You know who knows how to party? Doctor Who fans, that’s…um…Who. It’s taken me until now to recover from this year’s Gallifrey One, North America’s largest Doctor Who convention. Over 3,000 guests descended on the LAX Marriott in Los Angeles this past weekend at one of the warmest, most welcoming cons there is! There are already several reports on Gally up already. Allow me, then, to share my Top 5 Highlights (other than my fabulous Dalek dress, designed/created by Tara Reich) from the 23rd Gallifrey One Convention!
5) RED, WHITE, AND WHO
One of the more interesting panels I attended (that I wasn’t on, anyway) was for a new book in the works called Red, White, and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America, which is edited by Arnold T. Blumberg, Steven Warren Hill, Jennifer Kelley, and J. Shaun Lyon. It’s an ambitious project, as it is attempting to capture the entire history of Doctor Who fandom in the United States from its very beginnings to the present day. It’s so new a project, in fact, that the editors themselves don’t really know what shape they want the book to take. This panel was less a showcase for a book they’re trying to sell, and more a fact-finding mission. Attendees were given a questionnaire (which can also be found on their website) asking all about each participant’s history in Doctor Who fandom: where/how did they first watch the show? Do they have photos from Doctor Who-related fan activities? Etc.
This panel was interesting precisely because it inspired some wonderful conversation about a Doctor Who fandom that is uniquely ours. Obviously, Doctor Who is a British show with a British sensibility, but U.S. fandom is distinct in many ways, and I’m thrilled that it is now being explored so comprehensively. The editors are interested in being as inclusive as possible, and want to be sure to include stories from men and women, people of all sexual orientations, people of all races, and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. If you would like to fill out the questionnaire, or learn more about the project, you can visit the book’s WEBSITE, like them on FACEBOOK, or email [email protected] for more information.
4) CHILDREN CHASING DALEKS
As I wandered around the con between panels, I happened upon a group of children ranging in age from about seven to twelve or thirteen running up and down one of the hotel corridors rolling an awesome, homemade Dalek one of the girls made. Now, there are a lot of homemade Daleks at Gallifrey One usually, but they are mostly made by adults with lots of access to money and materials that a child might not have. So, when I saw this one tween girl with a full-sized yellow Dalek that looked just as good—if a bit rough—as the others patrolling the floor, I had to ask her about it. She said she made it in a week from stuff she had around the house. The domed top was a large salad bowl. She made the body from plywood she had in her garage. The eyepiece was a large chunk of sponge. A little spray paint, some kitchen/bathroom utensils, and a chain to pull it (on roller skate/skateboard wheels), and she had a full-sized Dalek. In a week! I was very impressed.
But even better than talking to this enthusiastic girl about her Dalek was the scene in the hallway where a group of kids, whom she met at the con, began playing with it by taking turns pushing it up and down the hallway, and chasing it down with threats. Boys and girls alike pretended to be The Doctor and warned the Dalek that it would be in big trouble if it didn’t go away. Better still, there was a hilarious girl amongst them, maybe about ten or eleven, who had a microphone and was doing a great Dalek voice for it, saying hilarious things like “I hate children! But I don’t exterminate them because I want their parents to suffer at their hands!” Brilliant.
We know that, in the UK, Doctor Who is a staple; a family show that people grow up watching. It’s heartening to see American kids getting so involved with Doctor Who that they would build their own full-sized Daleks, master a great Dalek voice, and have so much fun chasing a Dalek around, pretending to be The Doctor.
3) JOHN de LANCIE ACKNOWLEDGES BRONIES
One of the funniest moments I experienced at Gally was in the Torchwood: Miracle Day Q&A. It was a great panel, on which sat John de Lancie (Allen Shapiro), Daniele Favilli (Angelo), and writers Jane Espenson, Doris Egan, and John Shiban. After sharing insights into the creation of the series, one audience member (the same tween girl who made the awesome yellow Dalek!) asked de Lancie a question about what it was like to voice the character of Discord on My Little Pony. De Lancie then, much to the amusement of the rest of the panel and the delight of the audience, proceeded to tell of his first encounter with “bronies” (for those not in the know, “bronies” are adult, male fans of My Little Pony). Apparently, weeks after he’d finished the voiceover work, he’d forgotten about it, forgetting even the show’s title. Suddenly, he started receiving hundreds of emails through his website about ponies, and had no idea why. He asked his wife if she’d heard of My Little Pony, and she said, “Yes. You worked on it!” He then expressed his complete surprise that such a thing as bronies existed. “They’re these men, aged eighteen to, like, fifty-five, who are into My Little Pony! And they have very strong opinions about it! I mean, hundreds of emails!”
Props to that girl for getting John de Lancie to talk about My Little Pony. It was hilarious.
2) SIMON FISHER-BECKER GETS 3,000 PEOPLE ON THEIR FEET
Some people have all the luck, and some actors get to have immortal lines, despite not being the protagonists of the shows they’re on; lines that inspire audiences and work them up into a frenzy. Simon Fisher-Becker, who plays Dorium Maldovar—the big, blue black market trader on Doctor Who—is one of those actors, and during the Closing Ceremony at Gallifrey One, as each special guest got the microphone to say their goodbyes to the con-goers, Fisher-Becker got the mic and said simply and slowly in full voice:
It’s all still waiting for you! The fields of Trenzalore, the fall of the Eleventh, and the question! The first question! The question that must never be answered, hidden in plain sight. The question you’ve been running from all your life. Doctor who? Doctor who? Doc-tor WHO?
With every word of the now-familiar speech, applause built into a roar, and by the time he began to chant “Doctor who? Doctor who? Doc-tor WHO?!” the crowd joined in, pumping their fists in the air like they were at a KISS concert, and when he was done, there was furious, jubilant applause! I’ll admit it. I was totally caught up in it, and my heart did a little flutter. It was a bit of a magical moment that doesn’t really translate in print, but there you have it.
1) WILLIAM RUSSELL
Sure, the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, was in attendance, as was Louise Jameson (Leela), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), and Tony Curran (Vincent Van Gogh) among others. But the guest I was most excited to meet was William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton, companion to the First Doctor in Seasons 1 and 2 of Classic Who. I didn’t realize how excited I’d be to meet him until I was standing a foot in front of him getting his autograph and babbling like an idiot about how I’d just been watching “Planet of the Giants” the other day and how Ian and Barbara are my favorite classic companions. Still charming, dashing, and funny at 87, he was both wonderful and chock-full of information about what it was like to be one of the first people in the TARDIS at his Q & A. It was thrilling to hear him talk about the fact that, since Doctor Who was an educational show, the BBC didn’t really pay it much attention, so they got to get away with things like having a female producer (Verity Lambert) and a director from India (Warris Hussein, who was also in attendance at this year’s Gally). It really was ahead of its time in ways that have nothing to do with science fiction. Russell is still friends with Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan, and when he told her that he was coming to Los Angeles for his first-ever Doctor Who convention, they both marveled that, fifty years on, people still give a crap.
Indeed, we do.
Gallifrey One is about more than just the panels and the guests, though. It’s about the people, chatting in lines or meeting for drinks in the hotel lobby. Doctor Who fandom is the warmest and most welcoming fandom on Earth, and if you’re looking for a convention that celebrates hope, joy, and a childlike sense of adventure, make sure to mark Gallifrey One 2013 on your calendars!
Teresa Jusino loves Doctor Who fandom. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1, and at the end of last year she was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.