Wed
Jan 5 2011 1:01pm
Fezzes Aren’t Cool

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

The Eleventh Doctor

I had the same reaction most of us had, I’m sure, when meeting the Eleventh: “My God, I have shoes older than this one.” He seemed so young, so...immature that I came perilously close to dismissing him as a fitting Doctor...

...until he ate fish custard and I was instantly sold on the genius of Matt Smith.

Think back to all the gravitas that surrounded the departure of the Tenth Doctor, particularly given how extended his multi-episode exit was. All that drama, all that angst, all that Weltschmerz...it was almost too traumatic for me to process and embrace, and I’m 48 years old. Imagine witnessing (suffering) that grim a storyline as a kid and tell me the Doctor didn’t have to work really hard to win back an audience of children this time around. So what was the Eleventh’s very first act?

He ate blecchy food and made funny faces and thus told kids everywhere “I’m one of you.”

Brilliant.

The Eleventh Doctor is every bit as canny and wise as his previous incarnations, but unlike them, he’s unafraid to be geeky. Pinning celery to your lapel, however cute, is an affectation; willingly wearing a fez throughout half an episode is an arms-wide acknowledgement that you embrace your comical image. I have no doubt that Matt Smith would surrender to slipping on a banana peel or getting hit in the face with a cream pie without a second thought if the story called for it. I mean, just look at him dance. It’s like watching a monkey jam a fork into a wall outlet. How is that not endearing to kids?

“Yes, but...” I know, I know. Kids aren’t the only Who audience, and if the Eleventh Doctor played solely to them, you and I would sulk through very empty Saturday nights indeed. And that’s where Smith shines with a grace so subtle as to go almost unnoticed, because grown-ups feel for him, too. He’s the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor, but in certain ways, he comes across as the oldest because he’s so far removed from the mating game. He’s bizarrely sexless (a brave choice for a leading actor, by the by). He’s the only being in the universe who declines a chance to shag Amy. Even his interactions with River Song are more about the puzzle surrounding their relationship than a matter of romantic chemistry. The Eleventh Doctor reads very much as a man who’s loved so deeply and lost so tragically that, at least for now, thank you, he chooses to stand steadfastly above and apart from love...and what adult can’t remember a heartache and identify with that feeling? Whereas his predecessor wore his emotions on his sleeve, the Eleventh Doctor, when you cut past his glib delivery, seems to be actively concealing hidden depths from those around him, masking himself behind all that garrulous blathering. I’m convinced that’s not an actor’s inability to exude dignity or dimension; it’s a masterful performance by someone who truly understands the Doctor and can layer his performance accordingly.

So young, so seemingly immature...it took an excruciatingly long “This isn’t David Tennant!” five minutes or so, but I came to embrace Matt Smith in a way that makes me wonder if he isn’t my favorite Doctor.

Oh. One other thing. One little bit I’ve noticed about the Eleventh Doctor that I find uniquely endearing even though it speaks almost exclusively to me, a lifelong comics fanatic: he dresses exactly like Jimmy Olsen. Exactly. The tie, the tweed jacket, the pattered shirt...I’d swear this Doctor raided Jack Larson’s wardrobe from the old Adventures of Superman set. The Doctor is an alien who flies through time and space battling galactic conquest and enjoying world-shattering exploits while wearing a bowtie. He’s like Superman dressed in Jimmy’s clothes. And that’s cool.

Wow. Maybe he is my favorite.


Mark Waid’s comics career is long, varied, and littered with a host of amazing runs on established properties like Fantastic Four, 52, The Flash, as well as with original material such as Empire and current series Incorruptible. Along with his already incredible workload, he is the editor-in-chief of Boom Studios!

This article is part of The Twelve Doctors of Christmas: ‹ previous | index | next ›
25 comments
Dr. Cox
1. Dr. Cox
Hmm . . . I can concur with everything but the use of the word geeky--that word embodies the anti-intellectualism (itself disheartening) which so pervades our culture.
Costume-wise, the first time I saw a pic of Eleven, my first thought was "Dr. Joe!" because of the bow tie . . . Dr. Joe being the bow tie-wearing physical science prof and yearbook sponsor at the college I attended as an undergrad; he'd occasionally make annoucements during chapel and during icy weather warn us about the "co-efficient of friction" on sidewalks :).
By-the-by, Five is "My Doctor," as I began watching "Doctor Who" on the local PBS station at the regeneration from Four to Five, but for me the other particularly memorable Doctors are Eight, Nine, Ten, and, now, Eleven, and I'm looking forward to next season.
Dr. Cox
2. GeekToMe
Thanks for hitting the nail on the head so succintly! It was gonna take a miracle for me to accept Smith as The Doctor after having Tennant win me back into the franchise, but then a wondrous random thing happened in the form of he and a young Amy Pond figuring out what he likes to eat...and I was there.

