Gallifrey One: It’s Bigger On The Inside!
Since 2014, my wife and I have been steady attendees of what is the largest Doctor Who convention in the United States, “Gallifrey One” (or, as it’s known by longtime conventioneers, “Galley One”). Compared to the Soylent Green-level madness that is San Diego Comic Con (130,000 attendees) Galley One is a ‘smaller’ convention, though it does seem a lot bigger on the inside…
The convention packs around 4,000 people into the LAX Marriott hotel, right near (you guessed it) LAX Airport, so if the sounds of incoming and departing airplanes disturb your sleep? I heartily recommend earplugs. The convention has a large, all-will-fit main theatre for the biggest events (main ballroom A) and several smaller but sincere venues for more in-depth and personal programming (conference rooms B-F). The biggest headliner of the convention was first-time Galley One attendee Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor who reignited the Doctor Who franchise back in 2005 with his Roman-haircut, Northern-accented, leather-jacketed Doctor, who successfully reinvented the character for a whole new generation, including my wife (Eccleston was her first Doctor). As the actor said in the second part of his interview, “I wasn’t going to wear anything foppish.” Due to massive crowds, I only managed to catch the second-part of his two part interview, but more on that later.
First, there were the cosplayers, the Dealer Hall, and several great panels that I was very fortunate to attend…
I am a sucker for good cosplay. In fact, my wife and I often cosplay ourselves. Usually you might see me in one of several Fred Flintstone costumes. My wife does new cosplays almost every year. However, this year we didn’t cosplay, which was fine, as it’s just as much fun to take cosplayer photos as it is to participate. Remember this golden cosplay photo rule; always ask permission first (especially with children), unless you are taking a pic of a group cosplay session or are with multiple photographers. This year I was stuck in a three-plus hour line for an autograph (which I didn’t get, but more on that later) so I had to take a few from afar, but I tried to make sure it was only when the cosplayer was already having their photo taken. Oh, and never take a picture when someone is on their phone, eating, drinking, adjusting their costume, or having an otherwise private moment. Never. It’s not cool and it’s not okay.
Okay, that’s the PSA; now bring on the cosplayers…
There were also a sea of Ninth Doctor leather jackets, no doubt hoping to meet Christopher Eccleston in person (hope they all had better luck than I did), as well as dozens of 13th Doctor tan/light-blue coats and rainbow t-shirts with suspenders. A most interesting aspect of the 13th Doctor cosplayers was that even non-female cosplayers were adopting the look as well. I’ve long been used to non-male cosplayers doing wonderfully creative ‘cross-play’ variations of the traditionally male Doctors, but it’s nice to see that it goes the other way as well. Crossplayers were instrumental to blurring the Doctor’s gender barrier, eventually leading to Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. I was a little saddened that I didn’t see any cosplayers doing Jo Martin’s latest (previously unknown) version of the Doctor from “Fugitive of the Judoon.”
Maybe next year…
The Force Was Strong At Galley One…
Last year, my wife and I attended a panel hosted by former Lucasfilm publicist Craig Miller and R.W. Miller (no relation), in which they were describing a new book of theirs called “Star Wars Memories” about the very earliest days of pre-publicizing the first Star Wars movie, back in 1976. They told many fascinating anecdotes of set visits, meetings with George Lucas, on-set visits, and other details of working with the Star Wars universe back in the days before it became a monstrously huge Disney property. I knew then I was going to get Craig Miller’s book sooner or later, and luckily Miller swooped in from a late lunch (he and his party were late being served at the crowded upstairs restaurant “Hangar 18”… love the name) and he immediately signed my copy of the book just before I had to dash off to a 2 pm panel. As I just got home from the convention this morning, I’ve yet to dig into the book, but I can’t wait!
Christopher Eccleston Appears!
