David Tennant’s Doctor is one of the best versions of the character. But a closer look shows Matt Smith’s Doctor is special in his own right.
The original plans for Doctor Who after David Tennant left the show make Matt Smith’s Doctor even better. Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi/adventure television series, having first aired in 1963. It follows the adventures of a Time-Lord called the Doctor who travels through time and space with companions and regenerates when dying, allowing for a new actor to step in and take over the role. The show, which was rebooted in 2005, has now been airing for thirteen seasons since its revival, and starred the last five versions of the Doctor, with Ncuti Gatwa about to step into the role.
After Christopher Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor, left the show after one season, he was replaced with David Tennant’s, fan-favorite, Tenth Doctor. His version of The Doctor featured a special combination of charm, a cheeky smile, and darkness that drew audiences in. Tennant’s performance kept audiences invested, and he led the show for three seasons and several holiday specials.
According to a 2014 article (via Mirror), the BBC was considering canceling Doctor Who after the exit of David Tennant, who left at the same time as the show’s head-writer, Russel T. Davies. It was believed that Tennant would be irreplaceable, and no one could follow the iconic performance that Tennant gave as The Doctor. However, the BBC decided against this, and Matt Smith took on the role of the Eleventh Doctor becoming just as beloved as his predecessor.
Matt Smith Made The Doctor His Own, And Became Iconic As Well
Both David Tennant and Matt Smith balanced their performances with comedy and seriousness, but in different ways, which was beneficial when Tennant and Smith’s Doctors would eventually meet. Smith’s Doctor had much more child-like wonder and played up the Doctor’s silly side a lot more than Tennant did. The Eleventh Doctor was more open to traveling with a family, while the Tenth Doctor was quite picky about his companions. Smith’s Doctor also, when having to be serious, gave off an air of being subtly genius as opposed to Tennant’s Doctor who was an extreme show-off when it came to his intelligence. These differences allowed Smith to define his own version of the Doctor instead of copying Tennant which made audiences fall in love with his Doctor as well.
Finding someone to take on the role of The Doctor is difficult as audiences have already grown attached to a different version of the character, especially with Tennant’s tenth Doctor. Not only did Tennant create an incredible character, but he was the Doctor that had been with modern audiences the longest. This makes Smith’s popularity that much more impressive, as he had a lot more working against him when taking on the role of The Doctor. Making his mark on the character and also staying for three seasons allowed audiences to connect with his Doctor, but also prepare audiences for the inevitable fact of Doctor Who, that after a while, a new actor would inevitably take on the role and make it their own. Matt Smith set that trend and the Doctors who have followed Smith have attempted to make the role their own, but potentially none to the same degree of success as Smith himself.
It’s normal for audiences to get attached to a certain version of a character, but it’s important to be open to new interpretations and let their stories play out. If Smith never got the chance to be the Doctor and the show had been canceled, audiences would have missed out on several regenerations, and eventually, several crossovers where they get to meet one another. Doctor Who made the right choice by not canceling the show after Tennant’s exit and allowing Matt Smith to set the stage for more actors to take their own journey through space and time.