Outside The Government 16: The Matt Smith Announcement
On January 3rd, 2009, Matt Smith was unveiled as David Tennant’s successor in a television special on BBC One.
Hindsight, if it ever bothers to look at these relatively ephemeral documents in the first place, will surely view this as the rough draft of the Peter Capaldi announcement. In every regard, that is a refinement of this – pacier, more variety, and more of a sense of what it wanted to be. This, on the other hand, is presented as a special episode of Doctor Who Confidential, and gives the overwhelming sense of being cobbled together so that there was something more impressive than a press release.
The bulk of the thirty-five minutes are given over to yet another history of the Doctors, with all the differences in emphasis you’d expect. Colin Baker gets about three sentences, clearly still retaining his status as the Doctor it’s OK to dump on. Indeed, everything here is very much the official history as of the Davies/Moffat era, which is basically the official history that existed before with a few nips and tucks. Tom Baker is given a decently technical analysis by Davies, Moffat, and Tennant, who combine to offer up a reading of why he was good. Pertwee gets re-evaluated a bit by Moffat, and Davies clears up the details of the Hartnell era a bit. There are the trademark musical montages that define Doctor Who Confidential in all its wonder and frustration.
Indeed, if anything the nature of this announcement as an episode of Doctor Who Confidential speaks volumes about the way in which the show thinks of itself at this point. The announcement of a new Doctor is big news that goes out on BBC One, but under the banner of the BBC Three “auxiliary material for the hardcore” show speaks volumes about exactly what Doctor Who still was – the property that had unexpectedly come back and become a hit. The underlying anxiety that fueled every second of Rose, and indeed of the first season (even if only in production) is still there. Nobody’s quite willing to just come out and bombastically declare “here is your major cultural news of the day” and then drop the mic. Instead we get a potted documentary about the nature of the role that means that more time is spent justifying why we should care about the new Doctor than anything else.
It’s possible to read this as another part of the Davies era’s arrogance – as Davies thinking it’s a big deal that the show would move on after him. But it is. Up to 2009, the show really was a freakish revival spearheaded by one creative genius who did the impossible. The fact of it continuing with a complete changeover of creative personnel was, in point of fact, a huge risk despite the fact that historically the show had done it loads of times. Nobody knew if this would work. We do know now, and we know in a way that makes 2009 look strange. But at the time there was a real question mark over it for anyone who wasn’t hugely committed to the “Doctor Who can be made like it’s the mid-70s with no changes and any attempt to do otherwise is foolish” school.
And so what we have here is a bit of typically ecstatic puffery that’s actually clearly terrified that the entire thing is about to come crumbling down. Not least because, of course, the actual casting wasn’t going to excite many people simply because Smith wasn’t hugely well known. And yet the show had just done Journey’s End and the also very popular The Next Doctor. It was at once huge and fragile in a way that is difficult to see clearly even just five years later.
The result of this oddness, however, does not actually make good television. The episode amounts to a twenty-five minute thumb-twiddle to avoid announcing Matt Smith and thus having everybody turn off. This, at least, is a technique retained by the Peter Capaldi announcement. But here it seems almost to be the point of the exercise. When Matt Smith appears, there’s no fanfare or voiceover – they just cut to him talking about getting the part. He doesn’t even get a caption mentioning who he is for the first ten seconds, and it vanishes five seconds later. The moment of announcement is almost entirely swallowed, such that if you make the mistake of looking away from the screen you’ll actually manage to get through the special without knowing who the Doctor is beyond that he’s named Matt.
This is not actually that bad a thing. Smith was not a hugely well-known actor upon being cast – I’ve seen people argue that he’s the Doctor who was least famous upon being cast. The actual announcement of the impending Matt Smith era was almost necessarily without substance. Tennant talks about the strangeness of the early days of being cast as the Doctor, in fact. There are no scripts or decisions to be made yet. The part is inchoate. The pictures from the time speak volumes – Smith, in clothes utterly unlike what he’d end up wearing, was photographed by a photographer who had no idea what he was shooting, with the TARDIS added into the background later. There’s no actual information about what the Eleventh Doctor is going to be like here. It’s just the sentence “Matt Smith has been cast as the next Doctor” drawn out over thirty-five minutes. Sure, in hindsight you can see bits of Smith’s Doctor in his interview clip, but they’re just glimpses through smoke.
