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The Eleventh Doctor: An Appreciation

Or; 11 reasons why I'll be inconsolable on Christmas Day. Because yes, I am stupidly happy about Capaldi. But Eleven's run has been my favourite of New Who by some distance, and that is down in large part to the enormous talents of one Matt Smith. So I narrowed everything that was splendid and wonderful about him down to 11 points. And then I flailed a bit beneath each heading.
1. His exuberance

“Geronimo!!” - Too many episodes to count.
From the moment Eleven comes crashing onto our screen at the climax to End of Time, there’s a palpable shift in the show’s energy. If Ten had clung to life out of fear for the end, then Eleven clings to it for the sheer joy of living. Matt himself said it well in a 2011 interview: “He's like a baby. He wants to sniff, to taste, everything; he'll never dismiss anything”. The youthful quality that he brings to that aspect, as an actor, is part of the charm.
But rather than negating the grief and loneliness of his earlier incarnations, as perhaps one might expect, Eleven’s sense of wonder and his delight in the universe often serves to throw his darker side into even sharper relief. Bringing me on neatly to…

2. His darkness

“There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” Hide
Though Matt has been the youngest actor so far to play the role of the Doctor, I never for one second doubted the age of the character, purely on the strength of the writing and his own extraordinary performance. Every nuance of the Doctor’s incredibly long and chequered past comes across at some point during Matt’s tenure. The terrible guilt he carries over the loss of innocent lives, coupled with the sheer fury he feels towards those responsible for such loss; the grief of so many goodbyes, the bitterness of old, unsettled scores. It all feeds into the character’s motivations and drives his attitude towards his enemies- and towards himself.

3. His fallibility

“Oh! Amelia Pond. Before I got it all wrong.” Let’s Kill Hitler
Eleven may not be human, but that doesn’t mean that he’s almighty. He screws up; and, more importantly, he recognises when he screws up. He spends most of his time with the Ponds trying to make up for all the damage he’s wrought in their lives, with varying degrees of success. And when the people he trusts call him out on his shit – like River in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, or Clara in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ - he listens.

4. His allies

“My friends have always been the best of me.” The Wedding of River Song
For all his secrets and his apparent flippancy, Eleven is not afraid to get close to those he meets. Like many previous Doctors he is a friend to the lost and dispossessed, but also to the brave, the unconventional and the simply ordinary. He might not always understand them, but he spends his whole time trying.

5. His compassion

"D'you know, in 900 years of time and space, I never met anybody who wasn't important before.” A Christmas Carol
Eleven can never stand aside, even when he longs to, or even when he should. He can’t bear to watch children cry; can’t let Ada continue to live in her mother’s shadow; can’t leave Vincent without adding to his pile of good things. His concern for others extends beyond simply saving the world; he wants the people he saved to have a world worth living in.

6. His idealism

"I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams."
The Almost People

It's not a naive idealism, either. When a man who's lived so long and seen so many horrors still maintains his faith in the ability of good to prevail in the end, it stops looking like naivety and starts looking like a mission statement. He finds whatever hope he can in every situation, and goes out of his way to nurture it in others, too. There is also a cruel side to the expectations that he holds of others, one that surfaces rarely but alarmingly. People who fall short of his ideals or who are tied to a morality that conflicts with his own - Ambrose in 'The Hungry Earth', Simeon in 'The Snowmen', Jex in 'A Town Called Mercy' - are given short shrift. That is what comes of trying to live by so many rules, in a Universe that flouts them with such regularity.

7. His body language

“Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?” The Day of the Doctor
I mean, come on. It’s Matt Smith. The man can’t even walk through a door the way ordinary people do. Every part of his body seems to be traveling in a different direction simultaneously, and yet somehow he manages to stay upright and remain magnificently in control throughout. Nor does the performance come across as overly mannered, a collection of peculiar tics; rather, it flows naturally from the action, underscoring this Doctor’s sheer otherworldliness. And speaking of otherworldliness:

8. His dress sense.

“Bowties. Are. Cool.” Various
It so shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it was perfect. And, as I suspect most of us already know, it was largely down to Matt's input.
The pictures really speak for themselves here, but I would add that the inclusion of Amy’s glasses in the last half of series 7 was a particularly nice touch, effectively showing us how this Doctor, quite literally, carries his remembrances with him.

