This looks like it was the year that the newer members of Doctor Who fandom made their presence felt. This year's Gallfrey One convention (the 19th) was the largest one ever, with 1080 members, besting its prior record by 270. There were a lot of first time attendees, many of us regular attendees and a good many occasional attendees which made for a fun, if sometimes crowded, weekend.
This year's Doctor Who focus was on the Sylvester McCoy years, with Sylvester McCoy (Doctor #7), Sophie Aldred (Ace), script editor Andrew Cartmel, and composer Mark Ayres. Also appearing from in front of the camera on Doctor Who was Daphne Ashbrook (Grace Holloway), Moya Brady, Sean Gallagher, and Derek Riddell, the later three having had guest roles on the new series. Writers from the new series included Steven "double Hugo" Moffat, Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman, and newcomer James Moran (Torchwood and Doctor Who). There were some writers such as Gary Russell, Keith Topping, Andy Lane, David J. Howe, and Simon Guerrier. From outside of Doctor Who, there were actors such as Bob May (Lost in Space), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows), Richard Chavez (War of the Worlds) and Jennifer Rhodes (Charmed). Others scheduled included Mojo (B5/Trek/BG Visual Effects), comics artist Arne Starr, Steve Bartlett from OASIS and some JPL scientists for a science track of programming as well as some of the local Gallifrey regulars such as Jill Sherwin, Eric Hoffman, and Tadao Tomomatsu. As is usual with Gallifrey One, there were a few last minute additions including Joel Hodgson and Josh Weinstein from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, author David Gerrold, comics writer/editor Mark Waid, and TV producer/writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach. There were also a lot of fans (including myself) taking part in various panels as well, giving the convention a fairly well-rounded slate of programming.
The convention handled the additional fans relatively well with the main instances when it was evident a larger room was needed was for the live episode commentary sessions with Steven Moffat, Paul Cornell, and James Moran. These were all placed in one of their secondary programming rooms, not in the main ballroom. For Moffat's commentary on Blink, fans stood in the hallway to listen. Several of the popular fan panels were also held in packed rooms. Next year, organizer Shaun Lyon has already indicated the commentaries will be in the big room (or at least in larger spaces). Fortunately, with the LAX Marriott, there is room for the convention to expand if it is needed.
For this year, I flew in on Friday morning and out on Sunday night, missing the closing ceremonies and apparently a lot of hanging around in the hotel lobby by fans and guests. Next year I plan to stick around until the next day to have more of a chance to just hang out and chat with people which was harder to do when the convention was in full swing. I realized when I got home and was putting this together that I really didn't take many photos at the convention. Fortunately, Jeff George (in vampire garb) did take a few pictures and a good number of them here are from his camera.
I tended to gravitate towards the fan panels in the secondary programming rooms and didn't see too many of the main stage panels. There was definitely some interesting stuff going on in the main room, but having been to every Gallifrey, I have seen Sophie and Sylvester a few times and taking part in a good discussion was more appealing to me. I caught the tail end of a Gallifrey One-Oh-One panel with several of the con committee giving advice to newcomers on how to enjoy the convention. They had a good sized crowd which was an indication of how many new attendees they had this year. Up next was a TV Shows on DVD panel with Keith Topping and others talking about some of the better DVD to look for and the end of the HD DVD format wars and what thay might mean to TV collectors. We also got some information from Steve Roberts on some of the processes involved with releasing Doctor Who to DVD.
I caught most of the Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred interview, moderated by Gary Russell and also waited in line to get some books and comics autographed in the second autograph session of the afternoon. I had some older books from Paul Cornell as well as the rest of the Marvel Comics Wisdom miniseries for Paul to sign. Paul indicated that the new Excalibur comic he was working on would have a lot of the characters from the Wisdom comic in it. I found out on Monday morning that Marvel had been fibbing a bit when it was announced that Paul's new series would actually be called "Captain Britain and MI-13". Comic Book Resources had an interview with Paul about it on Monday and Paul admitted on his blog that he'd had to lie about what it actually was until it was announced. I also had some books for Andy Lane, including his new Torchwood novel, Slow Decay, as well as the two unauthorized Babylon 5 books he did that I helped supply videotapes for back in the day when trading was done by putting tapes in envelopes and mailing them across the Atlantic. Andy hadn't been to Gallifrey since 1999, so it was good to see him again. I intended to catch up with him later in the convention, but I never really caught up with him when he wasn't on a panel or already occupied.
