A New Year, A New Doctor
Matt Smith has been announced as the eleventh Doctor. I've seen him as Danny in Party Animals, which I'd started watching, weirdly enough, as I hardly follow any TV series. (I must have had a premonition - similarly, I picked up Blackpool just before David Tennant took over as Doctor No. 10.)
I've been a Dr Who fan for a long, long time (not quite 900 years, but it feels like it). The central conceit of the show - the time/space machine that's bigger on the inside, the mysterious Doctor who can change bodies when necessary - is a story-telling mechanism of brilliant elasticity. The Doctor has roamed through the past and the future, everywhere from cosy English villages to the outer reaches of the universe.
The beginning of Singer of All Songs, where the mysterious Darrow arrives from the outside world and whisks the innocent Calwyn away into a life of dangerous adventure, owes quite a bit to the Dr Who paradigm! The notion of the TARDIS landing in your back garden and the Doctor beckoning you inside has always been terrible seductive.
My first Doctor (the series' fourth) was Tom Baker. "All teeth and curls" as one of his successors described him, he seemed to relish the role. Perhaps he sensed that he would be forever the Doctor. Always eccentric, sometimes autocratic, sometimes plain silly, he personified the enigmatic time traveller as a larger than life figure, with a larger than life scarf. At seven years the longest-lasting Doctor, Tom Baker remains for many the quintessential Time Lord.
But the Doctor I loved was the fifth, Peter Davison. I already had a huge crush on him from All Creatures Great and Small, and when I heard he was taking over as the Doctor, I felt as if all my Christmases had come at once. Amazingly, he lived up to my expectations. Young, energetic, cricket-loving, his Doctor was a vulnerable hero, who always meant well but often made mistakes, a more human character than his predecessor. He was the Doctor of my dreams...
...until David Tennant arrived! The Tenth Doctor has blended child-like wonder and manic enthusiasm with moments of chilling ruthlessness that remind you that he is not, and never will be, human.* And it doesn't hurt that DT is, in the words of Catherine Deveny, a red-hot spunk. He's been very nearly perfect, absolutely loveable, but with a core of remoteness. And his costume is the best yet, stylish yet practical (love the Converse runners with the pin-stripe suit!)
It'll be interesting to see what Matt Smith does with the role. Every Doctor has been subtly different. I'm slightly apprehensive that he might be too young; the Doctor needs to convey an ancient authority as well as vibrant energy - a hard balance to pull off. But even if Matt Smith ends up being less wonderful than my favourite Doctors, I'll keep watching.
* Except for that couple of episodes where he changed his body chemistry - and that didn't work out too well.