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An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6

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Aneka's still not convinced...

Matt Smith convincing a fan..?

It was 1st January 2010 when 26-year-old (at that time) Matt Smith first graced our TV screens amidst chaotic circumstances and a crashing TARDIS. Speculation bubbled among fans as to how on earth this actor in his late twenties could compete with legendary Time Lords such as Tom Baker or David Tennant. The few minutes of Smith where he checks out his new self and deals with the self-destructing TARDIS, shouting out ‘Geronimo’, managed to convince some viewers, yet disappoint others.

Nevertheless, that’s the Doctor Who pattern, isn’t it? You adore one Doctor - and are totally disheartened when he leaves - and raise an eyebrow at the sight of the new one. Then two weeks later, you’re into the new as well. Ad nauseum.

I remember watching Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor back in 2005 as a teenager, and snorted at the sight of the then 34-year-old Tennant clad in Eccleston’s black leather attire. However, after three episodes, like the majority of the public, I was captured by the Scotsman’s talent.

It 's been fourteen months since Tennant's departure and Smith's adoption of the mantle. In that time, has Matt Smith finally captivated us with the old Time Lord charm - or has he yet a long way to go?

Let’s start off with the Tenth Doctor. During Series 2-4 and the Doctor Who specials, Tennant re-engaged the audience with his good looks and comical acting, but some of the episodes from head scribe Russell T. Davies were badly-written; even that didn’t undermine public appreciation for Tennant’s talent, which got him quickly to the top of the 'All Time Best Doctors' list. For example, Tennant’s last episode ever is a strong case for this, since there were far better Doctor Who finale episodes than 'The End of Time'. Nevertheless, while putting up with the confusing and slow-paced episode, Tennant made it worth watching, despite criticism of being 'too human' - which is perhaps worth looking into...

Throughout his reign, no matter which or how many villains he encounters, the Tenth Doctor always – and I mean always – offers one chance for his opponent to take before actually taking matters into his own hands. For example, 'The Runaway Bride'; the Empress of Racnoss is offered such a chance before she throws it away. Surely, when you think about it, there are very few (if any) human beings who would willingly offer their nemeses so many chances before actually taking actual control of the situation. But does that make the Tenth Doctor’s personality human or not so human, considering Tennant's constant fascination at new discoveries and creatures, rambling about random things and always referring to us as ‘humans’,..? That seems pretty 'alien'..

When Smith popped on to the screens in a burning TARDIS, his approach was far different from Tennant's. Instead of having Tennant raising his eyebrows and confident in solving every dilemma with a joyful and energetic approach, Smith seems to be much more relaxed, but also less jolly and happy about facing challenges and problems. In his first episode, little Amy tugs the Eleventh Doctor to show him the cracks in her wall. When he sees them, he examines them in a sober and mature manner - preferable to Tennant’s overly-joyous approach.

In each episode, the Eleventh Doctor manages to integrate with the rest of the characters and then, half an hour into the story, they get along well with each other. This is quite different to Tennant’s constant haughty remarks about ‘little humans’ – a bit of a child-like scolding, don’t you think?

Similar to his predecessor, Smith wields an eccentric personality trait that ties him to the original concept of the Doctor, continuing with the non-sequiturs and earning himself the epithet ‘weird’ - which could be the reason why we may begin to warm to him just as we did to the previous Doctors.

All that notwithstanding, at the close of a Matt Smith Doctor Who episode, I cannot feel that satisfaction with the show that I used to. Perhaps, Smith does not have what it takes to sway loyal Who viewers to his side..? Perhaps season six will decide the 'floating voters'.

Smith’s Doctor is quite similar to the Tenth. However, both actors have their own styles of the eccentric time-traveller. While Tennant revelled in his glee at certain (usually challenging) situations, Smith takes the sombre ‘I can do it’ approach. Matt Smith has managed to shoot the arrow well, but perhaps not as far as Tennant did in his three years of TARDIS travelling. After all, the guy is the youngest actor to portray our Gallifrean hero, and we have only seen one series yet...