Ending the day of regular programming was the Opening Ceremonies where all of the main convention guests were introduced by Shaun Lyon and brought out to say hello to the crowd. On the left side is Shaun Lyon with the main guests, Andrew Cartmel, Sophie Aldred, SylvesterMcoy, Mark Ayres, and Lisa Bowerman. On the right is Shaun and the writer guests, Stephen Moffat, Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman, James Moran, Gary Russell, Andy Lane, Scott Alan Woodard, Arnold T. Blumberg, and David Howe. Much fun was made of Steven Moffat's Hugos..
I caught up with our small Arizona contingent in the sports bar for dinner, catching up with Karen Funk-Blocher, a Tucson fan that hadn't been at Gallifrey much in recent years. You can read her thoughts on the convention on her blog. For both of us, some of our friends that used to go to Gallifrey with us are no longer around and are definitely missed.
That evening saw the Masque of Mandragora (i.e. the Masquerade). Gallifrey's isn't a big formal masquerade, so there was a mixture of entries that were pretty much "here's my costume" as well as a few impromptu skits. They did have some well respected judges on the panel, though, with Mary Jane Jewell, Laura Brodian Freas, and Colleen Crosby doing the judging. The masquerade was hosted by Tadao Tomomatsu and Patrick Beckstead (who is the same age as the convention and has pretty much grown up with the convention every year with his parents usually working on some part of it - of course, that can be said for LosCon as well). There were a number of Doctor Who costumes, including many Doctors, an Ace, Martha Jones, a Cyberboy, a Dalek, the Master (Saxon version) and The Master's wife. (Karen F-B posted pictures of most of them on this blog entry). The crowd favorite and best of show winner was a couple of fans dressed in white outfits as attendants to a very good recreation of Cassandra, the last human, from the new series. As part of their skit, they started getting phone calls and took advantage of promotional opportunities and slapped advertising logos onto the expanse of Cassandra's skin.
The presentation part of the masquerade went fairly quickly, so the halftime entertainment wasn't quite ready (they were probably still in the bar). Tadao and Patrick amused the audience while they were being rounded up (including when an attempt to screen the Time Crash Doctor Who Children in Need short was aborted due to technical problems with the projector). Finally, the guests for the halftime entertainment were all on hand and they were ready to go.
For the third time at Gallifrey, Paul Cornell hosted a rendition of the Just a Minute game show where contestants are asked to talk for one minute without Hesitation, Repitition, or Deviation about a subject chosen by Paul. Last year, Colin Baker won hands down with his oral eloquence and competitiveness. This year, Sophie Aldred did a fair job of handling the writers and took the honors, but it was a lot of fun watching them. Joining Sophie were writers Rob Shearman, James Moran, and Steven Moffat. Paul had topics for them such as "My Favorite Doctor", "My Favorite Volcano", "My Fireplace", "My Dalek", and "My Love for Russell T. Davies". Highlights were Sophie's veering into risque territory about "My Part on Eastenders" and discussions of "William Hartnell's Fluffs" as well as Rob Shearman doing a rant on bad catch phrases when he took over the "Are You My Mummy" topic when Steven was caught with an error. There is video of the game on Google video with part 1 here and part 2 here. Probably best to view it in a small window since it is somewhat shaky footage. I may get mine fixed up online that was with a tripod. Click on "more from this user" to see other footage they shot at Gallifrey.
Following the masquerade was a screening of some video presentations that not everyone had seen yet which kept a good sized crowd in the room. Also going on was Gallifrey One's Karaoke Kafe with a lot of fans making fools of themselves performing Karaoke songs, including these classic performances caught on videotape. Gallifrey has never been much for room parties, but Friday night did see a party from the League of Evil Geniuses to promote the upcoming Costume Con 26. Their gallery of Evil Geniuses is always fun to look over and it will be missed as their promotional parties have now ended for the convention. I ended up crashing fairly early, having gotten up at 5:30 am Arizona time to get to the airport for an early flight. I've been fighting off a cold or allergies or something, so I was definitely dragging late in the evening.
