THE ELEVENTH IN­CAR­NA­TION

Don’t let Matt Smith’s youth fool you – the new Doc­tor Who is an old soul, as Guy Davis dis­cov­ered.

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cred­its to his name, 27-year-old Matt Smith was prob­a­bly con­sid­ered some­thing of a dark horse. But he did have the seal of ap­proval from a very im­por­tant source.

“ My mum sent me a text a week be­fore I even got an au­di­tion say­ing ‘ You should be the next Doc­tor’,” he laughed.

Well played, Mrs Smith. Be­cause af­ter two au­di­tions (“ in se­cret lo­ca­tions, which I thought was quite odd”) and three months of se­crecy, it was an­nounced at the beginning of 2009 that Smith would be tak­ing on the role of Doc­tor Who.

“ The Doc­tor is a very spe­cial part, and it takes a very spe­cial ac­tor to play him,” said Steven Mof­fat, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the new se­ries of Doc­tor Who.

“ 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.”

And just over a year later, the au­di­ence are now get­ting their first look at the new Doc­tor with the pre­miere of The Eleventh Hour, the first episode of the new sea­son.

The re­sponse has been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, with crit­ics ap­plaud­ing Smith’s work (“ Smith car­ries off the youth­ful vigour of a new body and the an­cient pro­fes­so­rial wis­dom with easy panache,” stated UK news­pa­per The Guardian) and fans flock­ing to on­line fo­rums to sing their praises.

Smith him­self has had a lit­tle time to get used to the vo­cal ado­ra­tion of the Doc­tor Who fan base, hav­ing spent a bit of time trav­el­ling around Bri­tain in a tour bus, tak­ing The Eleventh Hour to audiences in dif­fer­ent cities.

“ The bus ac­tu­ally has a big pic­ture of me on the side,” he said. “ I imag­ine it’s the clos­est I’ll ever get to be­ing a rock star.”

Well, he should prob­a­bly get used to it, given that Doc­tor Who ad­mir­ers tend to take the star of their favourite show to heart. Smith ad­mits, how­ever, that he wasn’t much of a Who buff be­fore land­ing the role.

“ You’re aware of Doc­tor Who, of course, be­cause it’s cul­tur­ally en­grained in our blood here in Eng­land,” he smiled. “ But I was part of this bar­ren age where it wasn’t on the tele­vi­sion be­cause they’d taken it off the air.”

When the show was suc­cess­fully re­launched in 2005, Smith started to con­nect with it. And since winning the role, he’s be­come some­thing of a sci-fi fan. “ I was in the front row of the cin­ema when Star Trek came out,” he said.

Some­thing he en­joys about the genre, and about his role as the Doc­tor es­pe­cially, is the free­dom it en­ables an ac­tor. “ The char­ac­ter is not bound by space, time, logic or genre,” he said. “ The pos­si­bil­i­ties to in­vent are in­fi­nite, and that is com­pletely lib­er­at­ing. And I have this won­der­ful team be­hind me who say ‘ Here’s the pal­ette, here’s the paint – get to work on the pic­ture’.”

Au­di­tion­ing for the role, Smith says that he in­stinc­tively felt a kin­ship with the char­ac­ter’s “ barmi­ness”, and that the Doc­tor’s re­la­tion­ship with his new trav­el­ling com­pan­ion Amy Pond ( played by Karen Gil­lan) is very much a team­ing of equals in that re­spect.

“ They’re as mad as each other,” he said. “ They’re th­ese two mad ad­ven­tur­ers who need each other, be­cause in The Eleventh Hour the Doc­tor is thrown im­me­di­ately into the action and has to save the world right away. So this Doc­tor needs some­one like Amy, and Karen gives her such a great spirit and feisti­ness.”

An­other di­men­sion: The new Time Lord, Matt Smith.

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