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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

Matt Smith is the new Doctor Who

Really? Matt who? I’m sorry, but when Piers Wegner, head of drama at BBC Wales, was quoted at BBC News yesterday saying this:

I just can’t wait to tell everyone who it is – it has been a nail-biting Christmas trying to keep this under wraps!

that suggested to me that the name he’d been dying to spill was one that we all at least would recognize. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m American that I’m saying, Matt who? Even the British geeks at Behind the Sofa are acknowledging that he’s “an almost unknown” (which seems to make them glad).
Of course the first thing I did was IMDB him, which turns up a heckuva lotta Matt Smiths. But here’s our man. He hasn’t done much at all, but, Ah, I saw, he was in those Sally Lockhart mysteries with Billie Piper, Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. And the first thing that came to mind — for I did then recall his character in them — is how Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor reacted to Lynda-with-a-Y in “Bad Wolf,” when she asks him what people think of her in the outside world (outside the “reality” of her Big Brother TV house, that is), and of course he has no idea but he wants to be nice to her, so he says, “Yeah, you’re sweet. People think you’re sweet.”

That’s what popped into my head thinking about Matt Smith in those Sally Lockhart things: He’s sweet. Kinda nice:

(Those are all from Shadow in the North. And that last one makes me think, Hey, why not JJ Feild for the Doctor? He’da been cool!)

Nice and sweet are not exactly what I would have thought of for the Doctor.

Then again, my first reaction upon hearing David Tennant’s name and IMDBing him was, Eww, that slithery guy from Harry Potter? Yuck!. And Tennant turned out to be, you know, kinda okay.

My second reaction to Smith is: Wow, he’s so young — only just turned 26. Can he possibly pull off the Doctor? Can he pull off the dark stuff that we know Steven Moffat is gonna throw at us?

Moffat and Wegner seem to think so, obviously. The BBC’s official Doctor Who site quotes them:

Lead writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat said “The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man. 2010 is a long time away but rest assured the Eleventh Doctor is coming – and the universe has never been so safe.”

Piers Wenger, Head Of Drama, BBC Wales added “With two hearts, a ferocious mind and over 900 years of experience behind him, it’s not every 26 year old actor who can take on a role like the Doctor but within moments of meeting Matt he showed the skill and imagination needed to create a Doctor all of his own.

I’m a little nervous and a little intrigued by that “bold and brand new take on the Time Lord” bit.

BBC News says:

Piers Wenger, head of drama at BBC Wales, said that as soon as he had seen Smith’s audition he “knew he was the one”.

“It was abundantly clear that he had that ‘Doctor-ness’ about him,” he said. “You are either the Doctor or you are not.”

I guess we have to trust that they know what they’re doing, because it’s a safe bet that they want the show to continue on for a goodly while still.

The third thing I thought upon hearing the news? Poor Peter Davison. (I’ve always had a big soft spot for Davison and his Doctor.) In one of the commentary tracks on his episodes (I can’t remember which one now), he laments the fact that his great legacy will now be as the Doctor David Tennant called “his Doctor” in “Time Crash.” (Davison was kinda joking, but kinda not, too.) But at least he still had the distinction of being the youngest Doctor ever.

And now he no longer has even that.

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