Back to Planet Earth
I’ve come back down to Earth after the most exhilarating trip to Gallifrey One 2018. The excitement started at Heathrow Airport when I got to the departure gate and saw Mark Ayres and his lovely wife, Nicki waving hello. Mark was the composer on “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy” which was going to be the centre of much attention at this year’s convention. Who companion Wendy Padbury was also waiting to board, looking ludicrously young and elfin as ever.
The eleven hour journey to L.A seemed to pass comfortably by the time I’d got through most of my airport page turner, “The Marriage Pact”( actually a very insightful treatise on marriage disguised as a John Grisham style thriller), and two movies, “ Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” and “Crooked House”. The first film definitely worth a watch if you’re tired of action movies. Annette Bening is always superb.
Matt Fitton, the terrific Big Finish writer who created “Signs and Wonders” which I performed in, was another friendly face smiling at me in the customs area. I’m hoping he’ll create some more meaty drama for me to perform in, in the not too distant future.
The familiar face I was particularly thrilled to see was that of Stephen Wyatt. He created the original script for “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy” and this was his first visit to Gallifrey One. I introduced him to my comic chums Richard Dinnick and Tony Lee at our breakfast hot spot. Deservedly, Stephen was greeted reverentially by many creators at the convention.
As we had a day free before the convention proper started, we decided to have a trip out to the Getty Museum along with Mark and Nicki Ayres.
Glorious Californian sunshine lit up this beautifully designed museum of art treasures. The building alone is worth the visit.
The next day of course was the start of the convention proper.
In the Dealers Room, I was sat at a table next to another of the Greatest Show In The Galaxy alumni, Andrew Cartmel. And in a great position to welcome visitors and espy and reach out to friends and past visitors passing by. Was lovely seeing Ross Ruediger, Michael Paul Rudski, Stephen James, Guy Jackson who made me so welcome the first time around. Charlie Kirchoff who helped get me over to the first Gallifrey was there with his wife Elbony, a mistress of Cosplay disguise. Her Richard Ayoade was superb! Shaun Lyon, the organiser of Gallifrey One made sure I was well looked after...Mark Oliver and Barnaby Edwards were ever vigilant. And I was very lucky to have Nicki Ayres volunteer to assist me on the table.
I had great fun participating in various panels. On “Guest Starring In Doctor Who”, Dee Sadler and I compared notes with Terry Malloy aka Davros, Richard Ashton the Ice Warrior and Jon Davey whose played countless Cybermen and aliens.
Paul Cornell’s late night Cornell Collective Quiz was a zany geekfest of Whovian impro. Paul’s wife Caroline and I got to sing the duet “I Know Him So Well” in the style of the Cybermen. And I gave my rendition of Doctor Who played by Bette Davis. An adventure in time, space and classic Hollywood! The guest panel was almost entirely female... including this amazing writer Jody Houser ( pictured below) who is going to be writing the 13th Doctor series for Titan’s Doctor Who series.
Day Two was another never ending stack of peak moments. The afternoon’s panel reuniting the Greatest Show In The Galaxy team, brought back vivid memories of our glorious summer at the Psychic Circus. Writer Stephen Wyatt concurred that the tight casting contributed to the success of that particular storyline. And we all agreed that his creation of mesmerising, enigmatic characters is what made it a classic that we are proud of being a part of to this day.
That panel gathering was immediately followed by the Titan Comics Preview. I shared the sofa with Chris Thompson, brand manager at Titan, writer Richard Dinnick, Simon Fraser, Paul Cornell, Christopher Jones, Cavan Scott, George Mann, Jody Houser and myself. The two big announcements were that the Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy was to get his own mini series with a back up story written by Richard Dinnick and starring Mags...to be drawn by me!! The other big news was that the 13th Doctor was going to be given a Titan comic written and illustrated by a mainly female team featuring rising star, Jody Houser.
And the meta- Doctor element got even more out there when I found my young fan friend Jessica, cosplaying as Mags!!
The Mags love continued on day three, as I found myself invited to provide my comic art skills at a charity auction for the anti-bullying campaign run by Chase Masterson..Pop Culture Hero Coalition. Richard Dinnick offered up the chance to have your own character named after you and likeness drawn by me in the upcoming Mags adventure. The item was bid for at a staggering $2000.00!!
And it was a proud moment when I signed my name on the Doctor Who Titan Comics banner, also up for auction. Chris Thompson and I have a history that goes back to when I was only dreaming of doing comics and he was events manager at Orbital Comics. He has helped me every step of the way. He gave me the chance to have my first Comics art exhibition, run a live drawing class and have the book launch for “Elsie Harris Picture Palace”. So to stand with him at the Titan table at the biggest Doctor Who convention in the world as a new professional illustrator, was a watershed moment.
There were other memorable moments that last Sunday. I received a wonderful collection of vintage movie magazines, postcards and a binder of Collier magazines from 1932 from a terrific couple, Roddy and Diana who’d visited me the first time I visited Gallifrey. Roddy said I was a fellow traveller and had inspired him to take up illustrating again in his retirement.
An unexpectedly powerful and emotional afternoon was inspired by the Gallifrey No More panel. I was invited to join an entirely female panel of cast and creatives, encouraged by Deborah Stanish to share our own dark experiences in the light of the Weinstein revelations. That Doctor Who can be a platform for important political change and make a stand against bullying was enlightening and empowering.
So it was an emotional farewell at the closing ceremonies that evening. As I said then, it is gratifying to know that what makes us happy as actors and creators, gives great happiness to the fans of Doctor Who. Long may it continue!