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The Doctors Revisited - MATT SMITH

Andrew Jero continues his look back at each era of Doctor Who. Today he casts a critical eye over the time of the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith.

The third in my series of articles where I will be taking a critical look at each of the Doctor's eras. I've been approaching them in ascending order of preference, starting out with the Tenth, then the Ninth, and today I will be taking a look at the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith and his portrayal of the Time Lord.

Let's start with a story that was the very first of Matt Smith's era, and also one of the very best. The Eleventh Hour is easily one of the finest introductory episodes a Doctor could wish for, we get a fresh slate and an introduction to two new companions, Amy and Rory. The episode cleverly introduces several concepts that would finally be cleared up in the Eleventh Doctor's last ever episode, The Time of the Doctor, the crack in time and space being one of them. So we had a good story to start off a fairly enjoyable era.

Now onto my favorite story of the Matt Smith era, The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone two parter. The first time the series used the Weeping Angels (Blink) didn’t work for me, but this time I felt they were actually scary and really well used. The story is a brilliant concept aided by a trio of great actors delivering excellent performances, namely from Smith, Karen Gillian and Alex Kingston. The cliffhanger felt like something out of classic Doctor Who and remains my second favorite cliffhanger of the new series (coming in behind the Dark Water cliffhanger). Unlike many of the two part adventures we had seen since 2005, the second half of the story was as good as the first, and really let Matt Smith shine in what was, in my opinion, his best season. The story was pretty creepy, with the crack making people disappear and everyone forgetting they existed at all.

Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor is leaps and bounds better than that of his immediate predecessors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Although, like the men that came before him, his era is marred by some of the supporting characters taking the spotlight, especially River Song. While this was nowhere near as annoying as the Ten/Rose dynamic, it does become old after Smith's first season. But in The Time of the Angels River Song was interesting and not yet over used and irritating to watch.

Moving on to the Eleventh Doctor's first season finale The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. While using every villain ever in Doctor Who in one episode is okay for an anniversary episode, it only kind of works here. The speech at Stonehenge is fantastic and the moment when the Doctor realizes that it is he that is to be put inside the Pandorica is powerful. The apparent death of this Doctor in part two is an interesting twist, but one that made the story confusing enough that on first broadcast I had to watch it two or three times for it to fully make sense. Overall it was a fairly enjoyable story with a few hiccups here and there, but not enough to make it a negative viewing experience.

Something from the Eleventh Doctor era I really enjoyed was the Craig/Doctor friendship which we first saw in The Lodger, and then again the following year in Closing Time. However, although we had Stormageddon, who was a welcome fun addition, the entire Cyberman element of that second story just didn’t work for me. I actually believe that the new series hasn’t done a good Cyberman story until this years Dark Water/Death in Heaven, which I've alwasy found a shame because the Cybermen are my favorite recurring villain in classic Doctor Who. It's become very frustrating that they are not used in a cool or interesting way. Closing Time is near the pinnacle of this frustration, because it presents one the very worst ideas in 51 years of Doctor Who - Cybermen being defeated by love. Really? Thank goodness for Craig/Stormageddon and the Cybermat (Not CyberMatt, his turn will come), something not seen since season 12’s Revenge of the Cybermen. The story could’ve been way better had the Cybermen not been included in the story and another new race of aliens featured instead.

So what was the absolute pinnacle of frustrating Cybermen stories? Well, it also comes from the Eleventh Doctor's era and is easily one of the worst episodes in the show’s history - Nightmare In Silver. The story makes no sense and has some of the worst characters ever featured in Doctor Who. There's the annoying children, and Clara who delivers possibly her worst performance in the series, all of whom are beaten by Porridge, truly one of the worst characters to be seen on modern television. Not forgetting the fast moving Cybermen that can heal themselves and a more emotional performance by the CyberMatt. It's an even bigger abomination if you consider the amazing writer that penned this particular disaster (Neil Gaiman).

But for my money the worst episode of the Matt Smith era is without a doubt The Girl Who Waited, at number six on my all time bottom ten list. By the end of the episode I couldn’t have cared who died as long as it just came to an end. Both Amy’s, no Amy, Amy and Rory, I don’t care, it needed to be over! It was a mess, and featured a particularly poor turn by Karen Gillian as the old Amy, she proved to be worse than that of Jenny Laird as Neska. It's not that it was a terrible idea, it was just that (and this has sometimes been the case in Doctor Who) the execution was terrible. 

Overall, Matt Smith's era as the Eleventh Doctor was fairly enjoyable, with some real high points, but unfortunately it also contained a few of the worst episodes in the show’s long history.

Score out of 10 for the Matt Smith era: 5.5/10

Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts, and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.

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