Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Unlikely Person Who Changed My Mind About Matt Smith

If you didn't already know, I'm a Doctor Who fan.

Suffice it to say, this post probably won't interest you unless you, too, are a Doctor Who fan.

Also, let it be known that if you aren't up to date with Doctor Who, there might be some slight Spoilers, Sweetie.

And since I'm already being direct, I might as well go ahead and state that David Tennant, the 10th Doctor, is, and very likely will always be, my favorite Doctor.  Perhaps that is why, when David Tennant didn't want to go and Matt Smith GERONIMO!ed his way into the TARDIS, I decided I didn't like this young guy with the angular face and derpy hair.

This was more than the usual, "You've redecorated the Doctor.  I don't like it," phase that most Whovians go through upon a new regeneration.  The more I watched the 11th Doctor, the more I felt that something vital to the Doctor had been lost.  He could be serious, even properly scary-angry at times, but I felt like he never had enough depth to be the Doctor.

In the 50th Anniversary episode, the 10th Doctor was dubbed 'the man who regrets,' and the 11th Doctor was dubbed 'the man who forgets.'  And I certainly agreed with that assessment.  It seemed as though the 11th Doctor had forgotten everything that had happened before his regeneration and just awkward-giraffe-danced into this completely different and new AmyPondRiverSongCrackinWallFezEnthusiastStevenMoffatSilenceWillFall thrill ride.  He just went Wibbly-Wobbling throughout the universe, handing out paradoxes like jelly babies.  He wasn't the 10th Doctor.  He wasn't the 9th Doctor.  He wasn't any of the older Doctors that I started watching, either.   He was something different--too carefree, too flippant, too flirty, too clueless, and just, well...the wrong kind of silly.

Honestly, if it hadn't been for Rory, I would have stopped watching.  Love a Rory.  Rorys are cool.

So, when it was announced that Matt Smith was leaving the show, I was thrilled.  Just thrilled.  It didn't matter who it was who replaced him (though I prayed that Moffat would wibbly-wobbly something together and get Tennant back for good).  I just wanted him gone.

When Peter Capaldi was announced, I was pleasantly surprised that they were going for an older Doctor.  When they surprised us by revealing his famous (infamous?) eyebrows in the 50th Anniversary episode, I knew we were in for something amazing.  When the 11th Doctor regenerated into the 12, and he started disliking the colour of his kidneys in a rich Scottish brogue, I felt like all was right in the universe.  Ding dong, the Smith was dead.  Which-a-Smith?  The Silly Smith!  Ding dong, the Silly Smith was dead!

...Speaking of the wrong kind of silly.  Sorry.  Sorry everyone.  So, so sorry.

Well, I waited for months, like the rest of the world, for the first full Capaldi/12th Doctor episode.  And it. was. brilliant.  HE was brilliant.  All Scottish and angry eyebrows and mysterious.  I felt like the Silly Smith was gone, and this Doctor, this older Scottish Doctor was going to get back to the Doctor's roots.  He was going to be something new, but something old at the same time.

But, as I watched, I noticed something I wasn't expecting with the 12th Doctor.


Behind those ferocious eyebrows and wizened face was a man who was frightened, just terrified.  What frightened him so?


Maybe it's because he's Scottish, or maybe it's because he's more mature, or maybe, just maybe, it's because he's more childlike--but the 12th Doctor is honest, blatantly honest.  It's not that he doesn't have the capacity to lie.  The Doctor lies, of course.  But he knows that "people don't need to be lied to."  He's very direct, very straightforward, sometimes obnoxiously so.  He doesn't conceal his thoughts or feelings well, nor does he really even seem to think he should.  And I think he just might turn out to be the most complex Doctor yet.

The 12th Doctor is beginning to face himself, again

I never understood Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor.  I thought he was just ridiculous most of the time.  But, like many things in the universe, I could never really learn to appreciate him until he was gone.

But I realized through the 12th Doctor, new as he is, what it was that I really didn't like about the 11th Doctor.  We were reminded many times through out the 11th Doctor's reign that "the Doctor lies."  The 11th Doctor told many lies, many of them bold-faced, and often to those he cared the most about.  But I recently learned that there was one person the 11th Doctor lied to the most.

Again, himself.

The 10th Doctor was brilliant, just brilliant, and I dearly miss David Tennant as the Doctor, but one would have to be a fool NOT to see that he got a little scary and dark near the end of his reign as the Doctor.  Along with all the other demons that the Doctor has had to carry throughout the centuries, I think 10's seriousness all just got to be too much for him.  He had lived too long, indeed.  When the 11th Doctor came along, he NEEDED to be "the man who forgets" instead of "the man who regrets."  The regret had become too much.  And so he donned a bow tie, proclaimed it cool, and went on an awkward romp through the universe.  Rules didn't matter as much.  Everything was cool.  As long as he could keep that pesky crack in the wall from destroying the universe, more than once or twice, everything was cool.  He could flirt with his future wife/best friend's daughter while said best friend was still pregnant with her.  Everything was cool.  He could quickly forget his wife and start wildly flirting with an Impossible Girl who was, in another time and place, a Dalek.  Everything was cool.

But the 11th Doctor wasn't silly for silliness' sake, as I long believed.  He was silly because he couldn't fully face all the darkness that was within him.  He couldn't bear to think of all that he had lost.  He couldn't bear to think of why or how he had lost it.  He needed to forget.  He needed to lie.  So he put on a young face, a bow tie, occasionally a fez, and just pretended he was far more carefree than he actually was.

But age caught up to him.  Time caught up to him.  He expected to die, and I think a part of him was relieved.  He had managed to run away from himself until the end.  I think it was as a childish man in an aged 11th Doctor's body that he accepted a new regeneration cycle.  And maybe it was that gift of life that got his attention.  Maybe it was the knowledge that his fellow Time Lords really were still alive out there somewhere.  Maybe it was just that he was tired, so, so tired, of running away.

But whoever it was that "frowned him this face," I think it is clear that the 12th Doctor isn't running away anymore.  No more lies.

We're only a few episodes into his regeneration, but I'm already seeing that the 12th Doctor is afraid, but he's starting to face his fears.  He's starting to face himself.  He doesn't like what he sees.  It saddens him deeply.  It terrifies him.  But instead of running away and pretending to be strong, he's allowing himself to be vulnerable.

He doesn't mince words.  He doesn't do social graces.  He admits when he needs help.  In fact, he almost demands it, as if he can't think beyond himself--like a child.  In some ways, even in a more mature form, the 12th Doctor is more childlike than the apparently young 11th Doctor.  And it's this vulnerability, this acceptance of who he is and how things are, that make him intriguing.  I think he's going to wind up being one of my favorite Doctors.  It's too soon to tell, perhaps, but I very well may end up liking him as much as the 10th Doctor.

As for Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, he will never be one of my favorites, but I have a much greater appreciation for him now.  I understand him.  I actually want to go back and watch all of his episodes again with my renewed perspective, so that I can give him another chance.

And it took Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor for me to understand the 11th.  That, more than anything else, shows me how truly remarkable this new Doctor is.  I think we're in for something amazing.  I think we're going to see both more darkness and more light in the Doctor than we have seen in quite some time.  I think it is going to be fantastic.

Just fantastic.


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