Our Doctor Who
journey ends with the Raggedy Man himself: The Eleventh Doctor.
So come along, Ponds, and let us discuss.
With the announced exit of the much loved Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, there were some concerns about the actor who would follow him. Mainly if he could perform in the large Converse trainers of the beloved Tenth Doctor. These fears became especially apparent when a very young unknown actor, Matt Smith, was announced to be stepping into the TARDIS.
At the age of twenty-six, Matt Smith was the youngest actor to land the role as the Doctor. Everyone thought that he was too young or inexperienced to be able to pull of the gravitas of the character. Sure the Doctor could be funny and silly but he was also a very old man. They needed an actor that could balance both sides of him. Many were unsure if Matt Smith could do such a thing.
As the Tenth Doctor spoke those final words: “I don’t want to go;” the Eleventh Doctor entered with a bang (literally). In the last five minutes of “The End Of Time,” Eleven was a ball of energy, checking over his body and laughing as the TARDIS went spiraling down to Earth with a shout of “GERONIMO!!!!!”
Thus the era of the Raggedy Man, the Old Young Man, began.
The Eleventh Doctor is at his heart a dottering old man, trapped in a young man’s body. (It’s a very nice body as they show us several times throughout Eleven’s run, and once memorably on a Children In Need short in 2011.)
The Eleventh Doctor is a balance between the whimsical, kooky, adorkable Ten and the ferocious, dark Nine.
Eleven has an inner darkness that will not be ignored. His fury is more of tranquil sort but that is just as deadly. He has no qualms about hurting someone who has hurt him, people that he cares about, or if another life is being mistreated. In his second outing, “The Beast Below”, he was willing to kill the entire Starship England because they were torturing a star whale. He can be quick to anger, he likes being right all the time, he has no qualms about using somewhat questionable means to get to what he wants. He is also not above tossing you into a crack that will erase you from the universe (looking at you Weeping Angels in “Flesh and Stone”).
The Eleventh Doctor also has this air of being very alien. He does not quite fit in with humanity. It comes off in social awkwardness and is especially evident when he has to act “human;” such as in “The Lodger” or “The Power of Three.” You know something is off. Something is not computing; like when he doesn’t check to see if a planet has a disease in “The Girl Who Waited,” and his companion Amy contracts it? Yeah that’s another instance of just not thinking about the consequences some of his actions can have on his human companions. Another good example is in “Hide,” when he goes through the entire history of the planet in a blink of an eye while poor Clara quietly has a breakdown because of it.
Despite the darkness and because of the alien-ness, what shines through is his adoration for the universe, a passion for adventure, a love of humanity and other species, and just being a gigantic dork.
The sense a person can get from this Doctor is that he is an old man with a young man’s body. It’s evident through his movements, trying to be “cool,” and his mannerisms. This is a guy who is reliving his youth with no real clue as to what to do with it. He also has a habit of naming things; like the TARDIS, which he affectionately called “Sexy.” It makes for a hilarious (and really sweet) moment in “The Doctor’s Wife” when the TARDIS’ consciousness is transferred into a human(ish) body.
The Eleventh Doctor is limbs and energy. He runs, flails, jumps, and dances around all over the place. He is constantly in motion and engages in more physical based comedy than previously seen. He runs into things seriously in like the first five minutes of “The Eleventh Hour,” he runs into a tree. Eleven is also a very tactile man. He will platonically kiss his companions or hug them or grab them in some way.
The Eleventh Doctor’s companions were the Ponds (Amy and Rory) followed by Clara. I don’t really count River as she doesn’t travel with him over multiple episodes. She just kind of does her own thing and shows up when needed.
The Ponds, the companions Eleven has had for the majority of his run, are the longest serving companions in the revival of Doctor Who.
They’ve been on from the fifth series until midway through the seventh series. The Doctor started as Amy’s childhood “imaginary” friend who came back and swept her up into adventure. While Amy loved the Doctor (she kissed him at one point early on in “The Vampires of Venice”), she loved Rory more.
The rock solid marriage of the Ponds provided a good balance to Ten’s run where two out of three companions were attracted to him. Actually, the fun thing with Eleven is that he has no clue that he can be considered attractive until it’s too late. He even got Marilyn Monroe interested in a “A Christmas Carol”.
Amy and Rory Pond (or Williams) were genuinely friends with the Doctor. They loved him. They followed him anywhere. They cared about him and they provided a good moral center. They had to remind the Doctor that he was a good man in his more aggressive moments) “A Town Called Mercy”).
Later on, they really became family when the Doctor married River Song. I won’t get into that, in case of spoilers; but yeah…time travel it’s weird.
Needless to say, when the Ponds left in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” it was a truly dark day for the Doctor and for the Who
fandom. The Ponds were truly beloved companions in their short run. They were the Eleventh Doctor’s family, and to have them taken away broke everyone’s heart.
Especially the Doctor’s heart.
He became a bitter curmudgeonly Scrooge-like old man. He locked himself away and refused to find his own happiness. Until Clara Oswin Oswald came along.
Clara (who has a very, very complicated reason as to why she is reborn so I’ll leave that to whoever writes a companion piece on her) is not as brave as the Ponds. She did, however, have a big heart and a desire to see more of the wider universe. She also provided someone who pulled the Doctor out of his exile from humanity. They don’t have the familial relationship of the Ponds. I wouldn’t even really call them friends. The Doctor and Clara have a relationship of a mentor and a pupil. She doesn’t fully trust the Doctor and he spends much of her tenure keeping secrets to figure her out. In the second half of series seven, after Clara joins, the Doctor is a more subdued man even though he is still running around like a crazy person. He is feeling every single loss and grief from them much like an old man who has outlived those he loves.
The Doctor, however, is the kind of old man who never wants to see a child cry (“The Beast Below” and “The Rings of Akhaten”). So he is still a nice old man.
The thing about Eleven is, that he is a mass of contradictions. He is old and young. He is energetic and still. He is kind and angry. He loves and hates. He wants to travel through time and wants nothing to change. He wants to be known and deletes himself through the universe.
I’ve seen a lot of Doctor Who.
From watching Four and Five under a blanket fort on PBS on Saturdays nights to rediscovering the series with Nine as he shouted “Everybody lives” and Ten with his allons-y.
The Eleventh Doctor was both weary and excited, happy and sad, old and young…he was my Doctor. From the moment he came into being with a huge “GERONIMO” until he takes his final bow in the 2013 Christmas episode; Eleven captured my heart, my imagination, and my love.
I think what makes me love it so much is that Matt Smith captured the essence of the Doctor. He captured the unspeakable age of the man while always still maintaining a zest for life in all of its forms. He makes peace with his past. He mourns for what he’s lost. He still, with some prodding, moves forward evermore.
Smith brought an unbounded enthusiasm, tempered with an inner darkness to the role. He truly made you believe that he was over a millenium old. He brought a bit of Classic Who
to his performance (see The Second Doctor) while also breathing new life to the role. It only serves to credit Smith for a truly great run.
We have two more episodes left: “The Day Of The Doctor” and the Christmas Special.
So I leave you something very awesome and a great piece of advice.
Now remember kids: Bowties. Are. Cool.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.