Matt Smith leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year
Doctor Who fans (“Whovians”) say You never forget your first doctor. Like many Americans, my first was Tom Baker. Baker played the part for seven years (the longest tenure). In 1978, Doctor Who appeared on PBS stations in the USA, with the first four of Baker’s seasons (DW had been tried here before, in 1972, but hadn’t caught fire). Bug-eyed, whimsical, quirky, and with that very long scarf, for years, when you said “Doctor Who”, I thought, “Tom Baker”.
Now, that’s no longer true.
My first thought is of the latest Doctor, Matt Smith.
When I first wrote about this incarnation of the Doctor (the 11th Doctor), I said,
“I like Matt Smith, and I do think he can develop nicely.”
Indeed he did.
I made some more observations of Smith, and stand by them.
There is a real duality about the Doctor. Given a choice, he appears to be light-hearted, curious, almost childlike. However, there are some dark things in his past, and his current situation (last of his kind) could be depressing to many.
I think Matt Smith’s brilliance in the performance is that his Doctor wants to be that wide-eyed naif, and tries to be…but those flashes of hurt and anger sometimes show through.
Like Doc Savage, Spock, and Kwai Chang Caine (three of my fictional heroes), this Doctor Who thinks he has failed…while others think he is a superior being. Yes, he playfully talks about how good he is…but deep down, he blames himself (not entirely unreasonably).
So, I was sad to hear about Matt Smith moving on after the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special.
No, it’s not a surprise, of course. In fifty years, the Whovians count eleven doctors (an average of under five years), and since 2005, there have been three (an average of under three years).
Doctor Who, you see, is an alien who can regenerate periodically…and gets a new body with a somewhat different personality (and played by a different actor).
The obvious question is, “Who will it be?”
They sometimes like to do a contrast, and there is talk of going with an older Doctor (a considerable transition from Matt Smith, the youngest actor to play the role). Hm…I suppose one interesting twist would be to go with…Tom Baker.😉 I don’t think the 79 year old would do it, though, nor do I think they would make that choice.
Last time around, there was some discussion with going with a Doctor who was female, or a different race. There wouldn’t seem to be a barrier to that, and that would be a way to respond to a recent accusation that Doctor Who is “thunderingly racist”. How about this for an interesting suggestion? James Earl Jones. That would bring a non-white, American actor (how is that for a change?) to the part…and one who has the necessary mischievousness. I don’t really think that would happen, although Jones has been working steadily, and I could see him being interested.
There is time enough for that discussion.
Matt Smith, thank you. Your respect and passion for the series has been clear. You have played the Doctor as no one else has, or will.
We wish you success (and challenge, for what fun is success without that?) in the future. As a fan, I say the door to the TARDIS is always open to you…and remember: the Whoniverse is bigger on the inside.😉
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.