This weekend I made my first trip to the 23rd installment of Gallifrey One – a Doctor Who convention held annually in LA – and it was nothing short of OUTSTANDING. The defining characteristic of this event is that it is 100% fan-run. This means every staff member and volunteer is participating out of sheer love and enjoyment of the series, and it shows in every detail of the programming. Chairman Robbie Bourget and his team planned a fantastic convention with an enormous variety of interviews, discussion panels and screenings.
The charm of this convention goes beyond the quality of programming. Just as important to the overall experience is the character of the fans. I am pleased to say I have never been surrounded by so many friendly, enthusiastic, and kind people that I immediately felt a connection with. This inclusive, family-friendly atmosphere was in no way diminished by a record-breaking attendance of 3,183 people.
This year’s Network 23 theme had a phenomenal guest list with a wide variety of representation from several different eras of the series. Perhaps the greatest separation between other conventions and Gallifrey One is how accessible each beloved star is to the fans. Headliners such as Paul McGann, Camille Coduri, Mark Sheppard, William Russell, Toby Haynes, Barnaby Edwards, and Gary Russell (among MANY others) participated in live commentaries, discussion panels, and had scheduled times for autographs and photos that gave every registered member the opportunity to interact with their favorite actors and writers.
Saturday night featured the Masquerade of Mandragora, an opportunity for fans to display their home-made costumes, as well as a few prepared skits. The fandom of Doctor Who is damned talented, and I was blown away by the level of quality in each entrant’s work. Audience favorites included the Androids! sitcom featuring three different generations of cybermen, and the Companion Game featuring Doctors Two, Nine, and Dalek-Sec competing for a chance to travel with former companion Dodo. Perhaps the greatest “awww” moment was when an otherwise shy 3 or 4 year-old contestant dressed as Tom Baker’s 4th doctor began dancing on stage with the giant-sized Adipose during the award ceremonies.
The main event of Sunday was the charity auction, this year supporting Students Run LA, a school-based mentoring and physical fitness program for at-risk middle and high school students in the Los Angeles area. They have an outstanding success rate, and 97% of their seniors go on to a college or university. Auctioned items included autographs, vintage books, VHS tapes, and action figures. Over $7,000 total was raised for this very good cause.
This convention has everything a Doctor Who fan could ask for, and I am already counting down the days until next year. It is a trip worth saving for, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year’s 50th Anniversary special. You can keep up with Gallifrey One news through their Facebook page facebook.com/gallifreyone, or on twitter @galliferyone. If I see you there next year, ask me for a ribbon!