Simon Hattenstone makes heavy weather out of the relative unknown Matt Smith following David Tennant who has apparently just been voted (in something) the best Doctor ever.
Today this morning reported Matt Damon’s suggestion that the Oscars should be handed out after 10 years to ensure winners stood the test of time. I mention this not because I think David Tennant isn’t a great Doctor, but it proves nothing that whilst still, in effect, the “current” Doctor he is top of the polls.
When Pat Troughton took up the role, there had only been one Doctor – perhaps the toughest challenge, since he had to prove the Doctor’s persona could change. Despite his success, Jon Pertwee also made the role his own, and could be said to have followed on from – at the time – the “greatest Doctor ever”. When Tom Baker took over the role, again taking over the role from the greatest Doctor ever (spot the pattern?), like Matt Smith he was a relative unknown… Yet for many people he remains the greatest Doctor ever.
It was in the eighties that the pattern came unstuck. Peter Davison (who Matt Smith has been taking advice over lunch from lately) was also young (too young, he now claims) and left after doing less than half the time his predecessor spent in the role. But this was also a difficult time for the show, and the quality of the writing was going perhaps not as strong as it had once been – Matt Smith has Steven Moffatt in charge of that side of things. Similar things could be said of Baker C and McCoy, both stints terminated prematurely (not the actors’ choice) and McGann only got 90 minutes, hard to become the greatest Doctor ever in that time, even though he created a distinctive and enduring Eighth Doctor in that one appearance. And even when Tennant came to take over, Eccleston’s regeneration was identified with the show’s, a huge success. So in taking over from “the greatest Doctor ever” Smith is following the majority of his predecessors.
For what it’s worth, I do think Tennant is one of the greatest Doctors ever (I particularly like Troughton and Baker T) but he wasn’t perfect (it would be a dull world if he had been) and I have a huge admiration for Matt Smith and the new head writer. Looking forward to April 3rd, and the arrival of the Best. Doctor. Ever.