So, my companion and I are back from Gallifrey. And a little jet-lagged, appropriately enough. Odd that none of the TARDIS crew ever seem to be jet-lagged. Some aspect of the TARDIS’s temporal state of grace, no doubt. When I first became aware of the convention through Doctor Who podcasts, I remember hearing people talk about how, while the panels and events are what one is initially drawn to, once you’ve been a few times, the fun is catching up with friends. This was our third Gally, and that’s definitely the case for us now. It’s not that long ago that I was lying in a hospital bed wondering whether we should should cancel our flights and reservations. By the time we were ready to set off for LA, I was just unreservedly looking forward to it.
It was, however, a very New York departure. Getting out to JFK by public transport wasn’t the quickest thing, and, sure enough, we missed our initial flight. In the rush, I even managed to leave my laptop at security. But, good for security at JFK and Virgin American, they got it back to me as soon as I noticed it was missing. The flight itself was sold out and filled with annoying airplane cliches. The seat right next to me was filled – and more – by a huge fella. And there was a baby nearby who screamed the whole way from New York to LA. In that situation, I usually feel bad for the parent(s) who are massively stressed by the situation. But in this case, the kid’s mom showed no inclination to distracts the kid from whatever the hell was bothering it. When I peeled myself from my seat at the end of the flight, I understood why Beth’s mom had asked whether I was approved for a cross-country flight.
But, the flight was worth it. I did feel that the organizers hadn’t necessarily pulled out the stops for the 50th anniversary of the show (An Unearthly Child was broadcast on November 23, 1963), but having had the first episode’s director and, arguably, leading man at the convention last year, that wasn’t really an option this year. And, there were plenty of good points to the convention. We got to see our old pals John and Will, and meet our new friend, Rachel. The panels were good, too.
On Friday, we got to see live interviews with Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian) and Peter Purves (Steven Taylor). So, that was a pretty huge day. I had a crush on Frances as a kid: If you’d told me as a wee man that I’d have seen her across a table at a Doctor Who convention in LA I was attending with the hottest nerd in the building, I’d have bitten your arm off. You could even throw in the stroke for that deal!
Saturday was programmed especially with Beth in mind. Wall-to-wall facial hair and Scots. Even if the beard was attached to a Yank and the Scots were clean-shaven. Ben Browder was funny and charming, and the Scottish directors, Douglas Mackinnon and Saul Melzstein made a predictably charming double act, too. Perhaps surprisingly, Browder (and the next day, Mark Sheppard) did a better job of self-moderating than this year’s Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. In amongst all that good stuff, we managed to take care of the bottle of Laphroaig that Will and John had brought and check out the old favourites like the dealers’ room and the art show.
Perhaps the best thing about the convention, though, was getting to enjoy the enthusiasm of so many creative people. The Inspector Spacetime panel was particularly fun in that respect, seeing how Travis Richey, who briefly portrayed the Doctor-aping Inspector in Community, has spun the fans’ desire for more into a fun live-action web-series with the help of a bunch of other enthused creative types and fans who have even gone as far as to create a whole history for the meta show, even in the face of NBC disinterest and requests to stop work from Sony’s lawyers.
Mark Strickson (Turlough) was great, too. After starring in 33 Who episodes between 1983-84, he emigrated to Australia, where he studied zoology. Having brought Steve Irwin to public attention with such shows as The Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World, Strickson is continues work as a documentary producer and director, particular in the wildlife and travelogue areas. And his appetite for his subject is infectious and appealing. If you ever are threatened by a crocodile, grab a thick bamboo cane and give me a call, for example.
Stroke thoughts from the weekend?
- It felt great to head west with Beth and revisit one of the couple traditions that, at one point, seemed like it might be permanently off the agenda. Again, The Thing we’ve built gave me the inspiration to stay alive. The things we continue to do make all the effort worth it.
- It doesn’t matter how old your are. Being open to new friendships is always a good thing; it was lovely to enjoy the support of our old and new Whovian pals.
- Know your limits. The three-hour time difference there and back for a long weekend trip, together with keeping up with convention life? Hard work.
But, I’m really glad we went. I kind of owe The Doctor one. Though I’d never been a full-fledged nerd previously, when he came back in 2005, I needed him in the most basic, geeky way possible. I wasn’t too far removed from preparing to check myself into psychotherapy, and in the meantime, an escapist world was very appealing. In a way, I’m surprised to find how similar my story is to that of a time-shifted Toby Hadoke, who, as he described in Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, found comfort in the Time Lord’s universe when his father left his family and he was unhappily ensconced in boarding school. Today, I have a tattoo of the new series’ version of the Time Lord seal; it represents the infinite possibilities for fun and adventure that the time and space available to me offers.
So, here’s to the future. It’s going to be a good year to be a Whovian.