Pics in another entry...
The first thing I will say is that I enjoyed this con a lot more than I did the two other cons I've attended. The first con I ever attended was the first MineCon (for Minecraft). Now, that one was a lot of fun, but it was their first con and they had no idea what they were doing. They didn't have enough panels, their topics were not well-thought out, and they had some logistics problems. (The main one was that the con t-shirts were made available at the booth of their only merchandise vendor [back when official Minecraft stuff was only sold by that one store], so you had to stand in this three-hour-long line if you wanted to either get your free con t-shirt or buy any merchandise, and therefore miss most of the con.) The second con I attended was Wizard World Comicon in Raleigh, to see David Tennant. Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DT and attending the DT events, the rest of the con was uninteresting and I mostly felt like we were simply being herded through things as fast as possible. The only way I could see going back to one of those cons would be to see DT again, either alone or with Catherine Tate. (No, I won't go see him with Billie Piper or Matt Smith. Sorry. It's just not worth the extra money or the hassle and stress of the con to have to share his time with people I don't care much to see. Matt Smith was a bigger draw to me than Billie Piper, but no, I couldn't do it.)
Gally, of course, is specific to DW, and that gives it two very important benefits. First, there's always something to do. Not interested in the major panel going on right now? There are four other panels to choose from, not to mention the dealer room, art room, and the exhibitions, all centered on some aspect of the enormous DW universe. Second, everyone is there for the same reason, to celebrate Doctor Who. Everyone there is family. No, really. We all have this one thing binding us together. I, as a short, Asian female, could walk around dressed as a tall, blond male character, and everyone understood and loved it. And it doesn't matter if we agree or disagree on things - we all still love the show and because of that, we love each other. I got into a discussion about how much we enjoyed or disliked Series 9 and there was a wide range of opinions, from "It was terrific!" down to "I stopped watching after the fourth episode because I knew if I kept going, I'd start hating the show and wouldn't enjoy Gally," and no one got angry; everyone encouraged everyone else to talk about it and be honest.
You can't get that in a non-specific con. It's very sad that the big names will only go to the big cons - mostly because Gally is not backed by a corporation and cannot afford them - and certainly, if you want to meet them, that's where you have to go. But if you're looking for people to share your love of Doctor Who, I urge you to pass by the big flashy comic cons and go to a DW-specific con - Gallifrey One, Chicago TARDIS, Long Island Who, to name a few. It's worth it.
Looking back at the events I attended, I realize now that I didn't go to many of the celebrity panels. Of course, I went to Peter Davison's, but other than that, the only other one I went to was Sir John Hurt's. In many cases, there was another event I was more interested in - which is why I didn't attend Colin Baker's or Nicola Bryant's panel - but in others, I just wasn't interested (as was the case for most of the Series 8 and 9 stars). I did miss PD's and CB's joint panel because I got the time wrong.
Somehow, PD's panel turned mostly into a recollection of the making of "The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot", which was fine by me, as I consider that the best part of the 50th anniversary (followed by "The Light at the End", and then by "The Day of the Doctor"). PD said that he had the feeling very early on that he and the other classic Doctors wouldn't be included in the 50th, but nothing was said and they were kept in the dark. At some point, at a con or something, someone asked him if he was going to be in the 50th, and he said something like, "If I'm not, well, I'm just going to go make one myself!" At the next con, then, people were asking him for details on his 50th, and he thought, "Well, why not?" So, he started writing the script and asking people to participate, and he was amazed at how many people chose to do so, considering they all did it for free. When he asked Sylvester McCoy, he hesitated a bit because of conflicts in his work, saying that he might have to be in New Zealand "to film The Hobbit, a multi-million-dollar major motion picture" - and that became his running joke in FDR.
The scene where John Barrowman told PD that they now film DW in Cardiff ("Bugger!") was originally written for Mark Gatiss, but just as PD was finishing it, someone told him that the press reported that Barrowman had complained that he wasn't going to be included in the 50th, and PD immediately crossed out Gatiss and wrote in Barrowman. Then, he added the part about Barrowman having a secret wife and family. Sometime later, the BBC contacted him and told him he had to remove the scene. Why? Because the scene could be read as implying that Barrowman was gay and the BBC felt that Barrowman might not like that. Yes, you read that right. PD told the BBC that Barrowman was the gayest actor out there and had built his entire career on being gay, so the scene was staying in.
PD had emailed Tom Baker to invite him to participate also, and they were discussing it. The original scene had CB calling TB to explain what they were doing, and finally having TB refuse to do it, saying, "I just can't be arsed." After it was written, TB stopped replying to PD's emails, so PD came up with the idea of using the Shada footage and the answering machine message about being "stuck in the sodding time vortex again" in case having TB fell through. He mentioned it to a friend, who told him that the new version was much funnier, and so that's what he went with. (And, of course, we now know why TB stopped replying.)
Sylvester McCoy did actually have to hop back to New Zealand to do Hobbit filming, and PD asked him if Peter Jackson might be interested in doing a scene where he's found that SM has skipped out on his contract, back to England. SM said he would, but after not hearing from him for a while, PD emailed PJ directly, fully expecting to be ignored. He received a reply three minutes later, saying that he'd love to do it, would film it with his own equipment, and get Sir Ian McKellen in it as well.
