The Gallifrey One convention arrived in Los Angeles via TARDIS on the weekend of February 18. The Doctor Who fan gathering is in its 22nd year, and it’s bigger than ever.
I’m new to Doctor Who fandom. I started with the new series in January at the urging of a friend. I am three seasons in, and so far, I’m loving every minute. I was a little worried that somehow everyone would know that I was such a new fan, like they had a special detector that would single me out. It’s a pretty small convention after all. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and I didn’t know if anyone would talk to me. On the contrary, everyone was friendly and welcoming. Of course no one knew that I was a brand new fan unless I volunteered it. And I did, often. Everyone was so nice and encouraging that I wasn’t afraid to ask questions about the various Doctors or which characters attendees were cosplaying. More than a couple of people even went really out of their way to give me lessons in Doctor Who history.
I realized folks would be nice the instant I registered. I wasn’t in the convention database so the kind lady processing my registration welcomed me and gave me some tips on what to check out in the one day that I would be there. As soon as I turned away from the registration table, I was confronted with two life-sized Daleks. Just like the Star Wars universe has the R2-D2 builders, the Doctor Who universe has fans who build Daleks. One was fully tricked out with a bright blue undercarriage light. They went through a few phrases including the classic (and terrifying), “Exterminate. Exterminate.” The owners hovered behind and operated the machines with remotes. The Daleks moved faster than I thought they would and a little later in the morning, one of them snuck up behind me and said, “Explain yourself.” I jumped out of my skin and yelped, and the people around me got a good laugh. I’m just glad the Dalek didn’t use the plunger device on me.
After surviving my Dalek encounter, I stumbled into a cosplay panel. I figured it would be best to start in an area I’m comfortable with (read more about the panel below). I was surrounded by crossplaying Doctors (women cosplaying the Doctors), Companions, and lots of periphery characters. Even though some monsters or people only appeared in one episode, there were cosplayers for them. It’s got to be as endless as cosplaying Star Wars characters.
I took a break after my first panel to explore the rest of the convention. This year Gallifrey One upgraded to the entire lower level of the hotel. Many rooms were devoted to panels, but if you just wandered around a little, you found plenty to look at. I followed a corridor that led to the dealer’s room, and I ended up finding a TARDIS. It was full size, and it was collapsible! A TARDIS that breaks down for easy travel. Quite brilliant. In the same room, a group of knitters from the Ravelry group called Who Knits were tackling feet of the Fourth Doctor’s scarf for a charity auction on the last day of the convention (Sunday). One of the women knitting built the TARDIS. Of course.
I managed to avoid more distractions and make it to the dealer’s room. It was cozy, but I like that because it meant I wouldn’t miss anything. As you can imagine, there was plenty of Doctor Who representation. I saw action figures galore, sonic screwdrivers, books, comics, magazines, DVDs, audio play CDs, Dalek and TARDIS jewelry charms, t-shirts, and plenty of signed photos. The rest of the room was filled out with geeky t-shirts, various signed photographs and posters, jewelry, and perfume. Wendy Pini of Elfquest even had a table. One company did have a Tenth Doctor coat and Martha Jones jacket for sale, but I was bummed that there weren’t any more cosplay pieces available. I didn’t expect full costumes, but instead, small things like the Eleventh Doctor’s fez. I was thrilled to see all ages in the dealer room. Kids seemed to be very excited about the sonic screwdrivers, and actually, so were the adults.
As I took a break to eat my normal convention fare – protein, sugar, and caffeine – I overheard a couple talking about how “crazy” the convention was this year. They were disappointed that the number of attendees was so high, and they remarked that it was becoming too much like bigger conventions. I don’t know what their definition of big was, or how much the convention grew from it’s 1,500 or so attendees last year, but I couldn’t imagine any other words to describe the convention except for cozy. I enjoy attending smaller conventions, and this was the smallest con I’ve been to. No one made me feel like the new kid though, and there were more than enough activities and panels to keep me busy. I only attended the convention Saturday, and I enjoyed having the time to attend panels but I also liked that I still didn’t manage to go to every one I wanted to catch. You can bet that I’ll be going to Gallifrey One every day next year.
At Gallifrey One, I learned that Doctor Who cosplay is practically limitless. With over 700 episodes of characters to pick from, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I saw women in Dalek dresses, a fabulous steampunk TARDIS corset and bustle, countless Doctors of both sexes, companions, an Ood, a Weeping Angel, and so many more costumes. Sure, you see lots of costumes at the big conventions, but I bet the percentage of attendees dressed up at Gallifrey One is up there. Gally has a lot to offer cosplayers too.
