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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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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  • speedydeeps

    I’m so happy they cast Matt Smith. He was my favourite actor in the excellent BBC political series “Party Animals” – which I highly recommend if you want to get more of a feel for his energy and dynamism. Soooo excited to be able to see more of this character.

    There is an interesting take on him by one commentator who feels that he has something Byronic about him and could be a much more sensual doctor than Tennant… interesting thought!

  • Mo

    Matt Smith. Never heard of him anywhere ever. And I do think that’s a good thing.

    I had a whole mental list of things to go over to form an opinion of new guy- what would bug me, what would be interesting, what I thought of various supposed front runners. It just completely flew out the window. Every time I try to think back to it all I get is the thought, “but he’s SO cute”.

    I’m confused. Happy, but very confused.

  • Dawn

    I was pleased that they picked a relative unknown (I shivered with fear at some of the names put forward). He seems to have really good theatre credentials too… Has a bit of the Eccleston about him I feel. He may be young, but at 26 he looks 26…when DT took over at 34ish he only looked around 26 to me LOL! They needed to pick someone who could not only act BUT could give the energy to the role that David has….hopefully they have that. If the showrunners are happy with their choice then we should trust their instincts. We won’t know for ourselves until April 2010. I’m going to relax and enjoy the 51 weeks we have left of TEN and then watch from behind the sofa…LOL

    On a different note – tonight is the night that David returned to the role of Hamlet – and by all interval accounts he seems to be totally back to his best (no pun intended their about his back!) He is flinging himself around the stage like a good-un! The press were so focussed on the BBC announcement that the RSC one went un-noticed… Perfect timing for a return I think!

  • pete

    They could have picked someone attractive at least. After the magnificent season 4, I don’t have high hopes for season 5, so I’ll just wait and see and I hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • I think Matt Smith looks fine; he’s a bit too young. I’m willing to give him a shot though. A few Internet denizens have gone way over the deep end in some of their anti-Smith comments.

    After adoring Tom Baker as The Doctor in the ’70s, I was never as fond of Peter Davidson. By contrast, I wound up quickly liking David Tennent much more than Christopher Eccleston (though I liked Eccleston quite a bit).

    So much of this depends on the writing, and we know that Steven Moffatt is a brilliant writer.

  • Andrew lees

    He seems sort of wild and crazy, even looks like an alien AND pretty much unknown…just like Tom Baker! I’ve been watching this daft programme for nearly 40 years and I’ve never been this excited by a Doctor casting… perfect in my book. Ok Slightly dissapointed it wasn’t Patterson Joseph (or indeed any black actor) but thankfully thet didn’t choose Russell Tovey!

  • spikewriter

    I’m going to have to pick up “Party Animals” when I’m London next week. I liked him in Ruby & The Smoke and Shadow of the North (though the second film annoyed me big time because it hit some personal storytelling buttons I do not like big time), so I’m curious to see him in something else.

    As for the rest, we’ll wait and see. I didn’t know who David Tennant was before he was cast and now he’s the cause of a trip to London.

  • Debbie

    admit I was all over the map about this. i was relieved it wasn’t one of the crazy names tossed out by the press and RTD such as David Williams, Russell Tovey or shudder, Catherine Zeta Jones. I personally wished it would be someone 40-ish so having them name a Doctor young enough to be my son is freaking me out quite a bit. I’m hoping that the Flock of Seaguls meets goth boy look he is presently sporting is for another part. I share in the bit of sadness for Davison. At least he has aged well which Colin Baker can’t say.

  • Diane

    I’m torn. I’ve watched all the videos I could find on the net and I think Matt Smith’s age may be a problem. The Doctor is over 900 years old. I don’t think someone who’s MS’s age necessarily has the life experience needed to play someone that old. Which makes me wonder-will they tailor the scripts to his age somewhat, especially as the series progresses and they see what MS can and cannot successfully do?

    On the other hand, after this last season, the Doctor has what seems to me to be an unbearable amount of baggage. Maybe he needs a new and fresh attitude to deal with it all.

  • I think Matt Smith’s age may be a problem. The Doctor is over 900 years old. I don’t think someone who’s MS’s age necessarily has the life experience needed to play someone that old.

    To be fair, who does?

    Although I’ll miss Tennant, I have total confidence in Steven Moffat.

    ps – Party Animals is well worth watching.

  • Joanne

    To be honest, I’m glad he’s unknown. As much as I’d have loved someone like Chiwetel Ejofor (my top “guess pick” till the announcement), part of me would have been thinking of the actor and not the character. I didn’t really know Tennant’s work much until DW and I’m glad, because he became Ten for me entirely. I am concerned he may be too young, but will happily reserve judgment. And the youth sort of fits into that line from Time Crash about wanting to be old when you’re young and young when you’re old. Ten right now is in a bit of a lonely funk and perhaps being young and fancy free will help him snap out of it.

    Now, what’s the costume going to be? :)

  • Anne-Kari

    I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Although I was really, REALLY hoping it would be Chiwetel Ejiofor.

  • Vera Cobb

    Well, that announcement was a bit of an anti-climax. I haven’t really got an opinion regarding Matt Smith one way or another, since I haven’t seen anything he’s done. Hopefully, he’ll prove up to the task at hand.

    It’s the age factor that disappoints me. I live in Hollyweird, I can see pretty 20-somethings playing all ages on my television whenever I want. One of the reasons I quite liked the New Doctor Who as opposed to say, BBC’s new Robin Hood, was that I got to see people around my age (and gasp, even older) as the leads on TV. So, the casting of such a young actor is a little dispiriting. Also, a little disappointed that they went with the standard white male route, considering the diversity of actors who’d been rumored.

