The Best Time I Rescued Patrick Stewart

by Lindsay Gordon

The summer of 2009 I threw together a really lame Steampunk outfit complete with feathers and gears, and traipsed down to Atlanta for my first Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is an amazing sci-fi and fantasy convention that happens every Labor Day weekend. Tens of thousands of people like me — people who think David Bowie in Labyrinth is the epitome of rock god, who read enormous and multi-volume epic fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire (before it was on HBO and everyone started reading it, ungh), and who were devastated (devastated!) when Caprica got cancelled — descend upon several square blocks of downtown Atlanta for a weekend of drinking, costumes, fandom, and happiness. It is the best.

I’ve returned to Dragon*Con every year since — with better costumes because, thankfully, I got over Steampunk — but my first year was notable because a) I lost my nerd-con virginity and b) I talked to Patrick Stewart, who is also the best.

I wish this were one of those random, “So I was crossing the street and I passed Edward James Olmos and Richard Hatch hugging it out on a corner” stories, but it isn’t. The Edward James Olmos and Richard Hatch thing really did happen, though, at the start of my second Dragon*Con. I sort of stood there grinning at them while they hugged, and then they looked at me like I was nuts, and then I shuffled away like an idiot instead of yelling “So say we all!” at them, which probably would have been just as awkward. Sorry, I got sidetracked. So. Instead of bumping into Patrick Stewart randomly, which would have been neat, I saw him at an official, organized Dragon*Con panel. Which was also pretty neat.

I am a planner, and I forced my friends to line up two hours before the actual panel started, so we had prime seats in the front of the enormous ballroom. Patrick Stewart came out, and he was awesome and witty and he talked about how he had just finished Macbeth and wow he looks so good for his age and I was crushing hard. Eventually, he started taking audience questions. I thought about asking him a question, but I couldn’t think of anything impressive, so I just stayed in my seat and continued to calculate his age in my head.

One of the questions came from a pre-pubescent boy in a red Star Fleet Captain’s uniform. He told Patrick Stewart that he had a riddle for him. The kid asked, “I am in every episode, but I am only in one episode. Who am I?” My brain started working and I was thrilled to immediately have the answer — the kid was referencing a season five episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Rascals.” I was so thrilled by my pop cultural brilliance that I grabbed the random girl next to me, instead of my boyfriend, which would have been a normal response. I was even more excited when Patrick Stewart admitted to not knowing the answer, appealing to the audience for assistance. I thought, “BE LIKE HERMIONE!” and my hand shot up immediately. Yes, I am a cliché.

Patrick Stewart pointed at meee (!!!!!). I wanted to high-five myself for standing in line for two hours for prime seats. I stood up, and a volunteer put a microphone in my hands. “The kid is you — I mean, Captain Picard. From that one episode where you, Ensign Ro, Guinan and, um…”

“Keiko!” The audience helpfully supplied.

“Right, Keiko. Anyways, the four of you are in a transporter accident and you materialize as childhood versions of yourselves. So, the kid is you, but just you in that one episode. I mean, Captain Picard, in that one episode. You weren’t really in it that much.”

Patrick Stewart looked at me. “I don’t remember that episode at all.”

“You weren’t really in it that much,” I repeated.

Patrick Stewart then explained that the writers would purposefully craft Picard-light episodes so that he could perform his one-man show of A Christmas Carol around the holidays. I lamely said that the episode was pretty cute, and that he should watch it sometime. He said he sometimes watched syndicated episodes in hotel rooms. He thanked the kid for his question, thanked me for my answer, and then moved onto the next question.

I sat down, thrilled and flabbergasted. I had rescued Patrick Stewart! That was so awesome! I spent the rest of the panel bouncing, and the entirety of the ride home repeating the story to my boyfriend, just in case he had forgotten any important parts. The day only would have been better if Patrick Stewart had been a knight. Of course, he was knighted a few months after Dragon*Con.

PPatrick Stewart will be back at Dragon*Con this year. Maybe I’ll have another chance to rescue him. Or maybe I’ll run into him hugging it out on a street corner with Edward James Olmos. Please, Patrick Stewart, make it so.

Lindsay Gordon works for an arts non-profit in Durham, North Carolina. She is already planning her costumes for this year’s Dragon*Con.