Nearly 1,000 Attend North Alabama’s Second “Doctor Who” Convention

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Two television titans are having their 50th anniversaries this year:  WHNT News 19 and British Broadcasting Corporation show Doctor Who.

We will celebrate ours later in 2013, but nearly 1,000 people gathered at the second annual “Con Kasterborous” to honor the legendary science-fiction program.

About 600 people attended the first convention in 2012, but co-chairman Bonnie Auten said they sold more than 600 tickets by the end of breakfast Saturday, with hundreds more fans arriving later in the day or coming for additional events Sunday.

Much of the excitement was for meet and greet autograph sessions with actress Caitlin Blackwood, who came from Scotland to the Huntsville convention.

“17 hours, but I love it.  [Huntsville and the fans are] really cool,” Blackwood said.

“The food is the best and all the people are lovely.”

She became a Doctor Who fan about five years ago when her cousin, Karen Gillan, appeared as a soothsayer in an episode alongside the tenth doctor, David Tennant.

In case you are unfamiliar with Doctor Who, the basic premise is there is a mysterious man identified only as “The Doctor” who travels in a TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space.  Basically, it’s both a time machine and a spaceship.  The Doctor is an alien who looks human, he has two hearts, and he is hundreds of years old.

And, he regenerates.

If The Doctor becomes weak or is about to die, he morphs into a new body with a new appearance and personality, but the same memories.  That allows different actors to play the part, and allows the show to continue.  They’re currently on the eleventh doctor, Matt Smith, and the directors announced earlier in 2013 that Smith is leaving at the end of the year.  There will be another regeneration, and a new actor to portray the twelfth doctor.

Got it?  Okay, back to the story about the convention and Caitlin Blackwood.

“When Karen got one of the parts, when David Tennant was on Doctor Who, I watched it then, and then when there wasn’t anything else on I watched Doctor Who, but I’d never really watched it before, so I was quite nervous but excited at the same time,” she said.

Two years later, Karen Gillan became one of the main stars, Amy Pond.  The writers decided to introduce the character as a child, whom The Doctor meets in the past.  They chose Caitlin to play the seven-year-old version of her cousin’s character in several episodes, to parallel what later happens to adult Amy Pond in some of the stories.

Bonnie Auten said Caitlin is the first of hopefully several actors to come to Huntsville to appear at the convention, and they are negotiating with a couple people for next year.

“We had been checking with agents for other people and then all of a sudden we got an email from [Caitlin's] mom.  She said Caitlin would like to come to the states, would you like her as a guest?  We made the arrangements and she`s here.  We brought her and her mom in a day early, took them to the space center, they got a vip tour of that,” Auten said.

Caitlin said she wants to come back to Huntsville so she can attend Space Camp.

“Yeah, that was awesome,” she said about the rocket center.  “It was so cool.  I loved it.”

Auten praised the composure and kindness of the young actress.  One girl planned her birthday party for the convention, but arrived after the meet and greet autograph session.  However, Caitlin took extra time to meet privately with the birthday girl and her friends.

A few of the fans dressed as the older version of her character, Amy Pond, and more than 100 others wore costumes to celebrate one of the longest running programs on television.

“I think it`s because it`s kid-friendly, family friendly, there`s not a lot of violence,” Auten said.

“There`s not really blood and gore or language or whatever.  It`s just a good family show people can sit down and watch.  I think parents are passing it down to children because it’s just sci-fi and there’s just such a big sci-fi genre, I think people just love it,” she said.

The 2012 and 2013 conventions were at the Huntsville Holiday Inn near Research Park, but Auten said they need a larger venue for the increasingly popular event.

She is considering the South Hall of the Von Braun Center for the 2014 Con Kasterborous, named after the constellation that contains Gallifrey, the home planet for The Doctor.

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