This past weekend, Feb. 18th and 19th 2017, marked the 4th time my wife and I attended Los Angeles’ annual Doctor Who love fest known as “Gallifrey One” (Gallifrey being the name of the Time Lord Doctor’s home world), and the 28th year of the convention itself.
And we wouldn’t have made it this year had a friend of ours not directed our attention to some would-be conventioneers who were selling their tickets online legally (not scalping) because they had to cancel. This was a huge relief, since we really enjoy “Gallifrey One” and were saddened by the prospect of not being able to attend this year. Thanks again, buddy (you know who you are)… hehe.
As anyone who reads this blog knows (all 3 or 4 of you), I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for quite a while now; since watching the non-canonical Peter Cushing Dr. Who movies of the ’60s on TV (“Dr. Who and the Daleks” “Invasion Earth: 2150”), graduating to the Tom Baker stories on PBS in the late ’70s. My wife came aboard during the 2005 revival series, which continues to this day and is more popular than ever. Even my grandniece is a fan now! It’s a good time to be a Whovian…
These days, I also find myself eagerly reading the Titan Doctor Who comic books; specifically the 10th Doctor’s continued adventures. These new stories are scripted by the ridiculously talented storyteller and graphic novelist Nick Abadzis. I’ve been a fan of his Doctor Who books since their rollout a few years ago, and I grab each new issue at my local Barnes and Noble as soon as I can get my greedy mitts on them. Love the new companions Abadzis has created; Gabby Gonzales and Cindy Wu, two young New Yorkers who each have their own arcs and influences on the Doctor. These new characters feel every bit as dimensional as the Doctor himself. The books are a nice synthesis of the classic series (such as the use of the returning villain Sutekh from the classic 4th Doctor episode, “Pyramids of Mars”) and the newer series, with the pacing and youthful vibe more familiar with the Russell T. Davies reincarnation of the show.
I also got into the 3rd Doctor Titan comic books adventures which I discovered at the convention (thanks to a very healthy pitch at the Titan comics panel). They are written by Paul Cornell, who also scripted the 10th Doctor’s two heartbreaking TV episodes “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood,” which saw the Doctor fleeing bloodthirsty enemies and retreating to the early 20th century. For his own safety, his genetic and mental history are rewritten as a human schoolmaster named “John Smith” (the Doctor’s famous, oft-used moniker in the classic series) who has no memory of his Time Lord origin. He even falls in love with a kindly widow. This episode broke my heart into a billion pieces when I first saw it 10 years ago. So there is a LOT of talent behind these books.
Onto the convention itself; my wife and I had to miss Day 1 (Friday, Feb. 17th) since the freeways from us to L.A. were under severe flash flood warnings (yes, I say again… L.A. freeways were under flash flood warnings…!). So although we got there a bit late, we still got our money’s worth at this year’s Gallifrey One.
Saturday, we attended several panel discussions; the first was a lively group chat about the best science-fiction genre television offerings of 2016. 2016 was, as said by panelist Nick Abadzis, an “embarrassment of riches” for fans of the genre. One of the things I gleaned from the panel was that I really need to give SyFy channel’s “The Expanse” another try. Initially I tried watching the first two episodes but gave up on it; it seemed too dour and depressing, but I’m hearing really GOOD things about it now.
And, like myself, it seems that others are also giving up on “The Walking Dead” as well. TWD (in my opinion) has become overly sadistic, pretentious, repetitive and even boring (the worst sin of all in entertainment).
“Westworld” seemed to be a common favorite (it’s certainly one of ours; as my wife and I both love it), and the DC comics shows on the CW, such as “The Flash” and “Supergirl” are a lot of peoples’ guilty pleasures (I loved S1 of “Supergirl” but I’ve found S2 to be nothing but a routine action show, minus the wit and sophistication of its first season on CBS). The diversity of the panelist’s answers reminded me that there are a LOT of genre offerings these days; far more than the tiny handful there were in my childhood.
There was also a lively panel discussion on whether “Star Trek Discovery” (the new CBS All Access streaming series debuting later this year) can ‘save’ the Star Trek franchise. The panel consensus was that ST doesn’t really NEED salvation; only that it shouldn’t lose its inherent optimism, especially in today’s extremely polarized political climate. ST should continue to be a beacon of promise; especially in times that aren’t so great. The original show debuted during the height of the Vietnam war, a time of civil unrest and assassinations. But it spoke of a better age; one worth striving toward.