9. His brilliance

“Excuse me, I’m making perfect sense. You’re just not keeping up.” The Hungry Earth.
It’s not a cool-headed sort of cleverness, but the kind that blazes out of everything Eleven does and makes you dizzy. Though you never doubt that he’ll find an answer, the excitement is in seeing just how he arrives there. There is a glorious unpredictability about him that, with just one adventure left to go, has continued to surprise all the way through. And so we move on to…

10. His silliness
“LOOK AT ME I’M A TARGET!” The Pandorica Opens
Just sometimes, Eleven isn’t half as clever as he thinks he is. Sometimes, he is so patently ridiculous that someone really should pull him up by his bowtie and laugh in his face. Partly it’s because he’s so alien that his brain is operating along different lines to everyone else. Mostly it’s because he shows a blithe disregard for logic and self-preservation whenever such things get in the way of a really appealing plan.

11. His bravery
“Oh, you like to think you're a god, but you're not a god. You're just a parasite eaten out with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them. On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow. So...so come on, then. Take mine. Take my memories.” The Rings of Akhaten
One of the reasons that I’m both looking forward to and dreading 'The Time of the Doctor' is seeing how Eleven will handle the end of his run. I haven’t got the faintest clue how it’ll play out, but all I really know is; I want him to be brave. Because that’s part of what I most love about Eleven’s character. Without fail, he will put himself in the firing line if it’ll protect the people he cares about.
And really, I could have used any number of quotes to illustrate my point. We saw it in ‘The Big Bang’, as he consoled Amelia in his final moments. We saw it in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, when he dedicated his dying energies to saving Amy and Rory. Offering himself as a vessel to the tree-people in ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’, facing down the Daleks with a Jammy Dodger in ‘Victory of the Daleks’, leaping into his own timestream for Clara’s sake in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ – the list just goes on and on.
Yes, he might be afraid; he might even run away. Yet still we don’t lose faith in him as the protagonist because we all know, when push really comes to shove, he’ll see it through to the bitter end.


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STOP IT! YOU'RE MAKING ME CRY! (and now I'm gonna have to do a list like this too...)
Please do! I'm keen to see plenty more Eleven love this Christmas. Not that I'm quite ready to say goodbye yet, but I think it'll help.
When it's time to go, remember what you're leaving. Remember the best.
:D Hope it wasn't too ramble-y. I was suddenly overcome with the gloriousness of Eleven and it needed urgent expression.
Oh, this was wonderful to read, and yes, I agree with everything!
He's just so daft and brilliant and joyous and heart-breaking and he makes me ramble with glee. It's good to spread the love, though.


Thank you. Eleven just brings me so much joy, I wanted to share a bit of it. 'Tis the season after all. :)
That aspect is right at the forefront of Elevens's character from the second he pops his head out of the smoking TARDIS in 'The Eleventh Hour', imo. His home from home has just exploded and he doesn't even really know who he is any more- but never mind that, there's a lonely little girl in need of help. Suddenly, we had the sort of show where you can take five minutes out from the plot so our protagonists can eat fishfingers and custard. And that's really lovely.
I completely agree with all of this. Matt Smith has been magic as 11, and I'm going to miss him like mad. He's encapsulated all the best qualities that I love in the Doctor.

So here's my list:

1. Joy - he's just so willing to be completely joyful. He's happy in a universe that often frowns down on that.

2. Still Waters Run Deep - for all his joyfulness, he is by no means a shallow person. Sometimes just with a look, just with a glance, just with a hesitation, he shows that the Doctor's hearts aren't all just light, they go down very deep. He feels so intensely, sometimes you've got to worry about what it costs him.

3. Smart - 11 has just, at all times, in all ways, come across to me as an incredibly intelligent man. Even when he's getting things wrong, even when he's goofing around, he always feels like someone with a big brain cooking away in there.