In many ways the most interesting part are the clips of Smith’s prior acting roles. Ruby in the Smoke seems an obvious precedent, but for all that it looks like the Doctor and Rose running around, his character sounds nothing like the Doctor. None of his past roles do, really. Actually, the only moments when he looks at all like his Doctor are the interview itself, where he’s broad and gestural and prone to the quick reversals and counter-reversals of what he says. “It’s exciting. Nervewracking. Exciting. (Pause) Exciting. (Pause) Keeps me sleeping,” he says, and in hindsight, it’s the Doctor saying it. But all of this is hindsight – tea leaves and interesting archeological notes. Nothing more.
But if the Matt Smith announcement tells us nothing of substance about the Smith era, it does at least give us a fair amount of information about the Tennant era, which it brings to a close. From this point on, the Tennant era is over. It has to be – we’ve seen the future, even if only a shimmering moment of it. At this point everything is just filling in the gap between the present moment and the inevitable future. Which is an impressive transition – the Tennant era has felt valedictory for ages, after all. We already knew Moffat was taking over, and the smart money was on Tennant leaving, as we’ve said. The Next Doctor was already about how the Tennant era was over, or, at least, it tried half-heartedly to be about that.
And, of course, what’s really impressive is just how long the victory lap is. Never mind the Doctor’s reward – Smith is unveiled nearly a year before his first scene airs, and well over a year before his first actual episode. Again, it’s worth comparing to Tennant or Capaldi, who had relatively short periods between their announcement and their first appearance. Eccleston, obviously, had quite a long one, but that was also quite a strange moment in the series’ history, so it barely seems to count.
For this to happen in a year with far less Doctor Who than normal is further strange. Especially after a year that ended up with fourteen Doctor Whos, thirteen Torchwoods, and twelve Sarah Jane Adventures – losing eleven of those Doctor Whos and eight of the Torchwoods felt jarring at the time. To combine that with the Doctor Who that did exist feeling out of its time, like a holdover from an already cancelled past, made it further strange.
Which, returning to the announcement special, makes its strange nature somewhat more understandable. Doctor Who in 2009 is a strange dreamlike state, after the end of the Davies era (which happened with Journey’s End) and before the dawn of the Moffat era. It would be weird enough if there were actually a full season of Doctor Who to discuss – instead there’s the orchestrated farewell of someone who’s already left, and a long wait for Doctor Who to make yet another television debut. As a result, it’s an entire year in which the paratext of Doctor Who overwhelms the actual text, so much so that the actual series becomes little more than an AU fanfiction about its own production.
January 22, 2014 @ 12:25 am
"It’s possible to read this as another part of the Davies era’s arrogance – as Davies thinking it’s a big deal that the show would move on after him. But it is. Up to 2009, the show really was a freakish revival spearheaded by one creative genius who did the impossible. The fact of it continuing with a complete changeover of creative personnel was, in point of fact, a huge risk despite the fact that historically the show had done it loads of times. Nobody knew if this would work."
I was told a rumour by someone who knew someone (I know, I know, but…) that the original plan by one member of the production team was to not continue Doctor Who after the departure of Tennant, Davies, Gardner and Collinson, who had all agreed to leave together. And this plan was put in motion roughly around the time of the creation of Daleks in Manhattan, a period when Davies was ill with chicken pox and not around. And when he got back, he was apoplectic, and changed the course of events so the series would survive without him.
In light of this then, yes, the whole media manipulation that accompanied the transition from the Davies/Tennant years to the Moffat/Smith years was understandable: as you say, the series, for all its success, was still considered a fluke. The fact that it had successfully transitioned the change of lead actor once wasn't seen as a precedent but luck. Nobody knew if the audience would accept that for a second time. But I'm sure you'll address that around the time of the Eleventh hour.
