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52 weeks, 52 things

Thoughts on Eleven

Because Georgie asked me what I thought about number 11.

Matt Smith, then. Some thoughts thereon.

He wouldn’t have been my first choice, although as I didn’t get to make a choice, then that’s a lousy way to start a response. He’s young, and evidenced by the facebook feeds of at least one random student of my acquaintance, that apparently makes him a hotty. Or something. So he’s hits the youth demographic, which is undoubtedly a good thing. What a lot of people tend to forget is that this programme isn’t just aimed at everyone who grew up watching it in 1977 and remembers when the sets were made of cardboard and wobbled a lot, and the Doctor was older. Tom Baker was the youngest actor cast in the role in 1974, as was Peter Davidson in 1981. Having a young man play the part isn’t exactly news, and if that brings in a new audience, then good. As long as they don’t change what works, and looking at the muted colour palette on the publicity photos (albeit rather photoshopped photos), Steven Moffat has actually rediscovered something that worked.

And it was never, in my opinion, going to be a woman. Not because it shouldn’t be, but because it wasn’t going to be. The role doesn’t work like that.

What is interesting, though, above the above, is that Matt Smith referred to the show as being a ‘text’. Tiny, tiny slip of the tongue, but, I thought, rather telling with regard to his age, and how we view him. On the one hand, it betrays a media/literary studies understanding of the world, and an awareness of the nature of the show ‘outside’ the confines of the BBC series. On the other, it’s suggestive of something Russell T Davies addressed in his contribution to the Confidential show. Davies stressed that he was jealous of Steven Moffat’s and Matt Smith’s roles in ’shaping’ the new Doctor, and that’s rather interesting.

What Davies hasn’t been able to do, with either of his lead actors, is really create a new character. Eccleston played Eccleston (rather well, though, and with range), and Tennant has largely played the role as a combination of previous incarnations. I’m hesitant to attribute this just to the writing process. As evidenced by Smith’s mention of the series as a text, the character of the Doctor is more than just the written script, or the performance, or even a combination of the two. The way the role exists in 2008/9 is also a necessary reflection of current cultural conditions upon the character. Hence Tennant is an assured example of postmodern intertextuality. The same phenomenon that Colin Baker’s incarnation arguably represents a naive version of. Naive due to the writing, the characterisation, and more significantly, cultural understanding of media forms. Ask me to explain and I’ll get carried away explaining why ’stunt casting’ works now, and didn’t in 1985, but someone will understand what I’m getting at.

Anyway, the point of all that is that Smith might get to be a Doctor who isn’t simply an amalgam of all that’s gone before. If Moffat and Smith are going to create a character, they have an opportunity that Davies hasn’t really grasped during his tenure in charge. And that might be worth the wait.

See – never ask me what I think..

Discussion

8 comments for “Thoughts on Eleven”

  1. It’s not just youth that makes Matt Smith a hotty, although David Tennant still holds the record for “hottest Doctor Who”.

    Davies’ problem is that he suffers from severe “whedonitis” these days in the way he approaches characterisation and drama.

    More so in Torchwood than in Doctor Who, admittedly, but an intense focus on intertextuality is actually a symptom of the dreaded “whedonitis”:

    * No original characters just stereotypes and intertextual amalgamations.

    * A type of season-long story arc and climax that could just be cut right out of Buffy.

    * Storylines that build heavily on intertextual inspirations (X-men and comics in Whedon’s case, earlier Doctor Who and Buffy in Davies).

    All in all. Davies run, although essential to kick-start the new Doctor, has been more like a fanboy comics writer being put on X-men than original writing and characterisation.

    IMO, as usual. :-D

    Posted by Baldur Bjarnason | January 5, 2009, 2:10 pm
  2. PFFFFT… Not original writing, how rude… If you comare old doctor who to the witty and fresh episodes that we have today there is no comparison… I think that Davies has done a fantastic job in setting up and creating the new Dr. Who for the BBC. And now is the right time to leave for him… Tennant is the best doctor by far and that is due to him and Davies… 4.13 wrapped up all of the stories so nicely for Tennant that its time for both to start a fresh… So with both of them leaving its going to be a strange yet exciting change… Stephen Moffat is such a good script writer (girl in the fireplace / Blink), who knows what he will make the next doctor be like… I for one am excited…

    And he is not an obvious hottie, more of a grower… But his hair is hot…

    P.S. Check it out Dr. Tom… I am commenting on your blog…

    Posted by Georgie Reynolds | January 5, 2009, 2:20 pm
  3. Baldur – my initial thought is that if you’re going to write in 2008, you’re going to be intertextual – as it’s something your audience brings, rather than the writer alone. So it’s our fault. Having said that, Demons (ITV, Saturday) was written as an intertextual piece, and was awful. Words cannot describe. Long arcs have been done in Who before too – the Key to Time, the Trial of a(hang on, let’s stop there).

    Georgie – about time too.

    Posted by tom | January 5, 2009, 2:31 pm
  4. @Georgie: There’s originality and then there’s originality. There have been a lot of good episodes in the new series of Doctor Who and none of them written by Davies. He’s done good work as a producer but his writing’s been a mess.

    @tom: Intertextuality is something brought by the audience, if the writer starts bringing it in as well and makes it the foundation of all the characterisation and drama you risk over-egging the pudding so to speak.

    Besides, it brings to mind Tolstoy’s words in “What is Art?” that art that relies on people’s memories of what other art felt like being the worst kind of art with no substance of its own.

    Essentially, intertextuality without a substantive narrative foundation is little more than legal fan-fiction.

    But, yeah, Moffat rules, so I think that the 2010 season of Doctor Who will be the best one yet.

    Besides, the Key to Time sucked balls. :-D

    Posted by Baldur Bjarnason | January 5, 2009, 3:23 pm
  5. His writing is a mess!?!?! His writing has moved me to tears on many an occasion… Doomsday had me bawling for hours on end… Journey’s end had me sobbing…
    If people read more and more into it then it takes away its original purpose, which is to entertain…

    And if you read Doctor Who: The Writers Tale, you will understand how the series is created by writers being allocated episodes according to their writing strengths… Davies does emotion and real life very well…

    Oh and Dr. Tom, I agree about intertextuality…

    Posted by Georgie Reynolds | January 5, 2009, 5:07 pm
  6. Re. Real Life: Which is were his writing shines – it’s as a producer, rewriting and unifying the series that he’s been strongest. His remark that ‘no-one knows how much (of Paul Cornell’s “Human Nature/Family of Blood”) I wrote’ rings true, especially to anyone who’s dealt with an editor. Their job is to unify and collate rather than fly off and do the dramatic stuff.

    But I do believe Journey’s End is a bit of a big old mess. Unless you like the TARDIS towing Earth across the known universe. Which, even for a series containing conceits that beggar belief, is going too far.

    The Key to Time had its moments., but was mostly awful. Not as bad as Demons though.

    Posted by tom | January 5, 2009, 5:21 pm
  7. My amp goes up to 11.

    Posted by mongo | January 5, 2009, 8:34 pm
  8. Sigh..

    Posted by Andy | January 6, 2009, 1:02 pm

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