, but she was game and I was incalculably grateful for that.
Using AS’s iPad to help us hopeless navigators navigate, we followed our pulsing blue pin on Google Maps until we arrived at 63 Building.
And then, lo! We happened upon our first sign for the event that we’d seen in Korea. So excited, I was.
At this point, I was giddy with renewed excitement.
Back when I first learned the tickets had all sold out, I had been utterly dejected. Like, no-point-in-living-anymore dejected.
Refusing to give up hope, however, I caught up on all the new Matt Smith seasons and specials just in case (and this is where my sneaking plans were hatched).
Even after all that time though, I really didn’t think we’d make it there. Walking around all morning not even knowing where the hell in Seoul we were heading, it seemed so far-fetched.
To climb the stairs into the lobby of the event was thus one of the most fangirl inducing moments I’ve experienced in a long time.
So now that we’ve reached the event, I’m going to divide the rest into Top 5 Facepalms and Top 5 Fantastics.
Fantastic #5: Whovians galore!
One of the things I feel most nostalgia for in Montreal is Comic Con, which I’ll be missing this September for the first time in three years. My favourite things about it? Cosplay and the spirit of passionate geeks everywhere.
Well, this event certainly gave me that very fix I’ve been craving. There were some amazing full-out cosplays, a heavy smattering of Tee Fury shirts, and of course fezzes and bow ties everywhere.
One guy had an amazing Tennant cosplay and got his hair just perfect. You can kind of see him in the above soothsayer photo on the far left.
It felt so good to be in the presence of geeks again. I never wanted to leave.
Facepalm #5: Wibbly-wobbley timey-wimey organization.
For some reason, despite the impossible time we had finding the location due to lack of available information, we didn’t anticipate the chaos that would ensue once we actually got there. This was perhaps optimistic of us.
After the initial happy wore off, we tried to find the standby line for tickets. Unfortunately, no one seemed to know what was what or where was where.
Good organization isn’t something Korea’s heralded for. Their sense of time (or lack thereof) is almost like island time, except with less chillaxing and more security guards being cross and telling you not to lean on walls/reorganizing your line in inverse order so first come last and vice versa.
After a good half hour of miscommunications, we finally oriented ourselves behind some fellow expats in what was now officially confirmed as the proper line.
This actually led to a very good thing though.
Fantastic #4: Geek love
Turned out the girls in front of us, JC and CY, were exceedingly cool and after covering a range of imaginative conversation topics and many instances of over-share which can only occur in confined spaces like lineup marathons, we became fast friends in our common goal of getting into this event.
We also crystallized a plan for how we would later on pose with the TARDIS, which was on display as a prop in the promo room. (Not wanting to forfeit our place in line or compete with all the other fangirls and boys taking selfies, we decided to hit it up after the screening). I’d briefly seen it upon entering another room to ask the people in charge what was going on, and oh what a brilliant thing to be in the presence of a full sized police box (much bigger on the outside than what I’d expected).
Fantastic #3: The Awesome British Lady
Around the second hour of waiting in line not knowing what was going on, an incredibly kind event worker came around to tell each group of people in line exactly the situation.
“The box office isn’t closed yet, so we don’t know how many people are still coming to pick up their tickets,” she explained. “As soon as it is though, we’ll be able to start handing out tickets. We’re going to get some extra chairs and try to fit as many of you in as possible.”
We thanked her profusely and she made her way down the line, complete with Korean translator who interpreted for the Korean fans.
And you know what? She came through.
Another two hours later (yes, we were three hours late in getting started – refer back to Facepalm #5; we still don’t know why they were three hours behind in figuring out how to seat people who already had their tickets…), she started adding the standbys to the official lineup.
When we got to the head of our line and saw she only had one more ticket left in her hand, she looked at our four pairs of bugging eyes and instantly said, “Don’t panic – we’ve put in about seventy more chairs, so you just have to wait until everyone with tickets sits down. Everybody should get in.”
Calmed as we were by her reassuring presence, when the security guards actually led us through to the auditorium, illuminated by blue and green lights and panelled with TARDIS silhouettes over Union Jacks, I just had to squee some more.
We’d done it! We’d really done it! Against all those improbably odds.
And probably all thanks to this awesome British lady who seemed to have taken things into her own hands.
After the event, she also happened to come up to us – remembering our group and everything – and asked us how we enjoyed it. When she found out it was AS’s first time ever seeing Doctor Who, she took off her TARDIS-blue rubber wristband that had the DW logo with the names of all the World Tour’s cities and gave it to her as a memento.
We don’t know her name: we realized too late we’d never asked. But henceforth she is known as The Awesome British Lady. So whoever you are, wherever you are, you really made this event feel personal and full of the spirit us fans all imagined Doctor Who having. Thank you with all the infinity of space and time.
