The East Midlands Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, or EM-Con 2016 in Nottingham, is a magnet for the nerds, dorks and geeks of the East Midlands, which is clearly why I am here. Be there and be square. Pure nerd porn and proud.
With my Wookie in tow, sorry, I mean wife, we punch the coordinates into the navi-computer, non nerds would call it a Sat Nav, and floor the hyper-drive down Nottingham’s very own Fury Road, also know as the ring road, thankful to the instruction from the Max Rockatansky school of driving that has kept us alive so far and where we’ve parked the car up next to a paranoid android.
We’ve been here before, last years much improved makeover of EM-Con 2015 and light years from EM-Con 2014. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s growing up in the paranoia of the cold war with a sense of impending nuclear doom, fed by the superior governance of decadent western ideology, I grew up on a staple of serious, shady and sometimes scary sci-fi. You cannot imagine the terror of the teacher wheeling in the TV to watch The Boy from Space in a school lesson to then home to Chocky, Triffids and Tripods. It’s a wonder that as kid, it didn’t set me back (some might argue it did), but I’ve stuck with it.
So now I’m queuing up with the geeks who are goggled eyed at the celebrity stars on offer as though they’ve undertaken the Ludovico technique. There are feral kids in cosplay, outrageous Orcs, wide-eyed wizards and warlocks wandering around like The Walking Dead and as serious as a suicide squad of stormtroopers. The rudeness of the human race, or in some cases, non-human races, readily summed up at this point and time in space.
And who can blame them? This year, the star studded line up includes stellar totting star trekking Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in Star Trek (the original series), the Enterprise’s navigator and Russian whizzkid who got the crew lost exploring strange new worlds, which is probably why their mission took 5 years. Aaron Douglas is here, he played Chief Galen Tyrol in Battlestar Galactica and turned out to be a frackin’ cylon, but not the metal toaster variety of my childhood.
Several of the Doctors are here all at once, along with a few companions and other associated aliens, I’m guessing there wasn’t a problem with time or space for them to attend. Some of the Red Dwarf crew are here, the Walking Dead and Star Wars supporting cast. Stargate and Atlantis stars have also turned up along with the red Power Ranger. Game of Thrones Ser Meryn Trant and Janos Slynt have taken a break from slaying although Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos is supposed to be around here giving lessons in case things get a bit tasty.
No sci-fi convention is complete without a villain two, and there are definitely a few here. There I am staring at the ultimate film baddie, only the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader, David Prowse. He’s come a long way from carrying cat woman killer Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange and caring about kids crossing the road. Obviously this was before he became the master of the universe, I’m a bit starry eyed and he’s staring. Now I’ve not been this scared since Darth Vader killed Mr Bronsan from Grange Hill by remote force choking him (The Empire Strikes Back). Either that or he’s doing some Jedi mind trick so that every time kids cross the road, always use the green cross code. I’d say that’s pretty something to be proud of, all those kids lives saved when crossing roads. The deaths of millions on Alderaan from the destructive power of the Death Star probably a bit of a low point.
Blake’s 7 was one of the gloomiest and best science fictions series ever produced. It even had the best theme tune (dat da dad dar dada…..). Created by Terry Nation, the same chap who gave us those supreme space Nazi’s, the Daleks, spawned this fascist spacefest. Billed as the adult version of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 is a vision of a dystopian future where the totalitarian Terran Federation ruthlessly rules the galaxy and crushing any resistance, which sounds a bit like the current Government. That resistance was led by Roj Blake, a political dissident arrested on trumped up charges, played by the recently deceased Gareth Thomas, and his 6 companions of dubious qualities, which sounds a bit like the shadow cabinet.
Hammy acting (especially Paul Darrow) over 4 seasons, it wasn’t the cheeriest of sci-fi as the final episode can attest to when a few days before Christmas in 1981, where Blake and the rest of our reluctant heroes were gunned down by the Federation. Sorry kids, Christmas is cancelled, the baddies won. But it was great television and I’m geeking out that Jacqueline Pearce is here. She played Blake’s 7 chief villain, Servalan, the short haired sociopathic Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation. Its a shame she wasn’t in the final episode with a supremely smug look standing over the slaughtered remains of our vanquished heroes.
Among the Doctor Who contingent is Peter Miles (and was also in Blake’s 7). He appeared in several series but mainly remembered in Dr Who as Nyder, the right hand man of Davros in the terrifying Genesis of the Daleks and made Mr Bronsan seem nice. Set on Skaro setting the story of how the Kaleds became the Daleks through their creator Davros. Nyder was a nasty Nazi in all but name, power hungry, heel snapping, fascist bully boy, icily efficient and intent on genocide on the Thal race and eventually his own. He played it so well that when he stared at the screen you were scared. He was also in Moonbase 3, an early 70’s sci-fi series that forgot to lighten up. If you like music that always suggests impending doom then give it a go. It was like a budget version of Space 1999 with all joviality removed.
The only person scarier in the room is David Bradley, he doesn’t look like the kind of guy you’d invite to your wedding. I mean, our wedding was messy, but the last wedding I saw him at ended in bloody slaughter. That’s probably because he played chief wedding planner Lord Walder Frey in the massacre known as “The Red Wedding” in Game of Thrones. That scene out the book that had you chewing your fist thinking how could they possibly make this look good on TV but then brilliantly do so. The shocking slaying of the Starks by stabbing and slitting seem far removed from some of his other roles (mad Basil in The World’s End).
Then, as if a million geek voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced, it’s looking like EM-Con 2016 all over, it’s time to terminate and teleport off this rock and travel back. The cool kids in school (well, work anyway) who are weirded out by my nerdness can now rest relaxed that this years reaping is over and the odds are ever in their favour for at least another year.
The stars that shine at EM-Con 2015