The 28th annual Gallifrey One, a Doctor Who convention, took place at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott February 17-19, 2017! In Part 2 of our Saturday Report, Josh gives his perspective of psychic medium Michael J. Kouri’s Hanted Houses panel, then Violet provides a recap of the Making Torchwood panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto) and Naoko Mori (Tosh).
Click here if you missed Part 1 of our Saturday Report, featuring the Creature Feature and Catrin Stewart panels.
Investigating Haunted Houses Doctor Who Style
So, one panel Violet wanted to see was Michael J. Kouri’s Haunted House panel, of which Violet has seen before at Gallifrey One. Before going to the panel, Violet remarked that the description of the panel was not what she had pictured given she had been to this panel before. It turns out her thinking of what the panel actually was, was much more in line than what the description of it was.
After eating lunch with @CorgiKohmander at Latitude 33 (only about a 5 minute wait!), we met up with his wife, Diana, and all headed over to this panel, which began at 2pm. The panel was in a smaller room, Program E, and had just Michael J. Kouri leading the panel. The room was pretty packed, so we had to split up and sit on the other side of the room from Corgi and Diana. This panel turned out to have little to do with haunted houses and more with psychic readings, and “auras”. Now, at the risk of being flayed on the internet, as this is probably a divisive subject, I will give my honest opinion of this panel, and what went on during it.
Kouri began explaining his history that had him become a medium. He was in a tragic accident as a child when riding a bike, where he was dragged beneath a car for some time. After the injury, he remembers the people who came to help him more concerned about yelling at the driver than helping him, but more importantly this was when he began realizing his “ability”. He saw colored lights shooting from the nearby dog’s mouths. Kouri also talks about his semi-involvement with the Catholic church, and has some stories I will try to convey as best I can later in the article.
That is most of the extent we get of his personal history as a psychic. He tells us he has worked on a number of movies though, including The Darkness which starred Kevin Bacon, and Insidious: Chapter 3, and even some Doctor Who but the episodes haven’t come out yet, and some may be reshot. He remarks how he only will work on “psychological thriller” type horror movies, as he doesn’t really enjoy blood and gory horror films.
Getting into some of his beliefs, one distinction he gives is that everyone is a “psychic” however only certain people can be “psychic mediums”. He describes psychic abilities as those when people’s phones ring just when they are thinking about that person, or other “happenstance” situations. Psychic Mediums, on the other hand, have the ability to read other people. He does say that he is unable to read himself, and doesn’t believe it is truly possible.
He also provides some insight in to what “auras” are, in that they are colors that surround a person, and those colors have meaning to the person. For example, he indentifies someone with a green aura, which indicates “money”, and advises her to get a lottery ticket, and jokes that if she wins, he wants 10% of the winnings.
Another facet to his “abilities” revolves around seeing people’s “Spirit Guide(s)”. He notes that people can and often have more than one Spirit Guide. He also notes that Spirit Guides appear in the form of what the person’s best visual representation of themselves were. Oh, and Spirit Guides and Ghosts are one in the same. Not only this, but there are demons as well, which are basically the same as ghosts, but with ill intentions.
He also makes some claims about the nature of the afterlife. He claims he believes in reincarnation. But he also states that ghosts have a choice to move on to heaven, or remain here on Earth as “Spirit Guides”. So I am a bit perplexed how that all works out, as I don’t know how those three different phases of afterlife could all work out together. Is there an expiration date in Heaven, and people get shoved back onto Earth? Do we have a limited number of reincarnations? Perhaps it’s something to the effect of us trying to achieve Heaven every incarnation? Are ghosts people who just need to make that transition to the gates of Heaven and then hope they get in once they “check in”? Many, many questions…One other fact he puts out there–Children make up the majority of ghosts, as they are not able to comprehend death, and are unable to move on. Hmm…
But moving on (I am getting riled up again the more I work on this article, but I am trying to remain impartial), Kouri also talks about ghosts, and their ability to only really know what they already have known. He also talks about meditation, and how people can “will” what they want to happen, if they try hard enough. For example, he tells the story of a woman who “willed” the perfect man for herself, or so she thought. But Kouri reveals that the one thing this woman forgot to “will” was him to not have a pre-arranged marriage back in India. Apparently this did not work out because she forgot to think of that when she tried. Dang it, how could she be so stupid?!
