Before this year, I had always wondered: it worth traveling all the way to Los Angeles to attend Gallifrey One? Gallifrey One, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the largest North American Doctor Who convention. While I’ve been to Chicago TARDIS a few times, I’d never actually made it to Gallifrey. I always wondered if it was really that much better than Chicago TARDIS. This year I made the trip out to L.A., and I can say that it was definitely worth it.
Basically, Gallifrey One is Doctor Who heaven. No matter what you’re interested in, you will find some panel or event that covers the topic. I mostly stayed in program A, because I found it fascinating to hear the people both in front of and behind the camera talk about their experiences. There are so many things that I could write about, but don’t worry, I won’t mention them all. I’m just going to share a few personal highlights of the weekend, or else this post will be as long as the ballad in “The Gunfighters.”
First, there was the North American premiere screening of the recently recovered “Galaxy 4” episode. I’ll be writing more about this in another post, but it was great to see the lost episode with a crowd of Who fans, since watching episodes is usually a much more solitary event. It’s not the best first Doctor story, but it’s still worth seeing.
There was a lot of interesting behind the scenes information that I learned during the convention. In particular, I learned a few things about Steven Moffat. Several people reference the fact that the show runners scripts are often late, which can lead to filming beginning without a script. One of the guests even said that Moffat isn’t troubled by gaps in the logic of an episode: he simply says, “Oh, it’s magic,” or something to that effect. This really helped clarify the problems that I have had with some of the stories under Moffat’s tenure. They’re entertaining stories, but they don’t always hold up if you think about them (case in point: “The Angels Take Manhattan”).
It was also interesting to be able to put a human face to several Doctor Who monsters. The convention featured several guests who are the men and women behind monsters like the Silurians (Neve McIntosh and Richard Hope), the Sontarans (Dan Starkey), and the Daleks (Nicholas Pegg). It was interesting to learn, for example, about how easy it can be for people to forget that there are humans inside the Daleks, or the difficulties of acting through a layer of latex. When I watch their episodes now, I notice more of the human qualities they give the alien they’re playing (well, maybe not the Daleks!).
I found every panel I attended interesting, but there were a few highlights. Sylvester McCoy’s panel was quite entertaining, as he very quickly hopped off the stage and roamed around the audience, taking questions and interacting (very humorously) with the audience. At one point he was actually standing directly behind my seat, but it was, as at Chicago TARDIS, very difficult to get a picture. I don’t think the man ever stops moving! Mark Sheppard (who didn’t even have a moderator) and Ben Browder’s panels were also highlights. They covered topics far beyond their Doctor Who experiences and answered some pretty bizarre audience questions without missing a beat.
However, my favorite panels were the ones with Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling. Deborah Watling was a late replacement for Carol Ann Ford, and I’m glad she was added to the list of guests. She and Frazer Hines have a great rapport; I could have listened to them banter and reminisce all day. They told some great behind the scenes stories; for instance, Frazer and Patrick Troughton enjoyed playing pranks on Deborah. In particular, they seemed to enjoy embarrassing her by planting knickers on the set and identifying them as Victoria’s (when they were really supposed to be finding handkerchiefs). They also teased each other into revealing amusing bits about their personal lives, like Deborah went on a date with a cyberman or what a ladies’ man Frazer was. If you have the chance to see a panel with the two of them, I highly recommend it. I got a feel for what it was like to be on the show in their era, and had a good time while doing it.
Finally, I noticed that the guests seemed much more accessible here than at Chicago TARDIS. At Chicago TARDIS, you are always in a long line to get the person’s autograph or take a picture, so I would feel guilty for holding up the line to chat with the guest. However, at Gallifrey, the guests are often just walking around, or giving out autographs in the dealer’s room for an extended period of time, so the line isn’t too long. A personal highlight for me was meeting Dan Starkey and Perter Purves. I was able to chat with both of them for a while, and I got a picture with Dan Starkey and an autograph from Peter Purves (and I didn’t call him Steven when I spoke to him, as I feared I might). I was able to learn things like Strax’s miraculous resurrection will be explained at some point, and that Peter Purves’ favorite story is probably “The Massacre.”
Essentially, Gallifrey One is a Doctor Who fan’s paradise. For three days, I was immersed in classic and modern Who. With the cosplayers, I was literally surrounded because you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a Doctor, a companion, or an alien. I was in awe of the detail people put into their costumes. I didn’t manage to get any pictures of it, but just look for the Zygon who was at Gally, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m already wondering if I can swing a return trip next year…