And, oh yeah, bow ties are cool.
Dr. Cox
3. a-j
Stetson's are cool.
Dr. Cox
5. ShellyS
Excellent points. And thanks for clearing up the mystery of why Matt Smith's outfit struck a chord with me, too. It seemed so familiar and now I know why. :)

I'm relatively new to Doctor Who, having started watching midway through Tennant's last series and the seeing the movies, so I had no qualms about Smith's age or experience. I've since seen all of Tennant's run and Eccleston's version and will work my way back through the other Doctors, but Matt Smith is definitely "my Doctor."

The depth of emotion he showed in the last episode, when he talks to Amy just before he flies the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS, and later, when he tells 7-year-old Amy the story about the Doctor and the blue box, had me in tears. Those scenes were as emotional for me as when Tennant's Doctor made his goodbyes (the scene with Capt. Jack is my favorite of those, given Jack's own emotional state).

Matt Smith has demonstrated that he's a helluva actor.
Christopher Turkel
6. Applekey
The very first episode with Matt Smith, 'The Eleventh Hour", really sold me on him. He is a great Doctor. The following episodes were uneven but the new Doctor seemed to hit his stride with the Van Gogh episode. I was heartbroken when David Tennant left but Matt Smith is awesome. Fezzes are cool!
Ashe Armstrong
7. AsheSaoirse
Like most people, I wasn't sure what to make of Matt and when 10 turned into 11, and I got a glimpse, I wanted to see more. I wasn't so worried anymore.

And then a few months passed and series 5 started. He wanted an apple, bacon, beans, bread and finally fish custard. And I was digging it. The sonic exploded, the Atraxi threatened, the Doctor won...and then he completed his win. He got new clothes, he made for the roof and he began to set things straight. And as he was finishing his wardrobe choice, the Atraxi sees a history of attacks on the planet and then...and then ten faces. And then he steps through, and says, "Hello, I'm the Doctor," and I was hooked, he was mine, I was in love.
Dr. Cox
8. fairplaythings
Mark Waid is cool.
Matthew B
9. MatthewB
@1 Dr. Cox: I think you're using an outdated understanding of the word "geek." If it meant anything before it referred to circus sideshow performers, that meaning is lost to me, but just as that version gave way to the unflattering brain/nerd/dork synonym version that i grew up with, so has that meaning also been replaced.

Today's geeks are proud of their intellectual and technical prowess. "Geek" has been reclaimed. Anyone using it as a pejorative just sounds hopelessly out of date, kind of like hearing your cranky neighbor complaining about all those young whippersnappers who just won't stay off his lawn.
Dr. Cox
10. irishmak
Ah, Matt Smith. I was unsure. I am firmly a fan of the Fifth Doctor, with the Eleventh running an oh-so-close second, so I was quite unsure what I was going to think. It took a couple episodes, but, heck, yeah- Matt Smith is the Doctor! He's added to the character and made him a new man in more ways than just the new face. I am looking forward to new episodes.
Dr. Cox
11. Nentuaby
@Dr. Cox:

"Geeky" is the self-identification of a modern subculture that practically (hell, sometimes literally) fetishizes intellectual pursuits and their trappings. Its former pejorative connotations are at least a decade gone.
Warren Ockrassa
12. warreno
"He’s the only being in the universe who declines a chance to shag Amy."

Mee-ow.
Claire de Trafford
13. ClairedeT
It's a funny thing. David Tennant was cool, and about my age, and I fancied him a little bit (you know you did too!) but I wasn't that bothered about catching up with episodes I missed. Partly that was hamster cheeks Rose Tyler, and then Catherine Nanna Tait who I just couldn't get past the comedy series, but I just wasn't that fussed.
Matt Smith - at first too young - is brilliant. Absolutely loved the Christmas episode and I shall try and watch the new series religiously (Australian programming notwithstanding). Tom Baker is MY doctor, but Matt Smith is as good and that's high praise indeed.
Joe Romano
14. Drunes
Fezzes are cool... but, then again, so were long colorful scarves.
Rebecca Dempsey
15. becadroit
Another point about the clothes of Eleven is they belong to someone else. Ten selected stuff from the Tardis and tried them on (while in borrowed pjs and a massive scarf - yay), just after making jokes about Arthur Dent. Eleven very deliberately stole clothes from Amy's world like he was putting on a costume - or assuming a persona. His constant defence of bow ties, even down to explaining to Sardick why they're cool is wearing clothes to make a point. And it's belaboured. Eleven is playing a part (the geek) in a way Nine and Ten didn't have to. They saved the world and could be geeky without having to defend what they wore or have clothes doing the work of saying 'hey, I'm a geek'. I was hoping, at some point, after the first episode Eleven would return the clothes he stole and wear something else. Like at Amy's wedding.
Why is there this need to have geniuses look weird? What is important is that their genius separates them out, not their clothes. The Doctor is unique and weird and brilliant because of who he is - without a need for silly hats, bow ties and trousers that are too short.
Dr. Cox
16. Dr. Cox
Um, as per the word geek, the connotations aren't gone--that's what prompted my response in the first place :).
Stereotypes--ech.
People can be interested in lots of different stuff.
Dr. Cox
17. Michael Norris
@becadroit The Doctor in all of his incarnations has dressed "weird". Its seems to be something of an affectation with him. 9. 10 and 11 are probably the most normal looking ( from 20th-21st Century perspective) when it comes to choice of costume.

