The big news at Gally this year was Christopher Eccleston - the first modern Doctor to attend the con, as well as CE's first DW-centric appearance. Like JB and CT last year, he did two panels and we were asked to attend one but not both so that everyone would get to see one. However, the con did not anticipate his popularity - as they said, he is the one guest they have ever had that every single person at the con wanted to see - and so both panels were packed and there were traffic problems.
You'd never know it from watching DW, but CE is soft-spoken and thoughtful, with a slow Mancunian drawl. He absolutely loves his two children and mentions them at every opportunity. It was interesting to contrast his panel to John Barrowman's and Catherine Tate's panels the year before. Those two are entertainers, and when they take to the stage, they're there to make you smile and laugh. CE is an actor, and when he's not acting, he just wants to have a conversation, and I think he's genuinely surprised that anyone actually wants to listen to him.
The traffic problems translated to the autograph line, and not in a good way. People were lining up for his line three hours in advance, and then, due to problems in the photo shoot line, he arrived nearly an hour late. My husband got in line an hour before the scheduled time, waited for 3.5 hours, and then was three people away when the con had to cut the line so that CE could head to his panel. The next day, he got in line three hours early (and the con put him and others who'd been there the day before at the front of the line), then, after CE was again 45 minutes late, he finally got to meet him after five hours, so a total of 8.5 hours in line. Though he hated the waiting, he was ecstatic to finally meet him, as Nine is his Doctor.
One of the reasons that the autograph line took so long was that CE wanted to talk with everyone he met, and he volunteered to do another session after the con was over to get anyone else who had been turned away at the last scheduled session. He seems to be genuinely touched by the amount of love the fans have for him, and hopefully he'll come back around in a few years. I didn't do the autograph (I didn't want to spend the time, and I wanted it to be special for my husband that he got it), but I did do a photo shoot.
The more exciting thing for me this Gally was that my Fivey was there with his entire second TARDIS team: Peter Davison with Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, and Mark Strickson. My TARDIS team. Turlough especially - he's in my top five favorite companions, but if not, easily in the top ten. (For the record, that's Donna, Ace, Leela, Martha, and Turlough... plus if I really think about it, Sarah Jane and Peri [mostly in the audios].) I did a photo with them, of course, and got to chat with each of them at the autograph tables. Sarah Sutton does some gorgeous filigree art that I wish now I had purchased. She was offering a set of prints as the prize for a raffle for Janet Fielding's charity and I did that instead, and didn't win, of course.
The real gem, though, was Mark Strickson. His panel was just awesome. After he left DW, he moved to Australia and got a zoology degree, then went into filming nature documentaries. He pioneered the directorial style of getting the camera at the eye level of the animal (e.g. at ground level for a snake, rather than up on a tripod looking down), filmed in 56 different countries (so far), and produced all of the Steve Irwin films, and so the entire hour was stories about his experiences filming in war zones, defending himself from crocodiles, and occasionally getting past obstacles simply because someone realized that he was that Mark Strickson. He's gregarious and outgoing, and an amazing storyteller.
A new thing this Gally was VIP sessions, which is a paid event where the celeb in question reads from an episode script. There was one for CE, reading from "Rose" (I think), and the one I went to was PD reading from the fourth episode of "Earthshock". PD played the Doctor, of course, and Tony Lee (DW comics creator, who's one of the cornerstones at Gally) played the other parts. Before they started, they asked the audience if anyone was Australian, and there was, so this big hulking 6'4" guy came up and played Tegan. It was really interesting watching PD not only transform from himself into the Doctor, but also seeing him pick up a script he hasn't seen in nearly forty years and get right into it. (On the other hand, I've heard that he does all his work off the cuff without pre-reading the script at all; complete opposite of Colin Baker, who studies every script beforehand.) At the very end, Tony Lee had PD do Adric's final lines, which was hilarious. I hope they do more of these in the future, as it was a lot of fun. And I now have a signed copy of "Earthshock, pt. 4".
Popular Kaffeeklatchen are assigned by raffle and I didn't get my first choice, so I got Matt Fitton, who is one of the writers and script editors for Big Finish. Unfortunately, he mostly talked about ranges that I don't follow (such as the River Song range where she's having adventures with all of the classic Doctors), so I didn't get much out of it, but I did manage to chat with him (later on) for a while about writing.
Gary Russell, however, was amazing. He was my first choice (because everything I especially love about modern DW has his name on it - DW, SJA, TW, and the Gallifrey audios) but I didn't get him, so I signed up as an alt, and when the Kaffeeklatsch came around, he just told everyone who was there to come on in. His was also the final one of the day, so he said we could stay as long as we wanted, we weren't limited to the scheduled hour.
He proceeded to tell us all about starting Big Finish with Jason Haigh-Ellery, his plans of how to grow the company and the DW audio line, attracting the DW actors to the audios (including refuting Janet Fielding's story about why she refused to do the audios for so long), then how he moved to working for RTD on the main show and the spinoffs, and then finally leaving after a year with Moffat. We stayed there for two hours, during which he had to text his friends to tell them he wouldn't be joining them for dinner, and I would have been happy to have listened to him for the whole evening.
