Fan backlash was predictably immediate. He was clearly far too young. We’d just had a young Doctor with David Tennant! What happened to the Steven Moffat who favoured older actors in the role?
Things would only continue in this vein. The first costume shots were revealed. Oh my God! Is that tweed? A bow tie? Meanwhile I mulled over the pictures. Not what I’d expected, for sure, but I got an almost Patrick Troughton vibe from the pictures. Ok, this could work I thought, but still, it wasn’t quite clicking yet.
The regeneration and subsequent trailer continued the theme: he spat on the console for goodness sake! He’s holding a gun in the trailer! The Doctor never holds a gun! (Errr…you did just watch The End of Time didn’t you? Never mind). Still I remained intrigued and excited. A new Doctor is always an exciting time in the show. What was he going to bring to the role? Would he be able to escape the long shadow clearly being cast by his predecessor?
And then came the Eleventh Hour. I make no bones that this remains my favourite series opener, and one of my all time favourite episodes of Doctor Who. Matt Smith, of course, quickly won me over. As he threw plates of food around and walked into trees, the silliness of a post-regeneration Doctor was in full effect. However, then it changed in an instant.
“Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.”
That was the moment Matt Smith definitively won me over. And in those 5 minutes since he’d climbed out of the TARDIS he nicely captured a lot of what he would bring to the Doctor. Funny, geeky, but able to turn it all around in an instant, and with a quiet voice bring all the wisdom and experience of the Doctor to bear.
The final episode of series 5 would go on to capture another aspect of Matt’s Doctor that Steven Moffat referenced. Trapped by the cracks in time, and falling back through his own timeline, the Doctor would find himself back at events of the Eleventh Hour. And as he tucked little Amelia into bed, and told her the story of the ancient, new, borrowed and blue box, Matt’s performance expertly captured the age of the Doctor for me. Even while the character was scheming and laying the groundwork for cheating his fate, the scene was still played as an old man, feeling the many centuries of his life. The old man in a young body. Its a scene that really sticks with me for that reason. An old man, facing the end of his life (or so we thought, clever boy).
However its not just his performance as the Doctor that I think so enamoured me to the Eleventh Doctor, but Matt himself. Following on from self-confessed fan David Tennant, Matt was initially not fan of the show. He’d seen it certainly, but his interests had lain elsewhere until he got the part. But then the stories began to surface. Steven Moffat telling the story of Matt phoning him late at night, having just watched Tomb of the Cybermen, and desperate to share his new-found love of the story. The fact that an appreciation of Patrick Troughton so clearly informed the character of the Eleventh Doctor. From those initially stumbling and obviously awkward interviews on the likes of the One Show and Jonathan Ross, where we heard of Matt getting caught out in customs at an airport thanks to the Sonic he had in his pocket. That glorious moment at the Proms where the little boy said that yes, he COULD see the invisible wire. Why? Because The Doctor had told him it was there.
Over the last four years, we’ve seen Matt grow, not only as an actor, not only as a leading man, drawn into the publicity surrounding the show and how he handles it, but also as a fan of that show, and that is what I love about Matt, and the Eleventh Doctor.
Christmas Day will bring the same mixed emotions a regeneration always brings. There’s no denying the excitement that Peter Capaldi is bringing to the show. I cheered when he walked on stage at the live reveal, and I cheered when he glared at us in the Day of the Doctor. However, for me, there’s no denying that I’m going to miss that mad man in a box. Like many of us, I’ve been watching the show a long time now. Like many of us, I revel in the change that defines Doctor Who. I can’t wait for the first costume shots of the new Doctor, the first trailer and his first episode. I’ll rewatch the regeneration and whatever snippets we get of Capaldi at the end of the episode a hundred times. This is Peter Capaldi we’re talking about. A bloody fine actor, and a long-time fan of the show. But Christmas Day is also the Fall of the Eleventh. Its Matt’s last hurrah as the Doctor, and dammit, I don’t want him to go.
Roll on the 60th anniversary, when bow ties will be cool again, and the fez is dusted off. But in the meantime, roll on Christmas Day. Bring on the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Silence and the Weeping Angels. Bring on that one last Geronimo and adjusting of the bow tie. Because we all know, there is one thing you never, ever put in a trap.