Besides a Masquerade on Saturday night, a separate track of panels was lined up for cosplayers. Topics covered included some cosplay basics, dressing like the Doctor, creating the monster and villain costumes, prop making, and Torchwood costumes. That’s not even all of them. There was also a costume portrait and repair room. Having a place to go that is bigger than a corner of the bathroom and closer than your hotel room to adjust your costume is invaluable. Especially since there are other cosplayers around that will probably lend a helping hand.
I mostly drooled over costumes and plotted my eventual Tenth Doctor ensemble, but I did carve out time to attend the Cosplay 210 panel on Saturday. This hour long panel covered cosplay basics on a more advanced level. I learned a valuable phrase at the cosplay panel. It seems that I am not the only cosplayer who is lazy most of the year and then waits until a month before a convention to work like mad on costumes. So, “be a background costumer.” Even if you’re not actively sewing, gluing, or sculpting, keep your eyes open. Keep a vision of your final costume and all the pieces it takes to complete it in the back of your head. Then when you happen to be at the hardware store, craft store, or auto supply store items might jump out at you.
I also noted some other helpful tips that can be applied to all cosplay:
When you decide to cosplay a character, you can never have too many reference photos.
Make sure you note measurements on the character (where is the hemline, how far does a coat fall below the waist) then translate these distances to your proportions. Recreate the character’s look on you, not as it would look on them.
Dress from the inside out; support garments are key.
Do not wait until the convention to test out wearing restrictive corsets or binding.
If you are sewing, sign-up for the Jo-Ann’s Fabrics (or similar) mailing list. You’ll save money!
Store your costumes carefully. Use designated hangers, sections of your closet, put less delicate pieces of a costume together in a plastic storage bin. Use head forms for wigs (with nets over them) and line them in a safe place of your closet.
Colors look different on screen, printed, and in person. Different lighting affects the color too, and it’s not always easy to see the true color. Find the shade you like on screen, then use Pantone chips or paint chips from the hardware store, or even crayons to color match as best as you can. Hold the chips against the screen until a color matches and then use that to choose your fabric.
If you are buying prop-making supplies – like plastics for molds – don’t hesitate to ask the store employees material questions and instructions. They are usually happy to help!
These sites were recommend for Doctor Who cosplay and for general how-tos:
DW_Cosplay: Live Journal community where users can share photos, tips, and tricks.
TARDIS-Wardrobe: This page takes shots from the series and calls out the brand and style if the costume or accessory was store bought.
After the panel and seeing so many fantastic cosplayers, I’m even more excited to tackle the Tenth Doctor costume and maybe one or two more from the Who universe.
I was really impressed by the number of panels Gallifrey One offered. Panels were primarily (and obviously) centered on Doctor Who topics. Besides the cosplay track mentioned above there were panels discussing the FX of Doctor Who, the comics, crafts, fans, and podcasting. I stayed away from some of the Who panels to avoid spoilers, but I had no trouble finding something else fun to attend. There were plenty of general panels covering writing and science fiction among other topics. I checked out three more panels: Writing in Someone Else’s Universe, “Whedonistas” Launch Party, and an interview with Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor).
Panelists in Writing in Someone Else’s Universe discussed the challenges of taking the reins in someone else’s established world. Jane Espenson (writer for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and more) talked about working with Joss Whedon and about laying the groundwork for Caprica. To the joy of Angel fans, she also discussed the death of a main character early in the series and how as writers, they had to turn that character into someone people loved. We wouldn’t have cared otherwise. David Gerrold (science fiction author and the man responsible for the idea for tribbles in Star Trek) discussed the challenges of evoking characters by being subtle when writing Star Trek novels. Other topics ranged from Firefly to Torchwood to some of the crazy expectations thrown at writers.
The launch party/panel for the upcoming book Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them included Jane Espenson and the fabulous editors and contributors of the new book. The book of essays is exactly what its title describes. The Whedon admiration hung in the air of the room. The panelists discussed their contributions to the book briefly and took questions. But my favorite part of the panel was when they recounted their favorite moments in Whedon stories. Many in the audience squealed or smiled knowingly. That strong feeling of belonging is what drives me to conventions. (I purchased an advance copy of the book, and it’s lovely and you should pre-order it).
Finally, the big event was an interview with the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. Janet Fielding, companion Tegan Jovanka, ended up joining in for the entire interview as well. Though I haven’t seen any of the Doctors previous to Nine, I had a fun time watching those two interact. They were very silly and lighthearted, and the interviewer eventually realized that it was best just to let them have at it. They talked about their costumes, favorite episodes and companions, and kept the audience laughing. It made me want to go back and watch the season with the Fifth Doctor.
In fact, Gallifrey One just made me want more Doctor Who. Good thing I still have two season of the new series, the specials, Doctors One-Eight, the audio plays… I’ll be busy for a while.