There was also some discussion about Twitter-leaked set pics that appeared to show redesigned Klingon makeup and costumes, and whether the new Klingons represented a major break from the series’ canon. Personally, I don’t care much about how the Klingons look; I just want good Star Trek-style stories told in the best ST tradition. The trappings and cosmetics (and Klingon foreheads) aren’t terribly important to me. At any rate I look forward to seeing “Star Trek Discovery” on CBS All Access later this year, whatever the Klingons look like…
Back to all-things Doctor Who (this was a Doctor Who convention, after all…).
During the convention, I got to meet actress Lalla Ward, who played two roles during the Tom Baker-era of the classic series; “Princess Astra” in “The Armageddon Factor,” and more famously as the 2nd incarnation of the Doctor’s Time Lady companion, Romana. She was also briefly married to Tom Baker (their onscreen chemistry was very real, it seemed). This was Ward’s first time at the Gallifrey One convention, and she handled the fan adoration with grace and an easy smile. Nice lady.
There was also an onstage Q&A with Louise Jameson, who played 4th Doctor companion “Leela”; the half-savage, regressed descendent of Earth colonists who becomes somewhat enlightened by her journeys with the Doctor. I wish I got the chance to meet Jameson, but sadly, my increasingly spotty attention span and horrible memory interfered. At least I had the presence of mind to attend her panel…
I also very much enjoyed the dual panels on the creation of the Titan Doctor Who comic books, with Q&A from the writers and artists who make them (see: above photo and caption). I’ve met graphic novelist Nick Abadzis (the writer of the 10th Doctor series) many times before, and it was a pleasure to see him so well received by other Doctor Who fans. Abadzis also had a panel the next day detailing his process for the creation of his 10th Doctor comic books. I particularly enjoyed seeing his earliest Doctor Who drawings (from when he was 10 years old, no less!) and his discussion of his relationships with his artists and how they bring his words and visions to such vivid life. DW was one of his earliest inspirations, and I’m grateful it brought his talent to my attention (I’m also a big fan of his heartbreaking graphic novel, “Laika” ).
Another important part of the Gallifrey One convention for me, beyond the panels and the celebrity meet-and-greets, is the cosplay. I just love the creativity of the costumes, and the folks who create/wear them. They contribute to the Mardi Gras/Halloween atmosphere. Here are just a few examples:
^ (clockwise from top left) A Tardis and Dalek, renegade Time Lord “Omega,” and the evil “Davros” (creator of the Daleks) from the classic Doctor Who series.
If I didn’t go into these conventions with a schedule in mind, I could just pull up a chair and people-watch all day. The resourcefulness, inventiveness, wit, attention-to-detail and energy of the cosplayers never ceases to amaze me. They are the very soul of these conventions.
At the end of the convention on Sunday evening, after having dinner with our friends, we joined them for what is commonly known as “Lobby Con”; the ‘after-party’ on Sunday night where conventioneers gather in the host hotel’s lobby and socialize in a less formal setting. Lots of shop talk, jokes, handshakes and departing hugs. It was during this lobby con that I met most of the Titan Doctor Who comics team, including Chris Thompson and artist Rachael Stott.
^ And thanks once again to my friend (the same friend who helped us score tickets), I was introduced to Philip Hinchcliffe (former DW producer) and Roger Murray-Leach (former DW production designer); two men who could walk by most in this country with nary a second glance, but to fans of classic Doctor Who? These men are legends. Both worked on the show during what was arguably its most popular run; the Tom Baker era, from 1974-1981. Murray-Leach designed sets and alien vistas on micro-budgets from the BBC that created worlds (literally) out of painted flats, chroma-key, and styrofoam rocks. He created the look of the planet Gallifrey and the Time Lords. And Hinchcliffe produced some of my personal favorite stories, such as “Brain of Morbius” “Pyramids Of Mars” and “Talons of Weng-Chiang”; contributing to the rich, Hammer horror-gothic feel that the show had during much of that period. I was humbled and awed to meet these two men, who inspired the imaginations of most who work on both the show today, as well as the Titan comics and the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
This year’s Gallifrey One also felt a bit more special, as my wife and I got to spend real quality time with our friends; that made all the difference. In fact, this was my favorite Gallifrey One to date.
I think if I possessed the Doctor’s space/time-traveling Tardis? My first twenty four destinations might the previous Gallifrey Ones that I’d missed.
And speaking of previous Gallifrey Ones, I’m linking my Flickr albums (with captioned photos) of our previous Gallifrey One adventures, from 2014 to this year.
Enjoy, and as the 10th Doctor would say, allons-y!