Also see:
Matt Smith - the best 'Doctor' since Tom Baker?
Doctor Who: What made Christopher Eccleston unique
Top 10 Doctor Whos
The ten most important characteristics of The Doctor
Picking apart the Doctor Who season six trailer
Doctor Who companions: The Ultimate Tournament
Doctor Who And The Electrans
EXCLUSIVE PIC: Sylvester McCoy playing The Doctor last week
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sylvester McCoy on Hobbit, Minister Of Chance, Doctor Who
The literary TARDIS: The Target Doctor Who novelisations
Complete Doctor Who reviews
Bank of Doctor Who

Read more Doctor Who articles at Shadowlocked


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Comments 

 
#1 Smith's Strengths toasterhedgehog 2011-04-15 19:53
Matt Smith is one of the most subtle actors on TV. There's so much going on in his face and posture and eyes. Everything he does has some humor to it.

Tennant is great, but he's a big Shakespearian royalty type actor. He's got his feet planted and his shoulder's squared, and his eyes bulging, and his booming perfectly articulated voice reaching the back seats. Tennant will always nail the larger than life emotional moments better than Smith.

Smith's got more of a swagger and a smirk. He's a lot more measured and specific communication of what's going on in the Doctor's head. Smith's style fits the medium of television better. He also comes up with much more interesting line readings than Tennant. Tennant could never pull off 'there's an escaped fish' or the 'Fez are cool' business as well as Smith does.

I feel the exact opposite at the end of the 11th's Doctor's episodes as the author. I want keep hanging out with this nutty Doctor more than I ever wanted to with the 10th.
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#2 RE: An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6 Lily 2011-04-15 20:06
I have to disagree with you. I absolutely adore Matt Smith, much more than David Tennant. There is something so alien and wonderful about him, a spark of kindness that Tennant didn't have. And I think the writing is much more solid with Moffat at the helm than with Davies. Actually, Leo Porter summed it up last year on this site why he is so great.

http://www.shadowlocked.com/20100502354/opinion-features/doctor-who-matt-smith-the-best-doctor-since-tom-baker.html
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#3 RE: An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6 Shelly 2011-04-15 22:49
I find it disheartening to hear David Tennant listed as "one of the great Doctors." He's certainly the easiest on the eyes but watching him act makes me cringe, be it Doctor Who or Hamlet. He OVER-acts and I shudder for the scenery. He's as subtle as a 2x4 upside the head (rather like Pertwee was; indeed the 10th Doctor in many ways felt like a retread of the 3rd Doctor). That being said, he was well suited to writer Russel T. Davies, who also lacks subtlety. Don't get me wrong - I will forever be grateful to RTD for reviving the series and for giving us a season with the excellent Christopher Eccelston. But I would hardly classify Tennant as one of the best.
What we see with Matt Smith and Steven Moffat is more sophisticated acting and writing and yes, subtlety. Smith conveys more with his eyes alone than Tennant did with his entire body. Eccelston's Doctor was full or rage and a bit PTSD. Tennant's Doctor was still raging, but trying to hide it under gob. Smith's Doctor is coping with guilt - guilt over the time war, guilt over the things he did in his previous life, guilt over abandoning Amelia as a child. Matt portrays it beautifully and subtly. I would list HIM as one of the great Doctors.
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#4 RE: An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6 Lynda 2011-04-16 20:28
I love David Tennant, and he was a great Doctor. But Matt Smith is just amazing. I couldn't imagine anyone better than David, but, well here he is. Matt himself is as eccentric and weird as his Doctor, we are so lucky. This next series he will be upping his performance, as his character gets more development. He has the most interesting looking face. The camera loves him. Try and give him the benefit of the doubt, he's a really, really good actor.
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#5 I disagree Alex Iles 2011-04-17 15:21
I think a different article by someone called Leo on this site was much more correct. He said that matt smith was the best doctor since tom baker, you sit here saying he's not even as good as david tennant, i know you love david tennant but i personally hate him, so saying that matt smith isn't as good as him is the biggest insult for him i can find for any doctor, As someone said before, tennant is a cringe worthy actor. I find his porrtrayal so irritating that he and justin bieber are my all time enemies. Purely because david tennant was the reason an amazing show just seemed 'bad'. I sit here repeatedly watching series 5 and series 1 of doctor who. the only two nu who series that dont have tennant. i find myself avoiding anything with him because his performance makes me angry and offended. david tennant and mathew waterhouse (adric) were the biggest mistakes doctor who ever made. Thats my opinion anyway, you can say it's 'harsh' but i am literally speaking my opinion,

