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