Sage: This isn’t a normal time — not to go to a con or to eat a sandwich or anything else. But Gallifrey One 2017 still happened. Not rain, not sleet, and apparently not the speedy death of democracy can keep Doctor Who fans from gathering yearly at the LAX Marriott over President’s Day Weekend (THE IRONY) to hug, drink, and talk shop. L.I. Who happened the weekend after the election, and the general mood of the con was utter shock and numbness. But a few months passed, and the next geeky fan get together we attended was basically Resistance Central. Gally1 was political af this year without the despair and depression that can come with that. There was camaraderie and joy and and a lot of “hell no, we won’t go.” The whole weekend felt like a declaration of who we are, what we stand for, and what we absolutely will not abide. Is that a fair characterization?
Kim: I feel like I stumbled through a lot of LI Who in a state of bewilderment. That’s not to say that it wasn’t an AMAZING experience (remember when we interviewed Paul McGann on the mainstage?) because it was. I just had never experienced a con where the main feeling was almost…”Is this the right thing to do at this moment? Is this whole experience silly when you look at what’s going on in the world?” Gally felt like a giant bottle of Gatorade to my parched soul. It was revitalizing. It was a time where we could immerse ourselves in both our fandom AND our friendships. I left Los Angeles on Monday afternoon physically exhausted but emotionally? I was raring to go.
TL;DR, yes, that’s absolutely a fair characterization. And it’s a big reason why this con is so freaking special to every person who comes and why it’s the CANNOT MISS convention on my calendar every year.
What blows my mind the MOST about Gally is that the attendance is right up around 3000 people, and yet it feels like a family, especially the more times you go back. I know there are a TON of people there I don’t know yet every face at the con looks familiar. You can barely walk more than a few yards on that con floor without running into someone you know and having a chat or hugging that person you flailed in line for a photo-op the previous year. How special is that?
Sage: I can only speak confidently for myself, but I’d wager that I’m not the only person at this con who went through a period of my life where I felt invisible and socially inept. (Everyone: “Yeah, dummy, it’s called high school.”) My point is that Gally brings together a lot of scrappy folks who haven’t had it easy, and this is a place where they can strut confidently down the halls in whatever it is they want to wear, live their fandom out loud, and be surrounded by people ready and willing to embrace them. It feels like I’m reaching back in time to tap the friendless 13-year-old in the Han Solo t-shirt and tell her that someday she’ll find her tribe.
But enough teenage sob stories. Let’s talk about the important stuff: ribbons.
The Gally ribbon game is always strong, but this year it was TOO LIT. “Black Lives Matter.” “Don’t You Think He Looks Tired? (with clip art of Tr*mp)” “Bustin’ fascists makes me feel good.” Those practical pronoun declarations!
Swapping ribbons has always been a big part of the fun for me, because it’s like I’m getting little pieces of everybody I meet to take home with me. And though there were the requisite Doctor Who quotes and podcast promo designs, I was so delighted to see that people were using those little scraps of fabric to make a real statement. And you can tell us in the comments if it happened to you, but I personally didn’t see anyone take any shit for a political ribbon. I really hope that’s representative of the whole weekend.
Kim: One of my favorite things in the build-up to Gally is the Ribbon Exchange group on Facebook, where everyone shares the designs they are planning to bring to the con. What’s super fun about that group is that it feels like people took inspiration from each other and one politically themed ribbon would spawn at least five more. I think it was a combination of the current state of the world and the fact that we only had “Doctor Mysterio” to provide inspiration for new ribbons that REALLY spurred people to up their creativity. There were so many Star Wars ribbons! My final ribbon count was 215 and there are STILL a few ribbons that I am SUPER upset that I didn’t get. Namely the “But when all is said and done, Saxon has beliefs, Tr*mp has none.” one. I will cry over not getting that one for a long time.
Speaking of taking inspiration from each other, I have to bring up our Punk Companions Cosplay. What started as an idea inspired by some Punk!Bucky art we saw at San Diego Comic Con became so much more than that. We debuted the Punks at LI Who as just a fun chance for our girl group to get creative and have fun together because we aren’t screen accurate cosplayers, for the most part. And it’s a cosplay that works the best within a large group because individually we may not be recognizable but when we’re together, it’s like “Of course! There’s Clara, there’s Romana, etc.” The Punks got taken to the next level for Gally when Alyssa (@WhovianFeminism) suggested that we add protest signs themed to all our companions. It was perfect because we did our cosplay on the same day as the first General Strike, so it felt like we got to have the best of both worlds – Being massively creative Doctor Who nerds while making our own political statement. And the best thing about it? We didn’t get any sort of blow back from it. Other than a few trolls on the Nerdist Instagram post anyway.
