Conventions & EventsOpinion

Gallifrey One: Not Just A Doctor Who Convention

TARDIS motorcycle
This is the best, and sexiest, way to arrive at the con. The Tenth Doctor on a TARDIS motorcycle.

This is going to be, unfortunately, much shorter than it should, but here is my snapshot of the Doctor Who extravaganza known as… Gallifrey One.

Held at the Marriott LAX (that’s next to the Los Angeles airport for those unawares), this is a three-day convention solely devoted to everything in the Doctor Who universe and beyond. The first thing you’ll notice is that nearly everyone is in costume (made easier by the fact that a lot of the characters wear regular street clothes, or unusual combinations of clothing pieces that are relatively easy to find). The second thing is that everyone is incredibly nice.

Tiki Dalek
In a return appearance, Tiki!Dalek, accompanied by Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O.”

The next thing you’ll notice is the lack of an oppressive crowd. Since tickets are limited to only 3200, you won’t get caught in the crush of moving bodies more hazardous than the LA freeway system. Looking at you, Comic-Con. There’s room to breathe. To shop. To be harassed by life-size daleks as they glide through the hallways shouting things like “WHAT IS THAT ON YOUR HEAD? WHO TOLD YOU THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?”

Yes, good times.

Of course, there were the usual panels you would expect, such as spotlights on the celebrities in attendance (especially notable were Sylvester McCoy and Freema Agyeman) and discussions of the history of the show and its various characters and villains. What I found surprising was the diversity of the non-Who programming, such as general costuming how-to workshops and panels on screenwriting. I was able to attend two “coffeeklatsches,” which are more intimate round tables held in a conference room. Only about a dozen people, plus the talent, talk together for an hour. It’s a golden opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics with other like-minded people, and I highly recommend them if that’s your interest.

Freema Agyeman
One of two interview panels with Freema Agyeman, one of the Doctor’s companions.

There is literally something for everyone at Gallifrey One. No matter what your interest or budget, if you’re into science fiction at all, this is a great convention to spend a solid day at. Or longer, if you’re a true Whovian. The panels are fantastic. It’s very well organized. The vendor list is so diverse that I found myself getting a rare Heroes item rather anything Who-related, which was the perfect find! You can spend two dollars or two hundred dollars, it’s up to you. Also, if you collect badge ribbons, you are guaranteed at least a foot of new acquisitions, or maybe two if you’re lucky and clever and have things to trade for them.

Travel to the flagship hotel is easy no matter how you choose to get there. The surrounding area is rich with places to stay and excellent eateries that won’t break your budget. For example, if you have a car, I recommend an excellent Indian restaurant just to the south in El Segundo, named Indian Summer. If you just need a quick snack to avoid hypoglycemia, the on-site con suite is staffed with very nice volunteers who go out of their way to make sure you have what you need.

TARDIS console
You can get your picture taken with one of the actual consoles from the TARDIS! Not a reproduction!

The grand finale of the show is the Year In Review, featuring media clips and footage from the Who universe. Contests, interviews and general tomfoolery make this a laugh-filled time not to be missed, followed by all the talent coming out onto the stage for a standing ovation. My favorite part of the Year In Review was the voice of the daleks himself doing loudspeaker announcements in train stations and department stores, to the confusion and amusement of the crowds.

Gallifrey One, after just one visit, has become an instant favorite with me for all the reasons listed above, and too many more reasons to list as well, including accessibility to the talent. I’ve already purchased my pass for next year. If you miss your chance, don’t despair! Some badges are returned in advance, and can be purchased after the initial sold-out period. Hope to see you there in 2014!

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