As for matt smith, he is one of my all time favorite doctors ever, mixing eccentricity and heroicness so well, his superb oddness, his bow tie, his love for fezzes. in a christmas carol he jumped between kazrans sardyks life so well, as he jumped on little kazran's bed. 'your nanny only just went and won the lottery!"
'there is no lottery!'
'i know, what a women!'
And his ability to make scenes so intriguing and tense is amazing! we can take him seriously even with a fez and a protruding bow tie.
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#6 Tennant? Thomas Rice 2011-04-17 19:35
I disagree, you make it sound like the 'too human' criticism of Tennant's Doctor is an unfair one, yet it clearly is fair. What made Tennant so 'human' were several factors, his inability to accept things as they were, meaning his Doctor always these were things such as being way too attached to people emotionally, prime examples are when he fell in love with one of his companions, and cried and went into melodrama whenever a friend of his or someone he's gotten to know died or if he'd lost them, he was always broody and moaning about how lonely he is, yet inflicted himself with that loneliness by showing an initial disdain to anyone except Rose who wanted to travel with him, not to mention completely destroying one of the main unwritten rules of the show, being romance with human companions. To name just a few episodes in which these idea apply e.g. Doomsday- Rose Love story rubbish, The Doctor's Daughter- When Jenny 'died' he burst out into a crying fit and gave an OTT monologue, Smith and Jones- His disdain to Martha when she wanted to travel with him, in-spite of him clearly being lonely.

Tennant's Doctor seemed not only too human but pretty naive to some extent a hypocrite, e.g. he'd preach about how the end is something to be accepted and that nothing can last for ever, yet when he regenerated he all of sudden wouldn't accept it, the fact that the Doctor wouldn't sacrifice himself for Wilfred initially was completely out of character, as in stories such as Evolution of the Daleks and Forest of the Dead he attempted to sacrifice himself to save others with no hesitation and only didn't succeed because he was stopped, yet all of a sudden he doesn't want to in his regeneration story, it makes no sense, he lacked consistency, same with the whole 'I don't carry a gun' rubbish .

He was never really right for the role and only had the appeal and the success that he received for all the wrong reasons, making the Doctor an object of physical attraction by the fan base has messed with the appeal of the show and character, which is why many of the Tennant obsessive hate Matt Smith for 'not being attractive' as much as it was Tennant's dream to play the role, he was never really right for it, it takes a lot more than jut being a good actor, you have to have a natural alien eccentricity as a person as well as an actor, the Doctor has to be an extension of the actors personality rather than just simply be playing a role. Tennant was way too human and when ever he tried to do alien, it was minimal and contained, and when he did it, it didn't feel natural. With Smith however, he's naturally alien from the start, Matt was made for the role, Tennant just drew a crowd because of his high profile and good acting skills, I don't blame Tennant, I blame Russell T Davies for casting him.
Those Matt Smith haters are not fans of the show, Matt contextually channels natural alien quality of all the classic Doctor's and that in eyes of the true fans should be a good thing, there is literally no reason to hate him, yes you have the right to an opinion, but no true Doctor Who fan should hate Matt Smith, there is no fair reason too, the criticisms people have about him are never based on anything substantial and ironclad or have any fair reasoning behind them, unlike the criticisms of Tennant which have been picked up by many, however when ever the haters try to give a reason to hate Matt, the points they make can be counter claimed using past examples of the series before and why it isn't a bad thing, anyone can have an opinion, but you're opinions on the show are what make you a true Doctor Who fan, it's the show and the Doctor that counts, not who plays him.
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#7 Pardon the mistakes, Thomas Rice 2011-04-17 19:51
Excuse the grammar mistakes and things that make no sense, I was in a rush.
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#8 David Tennant and Matt Smitj Zach Finley 2011-04-18 10:23
Why does it have to be a competition? The modern revival of the series has seen three very different doctors.

Honestly, It's almost hard to remember back to Eccleston's amazing series. He brought a bit of gritty, a bit of pep, and a lot of that innate experience. Most of the time, it felt like he knew what was going on and that he could solve it. If the 9th Doctor didn't have a handle on things? Well, he got angry. He also had a bit of a quirkiness about him. Like a parent who didn't quite get the subtext or the status quo. Except with him it was "Earthly" things and mannerisms. This quirkiness really drove home his alien qualities. He was a very fatherly figure, in my opinion.

