Tube Talk: The Doctor is in—a look at Doctor Who
By Paula Hendrickson
Count me among the millions of Doctor Who fans who considered David Tennant’s 10th Doctor to be their favorite Doctor. Granted, I still haven’t seen all of the Doctors from the original run, and have only seen a smattering of repeats with the fourth Doctor Tom Baker, who played the role the longest, and Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor. I’ve seen black-and-white footage of one or two of the older Doctors, too, but never seriously watched the series until it was revamped in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor.
Having a main character who regenerates when mortally wounded is sheer genius when it comes to prolonging a franchise, but it takes inspired casting to ensure its success. Eccleston didn’t have an immediate predecessor for fans to compare his performance with when the series was revived; he had the entire history of the prior eight Doctors. He refreshed the character and set a new tone for all subsequent Doctors to follow.
When Eccleston’s Doctor regenerated, I expected to be a bit disappointed by the new guy. I wasn’t. Tennant also managed to build on the foundation set by his predecessors while making the role his own. When it was announced that Tennant was leaving the show and would be replaced by the youngest Doctor yet, Matt Smith, I doubted someone with comparatively little professional experience could fill the complicated role.
Even in Smith’s debut episode it was clear the producers had found themselves an ideal new Doctor. Sure, Smith is young and looks kind of like he could be Conan O’Brien’s skinny younger brother, but over the course of his first season he demonstrated a deft ability to abruptly shift between humor and pathos while maintaining (if not increasing) the Doctor’s frenetic energy and spewing out all manner of convoluted sci-fi verbiage so essential to the show. The guy’s a good actor. Before the season was over, Smith was so at home in the TARDIS that I sometimes had trouble recalling if Tennant or Smith had starred in certain episodes.
Last year, I wasn’t exactly excited by a new season of Doctor Who, since it meant the end of Tennant’s beloved Doctor. Tennant still remains my favorite Doctor, but Smith has quickly become a very close second—almost a tie, really. (A bow tie, perhaps?)
After a long wait, Smith’s second season as the 11th Doctor premieres this weekend on BBC America. The series came stateside for the first time ever to shoot the two-part season-opener. Of course, anyone who watches BBC America already knows that since promos have been running pretty much all year touting that the Doctor was coming to America. It’s about time.
Doctor Who season premiere, Saturday, April 23 at 8 p.m. on BBC America.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the April 20-26, 2011, issue
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