Saturday is a full day of panels and activities including many cases of "which panel do I choose from?" In my case, the decision was made by how the programming schedule filled out. There was a lot of last minute shuffling going on, but no matter how it went, I always had a panel opposite of Steven Moffat's Blink commentary. After sleeping in a bit and getting some breakfast, I got ready for the Save Our Shows panel, the one opposite the Blink commentary, which was in the next room and packed to the gills with people standing out in the hallway listening to it. The volume was loud enough that at times, it was hard to talk over it in our panel (where we had no microphones, either). There were slightly more people in the audience than on the panel, although I suspect the ones on the left hand side of the room may have been listening to the Blink commentary through the wall for most of the panel. We still had a good chat about varoius save our show attempts over the years, with Tara O'Shea and Mark Ayres doing most of the talking while I, Benjamin Elliott, and Tina Beychok got an occasional comment in. Mark had some good insight into how the Doctor Who fan efforts were handled at the end of the John Nathan-Turner reign. At that time, the Doctor Who production office was quite small, and most fan letters were either dumped in the trash or sent to the production office. Tara had been involved with efforts for shows going back to Forever Knight and Lois & Clark. I talked a bit about some of the recent efforts including the successful one to bring back Jericho and what’s been attempted with some of the current shows that have been cancelled such as The Dresden Files and The 4400.
Next up in that room was a "Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Doctor Who?" panel with a good number of the writers in attendance talking about what is "Too Much". After starting out in regards to TV spin-offs, it veered into discussion of the plethora of Doctor Who related merchandise and how much of it there is in the UK and how it is everywhere. It was generally agreed that there will be as much Doctor Who on TV and in the shops that the market will bear and right now all of it is getting eaten up by fans of the show with no slowdown in sight.
I went back to the other side of the table for an "Anticipating Star Trek" panel, with myself, artist Arne Starr, writer Jill Sherwin, and Ken Deep, Louis Trapani from the Doctor Who Podshock podcast. Right off the bat, both Jill and Ken (or was it Louis?) were upfront in indicating they aren't as enthusiastic about the new movie. Jill, in particular, seems to be of the opinion that the movie is mostly J.J. Abrams and his crew putting on a movie and not always getting the best person for the role. Arne pointed out the error of her assumptions in some areas and indicated he thinks it will end up a good production. He's also hoping to get to do the comic adaptation for IDW. I'm somewhere in the middle. There was also some discussion about what pushing it back from Christmas to May really meant, was it a chance for them to do some rewrites and re-shoots now that the writers strike is over or really a move to get bigger box office in the summer? It was agreed that pushing it back six months would make it harder to keep the buzz going that has been started with the debut of the teaser trailer. In any case, we were all looking forward to it and hoping it will do well and bring some life back into Star Trek. While we were discussion the merits of Spock with Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, Arne sketched this picture of Spock on the Marriott notepad on the panelist table.
I didn't stay in the room for the Battlestar Galactica panel with Shaun Lyon, Keith Topping, James Moran and others, but it was packed and had a good discussion from what I heard. After collecting my camcorder and getting some food, I was back for the MST3K panel, "Celebrating 20 Years of Mystery Science Theatre 3000" for which Scott Armstrong had managed to get Joel Hodgson and Josh Weinsten to come out for. They talked about the show, especially the beginnings of it, their favorite bits, the hardest one to do (Manos: The Hands of Fate), and answered other questoins from the fans. They also talked about their newest endeavor, Cinematic Titanic, how they put it together and worked with the original filmmaker to get the rights for the movie they make fun of. Joining Joel and Josh are other MST3K cohorts, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl. Afterwards, Joel and Josh signed copies of Cinematic Titanic (the forty copies they brought to sell didn't last long) in the dealers room. They were hoping to screen it but by the time they committed to coming there wasn't any room to squeeze it in the schedule. Maybe next year they can come back and do a panel in the big room.
I caught the last half hour of Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz's Battlestar Galactica visual effects panel. When I got there, Mojo had been showing lots of segments done for the Razor movie and was talking about the sequence for the reveal of the classic cylon fighter was done and developed. Once he realized that this would be the first time that viewers saw the classic series cylons, he made sure that the battle sequence was done to make it a surprise to the audience. The video included several iterations of the battle CGI as well as how it looked in the final edit. He also showed how the movie was originally planned to start with a fight sequence that would extend through the whole movie. Joining him onstage was editor/producer Andrew Seklir. It was good to see Mojo at the con. He's always excited about his work and puts on a fun presentation. We've had him out to Phoenix for conventions a couple of times and it may be time to bring him back for one.
Next I sat in on the "The Obligatory Gallifrey Comics Panel" which had Mark Waid join in along with Paul Cornell, Lars Pearson, Ed Green, and Arnold T Blumberg. There was a lot of discussion about the state of comics today and how the market is pretty stagnant while the Manga market is growing by leaps and bounds. There was also talk about what are the better comics out ther right now and Paul Cornell talked about his experience working for Marvel (still having to say Excalibur instead of what the actual title was).