But it does give us an interesting "What If" narrative, similar to the one that followed Ecclestone's departure. What if Doctor Who had ended in 2009 with Journey's End? What would our opinions on the era be with little to nothing to compare it with? Would it in retrospect, as it seemingly has done, be amalgamated with the original series in our memories? As an individual style in the ongoing narrative of Doctor Who similar to the Pertwee, Hinchcliffe or Williams eras? Would it's end have made it more special? Has it, in some ways, become seen as the training ground for the Moffat era?
None the less, over six million viewers tuned in to watch the Matt Smith announcement: a programme that was only announced itself three or four days before transmission on the first Saturday after new year. The phenomenon continues.
January 22, 2014 @ 12:54 am
In light of this and Phil's point about about how everything here being a mask of enthusiasm disguising sheer terror that the sky's about to come crashing in, it's interesting how, even after the show became a massive hit, everyone ultimately seems to have had such little faith in it lasting. There's valid reasons for worry, of course, and the BBC in general have a bit of a track record of looking at the show as a bit of a red-headed stepchild, but it's interesting how even the production team and the fans tend to fall into this pattern of thinking that everything's within a cat's whisker of being over.
January 22, 2014 @ 12:54 am
What we did get from the special was what Matt Smith looks like, sounds like. And I remember being instantly thrilled. His face has that great old/young quality, and I was really excited. It was a visceral, gut reaction, but looking back on his era, I actually think it was also a correct assessment – this cat has got what it takes to be The Doctor.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:26 am
Haven't rewatched it since it was on, but remember quite liking the way Smith was actually unveiled. Moffat has a little line about how they've cast the youngest Doctor ever as if it's not that important and I went "WHAT? YOU HAVE??" and then there was Matt's lovely, silly face. Something about the lighting gives his eyes a look of Davison in that first interview too. Funny how when it was Capaldi's turn, lots of people were sure they'd go for another young pretty one, when with Matt it seemed far more likely it would spring back to a 40-something.
January 22, 2014 @ 2:18 am
I think they were testing the boundaries of the new style of media when they made this announcement. It was the first Who casting announcement to be an event (pretty much every casting beforehand had been announced by press release) and they really weren't sure how to make it. (And, to be honest, doing something like The Next Doctor Live in 2009 would have felt very weird) It's another example of Who being completely different from anything else on TV (though it will be interesting to see how they announce the next Bond when Daniel Craig moves on).
What I do remember from then is the speculation, and how Smith's name suddenly appeared about twenty-four hours before the announcement, then he was suddenly being included in all the media pieces on it beforehand, which kind of gave the game away. Though I would be interested in knowing what happened behind the scenes about the casting before they chose Smith, as there are still persistent stories that it was offered to at least one other actor (Paterson Joseph and/or Chiwetel Ejiofor) before they went for Smith.
January 22, 2014 @ 2:22 am
I think that's down to Moffatt isn't it? He always said he thought the Doctor should be old, so we thought "Obviously, his Doctor is going to be old."
Then for Capaldi we all thought "Yes, he said that, but then he cast Matt Smith. It's going to be another Matt Smith."
January 22, 2014 @ 2:56 am
This is why I think Moffat's courting of the international nerd media was so essential to maintaining the show's longevity. If there really were these ideas of cancelling the revived series once the team who revived it had gone, then Moffat would have been concerned, as a producer and fan, with making sure the BBC never developed that attitude again. So by making it into an aggressively marketed international property, he made Doctor Who essential to the BBC's global reputation, a program that the BBC couldn't afford to lose.
The Davies era was largely rooted in Britain, and international broadcast, even to America, was often an afterthought. For example, with all the success of the 2008 series in the UK, those episodes didn't even transmit in Canada until months later, when Journey's End had already been broadcast in Britain. Export markets were an afterthought. Moffat's promotions made exports central to the revenue generation of Doctor Who. Too many other countries and audiences are interested in there being continued Doctor Who for the BBC to make a unilateral decision regarding its future.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:23 am
I don't recall the Moffly one saying he wanted an older Doctor before the announcement – only after, when he said he had been favouring an older one and Matt had blown them away in the audition. Balancing that was the old interview when he said the Davison era was favourite from the old show.
I think it might have more to do with the assumption people have that professionals "write to market" more than they actually do – after nearly a decade of youngish, hipsterish actors in the role I think people assumed they would play safe and go for another cheek-boney, floppy-haired fellow (ignoring the vast differences in characterisation between Tennant and Smith, of course)
January 22, 2014 @ 3:27 am
"So by making it into an aggressively marketed international property, he made Doctor Who essential to the BBC's global reputation"
Though it's probably more relevant to the inevitable Capaldi announcement entry, I feel compelled to point out that Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor became the first Who related piece of television to be "simulcast" internationally (though in hindsight that might only be for it to serve as a dress rehersal for the upcoming 50th special).
Here in Australia it came on around 3:30 am, and it was well worth losing sleep over. In spite of its reality TV trappings (which would have seemed more suited to the Davies era), and in spite of Capaldi already being a foregone conclusion within fandom, it really delivered an electric atmosphere of anticipation. An atmosphere to which I felt 'included'.
Quite a marked change from clicking onto the Outpost Gallifrey news site and seeing a press photo.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:30 am
That's why this blog is so good. Phil compares our hindsight with how we felt at the time (which we've largely forgotten).
The years from 2005 do seem like a series of hurdles that the series had to overcome (though "in hindsight" the hurdles were mainly in the mind of the fans and the production team) –
Bringing back the series in 2005. Success.
Changing the Doctor. Success.
Replacing Rose. Success.
Then we get 3 years of Tennant which should finally consolidate the show's success, but no, the challenges continue –
The Specials Year. Success.
New Doctor, new showrunner, new companion. Success.
And finally (as Adam Riggio has touched on), Doctor Who breaks America. Success!
For all the comparison between Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi's announcements, it does feel this year that Doctor Who is now safe. It's a complete success. It's finally arrived. There's no lingering sense that the show might not survive Capaldi's first year (which looking back was how we felt at the beginning of Series 5…we just didn't realise it at the time), and I think a lot of that is to do with the US being on board. The Christmas episode was simultaneously broadcast worldwide – in Cinemas! To think we should have lived to see such days!
To misquote Churchill, I think we've finally seen the End of the Beginning. Time will tell if we're approaching the Beginning of the End…
January 22, 2014 @ 3:51 am
Am I the only one a little concerned for Capaldi? Fine actor though he is I don't think his success in the role should be considered a foregone conclusion. That sounds like riding for a fall to me. For a start if they want to keep their hard-won 'aggressively marketed international property 'demographic he and Moffat are going to have a hard time winning over the massed ranks of the (I assume mostly USA based) tumblr generation for whom Matt Smith is 'their Doctor'. Much as I applaud a return to a mature actor in the role, and feel safe in the knowledge that Capaldi is as long a time fan as I am, I feel it is dangerous to just assume it's all going to be alright. I'm old enough to remember applauding Colin Baker's casting based on the evidence of his scene stealing role as scheming Paul Merrony in The Brothers and look how that turned out. As you say Phil '…the Doctor it’s OK to dump on'. I've a horrible feeling that after the extraordinary success of Smith culminating in a celebratory 50th anniversary the show is due for the mainstream press to do its usual 'build.'em up, knock 'em down' backlash routine. Capaldi has anything but an easy job ahead of him.
January 22, 2014 @ 4:12 am
I agree. From his initial photo (above) I could see he had a powerful bone structure and an unusual look – yes, he's young, and yes, I'd say handsome, but not a pretty boy by any stretch – a lot of character in that face.
