‘I’ve got this wonderful journey in front of me where I’ve got this six months to build this Time Lord’. The feverish speculation about Tennant’s replacement meant that they couldn’t just announce the new Doctor in a press release. Instead, a special Doctor Who Confidential episode was broadcast three days into 2009 which, watched back, looks like as much an attempt to reassure viewers that the changeover is business as usual for the series as it is an introduction to Matt Smith.
The first two thirds of the episode sees Tennant, RTD, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, Steven Moffat and a very sweaty Piers Wenger discussing the history of the show, from its comeback in 2005 and Eccleston’s regeneration to Tennant, before flipping right back to 1963 for a run through of the past Doctors. What follows remains a joy, a 21st Century version of The Making of Doctor Who, or one of those Peter Haining books, which tries to capture the essence of each Doctor in a few pithy sentences. Hartnell is a mysterious grandfather who warms up as he goes along, and sets the tone for a role that can turn on a penny from giggling mischief to stern authority. Troughton ‘defined what the character is now more than William Hartnell’, a casual, clever hero with a subversive streak. Pertwee was a strong, ‘overtly powerful’ man of action in a frilly shirt (cue a montage to Dedicated Follower of Fashion).
Tom Baker was ‘a tumbling ball of energy’ creating ‘real television magic’; Davison a ’reckless innocent’ giving a ‘clever, sophisticated performance’. Colin Baker (‘big’) and Sylvester McCoy (‘an intricate, smaller jewel’) are rather breezed past, then RTD makes up for his “McGann doesn’t count” heresy with a rather longer celebration than several of his predecessors: ‘it’s a real shame we didn’t see more of that.’ Moffat is more interested in the kissing: ‘puberty had arrived for the Time Lord.’
The point to all this is, as RTD says, casting the right man (no suggestion that a woman was under consideration at any point), is key. And then, here he is, the new man. Matt Smith, who we are repeatedly reminded is the youngest ever Doctor, gives a short interview talking about his casting, the secrecy about the announcement, his excitement about the process of developing the 11th Doctor, he’s groping at the air for the right words. Even as himself he’s fascinatingly tactile, restless, Doctorish. But we’re going to have to wait nearly a year to glimpse him in action. Still, the future has arrived. There’s just the small matter of 2009 to get out of the way first.
The 11th Doctor will return in The Eleventh Hour
Next Time: From Raxacoricofallapatorius, With Love