Gallifrey One

Gallifrey One, LA’s annual Dr. Who convention, celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year with record attendance, hitting 1,300+ members. For me it was only my third year, but in this short span I have become enormously fond of this convention. In 2007 I went on a whim, knowing there would be at least some people I knew but with very little idea what to expect besides that. Even sharing floor space in a smallish room and being a bit of a neo-fan compared to most folks there, it was so much fun that I couldn’t believe I had never been before. Now it’s on my regular roster and is one of those cons for which I start pining for next year the day after it’s over.

This year I traveled down on Thursday night with local fans Lee Almodovar and Johanna Mead. We got a bit of a late start and I arrived at my sister’s place at around 4 o’clock in the morning, which she was surprisingly gracious about. Gallifrey should properly be experienced from Thursday evening through Sunday night, but with another full roster of cons looming in the coming months I had decided to be sensible and not take an extra day off work. I meant to get to the hotel as soon as possible Friday but when I woke up, rain was pouring down in torrents so I waited instead and got a ride from my sister’s boyfriend, Andres. Because of this I arrived at the hotel, late but dry, mid-afternoon Friday. I was amused to see that the lady at reception, Brandy, was the one who had checked me in for AnimeLA a month ago and she had the same delighted look on her face at all the fannishness invading her lobby. It turned out that my room wasn’t quite ready yet, so I checked my bags and went off to get my membership and check in to the art show.

I got my badge and hung my art and then wandered across to the main hall which was packed and spilling over into the hallway. Kai Owen and Gareth David-Lloyd of Torchwood were doing a Q&A and as I dithered whether to stay and take a peek I heard something about a special guest. I stepped in to check it out, and saw that Naoko Mori, who plays Tosh on the show, was on stage with them. I perched as best I could and listened to the rest of the talk, which was pretty spoilerific for me since I was still about halfway through the season at the time.

When that let out, I got out of the way by heading to the dealer’s room, where I bought Issue #1 of Doctor Who: Unforgettable, Tony Lee being one of the guests at the con. I also stopped by Hornesmythe to check out their wares and found an extremely reasonably priced flowered diadem which might go with my alternate, Greek-style toga in a pinch. On my way out of the dealer’s I ran into Tadao, who was amused to point out that I was officially listed as Staff for Registration, probably in a cut-and-paste oversight from last year. I told him that I’d consider putting in a couple of hours on Saturday if I found myself at loose ends.

I decided to grab a bite, relax for a minute and check the program book, so I headed to the hotel restaurant, Latitude 33. The host, Anthony, had also been there during Anime LA (not to mention Loscon) and looked quizzically at me for a second before I confirmed that I had just been there the month before, and shortly before that too. On the way to my table I ran into Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley who reminded me that the Volcano Day party was going on that evening in the usual party suite, hosted by the wonderful Merv Staton and Judith Richardson. I had packed my Loscon Roman toga specifically for this event and assured them I would be there with laurels on.

After eating, I checked into my room, which was conveniently located poolside on the second floor. I like unpacking completely as soon as I can so I can feel well settled in, but I had way overpacked for no good reason so it took much longer than it should have. By the time I was done it was nearly time for opening ceremonies so I bopped down to the convention area and managed to find a decent seat as things got underway. Robbie Bourget took a minute on stage to say a few words and introduce Shaun Lyon who took over from there. He announced that as of that moment we were already 23 members above last year’s final count, which produced much applause. He also took a moment to remember Bob May and to announce that our charity auction will be known as the Bob May Memorial Auction from here on out. Some unfortunate news was that Pia Guerra might not make it after all, as she was unable to find her passport (in fact she did not make it).

Then Shaun began calling the guests to the stage. Gallifrey has a high number of guests for a convention its size, including writers, actors, and behind the scenes folks from the shows, so getting them all on stage (and sometimes back off again) can be quite entertaining. The first batch came up as a group and only stayed for a minute since they had dinner reservations, but the second group was a hoot. When Gareth David-Lloyd got on stage he encouraged each of those coming up next to take a different route. Surprisingly they did just that, some going the long way around to the other end of the stage, others weaving through the audience, with Frazer Hines stealing the show when he wound his way down between the seats just a couple of rows behind me and even took some time to hug a lady on the way. It was all quite hectic and silly, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

With the stage full they each announced how many years they had been in attendance, with some like Davies, Kai Owen and Phil Collinson being in their first year, and others in the teens. Paul Cornell, celebrating his twelfth year, read a note from past guest and new showrunner Steven Moffat who managed to steal a little thunder even in absentia. Peter Anghelides encouraged everyone to twitter the proceedings using the #gally tag, which seems to have gone swimmingly looking at the feed, although reception for my phone was poor enough that I wasn’t able to play along. Once everyone had their say they dispersed ― each taking a separate way again.