I could go on for hours about David Tennant; but, I wont. Of the three modern Doctors, Tennant has been my favorite. (I say my favorite, not 'the best', mind you)

He was an INCREDIBLE actor. You could see his emotions. You could get into the Doctor's mind! Tennant really brought the viewers closer to the Doctor. He was perfectly elitist, he held himself above the humans(as he should), and had that amazingly off-kilter, ready to explode with anger, joy, happiness, or sorrow at any moment. Tennant was my favorite because he progressed as a character. He wasn't the same damn guy after Rose, Martha, and Donna. He learned. Remember on the Waters of Mars? He had it! He remembered he was a damn time lord and interfered. It showed progression. We saw the raw emotions of the Doctor. The way he held himself and the way he approached every problem was just so alien! I would smile ear to ear whenever he lit up about some crazy once in lifetime (thats in timelord measurements) encounter.

Now I haven't had as much time to think about Matt Smith. . .but. . .i like him. He's different. He's oh so different; but, thats why I like him. I miss Tennant. . .almost as much as I miss Rose; but, Im slowly starting to warm up to Smith.

He doesn't have the conviction or elitist mentality that Tennant has, and, I think it makes him 'less alien' then Tennant was. His laidback, quizzical look is more human than Tennants vigilant, curious look. That being said, Matt Smith is an incredible 'face' actor. He convays so much in his countenance, it's incredible. The only problem I have with Smith is the stark attitude difference.

We can see the episdoe 'Cold Blood", how different the Dr.s are. *SPOILER* when the Dr finds out that the mother kills the Homo Reptilia hostage to save her family, Smith has a very odd reaction. He was angry but more apologetic to the leader of the Reptilia. He barely accosted the mother, only telling her at the end of the episode that she better raise her son better.

I feel like Eccleston's Doctor would have gotten in her face, taught her the whole lesson about being a better human, albeit at the top of his lungs, and reflected a bit on how humans keep letting him down or something.

You all and I both know Tennant's Doctor would've freaked out and accosted the hell out of her. I feel like he would almost give up right there on the humans!

In the end, we all have our favorites; but, each Doctor is different. Do we really need to say who's the best?
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#9 Not sure... M.K. 2011-04-21 18:07
I confess that I almost forgot it was premiere week. After several years of having it written down and making plans with friends, this year I'm not even sure if I'm booking time to sit down and watch as it airs.

I don't think it's Matt's fault at all, really. But I was so completely underwhelmed with Series 5 from start to end that I haven't rewatched any episodes, much less felt excited about what's coming up.

Loved Tom Baker, loved Peter Davison, meh on Colin Baker, meh on Sylvester McCoy, wanted to see more of Gann. Loved Eccleston and Tennant. Everyone brings their own touch to the role, and they're so different that I don't think it's fair to compare who's better than the other.

Yet last series just fell flat to me. Perhaps I expected too much. Perhaps I had become over-exuberant.

But in some way, whether through the story writing or through Smith's performance - yes, there's something missing. Hopefully I'll find a way to connect with the show again.
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#10 RE: An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6 Elwood 2011-04-22 19:19
Season 5 was fairly uneven, featuring a few of my least favorite episode of the revival era (the Beast Below in particular was excrement). But that's hardly Matt Smith's fault, I've found his portrayal of the Doctor to be wonderful, he's the first Doctor I've actually wanted to spend time with since the classic trio of Traughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker. Which is not a knock on Tennant or Eccleston, both of whom did a fine job, but didn't play the character is a way that I'd actually want to travel with him. In particular, Stephen Moffat writing for David Tennant (Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Silence in the Library) was always fantastic and he really seemed to have a feel for the character. The new season was a big improvement of the year of specials, which I really didn't like, but as I said more uneven than previous seasons. Moffat can still write great television, but it looks like he's struggled to bring great episodes to the screen when someone else is writing. Several of the non-Moffat penned episodes were subpar, and the ones that I thought were really good were penned by other very experienced TV people like Toby Whithouse who runs his own brilliant show in "Being Human." It seemed like the others needed a firmer hand from the Executive Producer's office making sure the tone and chatacterizatio n of the individual episodes fit in with where the overall series was supposed to be going. I didn't always enjoy RTD's writing, but he was very good at getting a consistant product to the screen. I think getting Doctor Who done on time and on budget was maybe a bit more challenging for Moffat than "Coupling" etc. Hopefully he's learned from last year and exerted more leadership over the show even when it's not "his" episode.
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#11 on the weak side Nancy 2011-04-23 01:28
To get it out of the way, my preference has been Christopher Eccleston over David Tennant, hands down. But, whilst the 10th doctor was admittedly was "a bit" over the top at times as an actor, the writing had to play into that as well. Big, over the top stories abounded, some which worked better than others but my irritation was mainly with the self pity nonsense that the 10th Doctor was spouting towards the end, which I blame the writing for.

