| Post Office Box 67
Fulham Gardens SA
Phone: 0412 208 011
Armageddon 2011 Melbourne
It took a while to get there Friday turned out to be a day of waiting though eventually all worked out well. Starting off in Adelaide there was the dreaded announcement that the plane was delayed in coming from Melbourne and we would be boarding later (much later) as it turned out than scheduled. The flight finally left 40 minutes after it was due to take off and then ¾ of the way to Melbourne it was suddenly apparent that we were either flying in circles or heading north away from Melbourne. The announcement finally comes over that the weather which had delayed the flight into Adelaide (from Melbourne) was now delaying our flight plus others from landing. And coming into land the plane was bouncing all over the place going through what seemed endless cloud and fog (the pilot did a great job with a relatively smooth touchdown considering what we bounced through moments earlier). So an hour late into Melbourne due to the weather. Then it was onto Melbourne city and that evening across the CBD to the welcome Cocktail party for Gold Pass Holders. What should have been a relatively easy 10-15 minute trip in a taxi stretched out to about 35 minutes – even the taxi driver comment on how bad the traffic was. Possibly due to the Melbourne protestors who ended up blocking many of the main city streets during the day as authorities tried to move them on.
At the cocktail party the guests arrived though talking to many there was a clear difference between those who arrived within a day and were still feeling the effects of jetlag and those who had been here in Australia for a few days of more. They all tried to accede to fan request for photos on cameras and mobile phones – possibly too much as Kelly Donovan and his brother appeared to feel the effects of endless photo snaps instead of just the meet and greet the cocktail party it was suppose to be (we were all advised no photos though the odd snap on a mobile is one thing but posing and posing for the point and shoot camera – yes some of the younger ones kept asking for numerous shots- is going a bit far). Sanctuary guests Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne were very popular and near impossible to have even the briefest chat to (despite them trying to ‘mingle’ I don’t think Amanda Tapping was able to move more than about 10 metres from where she started due to the constant big group of fans). Agam Darshi, Callum Blue and Mark Sheppard were popular and approachable without getting swamped while Kelly Donovan and his brother had a non stop stream of younger fans. Last Starfighter guests Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart were unknown to the younger crowd so were far easier to talk to and Catherine in particular was lovely and happy to chat for ages. Likewise Adrian Paul and Robert Picardo were also very approachable and happy to chat at length and neither seemed to have aged since their respective signature shows were at their peak. Even after most gold pass holders had started to line up afterwards for tokens for the weekend Mark Sheppard called past to chat to a few in the line and Sandeep Parikh did likewise and was also very personable (I am not so familiar with his or Kelly Donovan’s & Nicholas Brendon's work).
Saturday the first day of Armageddon and first up it was time for the autographs – a lot less hectic for some of the guests such as Amanda Tapping than the cocktail party had been. Early on actors from the more recent shows such as Sanctuary (Amanda Tapping, Robyn Dunne, Agam Darshi) & Stargate proved popular but there seemed a steady stream for most of the others. The entry was well controlled with gold pass holders first then silver then general which worked out well due to the sheer volume lining up for tokens – it really is better to get the VIP passes for this event. Amanda Tapping was friendly as was Robert Picardo while Adrian Paull had time for a chat and its not til you saw the photos that you realised how many shows Mark Sheppard has played parts in though it appeared even the actor himself was a big fan of Doctor Who in particular (with good reason). However of the ones I saw for autographs Robin Dunne was by far the most welcoming standing up and greeting fans like long lost friends. Though after the autograph session I had to leave for the day without being able to see the panels due to raceday commitments at Moonee Valley so onward to Sunday.
Sunday started with tales of the dinners the previous night and the massive crowd that had attended Armageddon the previous day as everyone compared notes while waiting to go in. When the doors opened it was a chance to walk around and look at the many trade stands (after organising photo tokens on the way in instead of having to line up in the queue which was great) plus the Delorean reminding everyone of the Back to the Future movies. The Batman display was again popular with the line starting early before an impromptu performance of Red v Blue in the theatre due to many missing out on the scheduled performance the previous day. Then it was soon time to head upstairs to line up to go in for the panels. Prior to the panels there was a short screening of a new Sci Fi project put together by a local director. Welcome to the Cosmos had a short pilot that introduced a number of human characters that all came together by chance while at the same moment a rogue alien was trying to outrun his pursuers to the exact same spot. Have to say that after a slow start it did pick up and by the end you were wondering what would happen next though it did appear to be aimed at the older teenage market than the Stargate type audience but there is a niche for this type of program if the director does find a sponsor to fund future episodes (many of us can remember similar shows when we were young in the afternoons and Saturday mornings after the cartoons).