I changed into my toga, which involved much fussing and a trip to the hotel gift shop for safety pins and a sewing kit, and headed over to the Volcano Day party in the Porta Aurea room. I meant to check out the convention’s official “Fires of Pompeii” shindig downstairs but somehow managed not to make it in the end, since just about everything I wanted came to me instead. The bar was quite busy with sporadic but quick moving queues forming (good old Brits) and they had several themed drinks with clever Latin names I can’t remember anymore.

I got the Blue Box, which looked like mouthwash but tasted lovely, and immediately started running into people including Sara Bruce and Mary Boyle, Mo Starkey and her daughter Mason, Johanna in her Time Agent costume and Bryan Little and Mette Hedin in their Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper costumes respectively. I also met Johanna’s friend Roz, at her first convention, and Mette’s pal John O’Connor, a Gallifrey veteran of seven years. I spent a good portion of the evening chatting with Mo, who in addition to being tons of fun is also a wonderful artist who had created a “household gods” art piece and a lifesize replica of the marble circuit board (both featured in the “Fires of Pompeii” episode) which everyone who entered the party stopped to admire. Outside Kevin and Andy had built a really nice looking five-foot-tall volcano out of Halloween torches, tinsel and a fan. Unfortunately, the hotel had asked us to keep the door closed so there was not the usual spillage to the deck, which I rather enjoy. Eventually things started to peter out and Merv gave me my traditional bottle of GTFO champagne to hustle me on my way, so John and I escaped with that and finished it off while warming our toes on the hot tub, conveniently located right in front of my room. We chatted about genre and whatnot in one of those great late night/early morning convention conversations until the sun was coming up and it seemed like a good idea to get some sleep before the next day’s festivities.

I woke up a few short hours later and after several long seconds of having absolutely no idea where I was, I remembered, joyfully, that I was at a convention. I was also pleased to see it was not nearly as late as all that. I put on my Captain Hammer tee, representin’ some non-Who fandom for the day, and headed off to find bacon and eggs. The hotel restaurant stops serving breakfast at some unreasonable (to me) hour, but as Leigh Ann Hildebrand had discovered during a previous visit, they have a bacon and eggs any style (plus fries, for some reason) option on the regular menu. I got my bacon and eggs, with a fruit substitute and all the coffee I could manage in one sitting, and felt infinitely better.

I wandered more or less accidentally into the Wendy Padbury Q&A which was very entertaining. I also got to listen to John Levene giving an interview to Doctor Who Podshock, which was very entertaining. He seems a wonderful fellow.

Afterwards I ran into Mette, who was afraid of coming down with allergies but also clearly food deprived, so she grabbed a sandwich from the hotel gift shop and we headed to the “Something Borrowed” live commentary panel. I caught up on the good stuff I had missed the previous evening, which apparently included two karaoke highlights: a Dalek singing “What a Wonderful World,” the chorus modified to “And I say to myself, EXTERMINATE,” and Kai Owen doing the Welsh National Anthem, as well as a Gareth David-Lloyd and Kai Owen sketch in character at the Pompeii party.

I got to see Wendy Padbury and Frazier Hines doing a Q&A, and was impressed with their rapport. I’m not very familiar with the Second Doctor’s run and am determined to watch more of it now. One of the interesting things about Padbury (or Padders as Hines kept calling her) is that she went on to become a talent agent for some years before eventually retiring to France. In that capacity she was apparently responsible for discovering young Matt Smith who we will soon see as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor.

