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February 18, 2009

Gallifrey One: Gentlemen... We're Not In Stockton Anymore

I think it's fair to say myself and others were becoming coming oh so very weary of Doctor Who conventions. With locations so lacking in glamour and sophistication even a Tele Savalas quota quickie wouldn't have increased their attraction rating one iota. With their ticket prices so far divorced from the actual scheduled content it would take a phalanx of counsellors to even get them back in the same hemisphere let alone any closer together. And with more than a soupçon of organisational incompetence that would have embarrassed the project managers of Terminal 5.

Picketed by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall protesting at the factory farming methods of UK convention organisers.

In the space of the last few years, they've turned from a heady mix of entertainment and ale into the fan equivalent of a tightly packed bovine milking warehouse. Get them in, attach the suckers to their wallet-teats and start slurping the buggers dry. It's a wonder that the venues aren't being picketed by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall - protesting at the factory farming methods of UK convention organisers and demonstrating this by having a Doctor Who fan stand in a minuscule cell formed by walls of unsold Dapol Dalek boxes to illustrate just how much room they all have to manoeuvre at these sorts of events.

Despite being a borderline sociopath (and therefore adhering to all 63 stereotypical fan character flaws) I've met and come to know many fantastic convention regulars. The effect of which means that in spite of, not because of, the convention you'd be assured of a good time. No matter how dismally repetitive or how badly planned a convention was you'd always meet up, get completely sluiced and have a damned fine time doing it. Although you'd end up with a feeling of not really getting value for money for the price of admission - as if you were basically having to make your own entertainment - like what we did back in the olden times before god created Sky+.

My first Who convention, Panopticon'94, was a solitary affair, driving from Swansea to Coventry on both Saturday and Sunday (don't ask) and that was quickly followed by a Star Trek convention at the Royal Albert Hall (I'll probably go to hell for that - or at least be damned for all eternity to reside in a tent by the A1). After that it was 9 years before convention going became a regular event. But in the space of 6 short years, and no more than a dozen weekend and one-day events, I felt I was becoming weary of the whole scene...

Making a Azal costume from discarded Taco Bell serviettes and dried Yak poo.

But then along came Gallifrey One. And you realised precisely how these things should be done. It's fair to say, not since the early days of Dimensions - with its less than salubrious hotel rooms, its vistas over the widest high street in Europe and its interactive bitch-slap betting opportunities outside the Zanzibar - have I enjoyed and laughed so much at convention. I believe I attended a grand total of 3 panels - one of which I was a panel member at - out of dozens. But that didn't matter one bit. The schedule itself was simply amazing - with several things going on at once it meant that you didn't need to hear the same anecdote for the 945th time when you could pop off to hear how best to approach making a Azal costume from discarded Taco Bell serviettes and dried Yak poo.

Rfs Honorable mentions go to the three Radio Free Skaro dudes - Warren, Steven and Chris. Meeting these three Canadian nutballs was an unedited pleasure (sorry, that should have read unparalleled pleasure). They spent all weekend  podcasting their collected Canadian asses to a small and bloody nub. I'd only really started chatting to these three online about a week before Gally started and needless to say the House of Tachyon TV and the House of Radio Free Skaro got on like a hotel on fire. Looking forward to many a drunken interlude with them in the future.

We knew [from that moment] that we definitely weren't in Stockton.

Sexywater Another honourable mention must go to Joshua Friedman, who's a Podshock contributor, movie AD and part-time Playboy Mansion bar tender. Described by Jack Black as the Harley Davidson version of Jack Black, this man was the walking embodiment of LA. From the second he bounded over and shook us both strongly by the hand, started effusively talking of his love of the Tachyon TV podcasts, we knew that we definitely weren't in Stockton. Joshua Friedman - mixer of cocktails, provider of Playboy branded bottled sexy-water and AD on the forthcoming movie that deserves to clean up at next year's Oscars (Bitch Slap - you read it here first), you are one fine gentleman and I can't wait for our paths to cross again.

Then there were the celebs. We [I say we, John] interviewed a vast array of celebs who were more than happy to stop by for a long chat. I'm not going to reveal anything that was said - you'll have to wait for the podcast - other then to say how fantastic they all were. Superlatives will dry up so I'll simply say that Kai Owen, Phil Ford, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, David J Howe, Nev Fountain, Rob Shearman [best give up the writing Rob, it's not working out really is it ;)], Phil Collinson and anyone else I've forgotten were all quite, quite marvelous. If any of them are reading this (via a Google Alert on their respective names) I just want to thank them for being so generous with their time and their willingness to stay and chat long after the mic had gone off. We've done convention interviews in the past but I'm struggling to remember any other time when it was so goddamed relaxed as at Gally.

That, my friends, is the sheer raw power of Doctor Who.

Cheesecakeofdeath And last, but definitely not least, Mr Toby Hadoke (not forgetting Mrs Toby either - without whom the weekend would have been 34% less entertaining). And this kind of crystalizes how plainly barking mad this world of Doctor Who shenanigans can get. I first met Toby during the initial Edinburgh Fringe outing of his fantastic one man show, Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, some 3 years ago now. The day after my not-we other half (who saw the show and enjoyed it) and I were walking down the Royal Mile and she nudged me in the ribs, or at least in the chunky man flab covering my ribs, and said there's that bloke we saw last night. So I bounded over, said hello and shook him vigorously by the hand. Now, I'm guessing that neither of us would have thought that just 3 years - and several subsequent meetings - later we'd both be sharing a death defying cab ride through the deserted streets of LA in the early hours one morning in February. All in the name of cheesecake.

That, my friends, is the sheer raw power of Doctor Who. Never underestimate it. Never ignore it. And never, ever, accept a ride from a cabbie who drives like a hologram from a bad Glen A. Larson television series.

This is Damon Querry for Tachyon TV, sober (for the first time in days), 36000 foot up over Kansas.

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