The end of the Russell T. Davies era in 2010 meant that not only would there be a different showrunner and team, but there would be a new Doctor as well. At first, many had no idea how Matt Smith, who was a relative newcomer at that time, could replace the beloved David Tennant. However, as the show went on, Steven Moffat and Smith were able to bring something wholly new and exciting to the show. In fact, Smith’s Doctor was the first Doctor of many who were getting into the show as it began to reach global heights. For me, personally, Smith’s portrayal and the character itself became better and better series after series, to the point that the Eleventh Doctor became a Doctor that isn’t MY Doctor, but is very much near and dear to my heart.
Right from the get go, Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor was very much different from Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. “The Eleventh Hour” proved that Smith could handle big speeches, a wide range of emotions, physical acting (whether it be action sequences or comedic bits), and had a different playful, mad scientist kind of aura around him. However, he also did prove that he was capable of outwitting his enemies by being one step ahead of them as he was quietly planning and orchestrating events in his own way.
The Eleventh Doctor romped around the universe, wore a tweed jacket, suspenders, said Geronimo every so often, was great with children, and proclaimed that things that he liked were “cool”, and everything he didn’t like wasn’t “cool”.
Born out of solitude, this Doctor didn’t just seek out friendships at first, but sought out companions who became almost like family to him.
However, this Doctor was capable of schooling his enemies by outwitting them, pouring out cold and quiet anger at them, or giving speeches, while utilizing his centuries old reputation, which also often ended up being the reason why his enemies wanted him gone. This was deinitely a madman in a box, and even his TARDIS interior, especially the first one, showcases that well.
This was also the Doctor that bargained with the universe and often proclaimed that “Time can be rewritten”; and a Doctor, that more often than not, seemed like an old man in a young man’s body.
More than the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, the Eleventh Doctor’s life span was by far the longest, so when it was time for him to go, he calmly accepted it.
The Eleventh Doctor’s character journey went through different phases- there were his adventures with Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and River Song (Alex Kingston), which were also divided into two phases; his travels with Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman); the events of “The Day of the Doctor”; and everything that happened to him in “The Time of the Doctor”.
Smith’s portrayal of the Eleventh Doctor, and Moffat’s grasp of the character, only got better and better as the show progressed, which made it easier for them to fully actualize the character so that there would be no loose threads hanging by the time that Smith left the helm of the TARDIS.
Thanks to this, and having wonderful co-actors to bounce off of, the Eleventh Doctor, became someone who became very much loved in the history of the show.
Now, before we go any further, you know the drill….spoilers abound from here on out!
While it is not considered as canon, I believe that each regeneration of the Doctor is a reaction to his previous incarnation. And in this can also be seen in the case of the Eleventh Doctor.
The Eleventh Doctor was borne out of solitude, as his predecessor regenerated alone in the TARDIS after checking up on all of the companions that he’d had since Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), as mentioned in “The Sarah Jane Adventures” episode entitled “The Death of the Doctor”. So, this time around, this Doctor sought out not just friends, but extraordinary people whom he knew he could take with him along for the ride, and those whom he could bond with, until they are almost like family. And interestingly enough, The Ponds did become his surrogate family, and he often treated Clara like a sibling.
Aside from this, he was more cautious at times when it came to answering mysterious summons from out of the blue, and would rather know everything first before actually coming up with a plan. Sometimes, he makes a plan, it fails, and then he improvises; but when it came to more serious matters, he’d rather play the long game, and then reveal later on that he’d actually been planning things out the entire time. This Doctor also lied more than the Tenth Doctor, and outwardly, he didn’t harp too much on how he is the last of the Time Lords like the Tenth Doctor did.
The Eleventh Doctor was also pretty much incapable of standing still, to the point that he would really go on adventures, and adventures with River while Amy and Rory were sleeping.
He also has a certain warmth and whimsy around him, and this is very much reflected in his first TARDIS interior, with the different knobs and buttons of the TARDIS console, and the more orange glow that it emits from within.
However, this Doctor, when pushed too far, will bite back hard, and his quiet and cold anger, truly makes hims scary and dangerous, especially if his enemies put his friends in jeopardy just to get at him. He is also the type who has no qualms over outright killing those who have pushed the envelope too far. He also had less qualms about deliberately messing around with time, and within a person’s personal timeline.
He is also pretty dangerous to others,especially to his companions, as he is pretty reckless, which constantly puts them in danger, and is something that he readily admits to be guilty off.
All those years of building up a reputation across time and space are a double edged sword for this Doctor. He does use his reputation, in a matter of fact way, to impress on his enemies that he is someone to be feared, and this also allows him to make grandiose speeches that make him seem almost god-like and arrogant at the same time. However, this all came to bite him back hard as well, as other beings began to conspire against him, which caused havoc in the Ponds’ life as well, as the Silence took their baby, Melody (or as we know her, Mels or River Song), and utilized the fact that she is part Time Lord to engineer a weapon against the Doctor.
