DOCTOR WHO: Battle of the Doctors - Matt Smith or David Tennant??? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO: Battle of the Doctors - Matt Smith or David Tennant???

Tom Pheby tries to pick a favourite from the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.

Who was the better Doctor? David Tennant or Matt Smith? This is a complicated question due to the fact that both managed very successfully to embrace the part and stamp their own identity on the role of the much traveled Time Lord.

There are some similarities between their performances that reference previous incumbents of the big blue box. Maybe this was a deliberate exercise by both, Smith studying hours of footage to decide upon which traits to embrace, and Tennant recalling his childhood memories of the show he grew up adoring. I suspect that delving into the Doctor's past encounters gives a valuable insight into 'Who' he is. There's certainly not many other shows that can offer that to the new lead actor.

It's almost a type of sport in the world of Who, seeing where influences came from. "Oh, Pertwee did that too", or "That's very Hartnell". We often like to neatly box or lump our Doctors together into categories, and it's been said that Patrick Troughton was Smith's yard stick. I can easily see why, but Tennant's performance is harder to dissect. There are traces of Troughton certainly and one could even say an element of Tom Baker too, but such is Tennant's style that you can't exactly put a finger on it.

Christopher Eccleston seemed to work exclusively with the scripts at hand and probably took little joy in sifting through previous material. Whereas I suspect both Tennant and Smith probably thought the past was the best place to start when approaching the character. On further examination of both actors performances it seems neither of them follow a direct homage to any one particular Doctor, and if anything they both include multiple elements of them all.

After a slow start David Tennant found that the shoes of the Doctor were very quickly a perfect fit, and as is so often the case the scripts were shaped to fit his shadow. Performances grew and he embraced all elements of the Doctor's quirkiness and childish curiosity in equal measure, giving some startling good and solid displays, firmly establishing himself as a huge fan favourite. His Doctor could be ruthless, compassionate, emotionally vulnerable, comic and clinical within a single episode, whereas Matt Smith gave us a more controlled and subtle combination of all of the above. But don't think for one moment that I'm showing favoritism at this point.

Matt Smith's introduction allowed the Time Lord possibly the greatest ever regeneration in terms of adjustment and transition. Smith showed a divine flair for comedy from the opening story, this would later be entwined with his darker, more thoughtful approach. Smith's Doctor seemed much more plagued by his past and choices, possibly due to him nearing the end of his regenerations. Of course Tennant's Doctor also had the guilt of the Time War but it never felt as heavy as it did with the Eleventh, maybe due to the fact that the story was still unfolding.

Tennant gave us much to be thankful for, he put the show firmly back on track after the shock early exit of Eccleston and gradually made it five times more popular - credit, where credit is due. I enjoyed his sense of mischief and selfishness, sometimes bending time to suit himself. This would be something that Smith's version seemed to do more frequently, and often to greater effect. They are neck and neck here!

When Billie Piper left it released Tennant's Doctor from the complicated emotional attachment and normal service was resumed. Without a love struck Rose, Ten was free to grow and truly own the role, and with the quirky Donna Noble the show became much less manic and a lot more engaging. Matt Smith's Doctor had no real intention of becoming emotionally entangled with Amy Pond, thankfully! She was more a best friend, or a sister, and the shift in the dynamics within the TARDIS was complete when Rory Williams was added to the mix. Yet you sometimes felt that although they worked incredibly well together the whole Amy/Rory/River/Melody/Doctor storyline was an albatross around Smith's neck, and once the Pond's were gone things worked better, for both the Doctor and for Smith's portrayal.

Not that I hate the Pond's, Karen Gillan was a breath of fresh air and I don't think I've ever secretly fancied an assistant to that degree before. Her interaction with the Doctor was great but it became harder to incorporate all the cast without someone appearing futile.

So let's judge each Doctor's stories and the scripts they were given. In this department Smith fairs slightly better than Tennant. He had the luxury of coming into a hugely popular show with vast resources and a change of show runner who would alter the direction in which he went and how he got there. Steven Moffat's scripts, although irritatingly complex at times are superb. Taking over from Russell T Davies must have been an enormous endeavor, but he provided Matt Smith with one of the strongest debut stories ever in the form of The Eleventh Hour.

With RTD his time in charge of the show got better year on year, culminating with The End of Time. I still argue that this was a perfect swan song for Tennant, his Doctor's finest hour. It was simply stunning and is still quite possibly my favorite of Tennant's time in the TARDIS. A controversial choice I know, but it was a 'builder', creating great tension as the story unfolded and provided the perfect platform for Tennant to use everything in his locker. The same could also be said for Matt Smith in regard to 'The Doctor' trilogy (Name, Day, Night).

At this point it's almost impossible to split the pair, but what you can say is that each made a vital contribution to the show in their own unique way. Each undertook a different approach, with differing results, both equally rewarding.

Behind Tom Baker, who is my firm favourite, Tennant and Smith easily make up my top three Doctors, although choosing the number Two and Three position would put me in a position of unparalleled anxiety. Both have gained their place in the history of Doctor Who, and both have made it a joy to watch. I may not be able to split them, but I certainly admire both for their considerable contributions.

So who do you think was the better Doctor? Matt Smith or David Tennant?

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