After a break for dinner in the sports bar with our Arizona trio (me, Jeff and John), it was time for the Mysterious Theatre 337 with Steve Hill and company making fun of Silver Nemesis, the 25th Anniversary story with Sylvester and Sophie. It was a lot of fun, especially during the bits of the episode that were cringe-worthy to begin with. Steve Hill was making a valiant effort to keep his voice going (which seemed to be affecting a lot of people over the weekend). Afterwards, they talked a bit about how they put their performances together and how you can see the scripts online on Steve's web site, shillpages.com. Afterwards, they screened the Buffy episode, Once More With Feeling, as a Buffy Sing-a-long and those taking part had a lot of fun joining in with the Buffy cast. I checked out the Daleks in Manhattan party, which had food and drink and a lot of people crowded into the room.
Sunday started with the Guest Brunch, with a brunch buffet with about 50 fans and a few of the guests. Its always fun to chat with the guests in a more relaxed atmosphere, although you still need to let them have time to eat their food. Sophie had her ten year old son with her and he seemed to be really enjoying the weekend, proud of his mom having been on TV and getting a lot of attention. Sylvester also had his son with him, who is in his 20's (I think). The two sons briefly chatted with Sylvester's son telling Sophie's son "My dad and your mum were on Doctor Who together". Steven Moffat told us that his kids and Peter Davison's kids play together. Peter's kids are big fans of the new show which tends to leave their dad feeling a bit outdated. When Peter agreed to do the Time Crash for Children in Need, Steven pointed out that he'd now get his own Top Trumps game card as his Doctor and would be cool to his kids for once.
After brunch it was time to pack up the luggage since there wasn't any late checkout offered (all the more reason to stay until Monday next year). I checked out the beginning og the Charity Auction, which benefited Actors And Others For Animals. They had a good amount of stuff, although not as much Doctor Who items as people wanted. Recent years have seen donations of large amounts of books. A couple of years ago it was pretty much a full set of the Doctor Who New Adventures and then a whole set of the Target novels. This year they had a plethora of Star Trek novels, most of which went for about 50 cents each in various bundles. There were still a good number of who related items, some going cheaply, some going higher than expected (or that I wanted to go). A Doctor Who cookie kit went for $45 (you can find them on Ebay for $4 ), and, surprisingly, a signed copy of the His Master's voice artwork went for less than $50. The first hour of the auction was the bargain time, since a good number of people were in the Sylvester McCoy Era panel with most of the main guests. Once that let out, the audience grew and prices started going up. I managed to get the newspaper copy of Paul Cornell's christmas story in the Telegraph from this year and caught up with him in the autograph session later in the afternoon to get it signed. In doing so, I found out that Martin Guierrer was the one who had donated it to the auction. The auction went on for most of the afternoon and ended up raising over $3000.
Between the auction and other things, I ended up not catching any other panels. According to reports, both the fan panels "What's With all the Squee: The Appeal of David Tennant" and "Torchwood 101" were a lot of fun. The Torchwood panel was standing room only and ran over a bit into the time for the "The State of SF TV & Film, and the Impact of the Writers' Strike" panel that I was on. We had a surprise addition of Javier Grillo-Marxuach to that panel with James Moran, Paul Salamoff, and Tara O'Shea also on hand. We spent most of the hour talking about the strike, the affect it had on the pros on the panel and how the support of the fans really helped the cause. Javier talked about his situation where he filmed a pilot for The Middleman for ABC Family during the strike, doing both producer duties for the pilot as well as picketing as a writer at other times. Once the strike was over, ABC Family did pick up the series, look for it later this year. James wasn't directly affected by the strike but talked about how agreements are handled in the UK and how they did what they could to support the writers in the U.S.
After the panel I took care of a few things (arranging for convention flyers to go to the LASFS clubhouse and to ConDor in San Diego), got some food from the sports bar one last time, said my goodbyes to those people I came across and headed out to the airport to fly back home. Once I got there I found out that there had been an incident earlier in the afternoon where they had to clear the terminal, but things were pretty much back to normal by then and I didn't have any flight delays.
From what I've heard, the final big panel, a planned live commentary of Dragonfire (the episode where Sophie Aldred's Ace was introduced) ended up changed to Ghost Light because they didn't have a VCR available to play back Dragonfire, which has not yet been released on DVD, while Ghost Light has. After that, they screened a compilation of clips as a Year in review and brought everyone back out on stage for closing ceremonies and give everyone a chance to say goodbye before officially ending the convention.
All in all, this year's Gallfrey One convention was a lot of fun with lots to do and after19 years of attending them, I can't wait to go back next year.