I had arranged with my sister Ashley and her boyfriend Andres to meet up later in the afternoon, since he’s a big time geek but hasn’t really been to a convention, so I wandered into the Phil Collinson panel and grabbed a seat. Mette stayed with me for a bit before heading off to get ready. John wandered in a bit later and eventually Ashley and Andres showed up. Unfortunately Andres had been called in to work so he was only able to stay for a few hours, but they did get to see the hallway atmosphere and some good costumes including a full-size Dalek which was patrolling the hallways, and I got them to wander by Kevin and Andy’s semi-private wine party for a while and they got to see the previous night’s décor and admire some more costumes before heading off again.

By now it was well into the evening but the line for the Masquerade looked a little long. So I took the time to change into my ad-hoc Time Agent-esque outfit, which is mostly bits of various steampunk ensembles plus the awesome raygun that Ed Garcia gave me at Loscon. When I got downstairs the Masquerade was over and Toby Hadoke’s “Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf” was underway. I grabbed a patch of floor in the corner of the room and settled in for a really wonderful show. There were a certain amount of specific British cultural references which really meant nothing to me but the rest was funny and poignant and extremely well done. I know I’m not the only one who misted up at the end. There’s a specifically made for audio version available, I highly recommend any Who fans out there pick it up. I ran into Mette and Bryan and got a chance to see their Masquerade entries (previously Top Secret) which were up to their usual high standards, two full spacesuits from the “Vashta Nerada” episode.

Alas, the party room was closed for a more private event that evening, but there’s always someone at the hotel bar at Gally. In this case Jean, Maureen, Merv and Judith. Merv was wearing an amazing Brannigan costume which he had entered in the Masquerade. I got a few drinks there until they announced it was closing (too early) but the convention had a dance going on that night, with a bar set up outside the doors. I had the drink special, which was okay but a little sweet and fruity for my tastes. I ran into John, who pointed out that he had a martini shaker and ingredients so he could make those if that suited better. It did, so he did, and we were back at the dance just in time to see the Dalek hit the dance floor to “Oh, Sheila.”

The music was uneven, with far too much Phil Collins and Flight of the Conchords for my tastes. The latter was amusing but as with most gag music not really made for the dancefloor. Still, I managed to stick it out through the end and there were some fun tunes and a lively crowd including a very fetching and clever dress made up to look like the TARDIS. Eventually the DJ announced that was the end of that, and we all reluctantly called it a night.

Sunday morning was kinder to me. I made it to the restaurant while the buffet was still going. I had finished my current book so I picked up a copy of Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross and attempted to read it during breakfast; however, a table behind me, someone was on his cell phone having an amusing but rather loud conversation. I put my book down half in exasperation, half in amusement, and just sat there for a minute until I made eye contact with a woman one table up who apparently couldn’t help but hear everything as well. I burst out laughing and she encouraged me to say something, which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. To his credit the gentleman in question was quite abashed, and apologized and wrapped up the conversation. He even apologized again on his way out a few minutes later, so all’s well that ends well.

The rest of the day was mostly spent in the main hall. John and his friend Will grabbed some seats and I settled in beside them for a series of entertaining panels before closing ceremonies. First was a comics panel with Tony Lee, Paul Cornell, Gary Russell and Joshua Fialkov, then a very fun panel with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. I wandered out for a bit after that and ran into our own Jean Martin, and we both made it back for the Phil Collinson live commentary for “Journey’s End,” which I wasn’t expecting much from, which but ended up with most of the audience, including Collinson, in tears. Closing ceremonies were traditionally quick, and next thing you knew it was time for goodbyes for the folks who had already checked out.

Since Jean and I were both staying through the next day, we headed up to the restaurant in hopes of beating the rush. As luck would have it Merv, Judith, Maureen and Mason were already there, having wisely made reservations They were kind enough to invite us along, and the restaurant good enough to accommodate the request, and we had a lovely meal with much chatting about all things fannish.

When we were done, Sunday Lobbycon was in full swing with all the remaining guests and attendees downing pints in the bar and the lobby. I had already decided to stay up, since I had to be ready to go at 6 a.m., so I spent the rest of the night drinking and chatting. I’m happy to say that not only were folks still awake when I left the lobby at 4:30 a.m to pack and change, but that an hour and a half later when I rolled my suitcase into the lobby, I glimpsed the last two stragglers fleeing the early birds that had just started to appear.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #82, March 11, 2009