Published on October 10th, 2011 | by Philip Bates
From the second he asked the young Amelia Pond that question, Matt Smith was the Doctor.
No, forget that. He was even brilliant when trying to dodge Big Ben too. I presume Moffat asked himself, ‘how do you show the audience that this is the Doctor?’ And immediately got the answer: ‘Have him pilot the TARDIS… Badly!’
Those first pictures emerged. Matt, Karen Gillan as Amy and Alex Kingston as River Song on a beach. It was exciting, and hinted at something great. Naturally, I first noticed that Karen had legs. Then I saw the first glimpse of the New Doctor. Then that they were all obviously having a good time. Excellent. But…
“This isn’t going to be big on dignity.”
I’ll admit that when I first saw the tweed, the braces and the bow tie, I wasn’t particularly impressed; I didn’t think it was as iconic a motif as, say, a long scarf, stick of celery, converse trainers or a pullover with question marks all over it. And it hinted at a slightly stuffy personality. Even the hair annoyed me.
I am sorry. I have never been so wrong.
Y’see, I hadn’t seen him completely embody the role. The hair, bow tie, tweed, those clunky black boots; Matt simply is the Doctor. And the costume perfectly symbolises his personality.
(It’s also interesting to note that in the first episodes filmed, The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone, all the performances were seamless. If it weren’t for the extra knowledge from Doctor Who Magazine, there’s no way anybody could tell they were new to this Time Lord business.)
“Rory! That’s a relief! I thought I’d burst out of the wrong cake. Again. That reminds me: there’s a girl standing outside in a bikini. Can someone let her in, give her a jumper? Lucy. Lovely girl. Diabetic.”
Doctor Who has never been so consistently good. A notable example of this is season twenty-one, which yo-yoed so much, the viewer got dizzy. The Caves of Androzani was perfect; perhaps a sign that the quality of stories would be forever reaching new plethora of greatness. Then – however much I like Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor – The Twin Dilemma was… let’s say, a letdown (though I have fewer qualms about it than most).
Perhaps this is because of the leading man. Matt Smith is exceptional. I know David Tennant was wonderful, Christopher Eccleston was fantastic, Paul McGann was superb (and so on), but Matt… There’s just something so Doctor-y about him.
But he’s not just a good Doctor – he’s a great actor. It’s like he’s grabbed you by the hand, and taken you on these adventures with him. When he’s happy, you’re happy too. When he’s angry, you really don’t know what he’s going to do. And when he’s sad…
Even in the weaker episodes (and those are few and far between), Matt is a joy to behold. I’m probably the only fan in the world who hates The Doctor’s Wife – it was, essentially, fan-fiction with a predictable plot – but even then, the Doctor… nay, the whole TARDIS team were amazing.
“Yes, it’s insane. And it’s about to get even more insanerer. (Is that a word?)”
Perhaps, then, it is down to the writers, too, for their unerring characterisation. (I’ll give Gaiman that; the three leads were spot-on.) I initially thought that the Eleventh Doctor’s personality was so definitive, you couldn’t get it wrong. One read of The Coming of the Terraphiles later, and I realised that this simply wasn’t true. The Doctor is hard to capture, but done right… and he’s the best.
It saddens me no end that this perfect era has to, eventually, come to an end. Keep Amy and Rory! Please! And ignore that “Fall of the Eleventh” thing! Never leave the TARDIS!
So how would I describe what makes the Eleventh Doctor so right? Well, I’d simply direct you to this little gem in The Eleventh Hour:
The Doctor: Amy Pond. The Girl Who Waited. You’ve waited long enough.
Amy Pond: When I was a kid, you said there was a swimming pool and a library and that the swimming pool was in the library.
The Doctor: Yeah, not sure where it’s got to now. It’ll turn up. So. Coming?
Amy Pond: No.
The Doctor: You wanted to come fourteen years ago.
Amy Pond: I grew up.
The Doctor: Don’t worry; I’ll soon fix that.
[He clicks his fingers and the TARDIS doors swing open.]
Sorry to all previous incarnations – honestly, you’re all just fantastic and this is truly a tough thing to admit – but the Eleventh Doctor is my favourite Doctor. My Doctor.