So Gallifrey One – one of, if not THE largest Doctor Who convention in the world, – has come and gone again. A massive weekend filled with costumes, panels, past and present stars of the show flitting around and bumping into people in the lobby, and above all, a massive and growing number of fan’s, intent of catching up with old friends, making new ones and generally sharing their excitement and love of the show.
Gallifrey One is held at the Marriott hotel, by the Los Angeles Airport. Surprisingly, you don’t hear a lot of planes overheard, but that might be because most of the action is in the hotel convention center, below the hotel in general.
Once a year, fans descend on the convention and basically make LAX Airport hotels Doctor Who central – it’s quite an amusing sight seeing people in full Doctor Who regalia wander down Century Boulevard towards the Marriott, from the other hotel s in the area – or see them sitting at the local Dennys having breakfast and waving Sonic Screwdrivers around.
We should talk about the costumes. I don’t quite know what it is about Doctor Who that encourages So Much Costume Making but I’ve never been to a con where the percentage of costume wears is greater – not even Comicon in San Diego has this degree of cosplay (although, it has to be said, Comicon attendees number in the 10’s of 1000’s – Gallifrey limits the number of attendee’s to 3200, simply because the hotel just can’t accommodate any more.)
It’s very interesting to see how many weird and wonderful costumes you see, even of things you wouldn’t expect to – for example, I saw at least 3 different Wilfred Mott costumes, with people with hats and reindeer horns!
After having attended Gallifrey for the past two years, I am also amazed at how welcoming the Gallifrey attendees are (although I shouldn’t be, given the nature of what the show represents) – gay couples are everywhere, and no one bats an eyelid (as, indeed, they shouldn’t – it’s just really nice to be somewhere where this lack of interest in someone’s sexuality really IS what it should be), there are kids running around, lots of them dressed in costume themselves. Everyone is outstandingly nice and polite to each other, and genuinely interested in meeting new people and just chatting. Again, you are struck by the fact that these people are, in fact, some of what the best the planet has to offer in being civilized, giving a crap about other people and generally just wanting to get along.
The panels offered are great. There is a massive scope of what is covered, from Live Directors commentaries of contemporary episodes (always interesting – the directors often reveal little tidbits that isn’t instantly obvious), to panels of past and classic companions, with stops along the way for writers, costumers, those creating lots of the extra’s, like Big Finish – lots of the Doctor Who podcasters, like RadioFreeSkaro and others, and everything else you can imagine. There is never a dull moment – and what’s more, it’s all staffed by volunteers and as such, EVERYONE is a fan.
There are lots of little weirdnesses about this convention in particular – the ribbon frenzy is quite spectacular to behold. Basically, lots of the attendees print out small fabric ribbons with a message on them, then give them out to everyone at the convention, who then attach them to their badge. Some people collect them, everyone seems to have some, and some people are very proud of how many they collect – actively seeking them out. You’ll see them in some of the pics attached to this article.
Basically, it’s a well-organized weekend (well, mostly well-organized. We did have a lot of fun watching some of the volunteers slowly but surely lose their sh*t – in the most good-natured but exasperated way possible – when trying to get 2000 people in line to go watch the Masquerade ball . The Masquerade ball is the highlight of the Saturday night, where lot of people in costume do skits in front of the audience. There was one very memorable one involving three different generations of Cybermen competing on a dating show.). It’s full of people where you can guarantee there is someone there who knows more about Doctor Who than you do, and is more than ready to discuss the nuances with you at the drop of a hat.
Because of the relative smallness of the Con in terms of physical space, it has the effect of pushing a lot of the stars into the areas where the fans are – you can literally plop yourself down after having got a coffee at the Starbucks and find yourself sitting next to Ian McNiece who is composing emails on his iPad. Then you get to sit there, marvel at it, and try to figure out a really good introductory line. I, myself, had a moment where I was sitting outside having a cigar, and it went out. I went looking for someone with a light and the only person who had one was Michael Jayston, of the Valeyard fame, having a surreptitious cigarette. Given I’d just written this article, it was a highly appropriate moment of serendipity and resulted in a conversation regarding working with Bonnie Langford – and this kind of thing just happens All The Time over the weekend.
It’s a place where extremes are celebrated, everyone is purely there to have a good time, and frankly, if you haven’t gone, I have to ask “why”?
Gallifrey 2014 is held at the LAX Marriott, in Los Angeles, and will be running over Feburary 14-16, 2014. The online registration will be found at http://www.gallifreyone.com/, opening shortly, and note, the 2013 con was completely sold out several months before it occurred, so if you are thinking of going, get your registration in early.