We GET it, Paul McGann.
You’re smooth and suave and enormously talented and infuriatingly nonchalant about all of it.
We’ve been double-teaming our Gallifrey One recaps with Kelly of The TV Mouse, our travel buddy and most direct “pay-it-forward” Whovian creation. She’ll readily agree that we destroyed her life with this fandom in general and David Tennant’s face, specifically. You can read part one of our adventures at the largest and longest running Doctor Who fan convention in the US here. Part two is here. If you read those already, you might have noticed that Kim and Kelly skimmed over all McGann (full name: Sexy Beast Paul McGann) specific happenings. Why? Because Paul deserves his own post. Always the lead, darling.
Here at HoF, for better or for worse, we fall hard and we fall fast. It was 6am and I was still bleary-eyed from sleep when the BBC posted a pre-50th Anniversary webisode that finally opened my eyes to everything the Eighth Doctor could be. (For more waxing poetic on “Night of the Doctor” and Paul’s performance in it, check out our picks for the Best Performances of 2013.) So we’d been giddy about being in his presence at Gally since the day he was announced. We weren’t the only ones. A couple hours into day 1, we’d already swapped for handfuls of Eight-specific ribbons, including “The front crashes first, think it through,” and the two-fer of, “This is a ribbon,” and “But probably not the one you expected.” But there were at least two people in LAX Marriott that weekend who hadn’t yet had the experience of watching that 6-minute shove straight into womanhood. One was our friend Gillian. The other was Paul McGann.
So: Saturday morning, right after we watched “Closing Time” with live director commentary and willed Eleven to really french It’s-Always-Been-You-Craig this time, Paul came out on stage and settled in for his spotlight panel. And when I say he “settled in,” I MEAN IT.
I’m not fully convinced that Paul McGann has bones (though he’s free to prove it to me, hey-oooo), because he practically liquified himself onto the Marriott’s blood orange couches at every opportunity. My camera’s got a fly zoom, as you can see, but by the end of each of his panels, he’d sunk below the heads of people in front of us. This poor man’s bald spot was not supposed to be the focus of this photo, FYI.
To prove my point that Paul is half Irish/half the silver goo from Alex Mack, see this highly sophisticated time lapse photo series.
Sidebar: Is that Bald Spot I see again in photo #2? Who did he screw to get an assigned seat?
Paul is just as chill professionally, since he didn’t even need to see a script before signing on do the webisode. Good thing, because Steven Moffat hadn’t written one yet. Paul told us that Moff was waiting until he got his actor on board before he penned the Eight to War Doctor regeneration story. No time for Moff to waste. He’s a busy man, what with all the character assassination he had to work into Sherlock series 3 and the Who Christmas special this year.
Let’s not mock Moffat too much today, especially because he and RTD were always allies of Big Finish and the audio dramas where Eight embarked on most of his adventures. There’s even a shoutout to his audio companions in NoTD. Cass, very un-companion of that story, was also with us at Gally 1. Emma Campbell-Jones joined the panel halfway through and got to be on the receiving end of Paul’s aggressive informality. In other words, his head was almost in her lap.
It must be noted that when Paul and the moderator (Jason Haigh-Ellery of Big Finish), compared Eight’s wardrobe to that of a Hobbit, Emma spoke for all of us when she added, “A hot one.” “Tell us more about that,” Jason joked, “Do you think Paul is hot?” “I mean, open your eyes,” Emma answered, serious as a heart attack. Snap! We like this one.
Besides feeling like we were intruding on Emma and Paul’s special grown-up time, we were steadily charmed by all three of Paul’s panels. On Friday, the Big Finish crew got their own spotlight. We learned that Paul always got to pilot the TARDIS in his schoolyard games of Doctor Who (hence the title of this post); you should never, ever ask him about the wig; and that he’d just learned what the word “canon” meant – in a fandom context, of course – that very weekend. Adios, fourth wall! Maybe someone also broke it to that innocent bastard Arthur Darvill that “shipping” means SO much more than “sending things, but like…internationally.”
To enjoy a con from the artists’ side, you’ve got to be a good sport. Paul and Sixth Doctor Colin Baker gamely stepped up for their own two-on-1500 session the last day of Gally, which was 100% audience Q&A. “Not a bad way to spend a Sunday,” Paul McGann commented on a prospect that would make some actors run screaming to the parking garage. Colin can be a little thorny sometimes, but he and Paul have an easy rapport. They were relaxed and full of stories, and treated even the silliest fan questions with a mix of cheekiness and good humor. Memo to Gally, never force a moderator on these men. We much prefer Paul welcoming their next victim to the mic by drawling, “approach the bench,” in a voice that Gillian described as “gravelly butter.” Mmmm…gravel butter. As he and Colin talked about the good old days of classic Who, Paul told us of his love for a certain hairy robotic snow monster. Soon after, a fan asked which baddies were their favorites. Colin gave a long and thoughtful answer, none of which I remember. Paul simply purred, “I refer you to the yeti,” and we’ve turned this phrase into a slogan/battle cry, though it’s the very definition of “You had to be there.” Other highlights include Colin’s attempt to turn on on a tribble (Why were tribbles there? At some point, all cons just become a giant teeming mass of fandom fervor.) by telling it it “looks very nice this evening” and Paul sharing that the modern companion he’d most like to borrow would be “the brilliant Billie Piper.” So he’s got impeccable taste too. Where does it end?
Springing for a photo op with this man was a no-brainer, and ours was set for Saturday. During the “Night of the Doctor” panel, I leaned over to Kim and said, “I cannot wait to snuggle into that sweater,” because I never waste an opportunity. Kim and I did our standard HoF sandwich shot. And, as we approached, Gravel Butter greeted us with a low and sexy, “Oh, you’re going to surround me, aren’t you?” “Yes. Yes, we are,” I answered. “If that’s okay with you,” Kim added. Was it? You be the judge. (P.S. Kim claims she “accidentally” grazed his butt and there’s one part of that sentence that I don’t believe.)
Basically, by the end of the weekend we were full on McGann stans. We would have probably done this even if we hadn’t been finishing off all of our room wine at the time, but Sunday’s LobbyCon involved some strategic Googling of the words “Paul” and “McGann” and “shirtless.” I found this and the sound that Kim made can best be described as “hnnnggh!”
The love affair won’t end here, my friends. Paul is already a confirmed guest for Long Island Who in November, and you better believe we’ll be there. Maybe he’ll announce that his latest Twitpic is from the set of the most epic multi-Doctor story in history. Maybe we’ll find out if that’s really “fear in his eyes” when he sees Kelly coming for him. Maybe the seating at the Clarion Hotel is so comfortable that Paul and a couch will actually become one. One thing’s for sure: there will be some extra effortless British swag in our great state on that day. Hopefully we’ll see you there.