Wed
Jan 5 2011 1:00pm

Chicks Dig the Eleventh Doctor

This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.

Eleventh Doctor

Hi! We’re the editors of Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It (Mad Norwegian Press, 2010). Our book celebrates the entire classic series as well as the Russell T. Davies era of the new series. Since Chicks came out just before Matt Smith’s debut as the Eleventh Doctor, Tor.com asked us to weigh in with our reactions to the Fifth Series.

Tara O’Shea: When Doctor Who returned in 2005, what captivated me was the series’ palpable sense of wonder. The Doctor may not always have been right, or kind; but the genuine joy he took in his adventures was addictive. The Doctor anchored himself to Rose’s sense of wonder and could see the universe through her eyes.

By 2010, I was ready for change. The sense of wonder had all but drained away for me, and the Doctor’s companions were there not so much as adventuring partners as they were there to rein him in when he went off the rails. The Doctor was beginning to embrace genocide as an option on the table, and he needed someone to stop him if he needed stopping. That was not, in all honestly, my Doctor.

But like the weather, Doctor Who is about change. Long before Matt Smith was cast, I was already gleefully anticipating the coming reign of “Our Scottish Overlord,” Steven Moffat. Partly because I’d always enjoyed Steven Moffat’s work, particularly Press Gang and Jekyll. Also because Steve has kids. Steve gets it.

It was the fish custard that sealed the deal for me. Matt Smith’s manic smile as he crunched fish fingers dipped in egg custard and told little Amelia Pond that he was there to take away her worries about the scary crack in her wall won me over. For the next twelve episodes, I believed that this gangly young-old man in a cool bow tie was the same man who had kidnapped Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton in 1963, and saved the universe repeatedly since then.

More than that, he was my Doctor. He marched into people’s lives and changed them for the better. Whether it was Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth X, or Craig Owens who was in love with his best friend and in need of a flatshare, the Doctor was there to help them, save them, and show them how to be the best people they could be. And if you were lucky, you might also get to see him wear a fez or do a ridiculous drunken giraffe dance as he did it.

The Doctor as played by Matt Smith could be old, and wise, and kind. He could be silly, and awkward, and a bit clueless about girls. He could be the last of his kind, and that weirdo building a machine out of bicycle tires in your spare room. He could be all of these things, and it fit. Like the TARDIS, he was bigger on the inside, and he quickly shot to the top of my list of actors I have loved in the role since first discovering Doctor Who at fifteen, watching PBS far too late on a weekend night.

Team TARDIS week after week reminded me not just of what was good Doctor Who or good television, but was best about humanity: our compassion and endless curiosity, our faults and strengths, and what we could be if we had to. The sense of wonder at the strangeness and vastness of the universe was back. And not just for jaded 30-something fangirls, but for all the world’s eight year olds who hide behind the sofa while the Doctor and his friends battle the monsters of our nightmares.

Steve Moffat and the 2010 production team gave me a madman with a box I could cheer on, and weep for, and wait for in joyful anticipation for the next new adventure.

Eleventh Doctor

Lynne M. Thomas: I became a Doctor Who fan during the late 1990s, that terrible time when the show wasn’t being broadcast. I’d only seen regenerations on video (including the McGann film) before the new series. I honestly didn’t know how I would handle it in real time. Thankfully, my first live regeneration went fairly well. I was sad to see the Ninth Doctor go, but I was also really excited to see David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor (I was already a big fan of his work before he took over the role). I connected emotionally with his Doctor in a way I hadn’t with previous Doctors. I loved his exuberance and enthusiasm.  And he was pretty. Oh, so pretty.

Let’s just say that I didn’t do quite so well when my Doctor regenerated. I watched “The End of Time Part 2” weeping and clutching my Tenth Doctor action figure. My show changed again; not only lead actors, but production teams. This wasn’t inherently a problem. As much as I adored Russell T. Davies’s era, I was also a big fan of Steven Moffat’s work on Doctor Who and other series of his own devising (especially Coupling). I had faith that the series would be just as good. I joked with other panicky fans that we needed an “In Moff We Trust” t-shirt.

But this Matt Smith guy made me a bit nervous. I didn’t know much about him. And he seemed, well, awfully young to be the Doctor (and I say this despite adoring Peter Davison’s era). I didn’t know if he could handle the role with the combination of madness and gravitas required. I thought that David Tennant excelled at this. Those were big trainers to fill.

Thus, I expected it would take me a while for me to connect with Matt Smith.

