Yesterday, it was announced that Matt Smith would be stepping down from Doctor Who during this year’s Christmas special. My first reaction? I immediately put on Series 6’s “The Doctor’s Wife,” watched in awe, and sunk into a deep, bitter depression/ insistence that Matt Smith cannot leave.
Then, I spoke with my fellow We Minored in Film co-writer, Kelly (who beat me to the Matt Smith punch on the site with his piece, btw) and reminisced about every single amazing Matt Smith Doctor Who moment. Turns out, he had quite a few (See below for a few of them). We then began to think about who could replace him, coming up with some interesting choices (stay tuned to our site for that upcoming list), but our speculation was hollow and laced with melancholy. We were just trying to find some sort of Doctor Who regeneration balm, and our grief was not lessened. We were both pretty deflated by the announcement.
I should have been prepared for this. As soon as new Doctor is announced on Doctor Who, the excitement over the new casting is almost immediately followed by speculation as to how long that person will remain in the role. Not to mention that I just went through this four years ago with David Tennant, the other Doctor I thought could never leave, because he was just too amazing to regenerate. Then, it hit me. Matt Smith is the first Doctor I’ve watched completely in real-time. I didn’t start watching the series on television until the Fourth Series (David Tennant’s third series as the Doctor). I caught Christopher Eccleston’s tenure and the first two series of David Tennant’s run on DVD. I had to wait a week in between all of Matt Smith’s episodes. I couldn’t just go to the next episode on the disc. There was actual waiting involved, days of it. I was at the mercy of BBC America, and while I may have preferred to have been able to marathon it like I had earlier, it was his Doctor that made me feel more like a “real” Doctor Who fan. I was watching with everyone else. I didn’t have to worry about spoilers from others. As fans, we were all in it together.
Matt Smith brought a wonderful sense of playfulness (and an alienness that was absent from Tennant’s portrayal) and endearing youthful enthusiasm.He seemed both unbelievably young and old simultaneously, the exact quality needed to best play the Doctor. He could be angry and despairing, but he just as often seemed to exist on pure, maddening enthusiasm. His relationship with Amy (Karen Gillan), the companion he first met as a child then met again five minutes/ twelve years later (wibbly wobbly timey wimey) was one of the series best. She was witty, impulsive, emotional, and loyal. Together, along with her boyfriend/ eventual husband, Rory (Arthur Darvill), this trio was impossible not to like.
Steven Moffat, already responsible for Eccleston’s and Tennant’s best episodes, created one brilliant show after another, including what is perhaps the best Doctor Who Christmas special ever, “A Christmas Carol.” Series Five and Six were the most consistent series Doctor Who had enjoyed since its 2005 revival. Under Moffat and Smith, Doctor Who had a run of one fantastic episode after another.
This season was not quite as strong, with a companion whose mysterious origins made her more of an enigma than a fully realized character, but even then, it was still enjoyable. Knowing that this Doctor-Series Runner duo is breaking up is disheartening in the extreme.
Truth be told, I spent most of the second half of Series Seven feeling like I would be okay with Matt Smith stepping down. The show had seemed to plateau, and I was thinking some new blood could shake the series out if its complacency. But then they had to go and give me the Series Seven finale, “The Name of the Doctor” and he had to be so amazing in the episode that I remembered what an amazing Doctor he really was, and I decided he needed to stay forever.
This was the Doctor who took on the Weeping Angels, called a baby “Stormageddon,” conversed with his Tardis, was sealed into the Pandorica by all of his enemies, reset the universe twice, and journeyed to his final resting place. Through him, we got to know River Song, and learned practically everything there was to know about her.
The show became loopy and thrilling and absolutely brilliant. It’s hard to think this era is drawing to a close.
I know I’ll eventually get over this. I’ve been through it before. I know the drill. First, I’ll think the Twelfth Doctor will be terrible. Then, I’ll see an episode with him and I’ll decide that in fact he’s brilliant. However, at this moment, that knowledge is cold comfort and the idea of embracing a new Doctor seems like a cruel and unusual punishment. I’m gonna have to go through the whole denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance of events, but right now, I’m just in the “this sucks, and I’m bummed” stage (a sort of anger/ depression combo pack), and I don’t like it. All I can say is, “Goodbye, Matt Smith. You will be missed.”
Check out a few of his iconic moments below: