Tom Baker was my first Doctor. Growing up in Miami, I watched re-runs of Doctor Who on the local PBS affiliate alongside Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. Because of some sort of distribution issues with Lion TV, PBS played Tom Baker’s first two seasons over and over again. But I never tired of them, of watching shows like Baker’s debut in “Robot” or the scariness of “The Seeds of Doom.” Ever since then I’ve measured every other Doctor up against Tom Baker. The recent additions to the Pantheon of incarnations of Doctor Who brought us Christopher “how could you leave after one season?!” Eccleston and David Tennant, both of whom brought fierce energy and panache to the role. Tennant in particular plumbed the depths of the Doctor’s soul—his melancholy, his loneliness, and at the end of his tenure, even the dark tattered edges of the power and responsibility that come with being a Timelord. What an act to follow!
On Monday, I was one of the lucky few to be at the Paley Center’s NYC Doctor Who Premiere with new producer Steven Moffat, companion Karen Gillan, and the man who is the new Who—Matt Smith. It’s already been said a few times—but despite the flustered initial murmurings of the Doctor Who community when this young, some said too young, and relatively unknown actor was chosen to take on the mantle of Doctor Who—Matt Smith slips as smoothly into the role as no actor since Tom Baker did in his day. He may be young, but Matt Smith’s eyes are old, and he brings a faithfulness to the part that goes back to William Hartnell’s turn as the first Doctor, and a freshness that augurs well for bringing new generations of fans to the show. Karen Gillan, as the companion, combines beauty, psychological depth, and a back-story that will ensure a rollercoaster of a relationship with Matt Smith’s Doctor. You thought Rose Tyler put David Tennant’s Doctor through the wringer? I suspect that this new Doctor/Companion relationship will make that a distant memory.