I could not have been more wrong. From the moment Matt emerged from the smoking TARDIS and walked straight into a tree, he was the Doctor. His physical performance easily stood out from his recent predecessors: Eccleston was a tiger, and Tennant was, well, Tigger. Smith reminded me of an uncoordinated housecat who pretends that he meant to do that after falling off a piece of furniture. His rather silly, but mostly kind, façade echoed two of my other favorite Doctors, the Second and the Fifth: hiding powerful intellect and powers of observation so that enemies underestimate him and friends trust him implicitly. Stealing clothes from yet another hospital and threatening an intergalactic enemy were handled with equal aplomb. Smith’s initial performance balanced gravitas and madness. He was the Doctor through and through.

What really took me by surprise, though, was watching my daughter find her Doctor.

Caitlin, who was seven just like Amelia when “The Eleventh Hour” aired, is a second-generation Who viewer; we watch the show as a family. She enjoyed the show, but not as much as say, The Wizards of Waverly Place on Disney Channel. Then she saw a little girl save the universe with her raggedy Doctor friend. Now, it’s her show. She openly squees and cheers for the Doctor and Amy as if she was at a Justin Bieber concert.

If Matt Smith’s Doctor turns up looking for a new assistant, she is so outta here. I couldn’t be more proud.


Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea curated and released Chicks Dig Time Lords in early 2009, an essay collection from female viewpoints including Elizabeth Bear, Carole E. Barrowman, Lisa Bowerman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more regarding the Doctor and his (then 10) incarnations.

16 comments
Tammy Garrison
1. Tammy Garrison
I also love his exhuberant insistance that anything he's into at the time (stetsons, bow ties, fezzes) are cool. I can't decide if it's an ornery old guy saying "dammit, let me have my fishing hat, if I want to wear it at the dinner table, I will!" or if it's a little kid insisting he wear his Spider-man costume every day, and that everyone call him Spider-man, even in public.
Chris Greenland
2. greenland
Lynne, your young daughter taking Eleven to her heart is very telling to me, as I think one of 11s defining traits is how amazing he is with children. Right off the bat, he bonds with Amelia, he can't refuse a child crying in The Beast Below, he does that...incredible dance-like thing...with all those kids at Amy's wedding, and not to mention the recent Christmas episode...
Ashe Armstrong
3. AsheSaoirse
@Tammy: It's both. He's an ornery old man-kid (not man-child, big difference).
Tammy Garrison
4. leKey
10 was my Doctor and then, this 11th guy came around to completely win me over and make we want to jump until the TARDIS. I felt a little guilty for jumping ship, but not too much! The combination of Matt Smith and Steven Moffat has made 11 become MY Doctor.
Tammy Garrison
5. Ross Smith
I'm, er, mumblety-mumble years old ... well, let's just say old enough to remember William Hartnell from before he was in re-runs. I've enjoyed watching all the Doctors, but Matt Smith has achieved one thing none of the others did: he's the first Doctor who leaves me thinking, yes, I can believe that was what the First Doctor was like when he was younger...
Warren Ockrassa
6. warreno
"Smith reminded me of an uncoordinated housecat who pretends that he meant to do that after falling off a piece of furniture."

Yes! Yes, that's precisely the image!
Alex Brown
7. AlexBrown
I bought your book for my library (lucky me, I get to buy for the film/television/theatre section (791-792) and spend most of my budget buying Who and Whedon-related books) and it's circulating so much I had to go buy my own copy just so I could finally read it.

I have a grand time with Moffat and Smith (less so with Amy and Rory, but that's a comment for another post). He's charming and funny with a circular wit that makes my brain hurt sometimes, but that's what I like most about him. But he's still no Ten.
Tammy Garrison
8. Shatner's Bassoon
"Steve has kids. Steve gets it."
I'm sure you didn't mean it like that, but read the wrong way this sounds a bit like a nasty personal dig at RTD.
Tammy Garrison
9. Floridajohn72
Tennant will always be my daughters Doctor. The same way Colin Baker will be mine. Matt Smith may be the most brilliant actor to be the Doctor. Ever. But he's not HER Doctor. Sitting with her watching the NEXT DOCTOR was blissful. Although I did have to hold her extra tight. Cyber men scare the HELL out of her. Its truly wonderful to have your child love something you do. I've got Tennants finale in my dvr I want to watch it again over the weekend. His best but saddest moments.
Charles Summerhill
10. JanusDreamer
"...this gangly young-old man in a cool bow tie was the same man who had kidnapped Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton in 1963."

You put into words what I haven't been able to about the 11th Doctor. Something that made him a great Doctor, even coming after the wonderful performances of David Tennet, to me. Matt Smith's Doctor is not an amagram of the previous 10 Doctors -- he's his own Doctor, but something about his portrayal makes you believe that he once was.

