For more photos see our slideshow, Doctor Who Convention @ The Marriott Los Angeles Airport
Paul J. Salamoff is a former special-effects artist from Burbank who now works as a writer and producer. He's also the owner of the TARDIS console from the 1996 Doctor Who television movie starring Paul McGann. This weekend, he unveiled the refurbished prop at Los Angeles' annual gathering of Whovians, Gallifrey One.
It makes sense that Salamoff, who gave the prop new life with the help of two other fans, would choose Gallifrey One for the big reveal. A Doctor Who aficionado since childhood, Salamoff has been attending the convention for at least 15 years. While this convention still flies a little under the media radar, Gallifrey One is becoming better known as more and more people in the U.S. are obsessing over the long-running British sci-fi franchise, which airs on BBC America.
For its 23rd annual show, Gallifrey One reunited the cast of the 1996 movie, making Salamoff's console all the more important. Though he has owned the spectacular prop for five years, Salamoff and friends refurbished it in three months specifically for this event. Their goal was to turn the console into an interactive piece that would wow convention attendees.
“I've always been very open about letting Doctor Who fans come and see it,” Salamoff says. “I knew what it meant to own a piece of history like this.”
It was a long, arduous process that one of Salamoff's cohorts documented on his blog, but the response was worth it. The eighth Doctor himself, McGann, stopped by with his son to play with some of the controls.
For those unfamiliar with the Doctor and his adventures, the TARDIS is a time and space travel device that looks like a British police box. Inside the box is a massive console, which differs with the various incarnations of the Doctor. The one used in 1996 film has a vintage feel to it — “steampunk before steampunk became popular,” according to Brian Uiga, who worked on the restoration — and features old laboratory equipment on the facade.
Though the console was fairly functional when Salamoff purchased it, more work was needed to make it convention-friendly. He brought in Uiga, a Mission Viejo-based mechanical engineer, for assistance.
They swapped out halogen lights in favor of LEDs. Uiga then installed a controller based on a design used to automate Christmas lights. They added sound effects, including clips of McGann's voice, and built a platform to transport the heavy and fragile prop. They even had a Sonic Screwdriver, fashioned from a remote control, and a re-creation of the Doctor's bag, made primarily to conceal some of the electronic elements.
Though the project isn't complete — they still need to work on the Time Rotor — it stood out as one of the finest displays of Whomania at Gallifrey One.
The console was showcased in a hotel meeting room throughout the event. For one hour every day, a professional photographer took photos of fans with the prop for free. (There was a tip jar for attendees who wanted to help them finish the project.) By Saturday, they had to turn away people in line because of time constraints.
Whether Salamoff will bring the console to other conventions remains uncertain. He says he would like to have the chance to share his piece with more people, “just to see the joy on people's faces.”
He adds, “I'm the luckiest boy in the world.”