Monday, 5 January 2009

The new Doctor is 26!

Artical by Serena Davies.

Matt Smith has been cast as the replacement for David Tennant as the Time Lord in the BBC's sci-fi series Doctor Who. Ahead of Smith's incarnation as the 11th Doctor, we profile the young actor who has just won the biggest role in British television.
So who exactly is Matt Smith? There's no doubt a good proportion of the viewers of the grand unveiling of the 11th Doctor Who in Saturday's BBC1 documentary Doctor Who Confidential hadn't the foggiest when Smith's name came on the screen. And after all the feverish speculation that the next Doctor might be played by a Hollywood film star or, better still, Bill Nighy, it felt like a comedown that David Tennant's successor is a 26-year-old stripling with only two semi-popular dramas under his belt – the flaccid BBC1 literary adaptation The Ruby in the Smoke and BBC2's underrated Party Animals. But that doesn't mean Smith's not the right man for the job. It's easy to forget that the only major TV David Tennant had done before he became the Doctor was BBC3's hit-and-miss Casanova. Besides, major stars won't want to be locked into a part for several years, even if Doctor Who is the biggest role in British TV.
Like Tennant, Smith has already made his name on the stage before becoming the Doctor, even if he hasn't done much screen work. He had several minor roles, one of which was in Alan Bennett's National Theatre hit The History Boys. Then in 2007 came his major breakthrough: the part of a disturbed, abused adolescent in the Royal Court's play That Face. Smith was "outstanding" according to The Daily Telegraph; "the star of the evening" said The Sunday Times; "virtuoso", "mesmerising", "heart-rending" said three other critics. I saw his performance in The Face and it was devastating.
But Smith has more than acting ability. He also looks the part. There's the tousled coiffeur – "The hair!" as Steven Moffat, the series' new executive producer said on Saturday, with awe. According to Moffat's fellow producer Piers Wenger, there's something about Smith which makes you believe that, despite his youth, he really could be 900 years old: "There's a quirkiness to him, an unevenness to his face, a lot of stuff going on behind the eyes. He hasn't got an entirely modern face."
Most importantly, Smith has the personality to be the Doctor. Unassuming and "normal", this boy from Northampton isn't a product of a starry acting school, even if his sister is a backing dancer for Take That. In fact, as a teenager, Smith wanted to be a footballer before an injury put paid to that ambition and he did a stint at the National Youth Theatre instead. He then studied drama and creative writing at the University of East Anglia – a place considerably more famous for its creative writing than its dramatics.
Perhaps these humble beginnings helped, but Smith is gregarious and completely unpretentious as a person. You could see this in Saturday's BBC interview, in which he bubbled away about getting the part: "You're watching Doctor Who and your flatmate's there and you're going, 'Ahhh I'd love to share that I'm the new Doctor but I can't!'" I met Smith a couple of years ago in a bar and he was sweetly friendly. His rare interviewers have found the same; "funny and charming" said The Evening Standard in 2008.
A 21st-century Doctor needs to be affable because the role now requires much more than acting. Smith will have to cope with huge media interest, and also with a clamouring fan base mainly consisting of children. This is why the shy Ben Whishaw, another young actor touted for the role, would have been the wrong choice. But it is also why youth is now an essential part of the Doctor's make-up. Along with that fan base comes a huge merchandising industry and children need a Doctor close enough to their own age to identify with.
So what will Smith's Doctor, who will "regenerate" in this year's Christmas special, be like? Like Tennant, Smith is thin and gangly but handsome at second glance, so there is a danger of the 11th Doctor seeming like a clone of 10th.
However Smith comes to the role without Tennant's in-depth knowledge of the series and describes the next six months as a "time to build this Time Lord…to learn the history of the show", which should give his interpretation freshness. His Doctor may also be boyishly mischievous – he spoke with relish of "the sense of mischief" he got when he knew he'd be the Doctor.
He also spoke of the show's "magic". Smith is of the Harry Potter generation and so his Doctor Who may be full of the sense of myth and mystery found in the tales of the boy wizard – one quality that Tennant's Doctor maybe lacks.


Sparkle Plenty said...

There almost might be something closely verging on "Flock of Seagulls" about that hair.

I am unfairly judging the lad and comparing him with Tennant. I can tell that I am.

Ishat's Fire and Ice said...

We all will.

I think for a woman, not a girl, we need a man of a certain age to lust after.

I hope he has witty writers and Eddie Izzard makes appearances now that the Riches are over.

Anonymous said...

did u write this? thought i saw it somewhere else.

Ishat's Fire and Ice said...

I just realized it didn't have the writer on it. When I copy these things I usually copy everything including the writer to give the right person credit.

Thanks for pointing out that it wasn't on there.

Do you kow who wrote it so I can give the credit to them?

Sparkle Plenty said...

It was clear to me that you were sharing an article that you saw elsewhere! I appreciated you passing it along, 'cause I probably woulda missed it.

And...I believe this post is almost 26 years old! Not really, but where are you? Hope all's well!

The Silver Fox said...

Since "Anonymous" never wrote back, I thought I'd find it for you! I just put a big chunk of your post in quotes and Googled it. It appeared in the and was written by Serena Davies.


Ishat's Fire and Ice said...

Thank you