On Christmas Day we said goodbye to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). Having to follow one of the most popular Doctors of all time was no easy task, and although he took some time to evolve, the tweedy bow-legged oblivious intellectual thankfully soon appeared. To great acclaim! Here was a Doctor arguably more British and more socially inept than before, and Smith completely subverted the nay-saying commentary about his age by acting as one of the oldest Time Lords ever. He may not have had as consistently good a run of stories as recent Doctors, but there were some crackers. Let us reflect:
1. The Eleventh Hour (2010)
Matt Smith’s debut annoys me in lots of ways, but none of them are because of Smith. It may be a story with an odd pace, a twee setting and a forgettable enemy, but the Eleventh Doctor swaggers through it with vigour and charm. (We need it to distract us from the terrible early days of Amy Pond.) The fairytale feel is a nice new tone for the series and the whole thing revitalizes a show that had had a consistent (also brilliant) team at the helm for a long while.
MATT MOMENT: Facing up to the big eyeball of the Atraxi. The way he understates the line, “Run”, proves him as a fantastic actor as well as a fantastic Doctor.
2. Amy’s Choice (2010)
Amy’s Choice might not be everyone’s first choice for a great Matt Smith story, but I love it: the lengthy TARDIS scenes are an interesting new use of the setting but don’t feel confined, and the romping about in Leadworth with OAP zombies and Rory’s ponytail is boundless, sweet fun. It is an effective pause point in a madcap series to learn a little more about those undeveloped companions travelling with the Doctor, and to learn even more about the Doctor. The Dream Lord is a fascinating invention that illuminates this Doctor’s darker edge. A very well-considered story from Simon Nye.
MATT MOMENT: The confrontations with the Dream Lord. Toby Jones ups his game and so does Matt Smith.
3. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (2010)
Steven Moffat’s finales have a lot of problems; they also have a lot going for them. They are breathtaking in their spectacle, exhilarating, funny, and part 2 always pulls in a very different direction to part 1. Smith plays the Doctor as ultimate hero to perfection in both episodes, having arguably really ‘found’ his Doctor by this point. It’s timey-wimey, but great.
MATT MOMENT: There’s actually two here… or more. The pictured scene is a real punch-the-air moment; monologues are Smith’s forte and he really makes us believe that his enemies are hanging over his head and he will beat them all. Secondly, in The Big Bang, when the Doctor is just a fading fairy story to little Amelia, and he sits by her bed and tells her it all. From that point onwards we knew we’d have a Happy Ever After with Mr Smith.
4. The Doctor’s Wife (2011)
Perhaps the most self-referential and self-obsessed of recent Doctor Who stories, and that’s a real achievement! Bafflingly, it is not to the story’s detriment, and this madcap tale in which the Doctor meets the human embodiment of his time travelling machine is perfect for Smith. Deliciously shot and superbly acted by Surrane Jones. A very sentimental story about a mad man and his box.
MATT MOMENT: Saying goodbye to Idris. Stories like this really push the Doctor to the limit… and therefore show us what the incumbent actor can achieve.
5. Asylum of the Daleks (2012)
The Daleks are back – properly back! And there’s so so many of them! The first story for a while which utilises the enemies well! The Doctor, Amy, Rory are thrown onto the Dalek Asylum planet, on a mission. Surprisingly chilling and featuring a few surprises, this is a great way to start the season. Packed too full of interesting notions, it remains one of the most breathtaking series openers of recent years, and fully embraces the Movie Of The Week idea that ran through this series.
MATT MOMENT: Smith’s dancing around the console is one of the main things I’ll miss. Balletic and awkward in equal measure: “Doctor who?? Doctor who??? Doc-tor who???”
6. The Angels Take Manhatten (2012)
This is a lovely story. A film noir book with a fragile spine, the idea of pre-determinism is teased out in timely fashion at the Ponds’ final stand. With several beautiful set-pieces (no I don’t mean the Statue of Liberty gag, although I enjoyed that too), it is a memorable tale and a fitting goodbye. It’s a wonder, with the story all about Amy and Rory, that the Doctor doesn’t get a bit lost, but Smith shines through as per usual.
MATT MOMENT: The scene in which he realises that River did break her hand, and therefore time cannot be rewritten, is a tour de force from Matt Smith, Alex Kingston and Steven Moffat. Perhaps the best sequence in Matt’s Doctor Who.
7. The Snowmen (2012)
The only fully-successful Moffat Christmas special, The Snowmen is magical. It sends us hurtling into the anniversary year with Victorian steam-punk style, introduces us properly to a fabulous new companion and then stunningly rips her away from us again. And the TARDIS up a magical ladder moored in the clouds is sublime.
MATT MOMENT: The Doctor as old miser is really well portrayed by Matt Smith. It’s been said before, but few of the Doctors are as convincing in terms of the Time Lord’s age as him.
8. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013)
It’s one of those adventures that fans have wanted to see for years. We all know that the Doctor’s TARDIS is bigger on the inside but so rarely do we see beyond the console room it’s a wonder than we believe it! It’s true to say that Journey suffers the same fate of some other TARDIS-delving stories of the past (that we don’t quite buy that all of these sets are one big time machine) but there is some beautiful design work here, some incredible monsters, great set-pieces and a nice if unremarkable little story to band it all together. The climax may be a massive flop but at least it unashamedly brands itself as a massive flop! Put aside those slight criticisms and just sit with wide-eyed wonderment, and Journey becomes a hit.
MATT MOMENT: The Doctor’s stroking of the TARDIS when its being cannibalized by the scavengers. He’s always been affectionate towards his spaceship but Smith’s Doctor acts like a boy protecting his childhood friend. Adorable.
9. The Name of the Doctor (2013)
An incredible gift for fans in which the last fifty years are not just referenced but integral to the story! The whole narrative is brought full circle through the answering of the question: who is Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl? Moving, dark, fun and brash, it is the start of a massive culmination of Eleventh Doctor mythologizing…
MATT MOMENT: Very rarely do we see the Doctor express raw emotion. When he sits down on Clara’s sofa and breaks down it’s actually quite uncomfortable to watch. It sends the clear message: this is what Trenzalore means. Matt Smith at his very best.
10. The Day of the Doctor (2013)
The Eleventh Doctor, with his wide-eyed buoyancy, is the ideal Doctor to guide us through the gloriously special 50th anniversary. This is an epic romp through the narrative of 50 years, with new treats and a glorious new direction in which to take the show.
MATT MOMENT: Matt Smith shares the screen with Tom Baker… and manages to grab back half of our attention, and affection.
For the full review go to https://grahameveleigh.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/im-looking-for-the-doctor/.
11. The Time of the Doctor (2013)
The Time of the Doctor sees the Eleventh finally face the fields of Trenzalore, and age and wither whilst protecting the townsfolk of Christmas from the terrible attacks of an array of enemies. The final story may not have been perfect, but Matt Smith was. No wonder the Time Lords gifted him a whole new lease on life!
MATT MOMENT: “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” Indescribably good.
For the full review go to https://grahameveleigh.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/the-fall-of-the-eleventh/.