While Mark Waid was reminded of Jimmy Olson, the bow tie and jacket made me think of another doctor, a Doctor Henry Jones, jr. ( and Sr too for that matter).
Dr. Cox
18. Ryk E. Spoor
To me and my wife, he's not really childish at all, and in fact one of the producers was apparently sold on him as the Eleventh doctor because this young punk walked in and did *OLD*. The Eleventh Doctor is *ancient*. His mannerisms are childish in the manner of an old grandfather who can have his tantrums, can act as though he's gone senile, and then turn around and dispense startling wisdom to all and sundry.

Neither of us, however, see him as sexless. He's obviously attracted to Amy, he's just avoiding getting into another relationship with a human girl, especially one which he knows is supposed to be married soon. Were he unattracted he could have rebuffed her easily; the fact she can fluster the hell out of him shows he is more than aware of her attractiveness.
Dr. Cox
19. shelleybear
The conclusion of "The 11th Hour".
The moment he faced down the Atraxi:
I thought, "Yeah, that's my Doctor."
Dr. Cox
20. misskale
Yeah, I have to say, it's sort of odd for me with Matt. Because, Troughton is my favorite Doctor, in terms of acting and the stories, but; Matt is the first one in a long while who feels like he's the same "person". Which, feels silly, and I have to keep convincing myself that I'm not crazy.

On him and Amy though. I think there's a lot working together. There's the fact he met her as a child, which has to be creepy; that she's already in a serious relationship (even if she was a kissogram); that he already had a paradox-ish relationship with Charlie Pollard (assuming Big Finish is counted as canon) and he knew there was already something wrong with time and the crack.
Dr. Cox
21. Mitzy Moo
I was sold the first time The Doctor opened his mouth. Adults never treat children like rational beings, and he did from the very beginning. And he didn't hesitate to ask her for something - relating to her like an equal. What child could resis that? And Dr. Who was a children's show originally. It's terrific to see it return to its roots. Matt Smith is great and captures all the finest qualities of the quirky timelord. My Doctor was Tom Baker, but 11 is a real rival. We'll have to see how his other seasons go. And my favorite companion? Leela. Who could resist her constantly asking, "Can I kill this one?"
Dr. Cox
22. Jim 11
It seems weird for me to think back and remember being a bit suspicious of Eleven before his series started, especially since I was never really a fan of Ten and the fact that Eleven stole the title of My Doctor within five minutes of appearing in "The Eleventh Hour". But it's the truth, and his geekiness and sexlessness are two of the things I love most about him, especially after Ten's "Let's snog everyone I meet" dynamic. So carry on, Matt Smith! Great job.
Dr. Cox
23. Saphira
@misskale, my understanding is that Matt Smith inhaled all the canon he could get his mitts on when he got the part, since he grew up without the show, and was most fond of Pat Troughton. It's not surprising that many of us see quite a bit of Two in Eleven--though I have also seen Four, Five, and had moments where I swore he would morph into Three and start some Venusian Aikido. Matt Smith is a marvel, being able to bring elements of all his predecessors into the mix while creating something completely his own. I doubted, too, but he had me at "I'm a girl?!?"
David McIntee
24. Lonemagpie
Jimmy Olsen? Must admit I never th0ught of that (my immediate reaction when the first photos came out was more Indy-in-the-classroom).

What is great is that it's the first time in my memory that we've gone straight from a Doctor who scores perfectly on my Doc-o-meter to another Doctor who scores perfectly on my Doc-o-meter...
Joshua Murdock
25. Jawshco
@Lonemagpie,

The "Doc-o-meter," that's fantastic. Yeah, Matt and David are both
perfect for me as well. The two girls in my house are still too in love with 10 to admit they like 11, but I think they'll come around. 10 had me right away, with his rude, non-Ginger, Arthur Dent bit, but 11's food oddessy ending with fish sticks and custard was a classic!

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