My nails were painted TARDIS blue for the first time the day I met Matt Smith.
I had always meant to use the color, but I never seemed to get around to it. Finally, on Friday night, I did. I remember thinking it was important they be that color. It was my first convention ever, and I had no time to attempt a cosplay even if I wanted to. (Which I really didn’t) So blue nails and a Doctor Who t-shirt it was.
Looking back on it, the day feels like it went by in such a rush. I am borderline OCD, so I planned everything out to a T. I checked out which panels I wanted to attend, working around my 3pm photo op, and dragged my poor 9-year old sister all over the Moral Convention Center in my quest to see everything. (Don’t worry, I did check to see if those were the things she wanted to see, too!)
I consciously hated myself a little for planning so much, for not being more mercurial about it. Why not just go with the flow? Enjoy my first ever con, check out the vendors more? But, to be honest, I wasn’t very interested in the vendors. I did see some really cool things, like lightsabers, posters and, of course, COMICS. But it was the panels I was more interested in, and I had a great lineup in store.
Besides, my OCD planning skills gave me one very important advantage: distraction. I was so busy thinking about getting from point A to point B that I didn’t have time to think about meeting Matt! Which was a very good thing. I might have gone crazy if I allowed myself for one moment to really accept the fact that it was going to happen. As the morning wore on, it seemed more and more surreal. Yes, I said the words “our photo op with Matt” a handful of times, but that didn’t make it more real. If anything, it made it less real. That wasn’t going to happen, was it? Besides, an even more bizarre subconscious thought was creeping in and taking over:
He was on Doctor Who. I’ve seen his episodes dozens of times. He can’t actually be here, in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m not even sure if he’s real. He just lives in my TV.
It sounds ridiculous, and it feels ridiculous to type, but that’s how I felt. “We’re going to meet Matt Smith today” was just a thing I was saying. It wasn’t true, probably.
So that sums up my wacky brain the morning of the 8th of February, 2014. The first panel we went to in the morning was a Doctor Who fan panel. It was an interesting way to kick things off, and I enjoyed listening to the panelists (fans) discuss their love for a show I love, too, and their different takes on themes and episodes I’ve watched so many times. Another surreal moment as I realized that there are Other People out there who love Doctor Who as much as I do! It feels like such a localized thing at times, like Doctor Who exists only in my living room and England. No in-betweens. Again, ridiculous, as I quickly learned that day.
Fifteen minutes later in the same room was Alan Tudyk’s panel! Unfortunately, we lost our seats when we left the room and by the time we returned, it was ABSOLUTELY FULL. Jam-packed. We ended up having to stand against the back wall, a good 100 feet from the stage. I didn’t mind too much, though. Alan was hilarious and answered each question with a great mixture of wit and sincerity. I even had the opportunity to be a part of a video text from him to Nathan Fillion! Alan made us apologize for him, since he was missing an event Nathan had invited him to. Such silliness. I could write an entire blog post on Alan Tudyk, but I won’t. Not in this one, anyway! Although I did learn he has quite the affinity for using the word sh*t in place of “stuff.” Crazy man.
Then fifteen minutes after that was The Man’s panel. Stan Lee! We got really good seats this time, which was awesome. We were about 20 feet from the stage. That man… I can’t say enough about Stan Lee. He has the wit and energy of a man half his age, easily (even if he can’t hear well anymore). In the time I spent listening to him, he joked about creating the Avengers because of “greed”, ribbed DC for not having nicknames for their superheroes, told the entire story of how he got to have cameos in all his movies, and (good-naturedly) chewed the moderator out for interrupting him. I really wanted to stay for the entire panel.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t. It was 2:30. Time to go get in line for a picture with Matt!
The official rules say not to get there more than half an hour before the photo op session. By the time we got downstairs and across the con floor (probably about 5-7 minutes), that line was FULL. More people got there after we did, but of the 10 lines for Matt, we were in 7.
Now, all we had to do was wait.
My sister sat down in the line after twenty minutes, and I can’t say I blamed her. I wanted to sit down so badly, but there wasn’t much room as it was, and I’m not exactly slim. I won’t attempt to describe the sheer tedium of standing there, bored to death, for over an hour. Living it once was enough!
After a few minutes, one of the teens in the line next to me got up with his camera phone and left the line, I assumed to go to the bathroom. He came back ten minutes later, excitedly showing the phone to his friends. They were right next to me, so I could clearly see the tall, gangly, blue-shirted man on his screen.
Matt! He had just crossed the back of the room and was now in the photo booth. Excitement hit a new high.
It must have taken forever for them to set up, though, because the line didn’t start moving for another 20 minutes. And even when it did, it took a while for it to be our turn. Finally, though, we were moving! The line moved straight until it hit the first photo booth partition, then snaked parallel to it, curling into the booth itself, ultimately. As we passed the first booth, I happened to look in and there was Alan Tudyk, just 10 feet away! Too cool. It made up for having to stand so far away from him at his panel.
I should probably mention that the people I saw coming out of their photo ops with Matt were all grinning from ear to ear, boys and girls (and adults) alike, so I knew he was going to be wonderful and charming. I kind of expected it anyway, because I’ve heard so many stories of how gracious he is with his fans. I once read a quote from him that said, even when he’s stopped in the street, he always takes a little time out to talk with his fans, sign an autograph, take a picture, because:
What’s the alternative? If you met the Doctor and he was rude to you, that’d be a bit rubbish.
Takes a rare person. I don’t know if I could deal with everything he has, and does. Especially the weirdos I’m sure he gets right alongside the good apples!
But I digress.