Another really important aspect of Gally is that it feels like a safe space for you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. While I didn’t do any formal panels this year, I definitely upped my participation level, which is always something I’ve been HORRIBLE about. I’ve sat on the front row of “In Defense Of” EVERY YEAR and judged the hell out of the BS coming out of the participant’s mouths (which is the fun of the whole thing) but I’ve never had the guts to put myself on the line. It’s silly, really, because if you can’t make a fool of yourself at Gally, where can you? After Michelle’s triumphant performance at LI Who, I promised myself that I would do it. That didn’t stop me from breaking out into a cold sweat the moment Deb Stanish called my name though. “In Defense Of” is like an out-of-body experience in the BEST way. You just have to give no fucks in regards to whatever comes out of your mouth (I actually tied Tegan getting the snacks to women throughout history being water-bearers?! I don’t even know where that came from.) or turn your OWN criticism on topics into sarcastic defenses (Shippers NEED to be told by old school fans how to think about Doctor Who, you guys). I was RELIEVED when I finally was dethroned but it was the MOST FUN and I’m so glad I did it.
When you combine that experience with doing a live Comedy Sketch for Reality Bomb and participating in Paul Cornell’s “Would I Lie To You?” game show, so much of my panel experience was performance oriented and fly by the seat of your pants improv, which was a totally new thing for me. And it felt GOOD remembering that part of me that went kicking and screaming into my college improv troupe before I ended up loving it.
Sage: Kim, it’s funny, but you and I had almost completely opposite panel experiences. I was in awe of everything you did because though I’ll talk in public all day long, the thought of doing more performative work sends CHILLS up my spine. In fact, I may have done some light begging to Graeme that my Reality Bomb Live contribution not be at all sketch-related. Because those sketches are legitimately great comedy and I am legitimately awful at reading lines. As it turned out, I think I had the easiest job of any of you. All I had to do was stand on a stage and sing the praises of our current Doctor with my fellow panelists Lindsay Mayer and Rachael Stott. I could do that in my SLEEP. Though, I admit I was a little intimidated by living up to Rachael’s level of Capaldi love. He sent her fan mail, come on.
(Btdubs, if you missed the Reality Bomb Live! Taping or want to relive it, have a listen here.)
I was pretty psyched to be drafted into the Chibnall Transition panel, because I’d imagine its breadth would have made it one of the more popular ones. It’s also probably the broadest panel I’ve participated in at Gally, since I felt more comfortable in the early days requesting exclusively to be put on those related to female creators, companions, and other lady-type stuff. (That’s not to say that panels are either lady-type or otherwise. But feminism and representation are topics I feel confident addressing, so I gravitated towards those to get my feet wet.) In the Chibnall room, me and my fellow panelists (Kyle Anderson, Paul Booth, Richard Dinnick, and Graeme Burk) got to do nothing more than make somewhat educated guesses about where this is all going. It was like a lobby con conversation without the booze, but I think we made it work. We also avoided (thanks for our stern but kind moderator) falling into the panel trap of casting the next Doctor. “I’m sick of white men” is about as far as we got, and it wasn’t even me who had to say it!
Confirmed, I did say this. https://t.co/1iBnIWdhD5
— Kyle Anderson (@FunctionalNerd) February 19, 2017
I wish so much that the Class panel hadn’t been scheduled against In Defense Of AND the Bowie panel. (Yes, there was a Bowie panel at Gally. Because Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg literally wrote the book on him. And Katy Manning has been to more cool parties than all of us combined.) I also wish Class had been a better show, but alas. The conclusion our panel came to about the Doctor Who spinoff was this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It wasn’t perfect, but there was some good stuff in there, principally where representation and taking quote unquote teen problems seriously were concerned. But if you were in the room for the Year in Review, you already know that. Christ, that thing was spoilery.
Kim: BUT SPOILERY IN THE WAY THAT MADE ME WANT TO WATCH IMMEDIATELY. (Hi, I’m Kim, and I’m a sucker for Beautiful British People DOING IT.) (Sage: It’s not the doin’ it that bothers me, it’s the CARNAGE.) The Year in Review is one of those other uniquely Gally things that I adore. An hour long fan video celebrating the year in Doctor Who? Sign me up. ESPECIALLY because it always includes footage from the UK that I’ve never seen. The whole thing is always a mega guarantee to make me super emo. Ending this year’s package with David Tennant telling us everything will be okay and that we should trust him because he’s a Doctor? RUDE.
But I gotta backup for a minute because we would be COMPLETELY remiss if we didn’t mention the “Look at where we are, look at where we started” (That title WHY) panel with ALL the female talent at the convention, magnificently wrangled by Deb Stanish. In the past few years, the final marquee panel has gone to a Doctor (and why not, when you can put Paul McGann and Colin Baker on a stage to riff unmoderated for an hour?), so it made for a refreshing change to see the companions close out the con. And THESE WOMEN. We (partly) joke when we cry out “MOM!” every time we see Katy Manning or Anneke Wills, but the sentiment applies. The lives these women have lived! (Katy Manning has lived lives for at LEAST 5 people, y’all.) It was amazing to hear them talk about how far we’ve all come and how hard we still need to work to create opportunities for ourselves. What struck me the most about the panel was how gracious these women were. There were a LOT of big personalities, yet every woman got a chance to take center and contribute. (Those are some moderating SKILLZ, Deb Stanish.) No one tried to dominate the panel or make the spotlight shine brightest on them. The Whovian Sisterhood is a real thing. Now can someone get me a ticket to that island that Louise Jameson proposed they all live on?
The sense of fellowship on that panel is really a microcosm of Gally itself. We are a family and we are a fellowship. More than any other Gally I’ve been to, THIS con felt like the main goal of the whole weekend was to build each other up, from cosmo parties in a hotel room to breaking it down to “Uptown Funk” with our favorite Dancing Missy to taking 2 hours to say good night to everyone at the last lobby con. (Gillian to us on Sunday Night: You bitches said you were going to bed AGES ago.) It’s all just so damn life-affirming and refreshingly free of ego. Running a website or blogging or podcasting can feel a bit like shouting into the void sometimes (or at least, me shouting at Sage), so it’s SO FULFILLING to have people say directly to your faces that your work is important and does not go unnoticed. It’s all just one big mutual appreciation society. “You’re awesome, I’m awesome, we’re ALL doing awesome things.” It’s a feeling I’ll carry with me until we’re all together in those hallowed halls of the LAX Marriott again.
Sage: That reminds me, Kim. It’s about time to re-up that countdown clock for next year.
You’re right, Gally1 absolutely IS a family. I feel closer to it every year. And the more of you I know, the more time I spend sitting in a panel room listening to you talk and thinking, “Did I KNOW he/she/they were THIS smart?” From the Doctor’s arc deconstructed as a hero’s journey to a discussion of gender-swapping in sci-fi to a wide-ranging, productive conversation about representation in Doctor Who, the discourse is SO GOOD.
And so’s the fashion. Every con comes through with a few of those imaginative and/or superbly made cosplays that we talk about for years to come. (Remember that girl who made herself into The Wire for LI Who??) Some of my favorites were Lego Twelve, Ten/Rey, the Sisterhood of Karn, and of course those tiny, twin Bills who got a Twitter shoutout from Pearl Mackie. In fact, Gally1 was CRAWLING with Bills and it felt so good. Pearl, come visit us some time!
— Pearl Mackie (@Pearlie_mack) February 18, 2017
We always try to remember to thank Shaun Lyon and the entire Gallifrey One team for such a smoothly run, comprehensive con. It’s honestly a blueprint for how all fan conventions should be done. But this year, I want to pull back a bit to also say: thank you for doing the work that you do so that the rest of us can have this space. And I don’t just mean for this scary year in particular. Everybody’s dealing with something: job stress, illness, recovery, depression, family issues, etc, etc, etc. And Gally1 is this little oasis to annually look forward to. I personally don’t treat my body very well during this con or any con (it’s a diet of fried food, wine, and sleep debt, generally), but I still think of flying to Los Angeles every February as self-care for the soul.
So now begins the long hiatus before Gallifrey One 2018. (Hey, at least we get new Doctor Who this year.) We’ll carry all of you with us until then. #NeverCruelOrCowardly #GenerallyTryNotToBeDicks #Resist