Since my husband spent several hours in line with nothing to do, he got the chance to chat a bit (okay, a lot) with the people around him and with passersby, especially since one of the lines was right by one of the food carts so there were always new people standing nearby. He noted that the general attitude toward the current show is a vague undercurrent of dislike. First, people were unhappy that the first Thirteenth Doctor season consisted of entirely unconnected episodes - being used to Moffat's technique of reminding the viewers that there's a plot (you know, the one I hate, where he shows you an unconnected image or scene that means nothing in every episode and then finally reveals what it's all about in the finale), they didn't like the return to the classic show format where each story is self-contained and unrelated.
Second, they don't have any confidence in Chibnall - they feel that he doesn't have a plan. If you're wondering what that means (I did and had to ask for clarification), because, for example, the Ruth Doctor was introduced in one episode and then was not mentioned in the next, they feel that Chibnall introduced the character without having figured out beforehand who she really is or where she came from. They are also convinced that the Ruth Doctor is an insert like the War Doctor was - a Doctor from between two established Doctors, or from before the First Doctor - and are already disappointed that Chibnall's reused the idea.
This seems odd to me. Just because something isn't mentioned every episodes, and especially just because you can't think of different explanation for a mystery, doesn't mean that the showrunner doesn't know exactly what happened and where everything is going. Interestingly, when my husband mentioned these people my theory on what's going on (which I haven't talked about here because I haven't had the time, but hopefully I will soon), which does not include having the Ruth Doctor be an insert, they were all, "Oh, that makes me feel better."
The trip home
After the con is over, we normally stay in LA on Sunday night and then head home Monday morning, and this time was no different. The flight was scheduled for 9:00 (usually it's much earlier) with an arrival time of 11:30, so that was nice, giving us most of the day to recuperate from the con and the traveling.
The plane took off on time, but after about a half hour in the air, they announced they were having problems with the air pressurization system and had to head back to LA. Thirty minutes later, they announced they had too much fuel to land (I'd no idea this was a concept), so they needed to circle for forty-five minutes. After we finally got on the ground, they taxied toward the gate, then announced that they needed for the gate to be cleared, so we sat on the tarmac for another twenty. We finally disembarked at noon (notice that's 30 minutes after we would have landed at home).
Then came the waiting. The lady at the gate said very cheerfully that they just had to fix the system and we'd be right on the way. 90 minutes later, she announces that they've finally figured out what's wrong, but they need to get a part shipped in, and it'll arrive around 2:15. Around 3:00, they say that didn't work, and they're still working on the problem. All through this time, our phones are going off approximately every 10-20 minutes to let us know that our departure time has moved forward 15 minutes.
Finally, around 5:00, the final notification comes in on our phones, that the flight's been canceled and we've been rebooked. Notice that was on our phones - the people sitting at the gate without the airline's app were never actually told anything. Of course, the app didn't bother to tell us what flight we were put onto, and we had to go to customer service to find out (and to try to book something earlier, which didn't work out).
Our flight was in the evening of the next day, so we had them recall our bag so that we'd have clothes for our night in the hotel (which the airline paid for, of course). The luggage was another disaster - the people at the luggage counter kept telling us it would be on the carousel with the next flight's deposit, and then after it wasn't there, we'd go back and they'd say the same thing. After an hour and a half of waiting, we get paged and of course the bag was delivered to the luggage counter, as it always is in this kind of situation - when they pull individual bags by special order, they don't go dump them in with some other flight's cargo.
So we spent a relaxing day in the hotel (though we had to pay for extending the checkout time, so that we weren't ejected from the hotel at noon and forced to wait in the airport until our 7:00 flight), and the flight home was uneventful. And then there was baggage claim. Not that we had a problem, mind you. We didn't actually see what happened directly. We were waiting for the baggage to start arriving at the carousel, with about fifty other people. Apparently, this couple approached, arguing like anything, and when they got to the carousel, the guy hauled off and punched the woman in the face.
Immediately, three guys stepped up and shielded the woman, one of them yelling, "Hey, you don't punch a woman!" and the woman stalked off, grumbling, "This is why they had to separate us on the plane!" The three men held the guy back as he screamed at them and said she was his sister so it was okay for him to punch her. The police arrived in a couple of minutes, and he immediately yelled at them, "That guy hit me!" - to which the entire crowd started laughing. The police handcuffed him and he kept protesting that he "didn't do anything wrong" and "she was my sister" and "these guys are lying". He did at one point make a break for the door (yes, with hands behind his back), and police hauled him back and laid him out face-down on the ground. No idea how that all ended, but it was certainly entertaining.
And then we went back to work, which is a palaver for another post. All in all, I had fun - I got to see a lot more of the con than my husband did, and despite the long wait in LA and the grumpy description above, I wasn't actually upset about the airplane delays. Tickets for next year's Gallifrey One go on sale this weekend and I am thrilled.