But the real key for me was his hands. During his interview he did that "twiddly fingers" thing that's since become so familiar – and I thought, aaaaah, there he is, that's the Doctor! I knew then and there he'd be good.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:26 am
But we all know how a new Doctor is approached cautiously and then wholeheartedly embraced. This has always happened in the UK and I don't see how the US should be any different. Citing the case of Colin Baker is probably misleading. Colin was the victim of an unfortunate series of circumstances – Doctor Who was already suffering in the ratings,the Corporation were in no way supportive of the show, and the new Doctor's characterisation was an attempt to push the envelope too far. Remember, just because the Doctor is grumpy and unlikable doesn't automatically mean the series will fail. Both the first and fourth Doctors were aggressive and abrasive in spades and several of their seasons were among the most appreciated.
None of this applies to the new series. The BBC is fully behind what amounts to a major cash-cow for them. More viewers are watching it worldwide than ever before, and the series is now run by dedicated fans who are nonetheless fully experienced in TV production. Plus they have all the mistakes of the last 50 years to avoid. Back in the 80s Doctor Who sometimes struggled to adjust to the changing face of Television. Here in the 21st Century Doctor Who often leads that changing face.
The mainstream media will certainly instigate a New Doctor backlash, probably 6 months to a year after it instigates a New Doctor Gush (I'd guess about 2/3 of the way through Capaldi's 2nd season). But they've done that before with Tennant and Smith and the viewing audience largely ignored them.
Yes it could all go horribly wrong, but the way things are now, it would take a incredibly HUGE effort on the part of Moffat, Capaldi et al to lose all the international goodwill, viewership and appreciation the show now has. On the contrary, Capaldi has a far easier job than you give him credit for.
January 22, 2014 @ 8:54 am
Anton B, as a member of the USA, Matt Smith-demographic, I don't think it will be a huge issue. I was actually gunning for an older Doctor, wanting a clean, distinctive break from Matt and his (brilliant) approach to the role. If anything, I think some of my counterparts were gunning for more radical changes (female, non-white, non-cis, etc).
January 22, 2014 @ 9:45 am
I clearly remember at the time the shock of Smith's casting among the entertainment media (especially "columnists" who specialised in celeb and zeitgeist tittle tattle). Most were concerned that he was too young and too unknown to assume the role. Some, like Caitlin Moran of The Times, led the charge of the Tennant Fanboys(girls) decrying Smith on national TV and lauding Tennant as irreplaceable.
I'd never heard of Matt Smith either before the announcement, but I had heard of Steven Moffatt and I trusted his judgement on this. Considering who was rumoured to have auditioned, Smith must have played a blinder in the casting session to win the role so I didn't worry; I'd just wait for his debut to come around. Besides, that was one hot red head sitting next to him on the first official on-set publicity photo.
January 22, 2014 @ 10:38 am
We think of the Fear of Cancellation as a silly thing we fans do, a trauma born in the late 80s that we'll never quite recover from, but I think it's only with hindsight that we can really consider that even slightly silly (Kevin Phillips-Bong).
It's easy to forget that fifty years is really an extraordinarily long time for any fiction television show to be around. How many other shows even come close? The Simpsons, South Park, and various forms of Star Trek are the best examples I can think of offhand, and those survive because they're animated or have a form of "regeneration" built in (different ships with different crews). Just about everything else has inherent limitations, mainly in the form of cast members who age or want to work on other projects. The new series alone has already outlived Babylon 5, Blake's 7, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica (the reboot, at least), Buantum Leap, and Bar Trek: The Next Generation, and it's closing in on Bargate SG-1 and, er, the B-Files (I'll get me boat). It seems inevitable that there will come another hiatus at some point, though obviously I hope Moffat has given it a good kick of momentum.
I'm actually not worried so much about Capaldi — I'm nonplussed by him now, but I cheerfully expect to be won over by season 8 episode 3 at the latest. I'm a little more worried about Moffat's ability (as showrunner, not writer) to keep the stories fresh. What I've heard so far about the new season sounds a bit beyond "use familiar elements to help bridge the new Doctor" and into "oh for fuck's sake, not this again." But there hasn't been a season yet without at least one superb story and I'm willing to bet this won't be the first.
