Letting it get to you. You know what that’s called? Being alive. Best thing there is. Being alive right now is all that counts.
– “The Doctor’s Wife”
Soon, the Doctor will no longer be the Eleventh but the Twelfth. This is a bit weird because as long as I’ve been aware that New Who existed, Eleven has been there. I still remember the first episode I saw with him – “The Vampires of Venice,” a terribly cheesy story that made me think Doctor Who was stupid and ridiculous and not worth watching.
Well, I was wrong. I wish I’d begun earlier, so I could watch Eleven without spoilers, eagerly guessing what his next adventure might be. Instead, I only started watching when Matt Smith announced he was leaving the role.
Oh, well. There’s always the Twelfth to look forward to. One thing I love about the show is that the Doctor changes so often. Every few years, we get a new guy – or rather, a slightly different version of the same person. On the scale of awesome geeky things, I’d say that’s about as cool as a new Harry Potter book every year or someone discovering the lost manuscripts of J.R.R. Tolkien. (Which I just now made up.) But I’m getting off-topic. I’ll miss Eleven and wanted to write about why he’s cool, so I’ll leap right in. Geronimo!
I love Eleven for a number of reasons but it all comes down to this: he is a wonderful, even perfect combination of age and youth. I know many people would probably give that answer but I’m not concerned with being original because it really is what defines Eleven for me.
He has the face of, well, almost a kid, but he’s so, so old. Eleven hundred, I believe. Because I wasn’t watching Doctor Who a few years ago, I could’ve cared less when fans complained that Matt Smith would be terrible because he was only in his late twenties, the youngest actor ever cast for the role. But that was definitely a thing, and how wrong they were.
I don’t know how Matt Smith does it but he does a marvelous job of showing that Eleven is, literally, an old soul in a young man’s body. For that reason he is now one of my favorite actors. Christopher Eccleston was a fantastic (sorry) Doctor but his Ninth was only ever battle-weary and old. Meanwhile, I didn’t feel that David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was old at all until the series four specials, by which time he was almost done.
Eleven is different. Eleven is such a bundle of contradictions. He can speak Baby, get a job in a toy store, and ponder his impending death all in one episode (“Closing Time”). He can comfort young Merry Galel then at the end of the episode stand in front of a god screaming and crying about all he’s done and all the lives he’s ruined, all the things he can never forget (“The Rings of Akhaten”). And let’s not forget “Nightmare in Silver,” where he went to an amusement park and ends up part Cyberman.
At times he’s practically a kid with his Christmas list, ridiculous love of bow ties and fezzes, and utter lack of understanding of human customs. Other times, he’s much more serious. He’s an old and often lonely man – even when he does have companions he knows they won’t be there forever and then he’ll be back where he started, a mad man with a blue box and no one to share it with.
This lovely character is brought to us by two people. I think Eleven is one of the few good things Steven Moffat has created since becoming head writer. His stories for earlier series and earlier Doctors were brilliant but I haven’t been too pleased with anything from, well, the past three. Most of my favorite Eleven episodes weren’t written by Moffat – I’m still amazed that Neil Gaiman (who doesn’t even regularly write for Doctor Who or anything) could waltz in, pen “The Doctor’s Wife,” and end up with what is quite possibly the best episode of series six.
There is much in Eleven’s stories that I do not like, from the Ponds and series six to the sexism and Clara. But I think it’s important to separate a character from their story – my brother points out that the Sixth Doctor had terrible stories, but was actually not that bad on his own. So good job there, Moffat.
Of course, we can’t forget Matt Smith. I was going to apologize for how this post is less about just Eleven and more about Eleven-and-Matt-Smith but you know what? Eleven wouldn’t be exactly as I know and love him were it not for Smith. Characters are only that – characters – and actors must bring them to life, so it makes sense to thank Smith for playing such a wonderful Doctor. I love how alien his interpretation is. I realize that most of the Classic Doctors were played this way but in New Who, they’re usually more human.
Matt Smith may not make for the most handsome incarnation of the Doctor (he’s no David Tennant or John Barrowman or even Arthur Darvill) but that doesn’t matter. Just look at Four and the generation (hi, dad) who insists he is the Doctor – they didn’t care that he had a mop of hair and eyes that bugged out of his head. Matt Smith’s looks / actions actually work out in favor of him, I think.
Oh, I like his sense of humor and his voice and the way he shows emotions but what I really love is – well, the way he moves, I guess. This might sound weird and will be difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best. He has this strange ability to be simultaneously awkward and graceful. In “Let’s Kill Hitler” he dances around like a goofy kid and then falls flat on his face like the dying Time Lord he is. When he’s excited he scurries around the TARDIS happily, his gangly limbs going every which way as he pokes that button and pulls that lever.
I’m probably not making any sense but I guess what I’m trying to say is that actions are perhaps even more important than words. Anyone can deliver a few lines but I think it takes a lot of talent to show me how a character feels using one’s eyes, or the way one walks, or whatever. I really enjoy watching Matt Smith – he can do the old man / little boy thing without saying a word.
Eleven hates endings and I never know how to write them, so I’ll conclude by saying… wow. That I like Doctor Who surprises me a little but what surprises me more is that I like Eleven. For some reason I thought I would hate him and now he is quite possibly my second favorite. (This changes depending which Ten episode I’ve seen recently.) He’s a neat character and I wish he weren’t leaving, but I’m excited for Twelve too – I started watching so I’d be caught up in time to see Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.
Tonight I think I’m going to see his first episode, “The Eleventh Hour.” I am a silly person who enjoys being emotional about fictional characters. Are you the same way? What do you think about the Eleventh Doctor?