Gallifrey One

The long Greyhound trip down to Los Angeles was fine enough for sleeping but hardly right to get me into “con mode,” unless you include the hangover portions of the convention. I transferred at the downtown LA bus station, fabled in song and police report, and rode another bus to the Glendale train station, which in turn was sort of like being in one of those Twilight Zone episodes that Serling favored about towns called Willowghby and Cliffordville. It was a quaint mission-style train station under blue skies, quiet and idyllic after the pre-dawn squalor of LA.

My sister’s boyfriend Andres kindly picked me up and dropped me off with my overpacked suitcase at the LAX Marriott, with which I was familiar from LosCon. I had arranged through the Outpost Gallifrey website to share a room with three Whofen, but was happy to find I was the first to arrive and temporarily had the place to myself. A shower and change of clothes helped make me feel human again and I headed to Santa Monica to visit with my sister for a few hours.

So it was around ten o’clock when I walked into the lobby of the Marriott and Lo! It was full of men. There were some women as well, but my first impression was: wow, that’s a lot of guys. My second was: wow, that’s a lot of British guys. Before I got too excited about that, my third impression seeped in: hmmm—that’s a lot of polite, well groomed British guys. It turns out Dr. Who fandom in Britain has a large gay fanbase. Still, the view was nice.

The Marriott allows drinks to be taken out of the bar to the other areas of the hotel, which is a nice change, so I ended up drinking a pint and chatting with one of my and Erik Hoffman, film expert and frequent SoCal convention panelist. Eventually the crowd began to thin out and it was time to hit the sack.

Friday

My first order of business on Friday was checking in on the Art Show. They were still a good hour away from being set up so I headed over to nearby Westchester to deposit my paycheck and grab some breakfast, since the ConSuite pickings were slim. I found a nice little diner called the Coffee Co. on La Tijera that had tasty French toast, and then I enjoyed a leisurely walk back to the hotel under skies crisscrossed with planes landing and taking off from LAX. At first the extremely low-flying planes were a bit intimidating, but I used the opportunity to try out my new camera on moving targets.

Once back at the hotel the Art Show was set up and the LosCon signup and hanging process was being used, so in a matter of minutes I was hung and done. The show was smallish but packed with a variety of good artists, about half of those being general interest SF artists like me and the other half makers of media-related art with a lot of very nice Whovian pieces. Sales were slim, with even good and reasonably priced pieces getting zero bids and a total of four pieces going to auction on Sunday, so I was sad but not exactly surprised that I ended up selling nothing.

Done with my responsibilities for the weekend, I wandered a little and ran into Andy Trembley who informed me that the League of Evil Geniuses party was that night and he and Kevin would be setting up for it a little later in the afternoon. A few panels looked interesting, but it was also gorgeous outside so I took advantage of the opportunity to hit the pool. Feeling nice and mellow from the water and sunshine I bopped down to the LoEG room, conveniently located next to the ConSuite, and spent a couple of hours taping Evil Genius of the Month posters to the walls along with fellow minions Johanna Mead and Merv from the Legion of Rassilon while Kevin and Andy turned the hotel suite into a lair, complete with monkey skulls and a banana slug. Finally every square inch of wall space was plastered with evil visages just in time for opening ceremonies.

We scurried down and found a corner in the packed main hall. Gallifrey has a ton of guests for its size. Colin Baker was the guest of honor but other guests included about a dozen writers for the show including Paul Cornell, Tom MacRae and Steven Moffat, actors Terry Molloy, Caroline John and John Levene, as well as effects artist Mike Tucker and a score of others. Steven Moffett won the brevity prize with a speech that was one word long: “Hugo.” The audience went nuts, natch, and this became a refrain for the weekend, particularly when a fellow panelist disagreed with him. Colin Baker had a comeback of his own, of course: “You go. I stay”—which also met with approval from the audience.

The Ice Cream Social scheduled for Friday was postponed, so I went up to the room to change into something eviler for the League of Evil Geniuses party. It was sparse at the start due to the karaoke going on in the main hall, but also because apparently many of the British members traditionally run off to the little row of British pubs in Santa Monica. But as the evening progressed, the party was jumping and there were many interesting concoctions to be had. The party eventually wrapped up well into the wee hours and I reluctantly headed to bed.

Saturday

The first panel for the morning for me was the Big Finish Eighth Doctor Adventures, which was nominally about the Paul McGann adventures but ended up covering all of their audios. The projects under development sounded exciting but were shrouded in mystery as only the barest hints were given. After the panel I made my way to the table for the US distributor for Big Finish, Ministry of Sound and Vision. The seller at the table was kind enough to recommend “Jubilee” as my intro to the Colin Baker audios, since up until now I’ve only heard the Paul McGann series.