Kouri also warns against the use of Oujia boards (despite this being made by a popular board game company, easily accessible in the toy department of department stores, and I can’t recall the last time I heard a story of a Ouija board causing death and mayhem). The mention of this was where I began to tune out.
He also talks about how he “read” Donald and Ivanka Trump, a while ago, and remarks how nice of a guy Trump was back then. Oddly, Kouri is then asked if he ever read Debbie Reynolds or Carrie Fisher, and Kouri responds by saying he would only talk about readings he had regarding dead people (wait..didn’t he just talk about the Trumps a few seconds ago…?). But he says he read Debbie Reynolds right before she had passed away, and after Carrie had passed away. He claims he was able to channel Carrie to a small extent for Debbie during that reading.
Kouri also talks about the time he read the Pope a number of years ago (I can’t remember if he specified which pope). He talks about how he used to sing for the church, and the Pope had heard he was a psychic, and despite the protests of Father Mahoney, he offered to read the Pope anyway.
Anyway, that was the jist of the panel for the most part. Him telling his stories, talking about the dozens of books he has written, tours he gives on the Queen Mary and in Disneyland, movies he has consulted on and readings he has done with celebrities. He would occasionally stop and talk to the crowd, telling them how many Spirit Guides they have, and a couple’s Aura color. One man he picked out, who seemed none-too interested in being read, was told he had an “interesting color” aura he had never seen before and he would have to think about it some more. The man gave no response, so Kouri had no feedback to bounce off of, or so it appeared that way to me.
So, now that I have kept a (relatively) impartial opinion so far, I figured I should take a few moments and talk about my feelings about this type of stuff. I am fully anti-superstitious, and really do not believe in any of these things Kouri is trying to state is real. There is one thing that I can say I believe in, and that is the ability to read people. My definition of “reading” isn’t about seeing colors floating around people though, nor about seeing how many ghosts are following people around. It is being able to tell what is affecting a person’s life through small conversations, and observances. This often leads to bad things, like prejudice, and generalizations about people, but there are often times when people are able to figure out what a person is looking for. The person doesn’t even need to come out and say it directly. Psychologists are working on this all the time with their patients–they’re using a blend of science and compassion to try to help people find closure in something.
What a person is looking for is a key to psychics as well. The people that are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a psychic for the most part are people looking for answers to something they feel isn’t closed for them, and like a psychologist would assist with. This was evident in the panel we were in. People were asking questions like, “How can I figure out how to get closer to my child?”, and “Are unborn babies taking the form of ghosts?”, and “Do you think my grandmother would see how I am now and appreciate it?”All of these questions came up during this panel. What I am trying to get at is the people that Kouri and others like him are targeting are the people who feel that a psychic can fill a void that is empty.
So I guess what I am really trying to say is that these psychics are using their “services” to try to close gaps people have in their life. The nice things for these psychics, is they can speak in generalities, and people will be able to latch on to what “truths” they are able to see. Kouri and people in his “profession”, if they are any good at it, are extremely adept at reading people by emotion–not strange floating colors and ghosts. By his own admission, he told a story where he was “reading” someone completely wrong, because it applied to the person behind that person, not the person he was actually talking to. This is extremely convenient isn’t it? He is missing the mark, but finds someone in the surrounding area it applies to. There is a good chance, I could make up some pretty general statements within a group of willing participants that would apply to several people so that my “reading” would apply to someone nearby. After all, most of his audience is willing to eat these things up. People like myself are typically not in attendance to these things.
But to wind down this yammering, there are a couple things that I haven’t mentioned yet. One is that I am giving this guy too much of my time, in my own opinion. The only reason I felt compelled to go on this diatribe, is that I really worry people are spending money on something that is providing a false sense of closure. I guess if it provides someone closure, maybe it is not such a bad thing, if that person is able to move on with their life, but for myself, I want truths, not faux-comforts. Secondly, I will admit that these are just my (very strong) opinions on this matter, and because my mind is very logically and scientifically based, I have a hard time believing in things that can’t be expressly proven–almost by definition, much like religion, this cannot be proven in any real way. It is for this reason that I try to remain open-minded when people say that they do believe in ghosts and psychics. Heck, even Violet has beliefs in them, so I better be open-minded right? So to close this article out, I hope I have not offended anyone’s beliefs too much, but since I had a platform to state my opinion on this matter, I figured I might as well be truthful in it, rather than sugar-coat it.