January 22, 2014 @ 10:39 am
It was pretty much here when I finally learnt to stop caring about fandom and the press when it came to Who. Everything from this announcement to the Eleventh Hour was just a constant stream of negativity (the press photo looks like a Twilight poster, he's too much of a pretty boy, he's too weird looking and ugly, he's too young, they've redesigned the TARDIS and it's not Doctor Who anymore, his outfit's all wrong) and what we ended up with was a Doctor most people fell in love with after 10 minutes and my personal favourite season of the past 50 years.
Similarly, after Capaldi was announced I had a few reservations briefly (I wanted Chiwetel Ejiofor so much), but then remembered how perfect Matt ended up being and let them slide.
January 22, 2014 @ 12:37 pm
As much as I'm excited for Capaldi… I still think Smith left too soon.
It might be because of the split year, but it doesn't feel like he stayed long enough. One more year might've made me feel more satisfied… especially considering how the "he's leaving" announcement was sprung on us right after the general assumption was that he was staying for Series 8.
January 22, 2014 @ 12:46 pm
Having started reading the Eruditorium a few weeks or so back, today's the day I catch up with the live posts. Hello all, and congratulations on beating the odds and being one of the few comment sections on the Internet that actually add significant value to what's above them.
And infinite thanks to our author and host, too, for a truly extraordinary journey thus far.
In many ways an appropriate moment for me to arrive, since Matt Smith is my Doctor. Not the first I ever saw (McCoy, technically, in the McGann movie), but the one with whom I felt kinship. Part of that's an accident of demographics: he's around my age, he's from my home town (Northampton), I even look a little like him… But most of it is in his physicality, his manner, his sense of feeling over than his years, his geekishness.
The geekishness is interesting, actually. Tennant is obviously a massive fan of the show, and a huge nerd: but he doesn't look it, and he doesn't perform like it either. At least, that's how it feels to me. Smith has that awkwardness of sometime who doesnt feel at ease with their body or with their projection of sexuality. This isn't just a matter of his physical appearance versus Tennant, which i think is overstated (he's still very attractive) – it's in how he carries himself.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:02 pm
"I'm old enough to remember applauding Colin Baker's casting based on the evidence of his scene stealing role as scheming Paul Merrony in The Brothers and look how that turned out." I never saw The Brothers, but I knew from the start that CB had the potential to be a charismatic and successful Doctor. I attribute his failings almost entirely to the ineptitude of the production staff during that era. Whatever persona Capaldi's Doctor adopts (and whatever deficiencies may or may not exist in Steven Moffat), I am confident that the production staff will not spend the next few years building an entire show about making the leading character as unlikeable as possible while simultaneously foisting on the leading actor an endless succession of poorly written ultra-violent scripts.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:25 pm
Encyclops – what have you heard about the new season? All I can really see is that Vastra, Jenny and Strax are likely to appear in the first story. There's other stuff, like the Master returning, but that just seems to be people making up stuff, rather than anything with an actual source.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:46 pm
I did the maths on this once and I worked out we had nearly as many televised minutes of Matt Smith as the Doctor as we did Tennant. (Episodes of the main show where they were the incumbent, I mean, not actually how many minutes of them personally on-screen.)
For me, it's tough to say after a certain point whether I got "enough" of any one Doctor. On the one hand any amount of the Sixth Doctor has televised was too much – but had Colin Baker had more time, maybe he'd have made something great out of it? And it's easy to feel that we didn't get enough of Ecclestone in the role, but hard to feel it would have been better seeing Ecclestone tackle something like "The Girl in the Fireplace" than Tennant.
Additionally, for all that there is (or rather, was) vastly more televised minutes of Doctors One through Four compared to Five through Eleven, it's hard to feel like we actually got to see vastly more of them as Doctors, because the standard for how much actually /happened/ in a minute's worth of television were so different back then. As were the standards for what you could do with the role. There may be more than three times as much Fourth Doctor televised material as there is Eleventh, but do we really feel as though we got to see three times as much /about/ the Fourth Doctor in that time?