These things and themes seemed to appear more during Series 5 and 6, when the Ponds and River were traveling with him. (Well, with River, it was more of an occasional thing, really). Sure, these traits still popped up during Series 7 until “The Time of the Doctor”, but it was really more prominent in Series 5 and 6.
After Series 6, the Doctor seemed to have a completely new lease on life, because he was able to find a way to cheat his own death, and because he began to delete himself from databases as he had gotten too big already. When he finally began to travel again with the Ponds, it looked like he was having more fun than ever, but at the same time, he also knew that he couldn’t travel with them forever, and would rather get weaned off of them as painlessly as possible. However, this changed when they decided to travel full time again with him, and the trio seemed unstoppable, until they met the Weeping Angels again in “The Angels Take Manhattan”. The Doctor wasn’t expecting the Ponds, his family unit who literally became his actual family due to his marriage to their daughter, was suddenly gone. That, and the fact that they actually traveled with him for a long time, caused the Doctor to sulk and withdraw from the world.
His new TARDIS interior then, became colder, and more metallic, and if it is to believed, his new time rotors actually held the names of all of his companions since he first started traveling about, written in Gallifreyan. His costume also changed, swapping the tweed jacket for a brown coat, a brown vest with a pocket watch, and of course, his signature bow tie.
The mystery of “The Impossible Girl”, Clara, got the Doctor interested in things again, and this time, he treated as a mystery and as a sibling.
After their first visit to Trenzalore, andthe events of “The Day of the Doctor”, the Eleventh Doctor seemed to have more hope than before. However, things took a little turn for the worse in “The Time of the Doctor”, where, during the Siege of Trenazalore, I feel that he became a little bit of a War Doctor #2, as he strove to protect the peace, the inhabitants of Christmas, and his own people by not answering the oldest question in the universe- “Doctor Who?”- which would allow the Time Lords to assume that it was safe for Gallifrey to come back home.
However, he went out with a lot of hope for the future, especially as he was really expecting to die for real this time as all of his regenerations were already used up. With this new cycle, however, the Doctor knew that he had a future, but was uncertain of what the future would be for him.
Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor was very different from Tennant’s version of the Doctor. This Doctor was more alien than Ten was, and Smith’s humour, youth, comedic timing, and great physicality, as well as nailing emotional moments in a way that only he could pull off, made for a great Doctor.
The differences between their Doctors can mostly be seen in “The Day of the Doctor”. Eleven would take charge of the situation more often than not because he had a plan in mind always, such as carving in a date for them to be rescued while in the Tower of London, and he is touted as “The Man Who Forgets”, as he had decided to stop dwelling on the Time War anymore.
Also, he was really able to pull off the whole “old man trapped in a young man’s body” thing really well, and the subtle differences between the older and younger versions of the Eleventh Doctor were great as well.
For me, Smith’s best performances included “The Eleventh Hour”; “The Doctor’s Wife”, “A Good Man Goes to War”; portraying two versions of himself in episodes such as “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon”, “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People”, and in “Nightmare in Silver”; and his speeches in episodes such as “The Rings of Akhaten” and his farewell speech in “The Time of the Doctor”.
With regards to his relationship with River, it was this incarnation whom River spent the most time with, although I do refer to his time with River as dating or as newly weds.
My Spotify playlist for the Eleventh Doctor tries to encapsulate all of his adventures, and the people who played an integral part in the life of the Eleventh Doctor.
Of course, Eleven’s theme is definitely “I Am the Doctor”, which is playful, fun, and yet grand and heroic all at the same time.
You can find my playlist here:
Personally, the Eleventh Doctor is very near and dear to my heart because among the Doctors I have seen, I can relate to him the most, especially with getting distracted pretty easily.
Also, I didn’t expect to cry when the Eleventh Doctor regenerated into the Twelfth Doctor. I had grown really fond of him, and at the time I was watching it, I had managed to avoid most spoilers about how Peter Capaldi was doing as the Doctor. So, I went into “The Time of the Doctor” with genuine trepidation about the future of the character.
In the end, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor will always be fondly remembered as the “mad man in a box” with a bow tie, who will always have one trick up his sleeve to save the universe, before he goes on to do a million other things first before saving the universe again, well, unless you present him with a fez, because he will never pass up on the opportunity to wear one.
What did you think of the Eleventh Doctor and Matt Smith’s portrayal of him. Was the Eleventh Doctor your first Doctor? What were your favorite and least favorite Eleventh Doctor moments? Let me know what you think in the comments below!