A leisurely buffet breakfast got me ready for the rest of the day. The service

and food at Latitude 33 have been uneven in my experience, but in this instance both were excellent. I tried the buffet, which is superior to that of my old homebase at the San Jose Doubletree. For one thing, Latitude 33 includes an omelet cook; for another, waffles!

Once fed, it was off to the Lost in Space panel with Bill Mumy and Angela Cartwright. Even though I’ve only watched a few episodes of that show, it was highly entertaining. Mumy was also in Babylon 5, of course, and most famously was the creepy kid in the famous Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” so he had a lot of good showbiz stories to tell and did a wicked impersonation of Jonathan Harris.

Next was the Eric Roberts talk with Gary Russell doing an interview style session. Russell does these very well, as I later saw during the Mike Tucker talk, and although Roberts seemed to start off a little prickly, perhaps defensive awaiting the inevitable Julia Roberts questions, he seemed to relax and enjoy himself as the interview continued, and later we found out that he has agreed to be a guest on the February 2008 Doctor Who Cruise. When asked if he would consider reprising his role as the Master on a Big Finish production (and having had the audio series explained to him), he seemed willing enough, as did the BF folks later… personally, I’d love to see that happen.

The highlight of Saturday evening was the Offstage Theater Group parody play The Ten Doctors. I didn’t know what to expect— fan productions can be anywhere from great to coma-inducing. In this case it was brilliant, full of obsessive fannish detail and hilarious dialogue. It helped that the entire cast was uniformly good with standout performances by Barnaby Eaton Jones, Gaz Ricketts and Kim Jones, with every actor playing multiple parts. Scheduled at 90 minutes with an intermission, it ran for two and a half hours instead, due to laughter, ad-libbing. and a false alarm that the actors gamely worked through. It’s a testament to the quality of the work that three quarters of the audience where still there to clap like maniacs at the end.

The Buffy sing-along had been delayed until the end of the play, and was fun and well attended.

By the time that ended it was midnight and the party-room that had been League of Evil Geniuses the night before was now the Bubbleshock factory, complete with refreshing bottles of said soft drink. I stayed away from the soda but partook of the champagne and other treats. A quick detour down to the dance determined that it was sparse to begin with and closed down shortly after the hotel-managed bar outside closed, at barely one o’clock. I headed back upstairs, where I stayed until eventually there were only a handful of us left around 3:30 a.m. when Merv of the Legion of Rassilon began yawning and saying things like “My, look at the hour” and “Goodness it’s late” and finally “For the love of God just leave! Here; take this bottle and get your drunk asses out of here!”

Bottle in hand, the last hardy remaining souls included Gaz and Dave from Offstage. None of us having private rooms, we loitered in the lobby until we ran out of alcohol and tasteless jokes and determined that the hotel bar did not reopen at 6 a.m. as we had hoped. At 8:30 we were at the poolside lounge and I decided it was time, if not for sleep, at least for a shower, so I bid the remaining crew good morning.

Sunday

It turns out the buffet is even better if you get there early, which I discovered for the first time. Tadao was one table over looking not unlike I felt, but as always quick-witted and full of vim. Bastard.

I wandered from panel to panel and eventually decided a swim and a nap was what I needed. I took both and descended feeling much more human and able to fully enjoy listening to Mike Tucker discuss his special effects work, and then Colin Baker, Caroline John, Geoffrey Beevers, Terry Molloy, John Levene and Maggie Stables discuss all sorts of things, from their careers in Doctor Who to the BBC and the National Theater Company. It was a lively and fascinating glimpse into the life of working UK actors and the changes the BBC has undergone over the last thirty or so years.

The convention was now slowly winding down and I took some time to walk through the dealers’ room and the art show one last time, before packing up my unsold art and heading over to closing ceremonies, which were rather like the opening ceremonies, only louder and slightly hoarser. They were followed by a screening with commentary of a 3-D Doctor Who adventure that was new to me, a Sylvester McCoy episode, and finally some recent interviews and promos for Doctor Who from British television. I lingered to the end, then headed over to the lobby where the last evening of drinking had begun. I spent time talking to Johanna and Alex and Kevin and Andy and feeling wistful that the con was ending. With some dutch courage in me I took the opportunity to tell Paul Cornell how much I had enjoyed his audio Seasons of Fear although I was kicking myself for having forgotten to bring the copy of his new comic Wisdom to get it signed. Finally, blearily, I headed to bed.

Monday

On Monday morning there were still a handful of folks about, some hoping to participate in Cornell’s annual cricket match, but the weather became overcast for just long enough to nix those plans. Two hours later the skies were sunny again but I was on the beach in Santa Monica planning for next year’s Gally.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #41, March 27, 2007