If you’ve been to fandom conventions across the US, there are certain staples you can expect to see in any setting. Celebrity panels, dealer rooms and photo ops all gave recurring moments for fans to hear artist perspectives, as well as collect paraphernalia associated with their favorite franchises. Gallifrey One is no exception. Many of the pairings and groups of stars assembled for interviews at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott throughout Days 2 and 3 were wonderfully entertaining. However, further distinguishing “Gally” from many of the copy-cat cons in fantasy and science fiction is the community that it builds among its guests and attendees. You can see that kinship both in the traditions among Whovians and in the social receptions between fans and artists. I’ll first recap some of the traditional programming found on Saturday and Sunday, and then dive into those more distinctive facets.
Just as on Day 1, Michelle Gomez continued to deliver the greatest hilarity of Gallifrey One’s guests. On Saturday, she held court along with Ingrid Oliver as part of a “Friends and Foes” panel that examined the dichotomy between the fan favorite ally, Osgood (played by Oliver), and villain Missy (aka The Master, played by Gomez). Watching Gomez constantly needle Oliver, embarrassing her with such topics as growing into womanhood and experiencing attractions to men had the crowd in a near constant state of laughter. For her part, Oliver also provided equal parts amusement and insight. She described the moment when the Doctor Who cast witnessed Peter Capaldi delivering his now-famous “sit down and talk” speech from Series 9’s “The Zygon Inversion.” According to Oliver…Jenna Coleman, Jemma Redgrave and she all had to hide their faces as the Doctor’s epic plea for negotiation and peace moved the co-stars to tears. On the lighter side, she explained that the Superman/Clark Kent trick for hiding your identity is more effective than most realize. From her own example, the presence of the Osgood glasses often makes all the difference for whether fans recognize her in the adored Osgood role. Among the other panel rosters over the final two days of Gally included:
- Julian Glover, Sarah Douglas, Ian McNeice, and Clare Higgins reminiscing on their stage careers
- Screenwriters Jamie Mathieson (Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express) and Sarah Dollard (Face the Raven) examining their own process for writing as well as adapting to the creative input and edits of their show-running supervisors
- Actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Peter Davison, Frazer Hines, Patricia Quinn and India Fisher along with script editor Andrew Cartmel discussing the impact of Doctor Who on their own lives
With regard to the more exclusive features of Gally – for a $90 fee, Whovians can get the opportunity to meet and mingle with past and present cast members. At the time of the reception, ticketed fans make their way to the Presidential Suite on the 17th floor of the LAX Marriot. Once seated or standing in their preferred area of the room, various stars will enter and move from station-to-station, hobnobbing with each group of devotees in a more private and informal setting. Saturday night’s reception included Michelle Gomez, Colin Baker (The 6th Doctor), Nicola Bryant (5th and 6th companion, Peri), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Jami Reid-Quarrell (Colony Sarff, The Veil) and Matthew Doman (Cyberman, Silence, Dalek). Among the most interesting pieces of feedback heard were that, according to Reid-Quarrell, the cast and crew involved in making Series 9’s “Heaven Sent” did not initially anticipate the reaction it drew. The second-to-last installment of the season featured the Doctor ensnared inside his own fears. Over the course of the show, he struggled both to escape and to figure out who had set the trap that led to the death of his companion, Clara. The script featured dialogue only from the Doctor and the only other on-screen presence was that of his childhood nightmare, “The Veil.” It wasn’t until production had finished that the Doctor Who team began hearing that the episode might garner huge critic and fan feedback for its conceptual design (and Peter Capaldi’s stellar performance). Nicola Bryant also showed her own affection for the rebooted version of the BBC series, praising the bravery of the story telling and the Clara character for persevering through the regeneration of her first Doctor, played by Matt Smith. While deferring on any notions of pride, she acknowledged a satisfaction at how the relationship of “Six” & Peri paralled that of “Twelve” & Clara.
Tradition Spotlight: Fan Ribbons
The other unique aspect of Gallifrey One that only grew more apparent as the weekend proceeded was the fandom tradition of exchanging credential ribbons. Whovians, both individuals and fan clubs, create their own attachable decorations for the admission passes distributed by the Gally staff. The more you attend, the more you can collect. And bringing bags of your own specially-designed ribbons is a great way to widen your collection. In the end, your Gallifrey One pass looks remarkably similar to the iconic multi-colored scarf of the 4th Doctor, played by the incomparable Tom Baker.
For any enthusiast of Doctor Who, particularly in the US, Gallifrey One is an experience well worth the effort and money. It is a convention of, for and by Whovians. The atmosphere, access and camaraderie you find are a rare treat. But, in an effort to preserve that appeal, admission isn’t easy to obtain. For “Station 27,” the 2016 edition now concluded, tickets went on sale at the beginning of the previous May. They’re snatched up in barely a few hours. If you are lucky enough to break through that competition, however, you’ll soon discover that no other adventure in space and time will suffice.