4. Caring - I absolutely adore how completely caring 11 is. He's gentle, he's tender, he's soft-hearted, and he's always looking for ways to help, to make people feel better. Not because it's his mission. But because it's simply who he is. He cares.

5. Totally uncool Cool - He is the epitome of cool to me, not because he is cool, but because he understands cool. Cool isn't about following other people's notions of cool, but of believing in yourself and expressing it. Bowties are cool. Not because bowties are, but because he thinks they are. His love of hats, his Harry Potter glasses, his bow knees, his purple boots, and the fact that he can be the gangliest, clumsiest, most awkward and embarassing dancer at the party. But that's exactly what makes him the coolest.

Plus, he can be all that, and look killer in a tux.

6. Tardis love - Okay, maybe this is a weird one. But I love how connected 11 is to his Tardis. He doesn't have to call her the best ship in the universe, you just know she is because of the way he treats her. From "Thanks, dear," right up to him petting her and going, "It's okay, it's okay," you always know he loves his Tardis. And, somehow, that is incredibly sweet.

7. Sweet - Yeah, there's a reason River calls him her "Sweetie," really, was there ever so sweet and hapless and puppy-dog eyed a Doctor before? From his thrashing surprise at being kissed to his bashful flushes and "Really!" responses. He's a thousand years old, and yet still manages to be the sweetest little boy.

8. Age - For someone as babyfaced hip twentysomething as Matt Smith, he's managed to convey the Doctor's great age better than anyone else ever has. For the youngest actor, he's been the most completely believably ancient man I've ever seen. Old, worn out, weighted with life and old pains, old decisions, and the knowledge that more pain will come that that his great age has given him. He manages to be ancient and etermal. Young and old. Worn out and full of energetic young life. Oddly, he's so old he can be young again, without ever sacrificing that great wealth of years. (Honestly, how can someone who looks like the fresh faced boy next door manage to make me believe he's a great great grandfather?) Matt Smith is utterly amazing.

Here's the rest of the list (post too long)

9. Diction - Okay, this is probably a weird one. But as a USA fan, I love that Matt Smith's Doctor sounds like the Doctor again. The first one who has since the show came back. I don't need to watch with the closed captioning on just to understand what he says. He has a quick, clean, clear, sharp manner of speaking that is a delight to hear. And also a light lovely voice. (He'll be interesting to hear in audios once Big Finish finally get their hands on him.) But, I've simply loved, from the very first I heard him speak, that finally the Doctor sounded like the Doctor again.

10. Scary - I love the way Matt Smith downplays the Doctor's reactions. And the flip side of that, is that because he goes so quiet when he's angry, he is the first Doctor who can really scare me when he gets mad. Just that quiety "No you really don't" has such power. That aspect that he's feeling things so intensely, so deeply, so powerfully, that he has to keep a lid on it or all kinds of shit will hit the fan. And the few times when he does blow can literally make me jump out of my skin. When he slapped that tray out of the Dalek's plunger in Victory of the Daleks had my heart leaping into my throat. The Doctor was mad. And it wasn't until I saw Matt do it that I really realized how really bad that would be. Maybe it's because he seems so sweet and harmless most of the time, but when he goes all "Oncoming Storm" on someone, I'm looking for a place to hide.

11. Eccentricity - I think Matt Smith was honestly born to play the Doctor. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a brilliantly, even superlatively talented actor, and I expect he will have a long and varied career. But from the moment we started seeing pictures of Matt, in his totally ecclectic "normal" clothes, looking for all the world like the Doctor got loose for a shopping spree. I knew he was made to play the Doctor. His own natural eccentricity, brilliance, and sweetness, are an absolutely perfect match for the part. In fact, it's all the tiny little unexpected, eccentric flourishes, things that come purely from Matt, that made 11 one of my all time favorite Doctors, and favorite fictional characters, full stop. From twirling in joy, to twiddling his hands, from his floppy hair to his bowlegged gallump stride. From the very fact that Matt himself is clumsy (which I think is one of the endearing things about him, he's so good at so much else, that the fact that he has that one obvious "flaw" just makes me love him more. I absolutely adored it when I heard the behind the scenes stories of Matt breaking something, or setting his coat down in the quacamole [when he'd done it to keep it out of the way and clean]. To the stories of someone on set who saw him break a sonic screwdriver, and then just go over, put the broken pieces in a box, and pull out a new sonic and go on, since apparently they all knew he was going to break them. It all just made me love him more. And he was always such a good sport about it. Even though you know that hearing about it from everyone had to have been a downer for him. We laughingly dubbed him the "drunken giraffe" but it was done not in mockery, but in total love.

