As the dawn of a new era of Doctor Who creeps upon us, dip your toe in the Doctor Who fan pool and you can feel the slight turbulence in the waters. It’s almost a tradition to find fans getting apprehensive or pessimistic as a new dawn rises for the Doctor.
So what of the speculation as to this new young eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith? In some respects we are in a unique situation. With five years under its belt since its return, the New Series has its own established fanbase, just as the â€œclassicâ€ series has â€“ however these fanbases don’t naturally sit in harmony, and I don’t mean in regards to the usual gnashing of teeth towards each other â€“ what I mean is they are actually born from very different perspectives.
Now classic fans were brought up on a Doctor who was more an archetype for an eccentric Grandfather or maybe an oddball uncle. Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee were older, mature types. They weren’t dashing, they weren’t generally what one would call sexy – and they certainly never got involved in any will-they-or-won’t-they romances. For the newer fans, we have a Doctor Who that is brash, flirty and full of sexual chemistry. With Tennant being this generation’s Tom Baker, the tenth Doctor has become the epitome of what is to be expected of the eleventh.
For me, this is what’s so fascinating about the reactions to Matt Smith. Yes, there are some classic fans who feel he’s too young; that the Doctor should be that older archetype and this new series is â€œgiving inâ€ to this new demographic, an audience brought up on a more youthful Doctor. This doesn’t mean that Mr Smith has a safe seat with the new audiences either who I’ve seen cited over and over as being â€œfuglyâ€ (a hybrid word for f**king ugly). For some in the new generation, good looks are now expected from their Doctor.
So what about his clothes? The Eleventh Doctor’s tweed & bow tie outfit have, to no one’s surprise, been equally contentious. On the whole, his outfit seems to please older fans, being a quirky academic brand of outfit that befits the more classic eccentricities – though again, to a new generation brought up on leather jackets and trendy suits, their credible hero suddenly looks a bit like their Math’s teacher.
So who is right?
Is Matt Smith’s attire a return to how Doctor Who â€œshouldâ€ be? Are producers out of touch with what the new target audience are wanting? Is the youngest Doctor ever taking Doctor Who too far from its origins? Should the Doctor be more conventionally attractive, appealing to some of the new fans who now look for an attractive role model? Be they new fans, or old fans, concerns abound.
Perhaps the single factor that ties together many old fans and new fans is the fear of change. It’s funny that a show that is all about change – be it regenerations, new companions, or altering time, that so many fans of all generations react so badly to anything different. Doctor Who has never been about retaining any identity, but changing to another. Constantly.
I’ll leave you with the words of Russell T Davies in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine in regards to fan fears about casting â€“ in this case, Catherine Tate.
â€œAs though by casting Catherine we were destroying the show… As if we didn’t know what we were doing! After four years! All of us â€“ Julie, Phil, David â€“ all of us â€“ were utterly confident of what a fine actress Catherine is and how brilliant she would be!â€