After 23 years of holding this convention, Gallifrey One has once again outdone themselves! Dubbed as the “North American Doctor Who celebration,” Gallifrey One is the world’s largest and longest-running annual Doctor Who convention. While the con mainly focuses on the show and it’s offsprings, ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Sarah Jane Adventures,’ Gallifrey One also offered experiences for those who just want to know about science fiction. Whether you are a full on Whovian or just the casual viewer, Gallifrey One had something for everyone.
The convention was held on the bottom floor of the LAX Marriot in Los Angeles, California. Upon arriving, you are surrounded by people (fans and staff alike) who obviously love the show. Gallifrey One is entirely run by volunteers and they are ever so helpful. I didn’t quite know where to start my adventure when someone came up to ask if I needed help (I guess the deer in the headlights look gave me away). The volunteers also gave me some great advice on which panels to attend that matched my interests and where everything was.
The first impression I had was the wonderful cosplay and character handiwork that was all around me. I was thoroughly impressed by a totally robotic Dalek Rel that was built by Pat and Nigel from Arizona. This was their second year at Gallifrey One and they informed me that their Dalek took 3 years to build (and they are still improving upon it!). The other Daleks present had people inside working the costume. With so many Daleks around, it was no wonder that at some point when two of them came across each other, a smack talking dueling Daleks competition ensued with each trying to exterminate the other with their words. It was a funny situation to watch and left the crowd in stitches.
Cosplay wasn’t only for the adults as there were several children who were also dressed up as the good Doctor exclaiming how “Bow ties are cool!” while showing off their sonic screwdrivers (never in my life have I been so jealous of a child!). One of the things that did impress me was that the convention did take into account that ‘Doctor Who’ is technically considered a beloved children’s show and had set up a Children’s Program area just for them! If you are a parent and are wondering if Gallifrey One is something to take the little ones to, I would suggest not to worry as the con planners have taken this into account.
One of the main reasons to attend Gallifrey One, at least for me, was the opportunity to see the guests and sit in on the many panels that were available. The assortment of what was offered was amazing so much so that even if you attended all three days, you still wouldn’t have been able to do it all! There was a panel reuniting most of the principle cast from the ‘Doctor Who’ movie (with Paul McGann, Yee Jee Tso, and Daphne Ashbrook), a panel that consisted of a conversation with Michael Troughton (who is the son of the second Doctor Patrick Troughton), a few that focused on the comic books of Doctor Who, a panel discussing the music of the show, and sessions with the numerous guests that talked about their time on the Doctor who set. Besides panels dealing with the series and focusing on the guests, they also had panels discussing the lack of women in the lead roles of sci-fi genre, the state of science fiction television and film, how to make a living out of your personal fandom, an update of the Mars Science Laboratory that was recently launched, the accuracy of science in sci-fi films and tv (led by Dr. Kevin Grazier who was the scientific consultant on ‘Battlestar Galactica’) and the list goes on. Talk about diversity!
Of the many panels I sat in, my favorite had to be the live commentary of ‘Day of the Moon’ with actor Mark Sheppard (who played Canton Delaware III) and director Toby Haynes. It was ‘Mystery 3000’ meets ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio.’ Not only did the two make running commentaries as the episode played on a big screen, they would add in humorous accounts and comments similar to what you and your friends would do while watching the episodes. Haynes confessed that he likes to have a Hitchcock approach with his directing and often films his hands to be placed into the episode. So, as ‘Day of the Moon’ was playing, you’d hear him say, “That’s my hand” “No, that’s not mine.” Each time there was a close up of a hand. He also informed the audience to look for his hand in the ‘Sherlock’ episodes he directed.
The array of guests were amazing with William Russell (who was one of the very first companions of the Doctor’s, Ian Chesterton), John de Lancie, Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Louise Jameson (Leela, companion of the Fourth Doctor), Tony Curran (Vincent Van Gogh) and Jane Espenson (writer and producer of many sci-fi television shows) to name a few. The quaint personal feel of the convention made it very inviting to walk up to one of the guests and ask a question or even let them know how wonderful they are!
Young Ameilia Pond, 12 year old Caitlin Blackwood said of the convention, “…it’s brilliant! Everyone is so nice and the costumes are amazing as well. I asked if she had seen anyone cosplay as her. “Why, yes,“ she replied, “There’s a little girl running around with a little suitcase being a little Amelia Pond. It’s so cute!”
I asked Eric Roberts if he was a fan of ‘Doctor Who’ before starring in the 1996 movie. “I went to school in England,” he said with a smile, “I grew up with ‘Doctor Who, so yes!” When asked how he felt being part of the ‘Doctor Who’ world, he replied, “Like a champion!”
Autographs and photos with the guests were available for purchase but if you are on a tight budget, Gallifrey One had several sessions where you could get autographs for free. And if you wanted something to nosh on, they had a Hospitality Suite filled with snacks and beverages for one to partake also at no charge.
The fun of Gallifrey One went on even after hours with dances, a costume contest, comedy shows, a play and of course the unofficial Lobbycon which was held at the hotel lobby area. If you just felt like sitting and relaxing, you could spend the night watching classic and new Who episodes as well as episodes of ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’ that ran 24 hours a day in 2 rooms of the floor during the entire convention time.
I’ve only scratch the amount of what you can see and do during the three days of Gallifrey One. I haven’t even touched on the Dealer’s Room where you can buy numerous Doctor Who merchandise, the Bob May Charity Auction which benefitted Students Run L.A., and the Art Show where you can buy some great original artwork.
With the 50th anniversary of the show just around the corner, Gallifrey One has some grand plans for next year’s con. One of the volunteers who have been working at the con for many years told me that one of the guests they hope to line up for next year is “someone big!” Registration won’t be open for next year’s con until sometime in March, so if you’re planning on attending make sure you the check the Gallifrey One site then. Also, if you plan on staying at the hotel, make sure you book it soon once the convention rate is posted as this year, the hotel was sold out 7 months before the convention!
I can wholeheartedly guarantee that this is a must go event for any Whovian! I feel fortunate to have had such a glowing experience that next year I’m really going to find a way not to have to sleep in order to try and experience it all!
Here’s a few more pictures that were taken at Gallifrey One (click for a larger view):