The biggest guest of the convention by far was Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston was the Doctor who rebooted the franchise back in 2005 (though he gives most of that credit now to former producer/showrunner Russell T. Davies). He had some issues with the then-production team that led to his early departure in the role (“for me, it was just nine months of work”), but has apparently made his peace with those issues, and his triumphant return to the Whoniverse at Galley One was much appreciated; the crowd sizes for his autograph and panels were unprecedented for Gallifrey One. I really wanted to get an autograph… so much so that I lugged around my heavy copy of “The Doctor Who Vault” throughout the convention (in which I’ve amassed many Doctor Who star/writer signatures, including several of the Doctors and the late Terrance Dicks). On Saturday, I spent a large chunk of the day (around three-plus hours) in line for an autograph…until I learned that “Diamond Badges” (nearly $300 a pop! No thanks) were being given top priority during Eccleston’s brief autographing sessions (from 25 minutes to 90 minutes), which essentially pushed the rest of us waiting in line out of most sessions. I, along with several terrific ‘line buddies’ I’d made, waited the entire morning and early afternoon just for a chance at an autograph…. before we gave up and left. We could’ve waited the entire day without getting an autograph, and that was not how I chose to spend my convention time. I love Eccleston’s Doctor, as does my wife (he was her ‘first’ Doctor), but the powers-that-be at Gallifrey One need to settle on a much more democratic autograph ticketing system than the one they don’t have in place now…
Consolation Prize…the 4th Doctor!
While I didn’t get Eccleston’s autograph, I did get myself a consolation prize; a pre-signed autograph of my all-time favorite Doctor, Tom Baker! No, Baker wasn’t at the convention. In fact, rumor has it that he doesn’t travel abroad for conventions as much these days. As a claustrophobe, I understand not wanting to stay confined on a transatlantic flight… not to mention that he’s 87-years old. Realizing I may never get the chance to own a Tom Baker autograph, I bit the bullet and got one. I almost never buy pre-signed autographs that I didn’t receive in-person from the signee, but in this case it just felt right (the autograph also had a legit-enough looking certificate of authenticity, so I took the chance). Not getting the Eccleston autograph also meant that I had enough funds for Baker’s, so it all worked out.
A Salute To Terrance Dicks.
The first panel on my agenda for Saturday was a 2 pm “Salute to Terrance Dicks”, who sadly passed away last year at age 84. The panel was moderated by Doctor Who script writer Paul Cornell (“Father’s Day” “Family of Blood”) as well as writers Scott Gray, Emma Reeves, Lizbeth Myles, David J. Howe, and Keith Barnfather. Lots of nice memories and anecdotes of the prolific and talented Doctor Who writer. To many in this panel, he was fondly remembered for his frankness, his mentoring, his love of a good drink or two (hehe), his Doctor Who friendships (Robert Holmes, Barry Letts) and his no-nonsense “meat and potatoes” writing style (which many writers strive to achieve, but which he seemed to do effortlessly). Dicks had a huge home library, with books piled upon other books (which sounds like my own home library) all of which he’d read (according to a panelist). Dicks also authored many of the famed Target-brand paperback adaptations of the classic Doctor Who stories, from episodes that he originally wrote himself, as well as many from other writers from the classic series.
So many current Doctor Who writers and fans came into the Whoniverse from his classic stories, such as “Horror at Fang Rock”, “The Five Doctors” and “War Games.” One of my personal favorites was “The Brain of Morbius”, written under his well-known pseudonym of “Robin Bland.” My own personal memory of Terrance Dicks was from meeting him at my very first Galley One, back in 2014. I was gobsmacked that there was no line at his table at the time, so I waltzed right up, and we had a handshake as well as a quick chat. He had a natural paternal charm and teensy bit of mischief about him that was instantly adored. Not hard to understand how he became such a legend among Who writers and fans such as myself.
A Tribute To Dorothy Fontana.
My next panel (in the same room) was “A Tribute to Dorothy C. Fontana (1939-2019). Screenwriters David Gerrold (“Trouble With Tribbles” “The Martian Child”), Shari Goodhartz (TNG’s “Violations” “The Most Toys”), author Wendi Pini (“Elfquest”), and screenwriter Arthur Sellers (“Max Headroom”) were all on deck to salute this magnificent pioneering woman, who passed away late last year.
Some wonderful anecdotes about this salty-tongued pioneer of television. Fontana paved the way for women showrunners in modern television, with her work as writer and story editor on the original “Star Trek” series. In the audience was her widower, Oscar-winning FX artist Dennis Skotak (“ALIENS” “Terminator 2” “The Abyss”).