But I get ahead of myself, talking about the end before the middle!
So we get into the event and the emcee comes on introducing it. Everyone has a seat and everyone’s stoked. The emcee riles us up, gets us pumped. The room goes black, the theme music plays, and a short compilation video comes on of all the different regenerations of The Doctor. The crowd’s geeky and wild, cheering and gasping in all the right places.
But then – it ended and the lights came back on. Everyone stared kinda blankly. AS, JC, CY, and I raised our eyebrows as the emcee came back on stage. Everything was in Korean except what JC was translating.
“They’re doing the Q&A session now,” she told us.
We looked with desperation and dismay at the emcee who was now doing some frankly cringeworthy impressions of a Dalek.
Before anyone could get too dangerous though, the emcee welcomed Peter Capaldi (the 13th Doctor) and Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald) onstage. Again, excitement burst from the crowd in sonic waves. Here was The Doctor and Clara in person! The real live actors, just 150 feet in front of us!
Except…well…it promptly went downhill from there.
Facepalm #3: The Emcee and the Questions
Oh the questions.
For a Q&A session, it seemed to be only made up of Q, and the quantity/quality ratio was sorely in favour of the former. The audience being mostly unilingually Korean, they had a translator of course, who crouched awkwardly behind the sofa Capaldi & Coleman were sitting on. They looked thoroughly bewildered by this, and we too wondered why she didn’t just sit on the sofa beside them instead of looking somewhat like Gollum sneaking after the Ring.
Unfortunately for us and the smattering of other foreigners, as the emcee asked the questions in Korean, the translator whispered the translation to the actors so we had to guess what they were asked based on their (often bemused) answers or get JC to pass the translations on like broken telephone.
While I was hoping for in-depth inquiries into the philosophy of the show (it’s the philosoraptor in me), or anecdotes about working on the set, or even possibly previews of what’s to come, instead these were the kinds of questions they asked:
Emcee: “Your character makes souffles in the show. Do you actually bake?”
Emcee: “What do you bake?”
Emcee: “So there was this photoshoot you did. What was it like?”
Capaldi: “Well they dressed us up in our costumes, and it was across from a car park, so for the whole twenty minutes all we had to stare at was a car park. We had to pretend it was very interesting.”
And so on.
All four of us were sitting in our seats pinching the bridges of our noses in sympathy for them. They took it like champs, at least.
It was definitely the biggest of the night, though. Apparently the host was a Korean comedian, though he’s not very well liked due to the universally recognized fact that he’s an (as I’ve heard it described) arrogant mic-whore who enjoys the sound of his own voice more than those he’s interacting with. And while I can’t personally attest to this part due to the fact that I can’t understand Korean, apparently his jokes weren’t even remotely funny as JC assured us with distaste.
The part I was maybe most disappointed in with this was that there was no audience participation. I guess I’m used to comic con where Q&A’s mean the fans can line up with questions to pose to their idols, but basically it was just the emcee talking at Capaldi and Coleman 95% of the time, and them answering the other 4.9%.
The remaining 0.1% went to one girl who answered Capaldi’s very relevant and interesting question, “What does Korea – a country who is obviously very culturally different from the Western world Doctor Who was meant to target – find appealing about the show?”. Her response: “Because it is Doctor Who. That is the only reason.”
Needless to say it was a tad disappointing. Especially because that was the only opportunity given to the audience to say anything at all to the stars that had traveled all the way from the UK to be there.
Fantastic #2: The Avocado and the Painting
There were two fantastics that came of these questions though. The first was Jenna Coleman being asked how she reacted when she found out she got the part. It was about half an hour in by that point and I think both her and Capaldi were just like “fuck it”, because their responses got increasingly hilarious. This was what she answered.
Coleman: “I was standing at the grocer’s and picked up an avocado when my phone rang. It was them to tell me I got the part, and all I could think of was, “I’m holding an avocado”. I thanked them and hung up and just stood there for about thirty seconds holding this avocado. Then I carefully put the avocado down and didn’t buy it and walked slowly out of the shop and called my mum to tell her.”
Alas, according to JC, not all their answers were translated…accurately. So unfortunately the hilarity of this was lost to Koreans who only got the heartwarming explanation that she had called her mother after being delighted to find out while mundanely shopping for food.
The second fantastic was the emcee presenting the two of them with a portrait painted by…well, I honestly don’t know. And I’m sure it was done with great care and forethought and the very very best of intentions. But this is what it looked like.
I’m probably going to hell with the rest of the internet for laughing, but some quality photoshops were done and thus it became a fantastic instead of a facepalm:
I have to say that I was very impressed with Capaldi and Coleman though with how quickly they composed themselves upon seeing it. Thank god they’re British.
