Panopticon West

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Name: Panopticon West
Dates: 1981-1986?
Location: USA
Type: fan con
Focus: Doctor Who
Founding Date:
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Panopticon West was a Doctor Who fan run convention in the 1980s that often had guests from the TV show. It may have been an offshoot of the Panopticon conventions which were hosted in the UK. The conventions could be quite large (in 1984 attendance swelled to over 2000), with panels, filking, and a masquerade costume contest.


  • 1981 - Tulsa, OK with the 5th Doctor, Peter Davidson as guest.[1]
  • 1982 - Chicago, IL (held at the same time with Chicago ComicCon convention, see convention report below)
  • 1983 - Columbus, Ohio [2]. This convention also produced the Panopticon West Filk Booklet.
  • 1984 - St. Louis, MO. Attendance 2,500+[3]
  • 1985 - New Orleans, LA

Convention Reports/Photos


OTL: July, 1982. Chicago, IL. Some brilliant convention planners decided to hold Chicago Comicon and the North American Dr. Who convention, Panopticon West, conterminously. The Pick Congress/ Americana Hotel was not large enough for the turnout. The air conditioning system was sorely strained, what with thousands of idiots walking around in floppy hats, scarves and long coats, while the comics fen in Batman T-shirts and shorts goggled at them, having finally met enthusiasts even more insane then they, themselves. Now, let's have one or two things happen. 1.) The A/C gives out completely, bringing the ambient temp from about 80 F to 95 F, with ~95% humidity. 2.) The local fire marshall shows up, counts the house, and tells the hoteliers that they have seriously exceeded their permitted occupancy. The Con has to send home the attendees there on a day-pass, or close up completely. Worst....cancellation....ever. [1]

Sung to "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

We roasted in the videos, we sweltered in the lines.

There were times when we were quite convinced we'd really lost our minds.

We searched in vain for pop machines that showed no empty signs

At Panopticon '82.

(Chorus) Glory Glory Hallelujah, Glory Glory Hallelujah. Glory Glory Hallelujah, We actually made it thru.

One of the huckster rooms was only two-by-two-by-four.

The fans were packed so closely that you couldn't see the floor.

We even had to stand in line to get back out the door

At Panopticon '82. (Chorus)

Sarah Sutton's presence was an asset to the place.

She smiled right through the whole order with typical British grace.

She found the time for autographs despite the frantic pace

At Panopticon '82. (Chorus)

And then there's Anthony Ainley with his very sexy grin.

Blowing kisses to his fans and making their heads spin.

And then he sang a song about the city he was in

At Panopticon '82. (Chorus)

The creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, was there, too.

And told us bits and pieces of his years on Doctor Who.

We hope he's done a story on the preppy Doctor, too,

Since Panopticon '82. (Chorus) [2]



Panopticon West 1982 was held in August of 1982 at the Pick-Congress Hotel in Chicago. Prior to the convention, I got it in my head that I had to make a Tom Baker costume and participate in the masquerade ball. Most big conventions hold a variety of functions that allow everyone to participate: masquerade balls, writing contests, art shows and auctions, filk-sings, panel discussions with guests and autograph sessions. Each convention has a dealers room filled with merchandise, professional and amateur. Rooms are set up where science fiction films and videos are played 24 hours a day. I borrowed a sewing machine and created my masterpiece. My costume consisted of knickers, a white balloon-sleeved shirt, vest, brown velvet coat, wing-tip shoes and the trademark Tom Baker scarf (which is about 14 feet long). I stuffed my pockets with paraphernalia that would have made me a player on Let's Make a Deal. Preparations complete, Desiree, our friend Tina and I piled into my dilapidated 1969 Plymouth Valiant and set out for a weekend of Doctor Who abandon. The Pick-Congress hotel was a Chicago original. Towering, ancient and totally unprepared for the 7000 fans that converged upon it. We jammed eight female Prydonian Renegades into a room suited for two. The weather was uncharacteristically hot that weekend and soon, every pop and ice machine in the hotel was empty. To make matters even worse, the hotel's air conditioning system decided to call it quits. Soon, I began hearing conventioneers begin to call the convention "sweatcon" instead of Panopticon. Despite the heat, the lack of refreshments and privacy, I'll never forget the feeling of camaraderie that developed among our group. With eight women stuffed into one room, it's tough to keep too many secrets. At night we slept with the windows open and a phone book propped in the door to allow the breeze to pass through. We laughed and roamed the halls together, listening for clues regarding the whereabouts of British guests or making fun of the "mundanes" that we saw. (Mundanes, in fandom, are the guests who are staying at the hotel who aren't there for the convention.)... Somewhere between planning and the actual event itself, a deep and silent war began to rage between the older members and the younger ones. Desiree and I, after years of watching this war and at times becoming involved, devised a secret phrase that we used to classify members of both sides. The Prydonian Renegades, we decided, were victims of the dreaded disease ESI or "Exaggerated Self-Importance." Several battles erupted. The most devastating was the one that waged on and on and on through Panopticon 1984 and several conventions beyond. Each Doctor Who convention must, to be successful, arrange for at least two guests from England to attend and participate in panels and autograph signings. Although it's great to get together with other fans and party, buy stuff, dress up and watch videos, the bottom line was that people wanted to meet celebrities and the more celebrities the better. Autograph books burned in anticipation of those sacred scribblings. Fans dreamed of meeting their favorite Doctor Who Doctors or companions by accident while buying a can of Diet Coke or eating in the hotel restaurant. Convention officials had to supply the guests but also assign certain staff members the duty of keeping track of them, shuttling them around and keeping them amused. What happened, of course, is that those chosen few that were selected to keep guests company during their stay in Columbus enjoyed their duties just a little too much. Staffers swelled with obvious pride whenever they ushered a guest into a crowded room. Staff security guards appeared too eager to keep the fans away from their charges. Soon, the sight of walkie talkies pressed urgently to lips was coupled with the whispers of "gimme a break." Other staff members with less glamorous jobs began to resent this behavior. Friction began to erode away at friendships and camaraderie slackened miserably. [3]



  1. ^ The Nerd Riot
  2. ^ a filksong by "The Unknown Time Lords," printed in Diverse Dimensions #3
  3. ^ Essay 5 by Rhonda Reece, date unknown