Dennis Skotak’s heartbreaking tribute to his late wife moved me (and many audience members) to tears. Sadly, I never got the chance to meet Fontana, but through the colorful anecdotes of the panelists, I felt as though I got to know her vicariously through their wonderful stories. She took no s#!t, suffered few fools, and she lived life on her own terms. That’s a life well lived!
Behind The Scenes Of “The Orville.”
My final panel of the evening was “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Orville’”. There were two panels for “The Orville” that weekend; the first was a fan panel which discussed the series and characters (along with the audience), and while that panel was enjoyable, this panel had people currently associated with the production of Season Three, which will premiere on Hulu streaming later this year. Producer Brannon Braga (“Star Trek: Voyager”, “COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey”), writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and producer/writer David Goodman were on deck, all teasing bits of information about the third season.
Some of the tidbits teased about “The Orville”’s third season: the episodes will be slightly longer now that it is a Hulu exclusive (closer to 50 minutes than 43), we may hear more of Bortus’ singing, we will see new previously unseen parts of the ship, and the season will have a much more epic scope than we’ve seen before. Looking forward to it. “The Orville” grew on me after its unimpressive pilot which aired in late 2017. It rapidly became must-see TV for me shortly afterward.
Happy Birthday, Christopher Eccleston!
This year, the only event I attended in the main auditorium was the second half of a two-part interview (Part 1 on Saturday, Part 2 on Sunday) of first-time Gallifrey One attendee Christopher Eccleston; the Ninth Doctor who inaugurated the series’ reboot in 2005 only to leave less than a year later after reinventing the role for a new generation (including my born-again Whovian wife). While the big theatre was packed on Saturday night to standing room only (I won’t stand for an hour… my 53-year old arthritic bones need a seat), I did manage to find an empty seat towards the rear of the auditorium on Sunday. It was fortunate that I got in on Sunday’s interview, but February 16th also happened to be Ecceleston’s birthday, so I got to partake in an impromptu chorus of fans singing “Happy Birthday to You” for Eccleston.
The actor, who left the series after only a season under unfortunate issues with the producers, seems to have made his peace with the Doctor Who franchise (“a nine month job” as he called it), at least enough to attend the full-on Doctor Who love-fest that is Galley One… and on his birthday, no less! Eccleston talked about being a bit hungover that morning (Saturday night at Galley One is always a bit crazy; especially at the Marriott’s “Lobby Con”), his Northern working class roots, his artistic ambitions, his 9 months of working on Doctor Who and using his performance as therapy…that he gets paid for (haha). Eccleston also discussed how he wished his father, a very intelligent man, had the same opportunities for self-expression as he had in his own career; his father died during the filming of the Doctor Who episode “Dalek”, and Eccleston talked about channeling that rage over his father’s death into the Doctor’s character. It was a fascinating interview.
Chase Masterson’s “Pop Culture Hero Coalition.”
Actor/singer Chase Masterson (“Leeta” of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), gave her annual panel for her “Pop Culture Hero Coalition” www.popculturehero.org ; a nonprofit dedicated to stopping bullying by examining and dealing with both the root causes and using images in popular culture to give positive images and role models. Masterson recently gave a TED Talk in front of 1,500 people talking about her struggles with stalking, bullying, and her work with young reformed gang members, which eventually led to the foundation of her Coalition. I first met Masterson years ago at a convention, and two years ago I got the chance to interview her for Trekcore.com (https://musingsofamiddleagedgeek.blog/2018/05/24/deep-space-nines-chase-masterson-trekcore-interview/ ). I found her so inspiring and such a warm-hearted person that I try to make a point to attend her panels whenever possible (I’m even the proud owner of a PCHC swag bag, which is my new must-have bag for every convention).
Leaving Los Angeles…
The final night of Galley One was a bit low-key. The calm after the storm. My wife and I enjoyed a nice quiet dinner together up in our hotel room and I finally rented the recent Oscar-winning Best Picture “Parasite” on YouTube (for $3.99!). Rather than leave on Sunday with the rest of the conventioneers, my wife (who had a three-day holiday weekend) and I stayed in our hotel room until Monday morning, leaving bright and early, so that I could put together this article and (vicariously) deliver my Gallifrey One experience to you, my valued reader!
If you’d like to see a bit more? I’ll link my entire Flickr photo gallery (nearly 70 pics) for you to peruse here: