Last year I took my roommate Palle to Gallifrey One (a Doctor Who convention) for the first time and he became part of the Cult that is Gallifrey One (Gally for short). Like any good acolyte, this year we needed more recruits and therefore talked my friends Anthony and Deb into coming along. Well, to be precise, I had been talking the con up to them for several years by this point and finally wore them down.
Rather like Worldcon, Gally has a lot of out-of-town members who fly in, and because of this, the festivities begin a little earlier than the official schedule would suggest in what has become known as “lobbycon.” Basically hanging out in the lobby outside the hotel sports bar Champions and nerding our little hearts out. With this in mind, we headed down on Thursday morning, the idea being to arrive by early evening and have time for a nap and some food, a bit of lobbycon and a reasonable bedtime so as to start the convention proper the next day on the right foot.
We convoyed down, stopping only at In-N-Out and managed to get to the hotel by about 5:30 p.m., allowing us to unpack, and even get our badges from early pre-reg before an evening of mingling.
Done with the minor settling in responsibilities, I took a little nap before it was time to grab a beer and hit the lobby, which was full of early arrivals including Bay Area costumers extraordinaire Bryan Little and Mette Hedin, Will York and John O’Connor from the Mutter’s Spiral podcast, and more Amelia Pond cosplayers than is really decent. Although one of them was AnimeLA’s own Sarah Goldberg looking as chipper as ever and already sporting a ribbon train several feet long. Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton were also spotted in the bar, presaging a good con, Punxsutawney Phil-style.
Gallifrey is one of the conventions at which I care about the panels, so I was up relatively early for breakfast and am glad to report that overall the main restaurant, Latitude 33, did quite a good job over the weekend, maintaining reasonable hours and doing their best despite being clearly overwhelmed on Saturday, on which I will take more about later.
Over the course of the weekend, I mainly attended the panels with the classic Who guests starting with the Matthew Waterhouse interview on Friday and including several panels with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding, including Davison’s solo panel, which Fielding crashed to defend her reputation. But the highlight of it all was Opening Ceremonies.
Again, Gally is one of the few conventions aside from Worldcon, where I bother with this event. Both Opening and Closing ceremonies are attended by just about everyone, it feels a bit cult-y but somehow it’s necessary and in the past couple of years there have been special video messages screened. Last year, Davison was supposed to be the guest Doctor but when professional commitments prevented him from being able to attend, he sent a very amusing video instead, which can be found on YouTube now. This year, he sent a sequel, which he shot himself and has now made me a fan for life. Who guests really do seem to be the best guests in the world.
Another amazing guest, whom I credit with introducing me to the wonderful Patrick Throughton era series, is Frazer Hines, who played companion Jamie McCrimmon on the show beside Throughton (the second regeneration of the Doctor). Hines has an autobiography out now, which gave me an opportunity to get his autograph since I’ve never gotten into simply collecting signed photos, having no use for them. He also had a one-man show on Friday evening telling stories from his run on the show, which sadly included a number of clips from lost episodes, a real tragedy given the brilliance of Throughton’s performance.
And after that, finally, I got to change into my first proper costume of the weekend: Supreme Commander Servalan from the show Blake’s 7 with Palle costuming another character from the same show, Kerr Avon. Normally, I think it’s a bit silly to costume from anything but Who at a Who convention, but there is some canonical support for both shows being in the same universe. And it is after all, a relatively obscure British SF show with a lot of overlap both in front of and behind the camera so I hoped it wouldn’t be too far off. As it turned out, the people who recognized it loved it, there may even be some other cosplayers joining in next year.
The Friday highlight was the Torchwood 4 party, hosted by Merv and Judith, the theme was the opening of the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Museum. Ant dressed as Van Gogh with Deb as a representation of Art. In honor of the “Christmas Carol” episode, Kevin had strung up some “singing bass” with fairy lights and the effect was really quite lovely. Even more awesome was Andy in shark footy pajamas. The convention had wisely expanded its evening entertainment and provided a dance and a pirate rum party (for the “Islands of Mystery” convention theme that year), which in addition to the lobby and bar activity, allowed for a number of options. A good thing as the convention continues to grow and expand.
Saturday was again all about panels for me. I dragged my ass down to a quick breakfast and then off to the Podcasters panel with Palle. In addition to ‘casts I already listen to, such as the aforementioned Mutter’s Spiral and Radio Free Skaro, there were representatives of The Oodcast and Little Finish, now both on my list and many shout outs to the Two Minute Time Lord who was not on the panel but that I also recommend. I had meant to stay for the next panel, which had Javier Grillo-Maurxach, the creator of the brilliant but cancelled show The Middleman, on it but had to attend to some business and missed it. One of my big regrets from this year was not seeing any of his panels and that regret was compounded when I later saw he had dressed up as The Master during the convention.
Anyway, after much running around and buying too much stuff and general tomfoolery, I decided I needed food and a nap, or perhaps a nap and food. Point being that this was the night the restaurant was overwhelmed because, as luck would have it, Craig Ferguson plugged the convention on his show on Friday night, sending Chris Hardwick from the Nerdist podcast to get some interviews. Between the already increasing numbers, the NBA Playoffs crowd and this, the
seams were creaking a bit and it took forever to get dinner. Advance scouts informed us that the lines for the Masquerade were around the block, so to speak, so I decided not to bother. Although it hurt a bit since (say it with me) Gally is one of the few conventions where I bother with the Masquerade.
I did, however, change into my Romana I costume, which had caused me a lot of stress in the making but had turned out pretty decent, if I do say so myself. Moreover, as my first realio-trulio sewn-by-me costume, I am inordinately proud and simultaneously dissatisfied with the thing. There were many great creations around including Bryan Little as Sutekh the Destroyer, a Quark, another million or so Amy Ponds, and of course, as usual sporting the crowning costuming achievement of the weekend: Mette as a new series Silurian. Unfortunately, the evening was somewhat foreshortened for me as I got myself into a drinking contest with a British writer, which says it all right there really. On the plus side, I didn’t have a hangover the next day, though I certainly deserved one.
Sunday at a con is usually bittersweet but the post-convention lobbycon experience gives everyone something to look forward to, which takes a lot of the sting out of things. As is usually the case, I spent most of the day in the main ballroom, Gally’s own version of Comic-Con’s Hall H, I suppose. There were two panels I was interested in before the video retrospective, in which they show all the bits and pieces of news coverage for Who in the UK, plus a repeat of Davison’s video for those who were not at Opening Ceremonies, and the infamous Craig Ferguson ‘lost’ cold open from earlier this year. As with opening ceremonies, it was mostly quick and cult-y and a chance to say your goodbyes to folks not staying for lobbycon.
Dinner, a lie-down and then it was time to join the proceedings already in progress in and around the bar. The evening started somewhat civilized as people who were going home that evening had one beer and then headed into the night. The second wave dropped off as midnight approached, usually folks who had early morning flights, or who are sane. At this point, it’s the die-hards who were unwilling to let the con end and started bringing out their remaining drink supplies as the bar closed. Night owls, like myself, have the advantage since we would be awake anyway at this point. In previous years, guests such as Steven Moffat and Paul Cornell seemed to be the tentpoles of this experience; however, Tony Lee and the Podcasters (the name of my Murray Gold tribute band, BTW) did a creditable job of taking up the torch this year as did the inimitable Frazer Hines.
Conversational clusters formed and reformed, the topography of the lobby allowing multiple little islands with easy navigation between them, everything from large raucous groups to intense one-on-one exchanges, and the occasional corner for other, slightly more discreet, encounters.
At some point many hours into the night, I found myself coming back into the lobby from hanging with some nicotine addicts in the smoking area only to be greeted by the sight of a line of folks waiting for the airport shuttle. A combination of early morning fans looking a little sad to see the lobbycon-ers still at it and a whole bunch of civilians, specifically airservice personnel, who looked frankly a bit appalled, not the least I realized because I was still carrying a pint-glass half full of beer at 5:30 a.m.
Realizing this, and that the beer was warm and flat after being nursed for hours, my cohorts and I were delighted to see that the light were on at Starbucks. We all got ourselves some caffeine and cupcakes and then called it a night, counterintuitive but effective.
We were among the last to leave lobbycon but it had reformed by the time we emerged from our late checkout at 2:00 p.m. Last minute podcasting and scarf unraveling by Peter Davison extended the con by a few precious hours. In
fact, I spotted Melody still in the same spot we left her at six hours previously. I saluted her, and then we hit the road. Luckily, there are YouTube vids of all the masquerade entries, which along with the evergreen #gally hashtag on Twitter help prolong the con high through the months till 2012.
SF/SF Issue #115, March 30, 2011