That all said, I loved Matt Smith and the Eleventh Doctor dearly and wept sincere tears over their departure, and as excited as I am for the Capaldi Era, I would totally have another year of Matt Smith too (so long as he was still enjoying it, I mean).
January 22, 2014 @ 4:14 pm
You know, come to think of it, it may also be because of how the Ponds thing was stretched out in the beginning of Series 7, when they could've left with "The Wedding of River Song". From my point of view, it didn't feel like their story needed to continue/have a great big weepy finale after that.
No Pond-a-ganza, and we get more time to build up Clara in Series 7. Win-win, no?
January 22, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
No. The final five episodes with the Ponds presented a surprisingly new and complex Doctor/Companion dynamic. (Despite the fact I liked the "first" ending we got in The God Complex, one of my favorite episodes ever.)
The mini-series was, I think, necessary for the proper conclusion to Amy's character-arc. In The God Complex it's the Doctor deciding her fate. Afterwards, Amy and Rory become much more empowered to set their own boundaries, to determine for themselves the appropriate balance between "adventure" life and "ordinary" life.
And this is central to Amy's character. These are her two big needs, and in Angels she's forced to choose between the two of them. Yes, it's all nice that she'd been able to fulfill both of them, but it's much more dramatic and poignant to have to choose. So it's her choice, not the Doctor's. Without that final send-off, her journey would have been incomplete.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:55 pm
Tom Baker had always been "my" Doctor, until silly ol' Smith came around and stole my hearts. Anyways, one of the things that baffles and intrigues me about Smith is that for someone who projects a sense of awkwardness, who's ill-at-ease in his body, he simultaneously seems to have some amazing control of it, from the legs akimbo to the flapping arms to the incredible range of facial expressions he's delivered over the years.
January 22, 2014 @ 6:04 pm
As non-Doctorish as his role in "Ruby in the Smoke" might have been, it convinced me that Smith could pull off the Doctor. After the early photos had me worried they were going to make the show "Twilight"-y, I could see that not only did Smith have a lot of screen presence, but he wasn't as pretty as those photos made him look.
January 23, 2014 @ 2:43 am
Speaking of parallels and rough drafts of the Capaldi announcement, I seem to remember the bookie's odds on Capaldi shortening about 24 hours before the announcement. (Unless the memory lies)
January 23, 2014 @ 7:09 am
The biggest confirmation I found about the role being offered to someone else was Neil Gaiman saying on his tumblr that he knows of a black actor that was offered the role but turned it down. He didn't say who since he was told in confidence. Some news site promptly took the comments and spun it into something nonsensical, making Gaiman swear off revealing info like that again.
January 23, 2014 @ 7:21 am
Gaiman never specified when this supposedly happened. I am fairly sure the actor was Lenny Henry, with whom Gaiman is good friends, and that it happened somewhere in the 90s with one of the dozens of aborted revivals from that period.
January 23, 2014 @ 10:05 am
I feel quite similar to Jane. Tom Baker was my Doctor, but it took Matt Smith to turn be back into a serious fan again, as much as I enjoyed Ecclestone and Tennant.
Now I happily read Tardis Eruditorum posts on Wilderness Years books and audios which I didn't even know existed until I started reading this blog, and the Dr Who section of my DVD collection is expanding rapidly and making muttered veiled threats about annexing the space occupied my wife's anime collection.
Damn you, Smith and Sandifer 🙂
January 23, 2014 @ 3:48 pm
what i'm finding, from all the reading and talking that i've done with Who fans recently, is that many of us who will say, Tom Baker is and always was the "one", were won over by smith, and that the tennant people are still waiting for someone to come along and give them the same thrill. There is some thing about the alien charisma that smith and baker brought to the part that equally makes them both my favorite Doctors.
I find that the Tennant, Davison, Pertwee fans simply want something different from the role than what I want, or what Jane wants. Do I loves me some Tennant episodes? Hell yes, Midnight, silence in the Library are great, he just plays the role as intergalactic superhero and thats not "exactly" waht i want. I always knew what i was getting with Tennant, and Smith and Baker had the capacity to truly surprise me and take the role into a different place.
see thomas lawrence's post above as well. another tom baker/smith fan. very interesting to see this happening now that smith is gone and we will, over time, see how this era starts to compare in the rear view mirror.
