You know, it’s quite an achievement when what amounted to a 30-minute press release pulled in ratings of 6 million as Doctor Who Confidential announced on Saturday that Matt Smith would be the new Doctor Who. It shows just how much of a phenomenon Who has become, and I loved every second of that show. The slow build, the clips of old Doctors, Lis Sladen getting ready for panto (unless she dresses like that at home…)
And TV Today’s official line on the casting of Smith is that we are surprised and delighted by the news. It was a totally unexpected choice. Smith’s name hadn’t even been linked to the role - well, not until Saturday lunchtime, when some bright spark in the BBC newsroom had probably worked it out. I can’t imagine the announcement would have had the same buzz had it turned out to be Richard E Grant or Paterson Joseph or other actors with so-called “Doctorish” qualities. I hate that word!
Smith looks old beyond his years, an expressive face, intense eyes and a cheeky little smile. As Tom Baker said of David Tennant on his casting as the Doctor, Smith looks like he’s got secrets. He was utterly charming in his interview on Doctor Who Confidential and if anybody is in any doubt that he can’t pull it off, tough. Matt Smith is the Doctor whether you like it or not.
And if you haven’t seen it, check out the extended interview with Smith below:
While Smith has a varied CV (including partnering Billie Piper in The Ruby in the Smoke), it is limited by his relative youth, but his TV and theatre work has been well received. We know, at the very least, that he’ll be able to learn the lines and not bump into the furniture. But the fact we don’t know a great deal about the actor is all to the good. There’s a blank canvas to work with here - the Eleventh Doctor could be absolutely anything, and from an audience point of view, that’s tremendously exciting.
Of course, within seconds (yes, seconds) the usual narrow-minded, ignorant and sweaty-palmed drivel from the fan message boards erupted across the web. If Smith were to read even a couple of lines of some fairly tedious keyboard dribbling, then he’d probably hand his notice in before he’s even started. It goes with the territory, naturally, but some of the things I read on Sunday morning made me genuinely sad, especially as amongst the bile were some genuinely warm messages of welcome that got lost in the crowd. The thing to remember is that the fans shout the loudest, but it’s the other 10 million audience members that will get your show recommissioned. And therein lies the dichotomy of fandom…
The BBC has played a clever game here, a perfectly executed and stage-managed publicity operation. I’m glad the news is out there, it puts paid to the rampant speculation that would have run and run and no doubt overshadowed David Tennant’s final days in Doctor Who.
Now it’s all sorted, Steven Moffatt, Piers Wenger and their team can get on with giving Matt Smith the best possible launch as the Doctor in 2010. And elsewhere in Cardiff, Russell T Davies and the current production team are clear to give David Tennant, one of the best Doctor Whos we’ve ever had, the magnificent send-off he so richly deserves.