Having portrayed the Time Lord since 2010, Matt Smith had a hard task at hand. The Whoniverse was still hanging over a big Tennant-sized shadow. The most popular incarnation of The Doctor since Tom Baker, handing over the reigns to a new actor was always going to be a tricky situation to overcome, certainly many people thought that the ‘new guy’ whoever he may be, would be a failure of sorts. As the announcement came in, the age of Matt Smith was considered rather controversial, the youngest to become the ancient hero. The Sonic Screwdrivers weren’t stacked up in his favour….
Times are distinctly different now, of course, as Matt Smith absolutely delivered. Once the credits rolled on his debut episode, The Eleventh Hour, practically all fears were put firmly to bed. Some were maybe skeptical as he clambered out of the TARDIS swimming pool (or was it the library?) but as he strode off at the end, practically all were persuaded that this was most definitely The Doctor. 4 years in the role and he went from strength to strength, becoming a global icon, popularizing Doctor Who abroad further, particularly in the States. Distinctly alien to his predecessor but retaining the same youthful vigor, his quirky interpretation of the role brought much success. It’s fair to say that bow ties, fezzes, jammie dodgers and fish fingers and custard have never been cooler.
I find it incredible how he instantly felt at home; he was instantly the same Doctor yet instantly his Doctor. In my opinion I much prefer Matt Smith’s characterization of The Doctor to that of David Tennant. As I write these words I now think that he is my favorite Doctor. Christopher Ecclestone will always be special because he was MY Doctor but times have changed. For me, Smith perfectly portrayed the multi-layered personality and many dynamics of the role; effortlessly transcending all the oxymoron’s surrounding the 1000 year old being. The instant switches between being the Ancient Lonely God to the Playful Child Adventurer were smooth and easy. He could constantly alternate between the Bumbling Madmen and the Witty Genius within his performances. That is what The Doctor is all about in my opinion, making Number 11 the quintessential Doctor in my eyes. Here’s a few of my favorite Matt Smith moments:
Legs! I’ve Still Got Legs! (The End of Time Part 2)
After what was a poignant end to the Tenth incarnation of The Doctor (some would argue an excessively melodramatic end) it was a testament to the dynamism of Smith that as soon as his face dizzily span into existence I was beaming like a fool at his genesis. As he muttered his first few lines “Legs, I’ve still got legs” and then went on to say other classic lines such as “…and I’m still not ginger!”, “Nose… I’ve had worse” – I was smiling, despite watching an hour or so of upsetting drama. The Eleventh Doctor’s first scene was both hilarious and exciting. Great comedic timing in terms of dialogue and body language makes for a memorably giddy performance. A new adventure was about to begin… Geronimo!
New Mouth! New Rules! (The Eleventh Hour)
Matt Smith’s debut episode is one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who ever. I could pick so many moments from this masterpiece of storytelling. One of my favourites wasn’t a game-changer or even amazing. Just funny and subtly warming. As young Amelia Pond keeps offering different things to eat the audience comes to terms with one of the many struggles of the Time Lord. They have to come to become familiar with new taste buds. This scene brought us the iconic ‘fish fingers and custard’ but the stellar part for me was when The Doctor shouted his disgust at a slice of bread and butter then threw it out of the house – “And stay out!”
Hello… I’m The Doctor! (The Eleventh Hour)
Yet another scene from The Eleventh Hour. The inclusion of the brilliant new theme of ‘I Am The Doctor’ by Murray Gold made for an exhilarating sequence. Having sent the Atraxi packing back to the Shadow Proclamation, The Doctor decides to bring them back for a scolding. As the Atraxi monitor what has stopped villainous creatures on Earth, a hologram projecting every face of The Doctor pops up. As we see Eleven walk through the hologram of his predecessor and state “Hello… Im The Doctor. And basically… Run!” we are utterly convinced this is the same man. A fantastic scene that demonstrates The Doctor’s heroic ability and perhaps frightening stature, he can make beings run away based on words and his history.
I Am The Doctor… And You Are The Daleks! (Victory of The Daleks)
Facing the Daleks is almost part of the initiation process for a The Doctor, and they were back to test The Doctor’s mettle in Matt Smith’s third episode. Having clearly suffered from the Dalek Invasion of 2009 this incarnation is a lot more ruthless and hostile to his arch-enemies. Quite a fresh change considering the Tenth Doctor was almost compassionate towards them. As the Daleks pretend to be unaware of him, The Doctor becomes increasingly frustrated and lashes out with velocity. Matt Smith delivering lines with fierce intensity that encompasses The Doctors long association with them.
There’s One Thing You Never Put In A Trap (The Time of Angels)
The long awaited return of the Weeping Angels was always going to bring about a terrible situation. As they start to wake and close in on The Doctor and co. we start to learn of an ingenious plan. The Doctor abruptly asks for a gun, aims it and delivers a fantastic speech. The added tension of The Doctor holding a violent weapon was intriguing. Then, after the speech, he shoots into the sky and thus leaving it on a cliff-hanger. It was a bold statement of intent, and did a superb job of representing The Doctor’s inner trickster and capability of escaping tight predicaments.
Hello Stonehenge! (The Pandorica Opens)
The two-parter, finale of Series 5 (The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang) is a dark poetic story and is up there among my favourite episodes. Still to this day, I think they contain Matt Smith’s defining performance as the Eleventh Doctor. My favourite moment is when The Doctor steps out upon Stonehenge amidst an uproar of spaceships in the sky. Countless alien species, unbeknownst to him, are conspiring to lock him away. Matt Smith delivers yet another fine speech. As The Doctor shouts, almost screams, “I am talking!” to make the ships stop and listen gives me goose bumps every time. For me this perfectly represents The Doctor’s threatening presence contrasting with his wholly cynical view on violence.
Ohh The Silence. You Guys Take That Seriously Don’t You? (Day of the Moon)
The Silence are one of my favourite adversaries and this episode had a conclusion that encapsulated that. One of my favourite defeats of a villain. It was rather clever too, using The Silence’s post-hypnotic suggestion techniques against them whilst tying it in with the moon landing. I was on the edge of my seat as The Doctor confidently strolled around and casually chatted in the face of these grotesque beings. It was nail-biting and combined a rather serious sequence with great comic touches that didn’t hinder but enhanced the situation.
Point A Gun At Me If It Helps You Relax (A Good Man Goes To War)
With this, it’s really the entire episode. Amy and her child have been kidnapped. The Doctor, furious and determined, assembles some friends to further arm his own power – Steven Moffat, I believe, is characterising our hero as ‘a man gone too far’, a wreckless but powerful being. There are even nuances from other characters that he’s a monster of sorts (and also a great warrior). Matt Smith excels in these aspects of his character with ease. Passionate, heated dialogue runs throughout but Matt Smith never over-plays it, sometimes slipping into a reasoned cold anger.
Enjoy Your Bounty (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship)
A simple affair this one. Just The Doctor having a confrontation, a clash of two minds if you will. The other half being portrayed by the brilliant David Bradley as Solomon. It’s just a conversation, but the one-two between the characters is fascinating to listen to and observe … “Very emotive words Doctor” “Oh, I’m a very emotive man”. It builds towards a darker Doctor whom we’ve seldom seen in his Eleventh incarnation. Letting Solomon die after urging him to leave was a harrowing reminder he was given a chance. A stark message that when you face The Doctor’s wrath, sometimes there will be no mercy.