Well, here we are…the eve of Matt Smith’s regeneration and our goodbye to the Eleventh Doctor (okay, fine, he’s really the Twelfth Doctor, but he’ll always be known as Eleven). This is our first regeneration as Whovians and we’re not at all ready for the emotions that it is going to bring. While Sage and I would both identify David Tennant as “our” doctor, we both hold Matt Smith in very high esteem and we would be remiss if we did not pay tribute to him and what he has brought to Doctor Who.
We’ve watched Matt mature both physically (just LOOK at his little baby face in the first episodes of series 5) and as an actor over the course of his tenure as the Doctor but one quality he has always brought to his performance is the old man in a young body. He’s truly an old soul, and you see it in his eyes, not matter how much flailing around he does with his young body. And oh…the flailing. Matt brought a truly unique physicality to the role with the way he would use his lanky frame and gangly limbs, earning the loving nickname of the “drunk giraffe“. Matt brought a true joie de vivre to the Doctor, but also brought a true gravitas and darkness. While not as outwardly self loathing as the Tenth Doctor, when Eleven got dark he got DARK. Describing him as “the one who forgets” in “The Day of the Doctor” was a perfect description of him. He uses his humor and intellect and enthusiasm to cover up his pain and hatred of himself…but you can often catch it just beneath the surface. It’s a wonderfully complex performance and Peter Capaldi has some big shoes to fill (though I am incredibly confident he is up to the task).
Rather than select our Eleven favorite episodes, we decided to pick our favorite moments of the Eleventh Doctor. Some are full episodes (because, let’s face it, “The Eleventh Hour” is pretty flawless) and some are scenes. All are beloved. Here they are, in chronological order…
1) “The Eleventh Hour”
Back when I was binge-watching Doctor Who for the first time, I only took a brief break between “The End of Time” and “The Eleventh Hour”. Sure, I was emotionally traumatized by losing David Tennant, but Sage and I were marathoning at the same time, and she was ahead of me. No time to mourn…it was time for Matt Smith. Luckily, “The Eleventh Hour” is a perfect introduction episode. I was IMMEDIATELY endeared to Matt Smith during the whole Fish Fingers and Custard sequence with Young Amelia Pond. He had such a wonderful chemistry with little Amelia and I knew that even though he was different…he was still The Doctor. Slightly more batty and mouthy…but still The Doctor.
And if you weren’t won over by that scene, we then had Eleven’s confrontation with the Atraxi. A hologram montage of all the past Doctors played, and Matt burst through David Tennant’s face, with Murray Gold’s score swelling gloriously in the background, and said “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically…run.” with the most delightful little smirk on his baby face. And then as he picked his now iconic tweed and bow tie he said “To hell with the raggedy. Time to put on a show.”
“Yes,” I said approvingly. “Yes, you ARE The Doctor.”
2) “Now then, Rory. We need to talk about your fiancée.” – “Vampires of Venice”
Obviously one of the most defining relationships of Eleven’s era was his relationship with Amy Pond and Rory Williams (Pond). Maybe the Doctor learned his lesson from what happened with Rose and Mickey…maybe he just never had romantic feelings for Amy (SORRY I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU ELEVEN/AMY SHIPPERS) but the Doctor always respected the Amy/Rory relationship, even if he never fully understood it most of the time.
The Doctor may have taken the mickey (pun not intended) out of Rory a lot of the time, especially in the early years, but he still showed him respect. That is quite evident in the fact that after Amy kissed him, he went straight to Rory to tell him. True, bursting out of the cake at his stag party to tell Rory that his fiancée kissed him probably was not the BEST choice (let’s all take a moment to appreciate the way Rory’s face fell when the Doctor told him), but it was still done with the best of intentions. And THEN he invited Rory to come along with them, which is something he NEVER did for Mickey. Mickey had to ASK (well, demand really) to come.
While The Doctor and Rory’s relationship never had the closeness or the magical quality that the relationship with Amy had (I mean…how could it? He met her as a child and was her “imaginary friend”) that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a deep relationship. While wary of each other initially they grew to have a great affection and ultimately respect for each other. Part of that had to grow out of the affection that Matt and Arthur had for each other in real life, but it is also a sign of the Eleventh Doctor’s desire for love and companionship.
3) “There’s only one person in the Universe that hates me as much as you do.” – “Amy’s Choice”
Like I said in the beginning, underneath all the quips and excitement, you could still see the self-loathing underneath. In fact, I would argue that the Eleventh Doctor is even more self-loathing than his New Who predecessors because he spend so much time HIDING it. It makes the moments where it comes out, like in the interaction with the Dream Lord, all the more powerful.
4) “Vincent and the Doctor”
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and… bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
We have said it many many many times before, but if you are not WEEPING at the end of “Vincent and the Doctor”, it is very possible that you are completely dead inside. Between Vincent getting to see the museum and hear the curator rhapsodize on the impact of his life’s work to Amy discovering the Sunflowers painting and seeing that it said “For Amy”, it is truly one of the finest and most moving episodes of Matt Smith’s era. And Eleven’s “Pile of Good Things” speech is one of his finest moments and one of my favorite quotes of the entire series.
5) The Doctor at Amelia’s bedside – “The Big Bang”
“It’s funny. I thought if you could hear me, I could hang on somehow. Silly me. Silly old Doctor. When you wake up you’ll have a mom and dad. And you won’t even remember me. Well. You’ll remember me a little. I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? ‘Cause it was, you know. It was the best. The daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back. Oh that box. Amy, you’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever. And the times we had, eh? Woulda had. Never… had. In your dreams they’ll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond. And the days that never came. The cracks are closing. But they can’t close properly ’til I’m on the other side. I don’t belong here anymore. I think I’ll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats. Live well. Love Rory. Bye bye, Pond.”
And then there’s THIS. Say what you want to about Steven Moffat as a showrunner (and Lord knows I could say plenty) but the man can write a monologue that can wreck you with feels in a way that very few writers can. The sheer affection Moffat has for Doctor Who comes through in every aspect of this monologue. It’s magical. And Matt Smith knocks it out of the park. To me, this speech and this scene is the defining moment of the Eleventh Doctor.
6) “A Christmas Carol”
I love “A Christmas Carol” because while it starts out as a kind of silly retelling of the Dickens tale, it suddenly turns into a lovely mediation on love and loss. It also allows us to see all the shades of the Eleventh Doctor…his silliness, his heroism, his good intentioned meddlesome side, and his unspeakable grief. If there is one thing the Doctor knows about it’s the loss of a loved one. But what’s wonderful about the Doctor is that even in the face of incredible loss, he never loses his ability to love (even when he TRIES to, like in the wake of losing Amy and Rory). Even with all the darkness around him and inside him, he still loves and that’s what he so desperately wanted to awaken in Kazran. It’s beautiful.
And I don’t know WHAT Matt was thinking of in the “One last Day with your beloved” scene but it is FOREVER my head canon that he thought of Rose Tyler. Sorry not sorry.
7) Talking with the TARDIS in “The Doctor’s Wife”
Idris: Yes, that’s me. A type 40 TARDIS. I was already a museum piece when you were young. And the first time you touched my console, you said—
The Doctor: I said you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever known.
Idris: Then you stole me. And I stole you.
The Doctor: I borrowed you.
Idris: Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing that was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?
The Doctor: You’re the TARDIS.
The Doctor: My TARDIS?
Idris: My Doctor.
Another Hallmark of the Smith/Moffat era is that the ultimate OTP of the show is actually Doctor x TARDIS. There is nothing in the whole world that the Doctor loves more than his TARDIS. Leave it to the brilliant Neil Gaiman to turn the TARDIS into a slightly mad woman named Idris and allow the Doctor to spend time with the love of his life in human form. The sheer delight Matt expresses when he realizes that it actually IS his TARDIS talking to him is completely heart-warming. He’s completely giddy throughout the entire episodes, which makes his devastation at the end of the episode when Idris has to leave him even more palpable. It remains one of Matt’s finest performances.
Idris: Doctor. Are you there? It’s so very dark in here.
The Doctor: I’m here. Hey.
Idris: I’ve been looking for a word. A big, complicated word, but so sad. I found it now.
The Doctor: What word?
Idris: “Alive.” I’m alive.
The Doctor: Alive isn’t sad.
Idris: It’s sad when it’s over. I’ll always be here. But this is when we talked. And now even that has come to an end.There’s something I didn’t get to say to you.
The Doctor: Goodbye.
Idris: No. I just wanted to say, Hello. Hello Doctor. It’s so very very nice to meet you.
The Doctor: Please. I don’t want you to.
Idris: I love you.
In a word…NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.
8) Craig and Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All – “Closing Time”
Oh, Craig Owens. The greatest companion that never was (gratuitous mention that James Corden could forever get it). I love “Closing Time” for being this perfectly lovely standalone episode within the mess of mythology that was series six. It says so much about The Doctor that when he feels he is nearing the end of his life, he chooses to visits the ones he loves the most (much as Ten did in “The End of Time”). Of course, Eleven being Eleven, he spends most of the time denying why he’s really there, but Craig knows. I also like to think that the Doctor KNEW Craig was struggling as new Dad and wanted to step in and help him. Ah yes…baby Alfie aka Stormageddon. First of all…what the hell is it with Matt Smith and Children? He has a true gift with them. Secondly, if any Whovian I know has a baby boy, they can expect to receive a “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All” onesie from me.
The Doctor: Yes, he likes that, Alfie. Though personally he prefers to be called Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All.
Craig: Sorry, what?
The Doctor: That’s what he calls himself.
Craig: How’d you know that?
The Doctor: I speak baby.
Craig: Of course you do.
The Doctor: No! He’s your dad, you can’t just call him “Not Mum.”
Craig: Not mum?
The Doctor: That’s you. “Also Not Mum”. That’s me. And everybody else is… “peasants”. That’s a bit unfortunate.
One of the funniest scenes in all of Doctor Who, classic and new, in my humble opinion.
What’s amazing about “Closing Time” is that it shifts from delightfully comic to incredibly moving. You have the Doctor’s wonderful speech to Alfie about dreaming of the stars and you have Craig becoming the hero and the Dad he was always meant to be when he fights against the Cybermen when he hears his son cry. But to me and Sage, the most moving moment in the episode is when Craig realizes that The Doctor has given up his time and adventures to get him out of the doghouse with his wife.
The Doctor: See. I do come back.
Craig: How did you… ?
The Doctor: Time machine. But even with time travel, getting glaziers on a Sunday… tricky.
Craig: You went back in time. That means you used up your hours. What about Exidor?
The Doctor: What about you being in trouble with Sophie when she comes back? I couldn’t let that happen.
Craig: You used up your time for me?
The Doctor: Of course I did. You’re me mate.
And then the Doctor goes out to his TARDIS and says “Well then, Old Girl. One last trip, eh?”. Cue me sobbing.
9) He has a Christmas List – “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”
One of the hallmarks of Matt Smith’s Doctor has always been his child-like enthusiasm. This may be a tiny throwaway moment in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” but it is SUCH a delightful one. Matt is such a COMMITTED actor and he leaves everything on the screen. The sheer joy that he shouts “I DOOOOOOOOOOO” with had me and Sage rolling on the floor with laughter.
10) “I don’t know why, I only know WHO.”- “The Snowmen”
Also known as “the words every person dreams of hearing”. “The Snowmen” is magical, y’all. It may be my second favorite Christmas special after “The Christmas Invasion”. From the TARDIS on the cloud to the wonderful banter between Clara and the Doctor, it’s all about the Doctor coming back to life after losing the Ponds. He’s so determined NOT to feel anything anymore. He’s lost too much and is TIRED (“Over a thousand years of saving the universe, Strax, you know the one thing I learned? The universe doesn’t care”). Tired of caring. Tired of never winning. But thanks to a Lizard Woman from the Dawn of Time, her wife, a grouchy Sontaran, and a Spunky Barmaid/Nanny, our Doctor comes back to us. As he says after handling Clara the TARDIS key, “This is me…giving in.”. The gradual shift Matt integrates into his performance truly shows his maturity as an actor.
By the end of the episode, he’s lost someone he cared about…again. But this time, he’s not letting it keep him from caring. He’s reinvigorated.
“Watch me run.”
11) “I have lost things you will never understand!” – “Rings of Akhaten”
“Okay then. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll tell you a story. Can you hear them? All these people who lived in terror of you and your judgment. All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves to you. Can you hear them singing? Oh you like to think you’re a god. But you’re not a god. You’re just a parasite. Eat now with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them. On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow, so… so come on then. Take mine. Take my memories. But I hope you’re got a big a big appetite. Because I’ve lived a long life. And I’ve seen a few things. I walked away from the last great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time, no space. Just me! I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman! And I watched universes freeze and creation burn! I have seen things you wouldn’t believe! I have lost things you will never understand! And I know things, secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken! Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So come on then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!”
I call this monologue Eleven’s “Satan Pit” moment because a) Favorite episode of all time is Favorite and b) the circumstances are QUITE similar to Ten’s “I believe in her” speech. If ANYONE ever says that Matt Smith is not a good actor, I would show them this scene. He is the embodiment of “Fire and Ice and Rage…and Wonderful” in it. He is magnificent. Look at the single tear streaming down his cheek in the gif. Amazing.
And those are our Eleven Moments. What are your favorite things about Matt Smith’s Doctor? And I’ll be back to recap “The Time of The Doctor” as soon as I’ve finished sobbing after it airs. Till then, Whovians!