All good things must come to an end, I guess. In a show like ‘Doctor Who’ the cast, tone, actors and settings change at the drop of a hat, trawling through different show-runners and lead actors like there’s no tomorrow. It’s unique in this way – no other show does anything like it, but sometimes I can’t help but get a little nostalgic for times long since passed.
As I’m watching season 12 of ‘Doctor Who’ unfold currently, I can’t help but miss some of the old faces that once graced our screens. And, for me, that will be missing ‘my Doctor’ – eg. Matt Smith’s iteration of the 11th Doctor.
Sure, most people’s favourite tends to be David Tennant. Mine was too, for the longest time. 10 and Rose were the absolute dream team, injecting a flair of dramatic and romance into the sci-fi show. It took me a while when Tennant had regenerated into Smith to warm up to the younger-faced iteration – who even was this new guy who had come along and replaced my dear, sweet Doctor? – but within a few episodes I was hooked on this iteration.
For me, Matt Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor was perfect. The Raggedy Man managed to portray a gentle balance of a young, carefree, energetic child, while simultaneously acting like the war-torn, ancient being he is. The depths to Smith’s acting were phenomenal, showing a range that were both enticing and a little bit scary, while constantly spewing little nuggets of positivity and life-advice.
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and… bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.”
From going from the iconic “fish custard” in his first episode – acting silly and whimsical, to acting like a merciless God as the seasons ran on – all while donning his iconic bow tie – the layers and depth to the 11th Doctor are unparalleled.
Take ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, for example: “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.” Zing! There was a darkness that bubbled beneath the surface of the Eleventh Doctor, a darkness that I found oddly alluring.
The writing of Smith’s run on the show certainly adds to my love for 11. Sure, it was grandiose, often focusing on the micro as opposed to the bigger picture, with plot lines that tended to fall flat when it led up to their grand conclusion. But they were very much my kind of vibe. The fairytales that enchanted season 5, the high-drama that laced its way throughout season 6 – and, more importantly, the introduction of my favourite companion, Clara Oswald, in season 7.
There was an air of mysticism around Moffat’s show-running time. The stories were weaved like myths and legends; whether it was uncovering the mystery around River Song’s identity, drawing parallels from Pandora’s Box, to The Last Centurion. It was all so grand and well, magical. A lot of Who fans seemed to dislike this over-saturated approach to storytelling but I, for one, loved it.
But back to the man himself. The Eleventh Doctor oozed charisma and charm, exuding a confidence that bordered on arrogance throughout his multiple season-run. Equally, though, 11 was charming, and oddly child-like. In ‘The Lodger’, for example, we get to see The Doctor living as a human for a brief while; and it’s this youth-like energy that kept the Doctor fresh for audiences as the episodes ran their course.
The Eleventh Doctor donned an array of different identities: a mad-man with a box, a guardian of crying children, an impossible far-flung dreamer. And it’s these motifs that weave their way through 11’s run on the show that resonate with me, a hopeless spark of optimism and hope wrapped up within a dangerous 1,000 year-old Time Lord.
Smith’s tenure on the show was controversial, for sure. Most people who do take issue with his seasons don’t hold Smith to account, but rather the show-runner for taking the show in an unusual direction. But it’s a direction I miss.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stuck with this show for almost 12 seasons now, and season 12 is far stronger than its predecessor. But sometimes, just sometimes, I miss the little bit of fairytale magic that graced my television whenever Matt Smith donned his iconic bow-tie. In my opinion, we should all be a little bit more like 11, and the world would shape up to be a better place, filled with fish custard and endless optimism in the face of adversity.
For me, there was something truly special when the 11th Doctor was on the screen. It was a little piece of television magic, and one I’m forever grateful I got to experience as it was airing before my eyes.
Farewell, Raggedy Man. I’ll always remember when the Doctor was you. You can bet that when I’ve finally caught up on season 12 that I’m gonna head back and revisit the magical time when Smith played the mystical version of the one and only Doctor.
For more geeky articles like this, check out my thoughts on ‘The Magicians’ – an equally whimsical approach to fantasy. Or, have a look at some interesting trivia about the original ‘Star Wars’ movies.