A year ago this summer, I was in Los Angeles, walking around with my friend Jake. We were milling about outside the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater waiting for another friend to put us on the list for his show.
While we waited, we decided to go into a bookstore we’d passed and look around. We’d been in there for about fifteen minutes when the door jangled open. Over a row of dusty video tapes, I spotted a young man in a leather jacket with shaggy hair. He had rushed into the shop and was anxiously going through a few books on the shelves. He seemed to be looking for something and was annoyed when he couldn’t find it.
I watched him from behind a stack of books. When he looked up, my brain did a flip flop. He was really familiar. He looked….he looked like someone I knew, maybe? No, that wasn’t it. He looked like a celebrity…he…was he a celebrity? I searched my brain, squinting at this maybe-stranger. Then, it came at me like a rush. It was the Doctor!
At that point in my life, I’d never seen an episode of Doctor Who. But I was active on the internet. I’d seen .gifs and stills on Tumblr and boy, his long, distinguished face is unmistakable.
“What’s up?” Jake asked, realizing I was staring at some dude as he wildly rifled through pages in books.
“I think he’s from Doctor Who,” I whispered. “I’m not sure. I don’t watch it.”
Coincidentally, we were only a block away from where my friend Charlie lives. Charlie is a HUGE Doctor Who fan. If anyone could tell me if it was really the Doctor, it was Charlie. I texted him, hiding my phone from sight: “We’re at the bookstore nearby. Come here NOW. There is something you need to see.”
In minutes, Charlie breezed in the door. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and dragged him behind my bookshelf spy fort. He was very confused. “Don’t look now,” I whispered. “Behind you. Is that Doctor Who?”
Charlie’s eyes widened. He turned a little and glanced behind him. His face said it all. “That’s Matt Smith!” He whispered back. He was totally buggin’. Matt Smith still had not found the book he was looking for and he was still very frustrated about it.
“You have to say hi!” I told Charlie. “You’re such a big fan.” Charlie paled. He didn’t know if he could. Before we could decide, “Doctor Who” had left the building.
“That was still really cool!” Charlie said as we too exited the bookstore. We were still early for the show, so we walked to the end of the same block and went into a stationary store.
There, at the cash register, was Matt Smith again. He’d apparently found what he was looking for at a different shop.
“Charlie,” I said. “This is a sign. Go talk to him!”
Charlie ambled up to the Doctor. I didn’t hear what he said but then, the guy was smiling wide and shaking his hand, “Thank you so much, Charlie,” I heard him say.
From the back of the store, I yelled, “Was I right?! Was it him?”
Matt Smith laughed. “It’s me!,” he called back.
He and Charlie chatted a bit about how his season has been great and how good the writers are now. He seemed genuinely happy to be talking to a fan and Charlie was complimentary without being a weirdo. He signed a paper Charlie was holding (I think he wrote “Matt Smith The Doctor”) and they took two pictures together.
“I don’t watch the show,” I told Matt Smith as I snapped the photos. “I literally recognized your face from Tumblr.”
He thought that was funny. Charlie gestured to me, “I keep telling her to watch it!” he said. At sort of the same time, they both said, “Now, maybe you will!”
And look, I’m no dummy. When the star of a show tells you in person to watch that show? You should probably start watching that show.
A year later, I’m a full-fledged Whovian. I watched everything I could get my hands on. I immersed myself in fandom. I bought T-shirts. I quoted. I read books. I bored everyone to tears discussing minutia. I found bowties, fezzes and Stetsons cool. And I eagerly devoured this past week’s series 7 premiere and I can’t wait for more.
So I hope Matt Smith is happy. This is all quite literally his fault.