Gallifrey One 2011: Wrap-Up From The Trenches
By Kyle Anderson on February 25, 2011
Last weekend’s Gallifrey One (or 22 if we’re going by theme and year) was nothing but wall-to-wall awesome, and not all of that was specifically because of Doctor Who. Quite simply, Gallifrey One is one of the best run and operated conventions I’ve ever been to and, frankly, blows San Diego Comic Con out of the water in terms of specificity of fun. Sure, Gally is only a fraction of the size of SDCC, and only caters to one specific show, but within the nearly 2000 people who attended the festivities at the LAX Marriott are varied and diverse kinds of fans, and each of them were well-represented at the con.
Having only ever gone to the larger conventions, I was shocked and eternally pleased that all of the convention-goers were so friendly and welcoming. Really knowing no one who likes Doctor Who in real life, I slowly started making friends via Twitter and the like who were going to the convention. I figured we’d all shake hands and maybe see each other in passing, but I fully expected to be on my own most of the weekend. In actuality, I’d say it was rare that I wasn’t hanging out with at least one other Whovian, usually a whole group. Most of these people live in other parts of the country and world and only see one another at Gally each year, so, on top of it just being a Doctor Who convention, it’s a place where friends can be together.
There’s a phenomenon that happens the day before Gallifrey One officially begins and goes until the Sunday night after it ends, and the name that has been given to this is LobbyCon. People just instinctively know what this is, it seems. For the uninitiated, this is the time when people staying in the hotel (or not) hang out in the lobby of the LAX Marriott and just be social. There’s a sports bar (which is badly overpriced so I will refrain from naming it, but it knows) in the lobby and people will wander in and out of it all night with their various alcoholic beverages and bits of greasy, fried food. There is no set beginning or end to LobbyCon, but like a coral reef of nerdiness, it develops and and maintains itself totally unspoken; an ecosystem all its own. It’s a group of Doctor Who fans hanging out and allowing themselves to be as geeky as possible and nobody fears judgement.
Another facet of the convention is that the star guests, usually comprised of cast and crew of the various DW properties, stay in the same hotel as the attendees and that means everybody hangs out together. And gladly so. Unlike the larger cons, the celebrity guests aren’t there to pimp a specific new product, but to pimp a show that’s been on for 40 years and the love people genuinely still have for it. Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, was in the role from 1982-1984, yet his live interview was packed and people lined up around the whole convention floor to get his autograph and picture, young and old fans alike. He’s still adored by fans, but that didn’t stop him from casually chatting with people in the lobby or getting a beer at the aforementioned overly-priced sports bar. There’s very much a sense of us all being in this together.
Now, for the actual programming of the weekend: Shaun Lyon and his crew went to great lengths to make sure there was a wide array of panels and shows to appeal to every different type of fan there is. Aside from the official “Hour With…” panels featuring specific people, “Radio Free Skaro” and “Doctor Who: Podshock,” the Batman and Superman, respectively, of the Doctor Who Podcasting community, each had a live show providing interviews with a number of the convention’s guests in more of a talk show setting.
There were also a number of panels featuring both experts and fans (and experts who are fans) that delved into every aspect of the show or fandom you could want to know about, including costuming, prop making, writing, podcasting, etc. One panel I particularly found interesting was a panel about composer Murray Gold and the history of music in the show. Another good one discussed and deconstructed Matt Smith and the 11th Doctor in general but ended up delving into predictions about the show’s future. I was also on two panels, one regarding great moments in the series and other on the use of Earth history as a setting or plot device. Anyone at these panels will tell you: I said things.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was seeing all the crazy and spectacular costumes people have. Some people go all out and the results are incredibly impressive. There were Doctors galore, mainly Smith and Tennant, a heap of Amy Ponds, a plethora of striped scarves, and tons of clever variations on old themes. There were even guys dressed like Master Chief and Ash from Evil Dead for no reason at all. Good costumes, but seriously, why, guys? Also impressive were the lifesize Daleks people built and operated. There’s truly nothing as awesome as walking around while a Dalek threatens to kill someone. Ah, good times.
It wasn’t all play, though most of it was. On Saturday, Mr. Hardwick came to shoot his “Late Late Show” segment, which I’ve heard through the grapevine is airing this coming Monday, February 28th. He and I were both interviewed for episode 240 of Radio Free Skaro, which you can listen to right here. I also spent a good amount of time speaking with podcasters about fans and fandom, which is a post that will be appearing in the near future.
And now, already a week after day one, the experience of Gallifrey One still can’t truly be put into words. The things I’ve mentioned are merely the tip of the fun iceberg. There were certainly parts of the weekend that don’t belong in this blog, good and bad, but let me assure you, no matter what kind of fan of Doctor Who you are, you’ll find something to enjoy. I’m already looking forward to Gallifrey 23, and that’s really the mark of a good time. Every single person I met has become a friend and I look forward to spending time with them again next year.