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We could fill many, many posts with the eternal daftness of the Eleventh Doctor, and still never quite manage to pull an entirely comprehensive list together. Simply put, he’s a very, very funny character, played by a very, very funny man.
And the humor is all part of his unearthliness too. The Doctor can’t be relied upon to react to stressful situations stressfully. Faced with an alien invasion, and with people screaming at him to sort it out, he’s just as likely to stop and have a chat with someone and then suddenly fashion the perfect solution using a catapult and a toffee apple.
It’s as if he is so sure that he can probably deal with anything, he may as well lark about while his foes take their best shot. And in a less charming actor’s hands, this would just come across as laziness and arrogance, but Matt Smith is such an unorthodox, delightful screen presence he makes it all make sense.
Here are five examples:
“I want you to go”
Actually, there’s very little of either “The Lodger” or “Closing Time” that isn’t up there with the best of the Doctor’s comic moments. It helps that Matt has a comic actor as good as James Corden to play off, and that the script is all sparkle and banter, but it’s also all about Matt’s ability to be singular, even when he’s in the middle of a football match. This bit is like something out of Laurel and Hardy, if Laurel and Hardy ever did sci-fi set in the suburbs.
“Fellows, the guns, really?”
Put the Doctor on the spot, and he’ll rely on his wits to talk his way out of it. If that also involves having predicted exactly how the situation will unfold and laying emotional traps for his companions, well so much the better. And of course he will always have a list of demands and a flirty dig at River Song ready the moment the situation changes in his favor.
Speaking of the missus…
“This is my normal face…”
We could have picked any example of the Doctor and River flirting, and frankly that whole sequence in “Let’s Kill Hitler” with the swapping of guns with bananas deserves extra credit on its own, but in the end the fan favorite is this tiny moment of cheek. The Doctor swaggering and River glowing with delight.
“He’s called Joshua, it’s from the Bible…”
Every bit as good a gag as the Stormageddon one, and we’ve already mentioned “Closing Time.”
“Early days, steering’s a bit off”
It’s worth having a quick think about where we were all at when “The Eleventh Hour” was first broadcast. We’d just said and long and protracted and tearful goodbye to the very popular Tenth Doctor, and his replacement was some kid no one had ever heard of before. Matt Smith’s job of work, within this short window before the story proper kicks off, is simply to reassure everyone that he is the Doctor.
Which, as you can see, he proceeds to do. The prat-falls, the haughtiness, the kindness, the unreasonable demands, the whole fish fingers and custard of the Doctor is effortlessly reasserted in a sequence that is a gigglesome frolic from start to finish.
There may have been sharper one-liners, there may have been funnier falls, but nothing sets out Matt Smith’s stall as a worthy Doctor like his first ten minutes on the job.
Matt Smith: Five Moments When The Doctor Lost His Cool
Matt Smith: Five Moments When The Doctor Broke Our Hearts
Five Great Big Meaty Matt Smith Speeches From ‘Doctor Who’
Five Reasons Matt Smith Was Born to Play the Doctor
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic