Gallifrey One is difficult to describe because it is so many things. It’s like being at the center point of Doctor Who fandom and discovering it exists everywhere in infinite variation. The only thing unifying the disparate group of con goers was a love for a mythology based on a TV show and even that varies from casual observer to fierce devotee yet there is room for everyone.
Gallifrey One is a giant party except when it isn’t. It’s a classroom, a shopping mall, a networking mixer, an entertainment complex. It is an experience unique to the individual depending on their own choices and how willing they are to allow themselves to be swayed by the next siren call. There’s no right or wrong way to partake of the con but once you’re down in that ballroom it’s almost impossible to hold onto even the best laid plans. A schedule changes, or new friends make suggestions, or exhaustion sets in or a second wind is found and you find yourself in places you never thought to go.
For me the best part of Gallifrey One was found in the fan run panels. It was a free license to discuss this amazing thing that we love without fear of judgment. I’m so used to being the outlier I wasn’t sure at first how to react in a situation where I didn’t have to defend my love for an absurdist TV program. I knew the fandom existed of course but to live in the middle of it for a few days was such an eye-opening experience. It’s easy to understand now why people speak of journeying to Gallifrey One as if they were coming home.
The celebrity panels and interviews are fun and for the most part they come across as kind and gracious and genuinely happy to be there. The fan panels are special though because they are organized, filled and watched by people who have nothing to gain but the chance to talk about something meaningful to them. Were there some instances of discourtesy by panelists or audience members? Sure but so few they are statistically insignificant. Every large group has its troublemakers but Gallifrey One is remarkably drama free and the atmosphere of respect for both guests and attendees the con cultivates may be one of its greatest strengths.
One of the coolest things Gallifrey One offers is the chance to interact with creators in small groups. The kaffeeklatsches are held in a conference room with a limit of about 12 people and the one I attended with writer Sam Stone was the highlight of my con. It was an extended two-hour writer’s workshop and Sam’s positive outlook and willingness to give back to other writers was inspiring. There are few things I find more terrifying than being asked to spend fifteen minutes writing something and then reading it out loud in class but Sam made everyone feel safe and her comments were thoughtful and encouraging.
The cosplay at Gallifrey One is fabulous. The Eldrad costume from the “Hand of Fear” that won the masquerade was an exquisite work of art. The combination Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus)/Time Lady mash-up was wonderfully imaginative and the Yeti was pure fun. There were daleks and Davros and Doctors running all over the place and it created such a sense of wonder that it felt like being a kid again.
Perhaps the reason this con is so special is the noted absence of cynicism. The costumes, the artwork, the ribbons, the panels – all the effort people put forth to enhance this experience feels like such a labor of love. Everything is extremely well organized and it’s obvious the staff care deeply about what they are creating.
There are so few chances in this world to show love freely, wholly and unabashedly. Too often we are mocked and criticized for daring to dream about things beyond our daily grind. That is why gatherings like Gallifrey One are more than meet-ups and entertainment. They are declarations of hope in a world growing madder by the minute. This is where we step inside the story and become a part of it. This is where we learn we were never separate from it.