I got an email yesterday from my old friend Andy, one of the biggest Doctor Who fans I know. The subject line: “WHO the fuck is this guy?” He’s not the only one to ask that question of Matt Smith, the eleventh actor to play Dr. Who. Smith was unveiled a couple of days ago in the most recent Doctor Who Confidential on BBC One. No big star, he’s appeared on stage and television in the UK; his TV work includes a couple stints alongside modern Who sidekick Billie Piper.
Things Smith is not: female, non-white, experienced. After a pair of relatively youthful Doctors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, I was hoping for a return to older actors. And the idea of a female or black Doctor has always been something a segment of the fanbase latches onto. But Smith’s youth (he’s the youngest man to play to Time Lord from Gallifrey) and relative underexposure might both be assets. That’s so long as Steven Moffat, who takes over guiding the show from Russell T. Davies, doesn’t go all CW on us. I’d expect that thousands of comments have already hit Who fan boards bitching about the Twilightness of this photo.
Smith will start filming his episodes this summer. He replaces Tennant, whose last stand as the Time Lord ends this year.
This leaves the character with two more regenerations. The frequent recasting of the character was explained twenty-five years ago by revealing that a Time Lord can have thirteen incarnations before dying permanently. (His ‘original’ life plus twelve regenerations.) I’m sure whatever producer is guiding the show when it’s time for a 14th Doctor will come up with a way around that rule. A dip into some classic Marvel comics will provide loads of inspiration.
Chime in about the casting on the message boards. If you really want to get into the fray, check out Devin’s bear-baiting ‘convince me Dr. Who doesn’t suck’ thread.