In hindsight, I am very glad the line went into the booth itself, because it gave me about 30 extra seconds to prepare myself, looking directly at Matt all the while and calming my nerves.
Which was weird because, as I said, I really didn’t have any nerves! It was a strange day, to say the least. There was the Doctor, one of the coolest guys I’ve ever become a fan of, right in front of me and I was totally fine. Really, I was watching what everyone else was doing, gauging how much time we were allotted (not much at all), and getting ready. My strategy was to take up as little time as possible, for the convenience of the cameraman, volunteers whooshing us around, and Matt himself, whom I knew had to be tired as hell by this point (4pm).
Of course, this isn’t to say that I wasn’t grinning at him like a fool. Because I totally was. It was MATT SMITH. And he didn’t just live in my TV/computer! He was living flesh, and he was speaking. In a voice I knew really, really well, but sounded different somehow in person. It just does. You know how your voice sounds different on recordings? It’s the same for everyone. It was still absolutely him, my wonderful Eleventh Doctor, but actually, properly real. In front of me. Basically, this was all that was going through my mind at the time:
There was a little boy in front of us, couldn’t be more than three. He was a mini-Doctor, complete with sonic screwdriver and fez. So adorable! And Matt just sort of picked him up, set him on his lap and told him to point the sonic at the camera! It was such a cute picture. It made me happy in a spectatorly sort of way.
Then it was our turn.
I was so focused on getting everything right, and quickly, that I hardly looked at Matt as we approached. The only way I can think to describe it is when you’re about to get into a car accident. You see it about to happen and you’re getting closer and closer, but it almost doesn’t even register. You’re moving forward without even thinking about it.
And then it’s over and you go “what happened?”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I herded my sister around to Matt’s left side and I stood on his right. Somewhere in my subconscious I registered that he said “Hi, guys,” but not until much later did I actually remember it. We scooted in and both put our arms around Matt. I remember I was accidentally touching the top of the chair he was sitting in with my hand, before I thought no, no this will not do, and moved my hand to his back. Because, I mean, if you’re going to have a story about meeting a Doctor, you have to be able to say you touched him, right?
Please say I’m not crazy.
Anyways. He put his arms around both of us, too, which I probably would have REALLY freaked out about if it hadn’t been all over in 10 seconds flat. Seriously! I know they have to do it that way since there’s so many people in line, but it was a little tragic. Mostly I felt bad for Matt all day long, though. Shuttled from place to place all day, meeting a gazillion people and taking countless pictures, then signing autographs, then going to interviews and, of course, the Q&A at night. Exhausting. But I guess he’s used to it by now, having been to San Diego Comic Con several times.
After the bright flashbulb pop, I turned to leave, knowing people were waiting. That’s when Matt Smith, the Doctor, badger and bright sock enthusiast, BAFTA winner and aspiring director, spoke to me.
It wasn’t much, but I’ll always remember it. “Take care,” he said.
I turned back, a little surprised. “Yeah, you too,” I said, trying to really sound like I meant it. Because I did. I may have infused a tiny bit of sympathy and worry into it by accident, because I knew how tired he must have been. Still, he was trying to personalize the experience for everyone and make it special and I loved him for it.
“See ya latah,” he said by way of goodbye, in that British Doctor-y tone I knew so well.
I just smiled and left, the next person already taking their place by Matt’s side. I hadn’t expected him to talk to me at all when I saw how quickly the line was moving, so even those few words were amazing. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him again someday, because he is the sweetest, most patient guy ever.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until I was several yards away that I had forgotten my backpack on the table in the photo booth.
Shoot me now.
The only thing that was running through my head when I realized was Oh God. If I go back over there now, they’ll just think I left it on purpose so I could see Matt again. Which I really didn’t! Ugh.
So, I walked up to a volunteer and explained the situation. She said she would get it so, in my addled state, mingled embarrassment, confusion, and still on a slight high from meeting Matt, I stayed where I was as she walked off. Of course, I realize now that she had no idea what my bag looked like, so I probably looked pretty stupid.
“You can come with me,” she said, when she realized I wasn’t following her. Thankfully, she was super nice, so that made things a little easier. I joined her by the booth as she explained the situation to another volunteer. They lifted the curtain a tiny bit so I could sneak my hand in and grab my backpack, which I did. I got to see Matt for another half second. Yay! And boo, for my short memory.
So, that’s how I met a Time Lord. The sweetest, bestest, and, dare I say handsomest? Time Lord of them all. It wasn’t until a full day later when the weight of everything really hit me. That the kind, soft-spoken man I met for all of ten seconds was the same one who won a BAFTA. Who delivered some of the most amazing, emotional speeches ever seen on Doctor Who. Who brought me to tears more than once with his performances. Who has portrayed the full range of emotion in his four years on the show, from a terrible anger, to outrageous silliness, to heart-rending sobbing and sadness. This unassuming person with his denim shirt and black pants, rolled up to display his crazy stripey socks was the Doctor. Is the Doctor. And always will be. And after that wonderful day, I can really say he is my Doctor. It’s always been hard for me to pick a favorite, since they’re all wonderful, but I finally did. And it’s Eleven. And though he always denies it, it’s entirely because of Matt and his incredible performances. Thank you, dude. Thanks for everything. And I hope you come back to the 504 someday. I have it on good authority that you really enjoyed your weekend here 😀
PS: I could go on for another 1,000 words about the Q&A panel, but I think it’s something that needs to be experienced. That was the funniest, most touching, amazing interview I’ve ever seen with Matt, and I was privileged enough to be there. The first part (of 5) can be found here: http://youtu.be/nolhM4kx28w. I hope you can find all the parts all right!