How important is it that the actor playing the ‘Doctor’ is a fan? How important is their age? How important is their haircut? Well at the time Matt Smith was announced as the eleventh ‘Doctor’, to some ‘Whovians’, they seemed the most important things in the world.
Matt Smith was born in Northampton England on the 28th of October 1982. A talented sports man he was spotted by Northampton Town Football Club at a young age. He would later go on to play for the youth teams of Nottingham Forest and Leicester City until a back injury ended his dreams of going professional.
The injury and end of a dream led to Smith suffering from a mild depression. As a way of helping Smith out of his depression a drama teacher at his school, Northampton School for Boys, signed him up to appear in their production of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ without Matt’s prior knowledge. Smith, who saw acting as a socially unacceptable, reluctantly agreed; although he did refuse to go to a drama festival the same teacher had also signed him up for.
Over the next year Smith showed a talent for acting. So much so that, instead of collage, the drama department persuaded him to audition for the ‘National Youth Theatre’ in London. This would lead to him later studying ‘Drama & Creative Writing’ at the ‘University of East Anglia’.
It was whilst appearing in the universities production of ‘The Master and Margarita’ that Smith was spotted by his first agent. Slowly his work load increased leading to an agreement with his university that he would not have to attend lectures throughout his final year and still graduate.
Over the next couple of years he started to make a name for himself on the national theatre circuit. He drew high praise especially for his appearance as ‘Lockwood’ in Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’.
During this time he was also gaining television and short film credits. Most notable of these was his critically acclaimed portrayal of parliamentary researcher ‘Danny Foster’ in the BBC drama ‘Party Animals’.
He was announced as the new ‘Doctor’ on the ‘BBC Breakfast’ show on the 31st January 2009. The announcement drew a flood of complaints from many fans of the how. These mainly ranged around the fact that such a young, inexperienced and unknown actor would not be able to handle the pressure of one of the BBC’s flagship shows.
Smith had had his audition on the first day. From the moment show runner Steven Moffat saw him he was his favourite for the role. He was also auditioning for ‘Watson’ in Moffat’s planned new show ‘Sherlock’ at the same time. Moffat decided that Smith’s portrayal of ‘Watson’ was too erratic. He later said he may have considered him for ‘Holmes’ had that part had not already been cast.
The press had long rumoured who the then current ‘Doctor’ David Tennant replacement would be. Names such as David Morrissey, Robert Carlyle, James Nesbitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and even Jon Pertwee’s son Sean had been the favourites. This meant that the then virtually unknown Smith’s name was not even mentioned by the press until the day before the announcement.
During his time as the ‘Doctor’ Matt Smith won over all but his vehement of detractors. He had never seen the show before getting the part but, whilst watching old episodes as research, became a fan. His favourite ‘Doctor’ is Patrick Troughton who became a massive influence on Smith’s development of the role.
Overall Smith did a great job during a busy time in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. This started with a new Doctor, companion and show runner all at once, went through changes in companions and then ended with the shows 50th anniversary. He even got to perform the ‘Doctor Who’ theme with ‘Orbital’ at the 2010 ‘Glastonbury Festival’.
That’s not to say his time as the ‘Doctor’ has not had some criticism. This is mainly aimed at the soap-opera style relationship of his companions ‘Amy & Rory’ and the new fans Smith seemed to attract, known as ‘Dweeks’, who had little interest in episodes or ‘Doctors’ pre David Tennant.
Smith left the role in 2013 his last episode being that years Christmas special ‘The Time of the Doctor’. By the time he left many were saddened to see him go. Especially his legion of ‘Dweeks’ who struggled with seeing the ‘Doctor’ played by some over the age of 50. Something that was referenced in his replacements ‘Peter Capaldi’s’ first episode; as ‘Clara’ receives a call from Smith’s ‘Doctor’ asking her to give the new guy a chance.
Since leaving the show Smith has concentrated on a career in Hollywood. Unfortunately films such as ‘Lost River’ and ‘Terminator Genisys’ have been critical failures. The latter also being called a franchise killer. Although future release ‘Patient Zero’ has been praised by critics who have seen an early cut and he’s also to appear in the upcoming ‘Netflix’ drama ‘The Crown’.
Even as his career progresses he has not left the show that made him behind. He regularly appears at Comic Cons and is still happy to play the role for any young fan he might bump into. He has also said that like ‘Tennant’ he would be happy to one day return to the role both in the ‘Big Finish’ audio adventures and the show itself. Now that’s something both ‘Dweeks’ and ‘Whovians’ alike should look forward too.
Recommended films and TV appearances (outside of Doctor Who):-
Skynet / Alex / T-5000 – Terminator Genisys
Mr Collins – Pride, Prejudice & Zombies
Danny Foster – Party Animal
Bully – Lost River
Thomas – Womb