  • Ruby and the Smoke is available on Netflix. Wonder how this announcement will affect demand for it. I added it to my queue last night–now don’t you all do the same or I’ll never get it!

    From a totally in-the-Doctor’s-world viewpoint, I think the Doctor keeps getting younger because he’s had so many premature regenerations. He has so many unused regeneration-years stored up in his DNA that I’m surprised he doesn’t come back as a babe in arms.

    Chris and David are both younger than me–but still well within range of a cougar crush. I’d feel silly and borderline pathetic drooling over someone less than half my age though, so just as well I don’t find Matt particularly attractive. Meh. Could still be a great Doctor. It’s two of them that have made my little heart go pit-a-pat, but enjoyed them all nonetheless.

    Watched Silence in the Library last night on BBCA and I’m actually more apprehensive about the direction Moffatt will be taking the show than I am about the new lead actor. It’s a great episode, yeah, but…parts of it go beyond weird and into incomprehensible. Can you imagine the chap who wrote Ghost Light being in charge of the entire show? I hope it doesn’t become so esoteric that only hard-core sf-sters can enjoy it, ’cause I’m not that hard core by a long shot.

    Ah well. Another year of the lovely Ten and the has-his-faults-but-I-trust-him-with-the-show-and-the-character Russell T. Then…we’re off on a new adventure.

  • Mo

    “I hope it doesn’t become so esoteric that only hard-core sf-sters can enjoy it, ’cause I’m not that hard core by a long shot.”

    Moffatt has said himself before that in the past his job was to come in and write “the Moffatt episode” in all it’s quirky timey-wimey glory, while being in charge will give him a chance to work on a whole range of styles. Moffatt did cut his teeth doing lighthearted romantic comedy, after all. I’m not worried.

  • Teenes

    Having finally seen the Confidential, I feel better about this casting. Matt Smith does seem young but he does have a particular offbeat quality to him that does seem rather Doctorish. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until I see him in the role. I don’t like the hair and he’s not my type, looks-wise, but no one ever said I had to find the Doctor physically attractive. I’m unlikely ever to melt over Matt Smith like I have at times with David Tennant, but I never melted over Christopher Eccleston, so it’s not exactly a requirement ;). Just a nice little bonus with DT.

    Though I have to say…no “I can’t wait to see the Eleventh Doctor!” going on here. I can definitely wait. I’m actually not even *that* unhappy (though ask me again midway through next year) that they’re stretching four specials out over an entire year so it’ll be a long time between doses of Ten. It’s kind of like how I’ve been putting off watching David’s video diaries and listening to the last two commentaries on my Season 4 boxset… don’t want to face the day when there’s no more new Ten/David Tennant to watch! =)

  • Gee

    I found this interview with Matt Smith, from last year, talking about a hit play he was in and his other work.


    Here’s an extract:

    “Smith couldn’t be further from Henry, not least because the actor grew up in a stable home in Northampton. Unlike his unsmiling alter-ego, today Smith is upbeat, open and chatty, with a goofy smile, dishevelled clothes and a tendency to fidget that makes him seem like a slightly nerdy younger brother all grown up. He has a genuine enthusiasm for everything he talks about, including the people he works with – Duncan, she might be glad to know, is “cool, she’s rock and roll”; Stenham, whom Smith has become good friends with, is “a good egg”. What’s more, Smith, who was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Evening Standard Awards last year and has already worked with Christian Slater in the West End, seems on a distinctly upwards spiral in life, unlike his fictional counterpart.”


  • Mo kindly said:

    Moffatt has said himself before that in the past his job was to come in and write “the Moffatt episode” in all it’s quirky timey-wimey glory, while being in charge will give him a chance to work on a whole range of styles. Moffatt did cut his teeth doing lighthearted romantic comedy, after all. I’m not worried.

    Thanks, Mo. I feel better now!

  • Emrys

    Found this today.


    An extended interview with the actor in question regarding The Doctor. You’ve probably already seen it.

    Note the finger wiggles early on. Overall the actor’s energy is really appealing to me. I definitely think I’m starting to see why they picked him.

    Just imagine him saying “Wibbly wobbly timey wimey.”

    Lets just hope they do something with his hair…

  • Carey

    I have the impression that the next Doctor will be 14 years old… but then that makes it sound like I have a problem with Matt Smith’s age, and I really don’t. He looks awfully similar to DT, though…

  • allochthon

    Emrys, thanks for posting the Youtube video. I hadn’t seen it.

    Before, I was at the “wait and see” stage, but seeing the longer version of that interview makes me look forward to Smith. But ala

  • I am so thrilled about seeing how Matt Smith is going to handle the role, it almost makes me forget the one thing that has me going, “Errrr …”

    I was a little leery of David Tennant, he being the first actor in the role born after I was. Not long after, mind you, but he’s younger than me. I always figure that when they start casting younger actors in the role, that means I’m out of the running. Not that I was ever in the running, but still, the death of such a lofty pipe dream was something of a blow. And, of course, David was brilliant. Even I would have picked him over me.

    Now, the BBC adds insult to injury by casting someone in the role who wass born AFTER I STARTED WATCHING THE SHOW! (In 1979; Matt was born in ’82, evidently)

    Sigh. I’m getting old.

    But I refuse to grow up. I await the future of Doctor Who with breathless anticipation, couch pushed up as close to the telly as I dare.

  • There’s something about Doctor Who that makes me happy; I’m never quite sure what it is. I watched “Doctor Who at the Proms” last night and it was just wonderful.

    Whoever this Matt Smith is, as long as the magic doesn’t leave with Davies, he’ll be just fine.

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