Before all of my David Tennant fans get ready to blow up my inbox with comments, please hear me out. First and foremost, this posting is not a slam against Christopher Eccelston or the much beloved David Tennant. To clarify, I only became a Doctor Who fan after A.R. (After Rose) so most of my critique is on the calibar of the show following this period. Instead, I focus more on why the Matt Smith-era keeps me watching instead of tuning out.
To begin with, I loved David Tennant as ‘The Doctor’ and while Matt Smith does a great job, I still hold a special spot in my heart for Tennant. To paraphrase from series 7 episode 4, “The Power of Three,” Tennant was the first face I saw. And, ever since then, he’ll always be my Doctor. But, it doesn’t mean I don’t have room in my heart for Smith. The first time I heard that Matt Smith, then 25 years old, was cast as The Doctor I rolled my eyes thinking BBC was trying to appeal to a younger demographic and, I assumed rather incorrectly, that the show would suffer as a result.
But, as many of you know, the amazing and talented writer Steven Moffat was promoted to lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who in 2009. With Moffat at the helm, the show noticeably changed and this change was made even more apparent when Matt Smith became ‘The Doctor.’
I ask that before you continue reading that you keep an open mind.
Here are some of the things that make me love Doctor Who even more during the Matt Smith era:
1.) The Core Group:
a.) The Doctor – Tennant and Smith both bring a certain ‘something’ to the role of The Doctor. A slight goofiness but underneath there is something bubbling just under the surface. It’s that seriousness that keeps the viewer wanting to know more about The Doctor. But, unlike with Smith, Tennant was the true star of the show and everyone else was truly secondary. In most episodes (notice I say most NOT all), Tennant is essentially carrying the episode with his magnificent acting abilities. Whereas this is not truly in the case with Smith which leads me to my next point.
b.) The Companions – With the exception of Rose Tyler (who is an important companion but I have not seen all the episodes with her), the companions Martha Jones and Donna Noble weren’t fully fleshed out as they could have been. I’ve often heard Jones referred to as the ‘lesser Rose’ and for me, watching her as a companion was painful. Here she was, a beautiful, intelligent woman with much to contribute and the show seemed to focus on her unrequited love with The Doctor. So, when the show introduced Donna Noble, it was like a breath of fresh air. Here was someone choosing to travel with The Doctor purely for the adventure. She could care less if he was a handsome bloke. Sometimes, this was lost in the constant screaming and screeching she would do (a friend’s words not mine).
In the Matt Smith-era, we’re seeing something different with Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Over time, they have become multi-dimensional characters. They have layers. And they have their own relationships. There’s The Doctor/Amy relationship, the Amy/Rory relationship, and the Rory/Doctor relationship. And several episodes have delved into some aspect of those relationships while still showing them as individuals. This level of complexity just wasn’t there consistently throughout the Tennant years. For this reason, Smith’s Doctor is not really carrying the show by himself but with others. When put into this perspective, it’s clear why to some avid Tennant lovers Smith isn’t as memorable as Tennant’s Doctor. But, I don’t think that makes Smith a lesser Doctor just a different one.
2.) Other Characters
a.) Other supporting characters – Please excuse my strong love of River Song. I was intrigued by this character (portrayed by the lovely Alex Kingston) when she was first introduced during the Tennant years. But that love has been sustained in the Smith years. Because once and for all, we finally know who she is! And out of all of the supporting characters she tends to be who I remember the most.
Then, there’s that other character that we fans tend to forget about….the TARDIS. It’s been traveling with The Doctor before he started having any companions. And, it was nice to delve into that relationship in “The Doctor’s Wife.” Because when companions come and go, the TARDIS has always been there. Brilliant job to Neil Gaiman for making ALL of us aware that the TARDIS is an important character and influence on The Doctor’s life.
b.) Villains – I must hand it to the show for stepping up it’s game by introducing a new villain. Now I know the Daleks are the long time nemesis to The Doctor but I’ll go ahead and admit that I find them hokey. They just don’t elicit any type of fear for me. I give the show kudos during the Tennant years when they unveiled The Weeping Angels. Those villains scared the bejessus out of me. I still remember watching that episode on the Scifi channel at night, alone in my apartment. I remember thinking of all the statutes I pass in my daily life and how they could be Weeping Angels. Gasp!
Since the Weeping Angels, there has been very little done in terms of villains until The Silence. How can you fight a villain that you can’t remember once you look away?! I still remember how The Doctor instructs Amy, Rory, and River to mark on their bodies when they see The Silence. And, the creep factor of watching as the marks spread on their arms and them having no recollection of it. Freaky. I do hope the writers find a way to bring them back.
3.) Other Stuff
a.) Production Value – Let’s be real the production value of the set designs, CGI, and other special effects are just better than with Eccelston and Tennant but I think this has a lot to do with the growing popularity of the show over time. Smith is reaping the benefits of it.
So, as you can see, the Steven Moffat/Matt Smith era has done much in terms of stepping up their game and pushing us forward by fleshing out companions, creating intriguing supporting characters, and introducing a new villain. While I love the Tennant years, I’m fast becoming an avid fan of the Smith years.