I'm going to miss Matt Smith and his Doctor like blazes. But I feel totally blessed that we got him at all.
You've pretty much summed up everything I like(d) about him, so I can't think of anything to add :]. Great list 8)!

Matt really has been a great Doctor, one of my favorites :). *Nods* When he first appeared as Eleven at the end of "The End Of Time", I was confident I'd like him, but I didn't think he'd become as much of a favorite as DT/Ten was/is. But now, near the end of his tenure, I'm very glad I was proven wrong :).

Gonna miss you, Matt, and your silly, brilliant, eccentric, kind, child-like, sometimes downright frightening Doctor =(!

Edited at 2013-12-19 10:11 pm (UTC)
I remember way back when the casting was first announced, a large portion of the fanbase reaction was caught between "Matt who?" and "Oh lordy, he looks about twelve". And I have to admit, I really didn't know what to expect. But then about twenty minutes into watching 'The Eleventh Hour' with my family, I just glanced across at everyone else glued to the action, and went, "He's very good, isn't he?"
And he's just kept proving it ever since, really.
Welll.. yes! Thank you!
:D No problem. Fannish rants like these help salve the painful sense of anticipation.
Clap. Clap. Clap.

Couldn't have put it better. I'm re-watching some of Eleven's eps this week before the Christmas special, just so I'll be more likely to cry. I'll miss Eleven so. I'll likely be inconsolable as well, if my reaction to Ten's regeneration was any indication. I feel differently about Eleven then I felt about Ten. I loved Ten like a romantic partner. I have this fondness for Eleven...I love him just as much, but feels more like a brother to me. It hit me a few days after the 50th that I don't want him to go. It's like I finally realized how much I love him, now that he's leaving....

Yeah, I will definitely cry.
I have to admit, I didn't cry when Ten went. His goodbyes took so long and his dying moments were so protracted that they overdid the emotion, for me. But provided that Moffat manages to rein himself in a bit, then I'm pretty confident in Matt's abilities to deliver the goods. By which I mean, of course, the happy-sad sucker-punch to the windpipe that a really good regeneration scene can provide.
I thought I was gonna be okay until I read this wonderful post full of reasons why I love Matt/Eleven as much as I do. I have the feeling I'll be a teeny bit unfair to Capaldi/Twelve when he first graces the screen because he's not Matt/Eleven. I know it's not right, but dammit, I was about to give up on nu!Who until Matt popped up at the end of "The End of Time".
Capaldi is a marvelous actor, so I'm not worried about my ability to love Twelve. I just hope that 'The Time of the Doctor' will give Eleven all the focus he needs and deserves. This is his real showstopper moment, and he should go out with a flourish.
*wibbles* I'll just be here, in the corner, totally not crying...
I'll be watching in company on Christmas Day, so I think I'll pick a convenient chair where I can fall apart quietly without being detected. Because dammit, it's not gonna be easy.
Ow, this is a thing of beauty!
Thank you. My love for Eleven usually makes me fairly incoherant, so I'm glad something struck a chord.
Three more days, then the pain begins in earnest. I'm just warming up for it now.
This is a wonderful post. Can I link to it?
Sure, go ahead. I'm hoping for plenty of Eleven love over the next few days; it'll help me cope with the approaching upheaval.
This is wonderful! It's a lot of what I love about him, too. I know I'm going to be crying, and it'll be hard because as much as I'm looking forward to Capaldi, Eleven's my Doctor and the reason I'm even watching the show. He just grabbed me. I'm going to miss him so much.
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