That being said, I was disappointed that the 11th doctor was so young, talent and ability notwithstanding . Watching the series I have no problems with his acting, but would have preferred someone with a bit more visible time on his face. Overall, though, the acting ability can only do so much with the storylines and these seem be weaker. Amy, as the companion, seems to be less ... useful... and prone to speaking or repeating the obvious and even the stories themselves are less layered, even silly (I mean come on, the stone angels communicating? asking for help?), the dialogue definitely more simplistic and, at times, just plain lame. Can't blame the 11th Doctor for that but it doesn't help the overall impression and sense of Season 5 as being a weaker addition to the canon.
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#12 I'm excited for the new series Caleb Leland 2011-04-23 06:47
I've stated here at the site several times that I was incredibly disappointed when I heard Tennant was leaving. But Matt Smith has made a good impression on me. He has the disarming qualities of Troughton, the youthful energy of Davison, the quick temper of Colin Baker, the professor-like air to him that Hartnell had, and yet, he does it in his own style. Homage without parody, one might even say. He doesn't imitate, but plays the character in his own fashion. He's brilliant in the role, and I hopw we see much more of him in it.
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#13 RE: An appraisal of Matt Smith on the eve of Doctor Who season 6 Seb 2011-04-24 08:02
David Tennant was great as the Doctor. He was fantastic, and brilliant, and just amazing. As you said, he brought this joyfulness to the role, and that's something many people loved - and still do.

And yes, maybe Matt Smith is young. Yes, his Doctor is different to David Tennant's. But why is that bad?

Just like Tennant, and every actor who has portrayed the Doctor since 1963, Smith is bringing something new to the role. Maybe that something is his 'matureness' to approaching challenges. And why shouldn't he be? The Doctor is so old now. He has so much blood in his hand. And he didn't ask for that blood. He just wants to travel the universe, to see it. Not fight it.

And that's something that I believe Matt Smith does an excellent job in portraying. Have you seen his eyes? Matt Smith may be young, but his eyes are of someone who have lived for centuries. His eyes are so, so old, and it fits perfectly with his Doctor.

I love Matt Smith's Doctor - probably so far as to call him 'my' Doctor. But you know what? I love David Tennant's Doctor as well - so much that I would call him 'my' Doctor as well. They're two different actors, playing two different regenerations of the Doctor. And both of them are fantastic.
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#14 Matt Smith Doctor who Cagliostro 2012-07-06 13:46
I like Matt Smith because his characterizatio n of the Doctor is more in keeping with Traditional Who. Hes got a look and feel about him that suits the part. He don't need to yell as much as Tennant. Matt Smiths Doctor has an old fashioned style of dress sense. Hes not a ladys man, hes got this natural eccentric look and feel about him. I dont know what it is, a natural aloofness perhaps?

Matt is good for Doctor who. David had a lot of energy but was to modern and flashy for my liking. I think David put alot of energy into his role. I also think part of the problem with Davids storys were that the writing for a good many was terrible. The storys i like most of Davids time were the Cybermen story, the Family of Blood story and the Agatha Christie story. Part of the problem with Davids storys is the fact that the whole Rose thing was dragged out too far. She should have been killed off in the first series. Rose was a nauseating character.

I think Matt Smith can bring the balance back to the force. Doctor who is an alien not a human, and he is always been an outsider. Matt Smith could be in a crowd but he stands out as being different. That's an important element in Doctor whos character i think.
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#15 Is it just me? Tasha Roo 2013-02-19 21:54
I keep hearing about how David Tennant is so much more physically attractive, which makes no sense to me, because

a) It never even crossed my mind to label him handsome( still don't think he is) . Personally, I prefer Matt Smith over him( perhaps they just aren' t conventionally good-looking and Mr. Smith is just more my style( speaking of style, have you seen the clothing he wears ? Me gusta .)).I think I got distracted.Oh well.
b)It has nothing to do with his acting ( Which is good, I guess, just very different fromSmith's.)
Mr. Smith gives you everything you need to figure him out.He just tries to hide ( as others before me have suggested, watch his eyes .It's like he has his brain, soul and emotions stashed up there.I could watch them all day (that's not weird, is it ?!). ;)
Really, I think Matt Smith is doing an excellent job (consider having to be the Doctor after the favorite of so many fans !). He has a strange charm , already familiar elements from former incarnations and different , odd-but-in-character components , that really work(s) for me.
Thank you.

Have nice day :D.
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