It’s Violet taking over from here. Although the Haunted Houses panel was scheduled to go until 3pm, Josh and I decided to duck out a few minutes early so that we could make it on time to the Making Torchwood panel, which began at 3pm in Program A. It’s not that the two rooms are that far apart, but when all the panels let out at the same time and everyone is trying to get somewhere else, it can get really congested in the hallways. We wanted to make sure to avoid any traffic jams, and we did.
The panel included Gareth David-Lloyd, who played Ianto, Naoko Mori, who played Tosh, and script editor Gary Russell. They started out talking about how they’re enjoying their time in LA. Apparently they ate at Paco’s Tacos in Westchester, which was a favorite of Naoko’s when she used to spend time in LA.
The moderator pointed out that Torchwood was now 10 years old, which Gareth and Naoko marveled at. They each then talked about getting their respective roles on the show. Naoko confessed that before being on the show, she didn’t know what Doctor Who was, and when she saw the word “TARDIS” in the script, she tried to look it up in the dictionary! When she asked her agent about the word, he had a good laugh. After Gareth auditioned for his role, he was about to get on a train when he found out he got the part, so he had to turn around and go back. At the time, Gareth had really long hair and a scruffy beard, so he counted himself lucky that Russell T. Davies knew what he looked like clean cut and clean shaven, or else he probably wouldn’t have gotten the part. Naoko one-upped Gareth’s train story though. At the time, Naoko had been spending a lot of time in LA, and had just said yes to another job, so she was flying out to spend a little time in LA before heading back to the UK to start the job. However, when she landed at LAX, she got a call from her agent, who told her to immediately turn around and come back on the next flight to London for a meeting! So she did. Then she was flying back to LA again, and got a call that she got the part, and had to turn around and come back again!
Naoko had never been to Wales before, which is where Torchwood was filmed, in Cardiff. The first week of shooting, Eve Myles (who played Gwen) took her out to show her around. They went to a lap dancing club – and Eve got them banned from it! Gareth also revealed that Eve had gotten herself and John Barrowman banned from a drag club because they wouldn’t let him sing, and she made a big fuss like, “Don’t you know who he is?!” The moral of the story, according to Naoko: “Never go out with Eve Myles.”
The panel was opened for audience questions, one of which was about John Barrowman, and whether the panelists would have preferred the seemingly more professional version of him that is now working on Arrow when he was on Torchwood. However, the panelists said there is only one version of John, and he just censors himself when appropriate! Gareth spoke fondly of John, saying that he was the “patriarch” and always tried to keep their energy levels up with joking, singing, etc., but when the word “Action!” is yelled, he becomes a complete professional. Naoko recalled that they were all like a family, and bonded very quickly, and were together almost 24/7.
Both Naoko and Gareth had been on a panel at Gallifrey One the day before (which we had to miss, unfortunately), where Naoko had mentioned that she would be voicing an evil video game character, though she couldn’t tell us for which video game. An audience member asked if she could give us an example of what her evil voice sounds like. Naoko stalled, as she was at a loss without lines to say. Gary tried to help out. Naoko ended up saying, “You’re not paying me enough.”
Someone else asked for stories about Eve Myles. Apparently she is very creative with putting herself down. For example, one time she was disappointed in her performance after a scene, and she banged her head against the wall, saying, “What a bag of wank!” Naoko had some more advice to give about Eve: “When she gets on a table and starts singing Welsh anthems… run away!” Gareth added, “She can’t sing.”
An audience member referred to a question that was asked at the panel the day before, where someone had asked what’s nice in Cardiff, and Naoko had said there was a salad bar called Crumbs. Well, apparently this audience member looked into it, and brought up the fact that Crumbs isn’t just a salad bar! The panelists had a good laugh about this, though Naoko tried to defend herself, and tried to get Gary to vouch for her. He said that he knew about Crumbs, but didn’t think that the salad there was worth all that.
When the episode Countrycide was brought up, Gareth commented that it was the most fun for them to shoot. Gary recalled that when he attended the read through for the episode, it was the most anarchic read through he had ever been to, and everyone was laughing and joking around, which he thought odd because it was such a dark episode. Naoko tried to claim innocence, but Gary insisted, “You were a naughty schoolgirl!”
