Day of the Dalek

It feels like we’ve been working on Derek for a million years, but our original aim was to have him built for the October 2018 Vancouver Fan Expo.

I’ve written about this before, the idea and the build process ( https://dtrasler.com/2018/10/13/living-with-derek/ ) and I think I’ve mentioned the rebuild once or twice too. This Saturday, the 15th of February, was the new deadline. We reached the point where we were sure we weren’t going to make it, then made the decision that we WOULD.

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Laurel jumped into overdrive, spending late nights affixing the hemispheres (after re-fitting the gaskets round each one) and repainting all the slats in gold. We’d had to abandon the idea of using the Raspberry Pi as a voice-changer. Not because it wouldn’t work, but because I couldn’t wrap my brain around programming it in time. Or maybe at all. In place of that, we had an old phone pre-loaded with Dalek voice recordings, Doctor Who music and some Star Wars voices for a bit of a laugh. This was plugged into a small but pretty powerful speaker that ran off batteries, so it wouldn’t drain the phone’s power. We still had no motors, so Derek would be foot-powered. Flintstones-style again. But we had fixed the rotation system in the dome, and the ears and eyestalk would light up at the press of buttons.

Mrs Dim volunteered to drive, to reduce my stress about parking and arriving on time. She found us a great spot under the convention centre where we could stack up Derek out of the rain.

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Bearing in mind we were a Dalek, a Dalek Maintenance Tech and two other characters who looked like this:

(Captain Will Charity from The Adventurer and Taako from The Adventure Zone.)

It was quite a surprise when the polite Host from the Convention Centre said “Are you here for the Fan Expo?”

It was SO tempting to say “Nope, just a few eccentrics taking our dalek for a walk…”

We didn’t, of course, and she kindly directed us to the elevators. We were IN!

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One of the things I’ve been thinking about as we did the renovations was “What are we going to DO at the Fan Expo?”. It was a good question. Last time, I was distracted by the panic over parking and the the lost wheel disaster. We never made it into the exhibition hall at all. We knew from our previous, non-dalek visit that the hall can get crowded, and we were booked in for Saturday, usually the busiest day. This year, the plan was:

  1. Get there.
  2. Get inside and set up a base in the refreshments area.
  3. Get photos with the Doctor Who Cosplayers and the 501st Legion.
  4. Don’t lose any wheels. Or anything else.

1 and 2 were easy enough. This year’s Fan Expo was brilliantly devised, with a spacious refreshments area, plenty of seating and tables, and wide avenues between them. Mrs Dim made herself at home at a table, and we went on our first of three journeys around the hall.

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That first trip was the quietest, giving Derek time to browse the comics…

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…try to swipe a lightsabre….

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…and make a new friend. Of course, when you do that, there’s always a chance they’ll try to follow you home.

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By this point the hall was filling up a little, and we were stopped again and again for photos and the same three questions:

a: Is there someone inside there?

b: How long did it take to make?

c. What’s it made of?

Oh, and there were a few outliers, like “Is that from Star Wars?” and “What’s Doctor Who?” We hoped the guy who congratulated us on our “brilliant R2 D2” was kidding. He must have been, right? I mean, he WAS at Fan Expo…

Laurel took a breather back at base, and people kept coming up to take pictures with Derek, standing quiet sentinel at our table. The other two weasels had taken a turn around the hall, and when they got back we poured Laurel back into Derek and set off to find the 501st photo booth. My work computer home screen is our 501st group photo from last year:

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I was looking forward to updating the picture.

The 501st were great. First of all, they had to take apart their queuing system so Derek could get into the photography area. We got an extra surprise when one of the troopers (in the TIE Special Forces outfit) turned out to be a member of the Project Dalek Forum (www.projectdalek.com). In the end we got our photo on the Death Star AND with a bunch of Mandalorians – including THE Mandalorian, and a certain baby.

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The fun with the 501st lasted just long enough for us to trot (and wheel) around the corner to meet up with the other Doctor Who Cosplayers. That may have been our biggest reaction of the day – a number of Doctors had gathered and were preparing for a photo in the stye of a football team or school class – all lined up neatly. Derek rolled onto the red carpet and things got a bit more… animated.

Until they stopped being animated at all. Victory for Derek!

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In fact, victory for Derek felt like the theme of the Fan Expo for us this year. All kudos goes to Laurel – she worked hard on the construction and finishing of Derek, but really shined as his animating force, bringing him to life for everyone we met.

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