First panel for the day was Callum Blue who is apparently best known as Zod from Smallville but as I havent watched that show I remember his character from Dead Like Me (which along with Zod aso seemed a firm favourite amongst the crowd). Also mentioned was his role in The Tudors which was cut short after a fall resulting in a broken arm off a wooden horse plus the actor himself talked about his role with Billy Piper in Secret Diary of a Call Girl not to forget the passing mention of Princess Diaries 2. Callum Blue was also recently in three episodes of Sanctuary but this was not mentioned during his very entertaining hour.
Next were the twin brothers Kelly Donovan and Nicholas Brendon and amazingly they were the oldest of the actors with panels in the morning (Callum Blue being the youngest with Robin Dunne in between) yet the most popular with the young girls in the crowd. While most of the questions were directed at Nicholas Brendon I found Kelly Donovan the more entertaining of the two but perhaps it was the banal questions they were asked that revolved around what his Buffy character would have done/thought/been different if but the panel itself wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Callum Blue had been. Nor were there any questions any about Nicholas' more recent work such as in Criminal Minds (which the actor briefly mentioned but no one continued on with to ask any questions). The Snoopy happy dance was spot on though at the end. Kelly Donovan's roles of being a double for his brother was discussed but nothing more. Or it could have been the the endless requests for hugs that made their session drag a little. What started as a bit of a joke started to drag on and the crowd became restless as the panel drew to an end and everyone wanted to move on to Robin Dunne while each of the last few not only asked their question but then asked for an waited while both brothers went over for yet another hug (a better place for this could have been if the fans had obtained VIP passes and asked when it was a little quieter early on Saturday at the autograph lines or while their photos were taken perhaps).
Finally it was on to the Sanctuary Panels for Robin Dunne and Amanda Tapping. Due to the huge interest in seeing Amanda Tapping in particular organisers changed the schedule a little so that Amanda came in during the middle of Robin's panel and he was due to stay til halfway but continued all the way through. 'Both' panels were great with Robin motoring along through his section (yet no questions about the role on Dawson's Creek or Species 111 probably a good thing really) and then there was plenty of banter between both Robin and Amanda when they shared the stage. Plenty of questions were asked by the full house for both sessions and even the character based questions were asked and answered without getting beyond which episodes were favourites (sometime fan questions can get too detailed talking about particular scenes in episodes) with the exception of the 'macgyvering' comment, which while only an outtake from a scene in an episode but is one that is very well known by Stargate fans, getting a mention. Gold pass holders had the option to stay for both but other patrons had to choose one session or the other - didn't matter which both were great.
I left just before the end (and also had to miss the Robert Picardo panel which was a shame) to get downstairs and lined up for photos before the crowd departed the theatre and it was fantastic to see how well organised the apparent chaos was for the photos by staff. Amanda Tapping had been oversold for photos the previous day (despite the photographer being able to clear around a amazing 150 photo ops per hour there had been over 200 due on the Saturday for what was suppose to be an hour long session) but it all went well on the Sunday with the Gold Pass holders ensuring they were there in plenty of time then working through the rest until everyone was done before going through the two group photos and then onto Robin Dunne. Understandably the sessions went late but only by 10 minutes or so which was very good and the photos were ready to be picked up within 45 minutes or sometimes less which was still pretty great considering the volume (the wait had been a lot longer in Adelaide but for the Melbourne Armageddon they were printing alongside the booths which seemed to be much better).
After the photos it was time to head off to the remainder of the Callum Blue & Alaina Huffman which was then followed by Mark and Morgan Sheppard and while it was a much smaller crowd it was nothing like the VIP Panels in Adelaide which had been in a lot smaller area and had felt a lot different to the normal panels whereas in Melbourne the Sunday VIP panel didn't have that same feel (but perhaps a smaller room would not have fit everyone for the VIP Sanctuary Panel held on Saturday afternoon).
At 6pm it was all over and this time there are no other Armageddon events until October next year back in Melbourne which is a shame as there would be a place for future event in Adelaide (unfortunately another group booked in a similar event a few weeks before the 2012 Armageddon was due to be held and it would have been too hard to draw a similar crowd twice in such as short space of time despite Armageddon's massive and better range of guests at each event for the sci fi program fans).