The next audience question was, “What’s it like to be killed off?” Naoko said that she’s used to it, because she does a lot of it. She and Burn Gorman, who played Owen, found out about their respective character’s deaths on the same day. However, Naoko was a little bitter to recall that while Burn had been taken out for cocktails, she was merely brought a cup of tea at the end of the day. She said it was “heartbreaking” to learn about Tosh’s death, but she could understand why they did it, since it wasn’t common for a series regular to get killed off.
As for Gareth, he commented that he was just satisfied that Ianto lasted as long as he did. He had thought he would be like one of the Star Trek red shirt characters who are quickly killed off. Gareth also revealed that Ianto was actually supposed to die in Season 2, and that the storyline with Owen dying and being brought back to life was originally supposed to be Ianto’s death. He then recalled how he found out about Ianto’s actual death. His agent called him to inform him that Torchwood was coming back for Season 3, and that it would be 5 episodes — for which they would need Gareth for 3 or 4 of them. Gareth then hopefully inquired if Ianto was going on holiday, but that was not the case.
Naoko then asked Gary why Tosh had to die. Gary spoke about the series of meetings he’d had with Russell T Davies about where the show was heading and mapping out Season 2. As mentioned earlier, Ianto was originally supposed to have Owen’s storyline, but Gary said they changed it to Owen because he was more hedonistic. Then they threw around the idea of “maybe we should take Tosh with him.” Naoko further inquired, “Why?” Gary called it a “Shakespearean end” and likened it to Romeo & Juliet, in that the two lovers (though Naoki pointed out that they weren’t lovers) were separated by miles and couldn’t touch. He ended his explanation with, “Nobody likes a happy ending.” Gareth joked to Naoko, “At least you didn’t die in an alien fart,” referring to his own character’s death.
When an audience member asked the panelists what they are most proud of, Gareth answered, “Our children,” which Naoko humorously piggybacked off of and answered, “His children.” The next question was a good follow up to that one, as it was a young boy asking how he could get out of the friend zone with a girl that he has a crush on, without making the first move. Naoko let proud dad Gareth take the question, who pretty much answered that the boy should stick with her, and eventually she’ll make the first move. Gary commented that he had been doing this for 35 years, and that the boy’s question was the best he’d ever heard!
A question came up about Tosh being the same character who appeared on Doctor Who. Naoko said that when she found out about her role on Torchwood, that was her first question to Russell T Davies, who at the time told her that the two were different characters, and to forget about Doctor Who, that there wouldn’t be any crossover. It wasn’t confirmed until the end of Season 2 of Torchwood that her characters were the same. Gary, who was writing a Doctor Who encyclopedia, went to Russell and said that they needed to nail down whether Naoko’s character on Torchwood is or isn’t the same as her character in Doctor Who. Russell ultimately decided to say that it is. So then when she was captured by UNIT, it was a confirmation.
Naoko also spoke a little about the frozen soldier episode, To the Last Man. “I loved that script,” recalled Naoko. The reason? She was excited that she was going to be able to kiss someone! Then she realized “Woo hoo, I’m kissing two guys!” One day when they were shooting the episode, they were running behind schedule, and were trying to move quickly. In the first scene, she’s making out in bed with Anthony, the soldier. So the director rushed things along, telling Anthony to get out of bed, Naoko to stay where she was, and for Adam to jump into bed. Naoko protested, “Can I at least gargle??”
The final question was from a boy who hadn’t had a chance to watch Torchwood yet, so he was asking what the team does. Gareth began explaining, and when he got close to finishing up, Naoko interrupted and said, referring to Gareth’s character, “He makes coffee.”
On that note, the 45 minute panel ran out of time. After the panel wrapped up, we stopped by the restrooms in the lobby, and I was surprised to see that Naoko and Gareth were using the same restrooms as the rest of the Gallifrey One masses. I thought maybe there would be some private restrooms for the celebrity guests, but I suppose those were the closest restrooms, since they were heading back into the Dealers Room to continue signing autographs. Just another example of how intimate an event that Gallifrey One is!
Click here for Part 3 of our Gallifrey One 2017 Saturday Report, featuring Eighth Doctor Paul McGann!