Thank you for summing it up so perfectly.
Tammy Garrison
11. FeRD_NYC
@#8. Shatner's Bassoon

"Steve has kids. Steve gets it."

I'm sure you didn't mean it like that, but read the wrong way this sounds a bit like a nasty personal dig at RTD.

Even as a "teammate" of Russell's myself, I didn't for one moment take the statement that way. I think you're trying too hard to read into it.
Tammy Garrison
12. stashdrawer
I never liked Tennant's Doctor -- at all. Eccleston was my favorite Doctor, and when he left I was crushed. I hated Ten, and you're absolutely right in that the connection that Nine/Rose had was never duplicated, not even with Ten, and Martha, Donna, etc just felt like they were there to keep him from going off the deep end. He was a jerk to Martha, and I really only warmed up to him when they paired him with Donna, as she wouldn't stand for his nonsense and their relationship was more of a "BFF" relationship, not an "I'm babysitting you while we travel the universe".

When he regenerated, I cheered. Well, actually, I said something more like "Would you just effing DIE already?" because they HAD to give him the 25-minute drawn out death scene. And the second the writing switched over from RTD to Moff, I could breathe easier.

Matt Smith is amazing. I just can't even think of anything to say other than what has been said. He's so... alien. Like, I absolutely believe that he's a 900-year old alien. With Eccleston and Tennant, I really never got that sense that they didn't "fit" with the people around them, both physically (costume) and emotionally (Eccleston's "warrior" sort of attitude, Tennant's insane, flailing, ADD, whining, moping "acting"). But there are all those lovely moments when Eleven is just so... not human. It's even more endearing when he TRIES to be human (The Lodger) but also when he's so clearly not. (Bow ties are cool. Fish fingers and custard are delicious.)

I am hoping that we get at least as many seasons of Matt as the Doctor as we did Tennant, because he absolutely deserves every moment of it.
Tammy Garrison
14. Landru141
Tara and Lynne. Good article. My first regeneration was a shock (Tom into Peter) way back when I was 12 (though, in the US, that could have been 83 or something). I've been hooked on and off ever since. Times change and Doctor's (as well as BBC programers and budgets) change, but the concept is really the core value of the show. Sure, there probably is one incarnation someone out there doesn't like. Same goes for the people behind the scenes. The fact that Tennant really ran out the clock was important. It could be argued the Specials were too long, but important for the future of the show.

After Eccleston bolted so soon, we needed to be reminded that the series was built to last. He broke all the rules (the buzz cut and leather jacket was so NOT DW the old fans couldn't believe it was real!) Tennant gave us more of a classic Doctor, but with that modern twist that drew a bigger audience. Smith now steps into the show, consumes it in minutes -- thanks to a revitalized production team and his amazing abilities as an actor. I'm sure Troughton and Baker were greated with a little bit of "wha?" at the time, considering who they followed.

I'm not sure I embrace the so-and-so is "my" Doctor philosophy. I remember how many people stopped watching when Peter Davison took over and thought it was a shame. It's like they missed the biggest trick in the magic show. It's limits are it's strengths. That is the Doctor and Doctor Who in a nutshell.

Thanks for the rambling space.
Tammy Garrison
15. fannishliss
I'm still not quite on board with who the Doctor is now..... there seems to have been quite a disconnect between who he was as Nine and Ten and who he is now as Eleven.... but it's great to read the thoughts of folks who are so enthusiastic. As an old fan of the Tom Baker era, I can see Four (my touchstone Doctor) in all of them... and if I have any regrets, it's that the Eccleston era was WAY too short. :)
Tammy Garrison
16. Arafelsedai
I must admit to loving Tennant's acting in general, so I was pleased when he was chosen to take over from Eccleston. I loved him as the Doctor, even as I sometimes cringed at the darkness RTD showcased. But, oh could he act the angst and grief so well.
My 10yr old daughter and 7yr old son are avid fans and while my daughter has a soft spot for Ten, she adores the sillyness of Eleven. My son is more firmly entrenched with Eleven.

I love them both...or is it really all? The Tiger, the Tigger, and the uncoordinated cat (which made me laugh outloud when I read that...cuz yeah...so true!)

Tennant pulled off foxy and romantic (a real first for any Doctor in my opinion) and more outwardly emotionally vested in his companion. I don't think we ever saw a Doctor grieve for an entire season before.

Smith manages to just BE. It's like he took all that Ten lost and learned from it...and now he is willing to just throw himself into it all so he doesn't make the same mistakes.

So even after 900+ years, a Time Lord can grow. (even if it is to act more like a kid!) HA

Fantastic.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment