The UK Response to New Doctor Who: “Refreshing!” “Terrific!”

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in Doctor Who

  • I’ve been monitoring the UK web chatter after the premiere of Doctor Who this weekend. How did British viewers respond to Matt Smith‘s new Doctor? How does he compare to extraordinarily popular David Tennant, the previous Time Lord? Well, happily, the response has been one of nearly unanimous delight. The show scored big ratings on BBC1 Saturday, with 8 million viewers tuning in. Given that the UK is a country of 60 million people – and that the show aired at 6:25 pm on a Saturday – that’s pretty huge.

    And what do the critics have to say? NOTE: be careful clicking the following links as they are laden with SPOILERS.

    io9 was in attendance at this past weekend’s screening at San Francisco’s WonderCon, and post-viewing, they posted a blog simply titled, “David Who? Matt Smith Is The Doctor!”

    The Independent‘s Matthew Bell dares to say that Matt Smith could be the best Doctor yet. “From the moment he appeared, dangling from the architrave of his time machine, the new boy demonstrated that he can more than fill the shoes of his predecessor. Matt Smith fights aliens. He wears tweed…He is the Doctor. And he might be more the Doctor than anyone who was the Doctor before.”

    The Sunday Mirror‘s notoriously cantankerous Jim Shelley was sold on the new Who: “The biggest relief was not only was he NOT a disaster, Matt Smith was refreshing and well cast: a younger Doctor – hesitant and bashful where Tennant had become cocky.”

    The Mirror‘s Kevin O’Sullivan agrees, “So the good news is – you can all relax. After a fine performance in an encouragingly expensive and slick special- effects packed opening salvo, it’s crystal clear that Mr. Smith is certain to be a sensation. The Beeb’s best franchise is in safe hands. Phew!”

    The Guardian‘s Daniel Martin says about Matt Smith, “He’s good isn’t he, this Rumplestiltskin Doctor? Tennant’s time in the TARDIS now feels like it ended lot longer than three months ago. Smith inhabits the role from the moment he pops up…”

    The Guardian‘s Nancy Banks-Smith says, “W-e-l-l, it’s different, but it’s not a Tennant. Matt Smith, the new Doctor Who (BBC1, Saturday), is more of a Jim Carrey. His energy levels…are phenomenal. He leaps like a stag, his speech is set to fast-forward and his face seems to open like an accordion as the tumbling forelock and long chin take off in different directions.”

    The Daily Telegraph‘s John Preston is also enchanted by Smith: “Well, the verdict from this end of the sofa at least is that Smith is terrific. Less cocksure, less confident of his own allure than David Tennant, he has an intensity, a boisterousness and a rumpled, rueful air that’s very beguiling.And while his charm may be more understated than Tennant’s, he has stepped into the role with enormous confidence.”

    In other news:

  • In The Times, Matt Smith opens up about his love for rapper Nas (“Illmatic…That was a really seminal album from my teens. ‘NY State of Mind’ is one of my favorite tracks ever”) and for Radiohead (“They’ve been a real influence on my imaginative mind”).
  • Smith tells Techland about the short stories he wrote about the Doctor and Albert Einstein to prepare himself for role: “Well, they go off to Egypt and they freeze time and build the pyramids, which is kind of ironic because they don’t know how the pyramids were built and it turns out that someone froze time and built them. And they did it all for this pharoah who had an addiction to grapes, and, well, there you go.”
  • Meera Syal – who will guest-star on an upcoming episode of Doctor Who – talks about how she overcame the dearth of roles for Asian actresses in Britain to have a successful career. She tells The Times, facetiously: “Asians would get a huge range of roles. You’d be the victim of an arranged marriage, the sister of a victim of an arranged marriage, a nurse worrying about her sister’s arranged marriage, a caring barrister defending someone who’s escaped from an arranged marriage … You get the picture. That’s why I stopped acting and started writing.” She’s awesome, and now’s she performing the lead role in Shirley Valentine with a Scouse accent on stage in London.
  • Note to journalists: Ricky Gervais gets pissed when newspapers report that he’s lost weight to get Hollywood roles. “What is in America? Who gives a f*** what anyone thinks? I don’t give a f*** what they think and if I don’t get a film role because my teeth are crooked, then f*** them, I don’t want it. I just go, ‘It’s ridiculous.’ And if I don’t get a film role because I’m not thin enough, then, ‘F*** you.Why would I f****** do that, you f****** shallow c****!’” For more of this wonderful rants, read his interview with The Times.
  • Kylie may be the No. 1 celeb in the UK, but Madonna was the “most played recording artist” of the past decade in the country. Can you believe she’s the only female solo artist in the top 10? (BBC)
  • Little Britain co-creator/star Matt Lucas says he’s too broken up about the death of his ex-husband, Kevin McGee, to hit the dating scene again. “I’m not looking for a partner right now. People will understand if they’re aware of some of the things that have been going on in my life.”(Mirror)
  • Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold is doing the latest adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and she wants an authentic Romani man to play Heathcliff. “Emily Brontë described Heathcliff as being ‘dark-skinned gypsy in aspect’ and ‘a little lascar’ – a 19th-century reference to sailors from India,” reports The Times.
  • Cheryl Cole tops Glamour magazine’s UK-based “best-dressed woman” poll.(BBC)
  • Daniel Evans, the 7th-ranked tennis player in Britain, will be being questioned by police over an alleged sexual assault.(Telegraph)

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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