Doctor Smith I Presume?

Matt Smith as drawn by (c) Paul J. Holden.
Matt Smith as drawn by (c) Paul J. Holden.
This can’t be a nine wishes for 2009 because he won’t actually be appearing in the role until 2010, but I am intrigued by the casting of Matt Smith for the 11th Doctor Who.

It appears to have upset a great many people and in this X-Factor age everyone seems to think they should have been consulted (imagine if they’d gone down the talent show route… Brrr!). What is most striking is that most of the objections appear to be based on what Smith is – i.e. young, white and male – rather than based on any informed view about his acting talent.

I have sympathies for those disappointed that it wasn’t Patterson Joseph as he is a great actor. And, superficially, I will admit to having a yearning to see someone in their 50s or 60s in the role (if you may recall that I was flying the flag for Simon Russell Beale). But the argument that ‘this time’ it should have been a black actor or a woman is tokenism pure and simple. They were casting an actor, not a face.

I only recall seeing Matt Smith in The Ruby and The Smoke (and its sequel) but he seemed like a good actor. The fact that he has plenty of stage experience is also a plus for me.

I do hope they put a lot of thought into how the character might develop. What I would be most disappointed to see is Smith emerging as a carbon copy of the Tennant Doctor. The whole cocky, god-like, ‘no second chances’ schtick has well and truly run its course. I’m hoping he’ll go for more of a nervy, Davison-meets-Troughton personality and be deliberately more fallible.

The other thing that I’m hoping they will avoid is having all his companions fall in love with him. Russell T. Davies’ tenure was marked by heightening the emotions in the show. Nothing wrong with that. But in so doing, he did occasionally teeter towards cliche. It had reached such a point by Tennant’s third season that they had to explicitly rule out the possibility of Catherine Tate’s character having a romantic relationship with him.

Sex is a poor substitute for emotional depth. If the last few years of Doctor Who haven’t taught the new producers that, then the direness of the first season of Torchwood and the triumph of Sarah Jane Adventures should have done by now. If there is a danger of having such a young Doctor it is that trying the same sort of thing they did with Rose and Martha would come across like a badly sung and danced copy of High School Musical.

But I’m optimistic they won’t make this mistake. I have a lot of respect for Stephen Moffatt, both for his Doctor Who scripts and his earlier work.

As for the Tenth Doctor? It will be interesting to see how he goes and to what extent the four specials will be interlinked. And where does Prof. Song’s seemingly long marriage to him fit in?


  1. I’m mostly with you, I don’t mind these castings, whatever they are, as long as the actor is good and that the doctor is something different. If he’s just going to resemble one of the last two doctors it’s going to be cheap, and feel cheap. Perhaps that’s why I was also yearning for them to go down a black doctor root, not necessarily for their skin colour overtly, but that it would really spark writers to push the boat out.

    Maybe they don’t need such an obvious visceral change to do that, let’s hope.

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