Facepalm #2: Hustling for plagiarism
The next facepalm came during the never ending Q&A session when KPop boyband ZE:A was invited onstage. Their invitation (and indeed more hogging of time from the actual stars present) was on the basis that their latest music video, “Breathe”, was a tribute to the Capaldi pilot, “Deep Breath” (the episode airing that we would, in theory, be watching that evening), and featured a TARDIS.
TARDIS visible briefly at 1:57.
While this would have been very touching and indeed a rather lovely nod to Doctor Who, it was quickly revealed that they hadn’t paid any royalties for the use of the TARDIS image, openly joking about the plagiarism.
In rough translation, they also said to Capaldi and Coleman, “Don’t sue us!” The actors were clearly unsure of what to do with this information. This sentiment seemed only to grow when they were presented with gift bags of traditional rice cakes as what could be shrewdly seen as bribery for their compliance. The actors quickly gave the bags away to random members of the audience.
After this display of hustling, they then proceeded to be nearly as cringe worthy as the emcee. Asking if, “Maybe I could be on your drama?” to the actors, a member quickly did an “audition” that was similar in quality to the emcee’s Dalek impression.
At long last, they made their way off the stage to what seemed like everyone’s great relief.
Facepalm + Fantastic Tie (Extra!): The Pre-Screening
When the emcee finally stfu, Capaldi and Coleman made their way off the stage – clearly exhausted, but still smiling. Then came the thing we were all waiting for: the screening.
“Deep Breath” was being specially pre-screened at this event, so no one but the select few cities on the tour would see it before its official air date two weeks later. Excitingly, Seoul was the first place outside of the UK that it was being screened in. The energy was in crackle mode. It was a genuine privilege to be present. It was so much fantastic, there weren’t even words – even if we were quite tired, it being close to 10pm by this point.
The credits rolled and everyone lost their minds. I might have done my fair share of cheering, even if I could barely see the bottom half of the screen for the sea of heads blocking my vision. The showroom was unfortunately on a completely flat plane so us at the back did the seat-wiggling-jive as we bobbed left and right to see between heads.
And then the episode began and there came a sad realization: the subtitles were on the very bottom of the screen. Every Korean who, like me, had the bottom half of the screen obscured had to migrate to the walls where they stood for the entirety of the episode lest the language barrier negated the experience.
While on one hand this was better for the four of us sitting at the back, now able to see 2/3’s of the screen, it was infuriating to see such poor organization of the event to the detriment of the people of the country this was supposed to be for.
On the other hand, the acoustics were so poor that in combination with the fact that the communal laughs, chatter, gasps, and general reactions of the crowd were so loud, it was tough to catch everything. So whether it was squinting at subtitles or straining to hear, both Koreans and foreigners alike probably understood equal amounts of the episode.
Not to say the episode was bad though! It was actually enthralling – which is why this is under both “facepalm” and “fantastic”. I am super happy with how it turned out, and I was ready to be critical. It’s always a struggle to adapt to a new Doctor, but Capaldi was amazing and the writing was great. I even liked Clara a little more, but maybe that was because I’d just heard Coleman talk about her avocado story.
Anyway in all the watching experience was full of mixed feelings. It ended quite late so we accepted JC’s offer to crash at her pad. But before we left, there was a TARDIS with our photo-op name on it…
Facepalm #1: Cruel security guards
Except they didn’t let us take any photos with it.
The room was open and people had already filtered in by the time we got there, snapping selfies and everything, but as we were waiting for our turn, the security guards stopped us.
“No photo,” they said along with no explanation at all whatsoever.
Thoroughly disgruntled (keep in mind we were exhausted and our last meal had been at that brunch place due to all that time waiting in the pre-event disorganization), we exeunted into the night.
Fantastic #1: Pizza and the knowledge of a job well done
Undulating between ravenously hangry and rapturously happy with the episode, we wanted to find a place we could eat and talk. CY and JC said they knew an amazing pizza place called Al Matto serving real pizza – a rare delicacy in Korea – so we set off in the taxi and talked and talked and talked about the evening to drown the rumbles of our bellies.
We arrived at the pizza place and pretty much facedived into our food (we each ordered a full sized pizza).
And holy shit was it delicious. Unfathomably delectable. Indescribably succulent. Mouthwateringly jizz-worthy.
What made it all the more awesome was that it was the victory pizza of having successfully managed to go to the Doctor Who World Tour, something which was only just sinking in. After all that waiting – the emotional highs and lows, the desperation, the threat of defeat, the horror of the emcee – we’d actually made it.
And what was more! We hadn’t had to get scalped for $200 tickets! In fact we got in for less than the people who had reserved the free tickets, since they had had to pay a $1 registration fee online. We got in for nothing but our time and patience.
We spent the rest of the evening digesting our food slowly until succumbing to food comas in JC’s apartment.
Here was to a day well spent, an adventure well had.