To say Matt Smith has big boots to fill would be the understatement of the decade. As the Tenth Doctor David Tennant wooed fans with his whacky ways and superb acting skills to become the most popular Doctor of recent times, winning numerous accolades during his five year reign. Following him is no easy challenge, but it's one Smith is excited to take on. With much enthusiasm, at the press launch in Cardiff last night, he announced: "To my mind it's the best part in British television". His brief, and currently only, appearance in Doctor Who (during Tennant's swansong this January) has received mixed reviews from fans, but the truth is you can't really judge Smith's Time Lord credentials on that alone. We attended the press launch to bring you more...
Anticipation was high in the packed preview screening, especially in our row (directly behind the cast and crew) and when the opening credits rolled they were met with applause. Rightly so, it turned out. Matt Smith plays The Doctor with confident ease; he acts as if he's been in the role for centuries, which considering the Doctor's age makes his role all the more believable. The leap in characteristics between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor is arguably the smallest ever made between regenerations, and as such it's hard not to immediately make comparisons between Smith and his successful forerunner. Both are eccentric characters with exaggerated body language and a penchant for dry comedy, but where Tennant depicted a mix of reckless decisiveness and introspection, Smith is more of a bumbling adventurer trying to find his feet. If you give the new Doctor time you'll soon come to fully appreciate him -- a brilliantly-directed kitchen scene, where he samples different delicacies, will soon make sure of that.
It's Karen Gillan's presence as his new assistant, Amy Pond, that really brings The Eleventh Doctor into his own though. As lost souls both share a vulnerability that bonds them together in a way never before seen between The Doctor and another. Fans will be glad to know that the loneliness that blighted Tennant's final days is diminished by Smith, and it's done so in a heart-warming way. The development of their relationship plays a major part in the fifth season's opening episode, The Eleventh Hour, and though there is a small plot hole that's crept in, their partnership works incredibly well.
The chemistry between them is clear off-screen as well as on, and during the question and answer session that followed the screening the banter was flowing fluidly between the stars and series producer, BAFTA award-winner Stephen Moffat. Working with Gillan was cheekily described as "a real slog" by Smith, and she got her own back by claiming he spoke "like an old man".
The actors say they've received "lovely" supportive messages from fans so far -- some of which have strangely compared Matt to a hedgehog. Their true test will come, however, when the fifth season debuts on BBC One on Saturday, April 3 and on BBC America two weeks later.
Australian fans can stream the first episode at abc.net.au/iview from midnight April 16, ahead of its TV broadcast on Sunday April 18 on ABC1.