The casting of Matt Smith was an interesting moment, if only for the diversity of
reactions that it provoked in the fandom. Executive producer Steven Moffat had intimated
that he was looking for an older actor to take the part, so it was something of a surprise
that the final choice should be the youngest actor yet to take the role. Personally
speaking, I didn't have much of an opinion, because I'd never heard of him - which meant
of course that I had no baggage to colour my perception of the actor. Yet there were
sections of fandom bemoaning that Smith was a piece of pretty-boy casting, designed to
appeal to women and teenage girls who might have only been watching the show because they
fancied David Tennant. At the same time, there were those who complained that Smith was
ugly and would alienate the very same sections of the audience. They couldn't both be
right. Matt Smith could perhaps not be said to have conventional good looks, but I found
his somewhat angular face interesting and characterful. At times, there's a gawky and
clumsy quality to his movements, and a real unpredictability to his reactions - unexpected
bursts of anger mixed with moments of genuine human warmth.
Steven Moffat made a comment about how he seemed young and yet old at the same time, and
indeed this is something that came out in the characterization of the eleventh Doctor.
Following his first series, I was in no doubt that Smith was absolutely
the right choice for the part, and certainly the best
Doctor Who so far in the twenty-first century version of the show. Perhaps in keeping with
that young/old dichotomy, he seems to be more like the sort of Doctor we might have
expected in the original series - and yet at the same time, very much part of the modern
version of the show. This extends even as far as his costume, which was apparently chosen
by the actor himself, rejecting the "swashbuckler" look that the producers had originally
intended for him (which on the photographic evidence suggests he'd basically have been wearing Adam
Ant's costume from the Goody Two Shoes video). One thing is certain: the eleventh Doctor was not an attempt
to replicate the style and appeal of David Tennant, as some fans had speculated. Smith's interpretation
came completely out of left-field, and was a most welcome and refreshing development.
Unfortunately, as the series went on, there was a certain tendency in the scripts to emphasize
the more "wacky" aspects of Smith's characterization, which could be a little irritating
at times - though I never lost my patience with him in the same way I did with Tennant. All in all,
I was sad to see him go so soon. Given the actor's relative youth, I really think we could have
got several more seasons out of him.