January 23, 2014 @ 6:45 pm
Count me in as another Baker devotee whose loyalties have been severely tested by Smith. I'm a great proponent of the Pertwee years, and three of my five favorite Doctor Who episodes ever star Davison, but when the chips are down I'm Baker/Smith all the way. I think you've nailed the reasons why.
January 23, 2014 @ 6:53 pm
John: the Vastra/Jenny/Strax stuff was the bulk of it. I like them, Strax at least will probably be funny, but I'm kind of ready to move on. If you know that you probably also know that there is apparently — and I hope no one considers this too much of a spoiler — a sequence in the first episode where Capaldi rides a horse in his pajamas. Like the "kidneys" line, it sounds self-consciously zany, but maybe it'll be hilarious in context.
I would LOVE — and I realize I ask for the moon here — for Capaldi's debut to be as bracingly distinct from what's gone before as "The Eleventh Hour" was. People talk about "TEH" being RTD-like but honestly it felt completely different, not only from the RTD years but really from much of what came after as well. The only other story that feels to me even remotely like it (in part by feeling completely unlike it again) is "The Bells of St. John." Or MAYBE "Amy's Choice" at a stretch, just because of Leadworth. Anyway, my point is that if we're gonna get Capaldi I want him to usher in a real 90-degree turn, something that feels really new. I feel like we could have had Matt riding horses in his PJs with the Paternoster Gang, and maybe that's why we're gonna have it, but ::pout::.
January 23, 2014 @ 7:20 pm
I think the Paternoster Gang's use is much like the use of UNIT in Robot – a useful way to introduce the Doctor via a known supporting cast. Tellingly, it's what they did for Smith as well – his actual first filmed episode he got River Song and the Weeping Angels to take the pressure off and give him room to explore the role. Then they doubled back for Eleventh Hour when they had ironed out the kinks.
It's a sound strategy for introducing a Doctor, and I'm sure we'll get something more interesting and iconoclastic a few episodes in. But for bedding everyone in and getting started, an established supporting cast is perfectly sensible.
Put another way, if Phil Ford's second episode is the equivalent of The Ark in Space, I'm going to have zero complaints about the return of the Paternoster gang.
January 23, 2014 @ 8:27 pm
I don't have much of a problem with the Paternoster Gang's return. I don't want them in every story, but they're fun and I'm happy to see them again. They haven't been overused, as a whole – a lot of appearances in the back half of Season 7, but they only appeared in 4 of Smith's 38 (?) stories, all one parters. I don't think they've been over used at all.
And, given that Jenna Coleman is back for another season and Moffat's still running the show, I don't think we should expect an Eleventh Hour like break with the past. Something at the start to introduce the Doctor with some familiar supporting players seems totally reasonable.
January 23, 2014 @ 8:37 pm
My weariness of the Paternoster Gang is purely personal, I freely admit — it certainly seems like more than four appearances. And I definitely see the "ease 'em in with old friends" gambit (that's what I meant by "I feel like we could have had Matt riding horses in his PJs with the Paternoster Gang, and maybe that's why we're gonna have it") being in play here. It's probably a good idea, just one I personally could have done without.
I wonder if this IS the first episode we're discussing? I guess it's the first to be filmed, but good point, it might not actually be the first filmed. Do we know the shooting order for the first and second seasons? Did Eccleston film "Rose" first, and did Tennant kick off with "Christmas Invasion"?
You know you've listened to too much Radio Free Skaro when you can't hear "Phil Ford" without prepending "friend of the show." And agreed, I can wait till episode 2 if that's what it takes.
January 23, 2014 @ 9:54 pm
There's a set photo of Capaldi still in Matt Smith's costume from that period of filming, so one assumes this is a Moffat-penned season opener they're shooting.