I remember very little from Sir John Hurt's panel. I'm honestly not familiar with is work outside of Doctor Who, and most of what he talked about was about that stuff, so there wasn't much for me to really understand and connect with. He did say that he was called and offered the part of the War Doctor and turned it down, but his wife overheard the conversation and asked, "Did they just offer you a part in Doctor Who?" When he said yes, she said, "You are taking it!"
I attended as many of the Big Finish panels as I could. The first was for India Fisher and Seán Carlsen, interviewed by Jason Haigh-Ellery, the founder of Big Finish. I got the distinct impression that after all this time, India is still rather amazed by the amount of adoration she and Charley receive. She doesn't get too many instances of recognition from random people, as her work is mostly all voice, and so it still surprises her when it does happen. They also told some stories which make it seem like they still idolize the big names just as much as we do - it's a BIG deal to them when people like DT or Sir John Hurt come to studio to record. It's like, they're all actors, but those people are on a whole other level. She told a story about one of her female colleagues doing an audio with DT in which there was a kissing scene. She said that when there's a kissing scene on audio, the actors just kiss their own wrists and make sucking noises. When it came to that scene, DT mentioned that he had just come from doing a similar scene at BBC Radio, and there, they actually have a bed in the studio for the actors to lie down on and do their parts. And the actress replied, "OKAY!"
In the other Big Finish panel, JH-E asked the audience to name properties that they'd like Big Finish to make audios for. That was the really impressive thing to me - Big Finish is asking their listeners what they'd like to hear. I don't remember most of them, as they were mostly British properties I'd never heard of, but when people asked for things like Babylon 5, the reply was, "We've tried to get that. It's very difficult, but we're still working on it." He said that when Big Finish first started, back somewhere around 1999, they were making twelve audios a year. Now they make 120 audios a year.
I think the thing I loved the most, though, was getting to talk to some of the DW people. It was impossible to do with the big names - I barely got to say anything to PD or CB - but the ones who didn't have huge lines were so friendly and willing to chat about anything. I managed to chat with Seán Carlsen a bit, and I think I'm in love. :) I also met a number of the writers, for both the show and the audios: Sarah Dollard, Jamie Mathieson, Andrew Cartmel, Nev Fountain, Simon Guerrier. I went up to Jamie Mathieson and told him how I thought that his three episodes were the absolute best of Series 8 and 9, and that I'd hoped he'd be chosen for showrunner. Sarah Dollard was next to him, and so I said, "Well, I know you just heard what I said to him, so I can't say 'Face the Raven' was the best episode in the series!" Luckily, she laughed. I told her that I did very much enjoy the episode and that she gave Clara a beautiful ending. I asked Andrew Cartmel how he felt about the Masterplan never coming to fruition, and he said, "Pissed off."
As I was stepping down the autograph table, I checked my program and verified that Nev Fountain was a BF writer, so I approached his station. He had CDs of his plays in front of him, and I saw "Omega", "The Kingmaker", and "Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories" - three of my absolute favorites of the audios. I'm not kidding. I was so honored to meet him. I really need to pay more attention to the writers, I think.
Now, I actually haven't listened to any of Simon Guerrier's plays (though it turns out I have read some of his Short Trips), but I talked to him most of all. I don't know how we got on the subject, but I mentioned that I write fanfic, and he asked me if I wanted to do real writing for the show. I hadn't actually thought about it before, and I had to say I didn't know, but I do very much enjoy writing adventures. I returned later to ask him for advice on plotting, and we talked "shop" for about fifteen minutes. He gave me some very good pointers.
I saw him again in his Kaffeeklatsch. A Kaffeeklatsch is an event at Gally where about twelve people get to sit down with the guest and talk for an hour. The guests are almost always the writers - the actors don't seem to do Kaffeeklatsches (or is that Kaffeeklatschen?). Simon's was the last one and happened to have an opening, so I signed up about an hour before it; if I had known about Nev Fountain early in the con, I would have attended his as well. Simon talked about what life is like for a writer, how they break into writing for audio and TV, as well as some of quirks of writing for Doctor Who (such as how you have to adjust your style to match the Doctor you're writing for).
Probably the worst experience at the con was the other Kaffeeklatsch that I attended, which was a writing workshop run by Sam Stone, whom I had never heard of but is a published author. I think the problem is that I expected a writing workshop at a DW convention would be centered on topics specific to DW; for example, how to build alien worlds or convincing monsters, how to write action scenes, how to observe the Doctor and companion in the show and then portray them accurately with words, that kind of thing. Instead, this was "how to write good description". It had all the usual advice: "show, don't tell", "don't use adverbs", "use all five senses". You know, all those things you find on the page when you google "how i write 4 fish". It was just not useful, not to mention that the amount of description she was expecting us to write was quite purple, in my opinion, and not at all comfortable for me. I suppose I shouldn't have expected an intermediate-level workshop. Her discussion also included tips on how to get your writing published, and it seemed odd to me that a beginner-level workshop included a discussion on publishing.
Well, those are the highlights of the con for me, at least what I can remember right now. I loved every minute of it (even the writing workshop - it was still fun), and I am really hoping to get tickets to next year's Gally, because it was that good. Hopefully next year, I'll be more prepared and know who every guest is, so I can glom onto my favorite writers from the very beginning. Molto bene.