Thursday, 5 December 2013

Matt Smith ...Thank You.

Well, Matt Smith has filmed his final scenes, packed his sonic away and landed a terrific "all singing, all dancing" role as Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho - The Musical".  However, before he gets too far away I, and a good number of others, want to say thank you ... it's just that "thank you" doesn't seem enough - not this time, anyway.

It's strange looking back now when you remember that, although Matt was announced as the 11th Doctor on 3 January 2009, we didn't get our first glimpse of him in the role until almost a year later - during the final moments of "The End of Time part 2".  That's an awfully long time - especially when he seemed to be such a controversial choice.  That lanky chap with the seemingly untameable hair who was revealed on "Doctor Who Confidential" as the 11th Doctor caused more than a few raised eyebrows with exclamations of "who?" reverberating around the country.  The first promo pictures didn't help:

I mean, really - you look at that and think "Emo!Doctor" and preconceptions were such that a lot of us were convinced that the 11th Doctor would be a wailing, angst-ridden and somewhat overtly emotional mess.  It's human nature to pre-judge ... and it's Who fan nature to take that to extremes.  Oh, we had issues with everything from his hair to his age - or lack of it.  "Too young" ... "cast to appeal to the teen element" ... "he won't last" and "how can anyone relate to this child?" were just a few of the huge number of negative comments that greeted his casting.   Now, flip this all around and imagine what this must have been like for Matt.  26 years old and taking on the biggest role in television - the expectations and pressure were enormous:
"If you remember, when I took over, no one thought it would work. I was ‘too young’. David had come from a stellar era. I was unknown. For a month or two when I started I was like, ‘This is impossible. I can’t’ — just the pressure of it. Everyone was sort of going, ‘Go on, show us what you’ve got.’ I told myself, ‘If I can get through this I can get through anything.’" 
I think Matt had one of the most difficult tasks of the rebooted series.  Christopher Eccleston had just the one season in the role before departing and being replaced by David Tennant who stayed for three seasons plus one year of "specials".  For the majority of those who started watching in 2005, David Tennant was the Doctor - he was the favourite, he was the focus. Taking over from him was a daunting task in many respects - not least of which was winning over an already slightly hostile audience.  

Hats off to him then for concentrating his energies on the role - and not getting distracted by the external influences - because when Season 5 finally aired, Matt's take on the Doctor hit those Doubting Thomas' amongst us right between the eyes.  

I've detailed before ("Why 11 is My Doctor") how I was one of the doubters, how I was convinced that Matt had been cast to appeal to the teen crowd ... and how amazingly quickly he managed to change my mind.  10 minutes of his first episode - that's all the time it took for me to be convinced that, yes, this lad was going to be pretty good.  Just HOW good we were yet to discover but Matt's first season was pretty much a triumph all around.  New Doctor, new companion, new Tardis, new show runner - an awful lot of change for the audience to accept and it could so easily have crashed and burned.  Many things and people are to be credited for its success, of course, but none more so than Matt.  As the Eleventh Doctor unfolded before us, we were captivated - this youngster showed us the weight of 1000 years in his eyes one minute and was a hyperactive puppy seconds later.  This didn't clash - it felt perfectly natural.  This was the "bold, new take" that Steven Moffat had talked about when discussing the casting of Matt.

It wasn't just in the show itself that Matt endeared himself to us - the "Doctor Who Confidential" episodes gave us more of an insight into the actors themselves and Matt came across as a genuinely lovely man with a great sense of fun who absolutely and totally loved what he was doing.   One of the things that struck me - after watching the "Confidential" episode where they discussed the fez and how Matt would have worn it all the time - was that he's one of us.  He definitely has more than a touch of that slightly obsessive fan mentality - and I mean that as a huge compliment.  Carrying a sonic screwdriver around in his pocket?  Yeah, he's one of us alright.

Watch his various interactions with fans and children at conventions and signings, listen to what the set reporters who manage to track down the filming locations have to say - you won't find anyone with a bad word to say about him.  We really couldn't have asked for a better ambassador for the show than Matt Smith - and the great thing is that he genuinely seemed to enjoy all the baggage that came with being the Doctor.  He was never fazed whilst being followed around by a camera crew during breaks in filming and the numerous reports of how he happily pretended to be the Doctor when accosted by children in the street are not just heartwarming, they also add to the now rather large pile of things we have to thank him for.

So, Mr Smith.  Without you, this blog wouldn't exist.  You were the one who dragged me back into fandom when I was having serious misgivings about the amount of time I was devoting to the show.  You gave me my passion for the show back.  You've said in recent interviews "don't forget me".  Ha!  As if!  You are a part of us now - and that means you have our full and wholehearted support in all future projects.  We'll pack out the theatres, buy tickets to premieres - but most of all...we'll still wear fezes to conventions.  

Thank you, Matt Smith and we wish you the very best of luck for all your future projects. 

Thank you for giving so much of yourself to us and to the show - it is very much appreciated. 

Most of all though, thank you for being MY Doctor - and giving me my hero back.