The Eleventh Doctor: The Oldest of Them All
Guest contributor Dorf Johnson examines Matt Smith’s no-so-youthful incarnation.
Matt Smith’s incarnation of the Doctor was my favorite, and he was also my first. Back in 2010, I watched my first Doctor Who episode: The Eleventh Hour. Immediately I loved this madman with a box that ate fish fingers and custard and thought bowties were cool. It was just so wonderfully ridiculous and fun!
But there is also so much more to Smith’s Doctor. Although he is the youngest Doctor to fill the role, to me he seems the oldest, even with the addition of Peter Capaldi. I find that Capaldi’s Doctor feels like a man with so much energy and fire in him. But Matt’s Doctor truly felt like an old man, tired of going through the motions to defeat the monster. His fear of meeting his death at Trenzalore is much like every person’s who is meeting their end. He protects Amy and Clara like an old man caring for his daughter or grand-daughter, and at times his dialogue and voice even sounds like a man in his sixties or seventies.
In fact, even Matt’s more youthful and childish moments are part of his Doctor’s old man theme. Thinking fezzes are cool and taking delight in the small things in life seems like the characteristic of a small child, but really, it’s an old man trying to escape his age and be young again.
The Eleventh Doctor also takes on one of the younger companions that the Doctor has travelled with, Amy Pond. Like the Doctor, she is still a young girl in many ways when she begins travelling with the Doctor, but she is now an adult. In Season 5, both of them are running from something, be it their age or their wedding, they’re trying to escape life by travelling in the TARDIS.
In a way, Rory is the balance to this desire to be free of life. Rory is grounded and enjoys his simple life in Leadworth with Amy. As seen in the episode Amy’s Choice, his dream, even after seeing all the incredible things the Doctor can show people, is to just leave the Doctor to travel alone and live with Amy. Have a kid, settle down. And that’s what Amy is running from. She is running from ending her life as a kid and becoming an adult, in much the same way the Doctor is running from the consequences of his actions and the guilt that comes with them. The guilt of and old man. Like the Dream Lord says, “The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?”
Near the end of Matt Smith’s turn as the Doctor, you realize that his incarnation of the Doctor lived longer than any previous incarnation. The Tenth Doctor was 906 years old when he regenerated. Eleven is 1,200 in The Day of the Doctor. This means that at that time the Eleventh had lived for 294 years. But then he was on Trenzalore for 900 years in The Time of the Doctor. This means that Smith’s incarnation of the Doctor lived for about 1,194 years, which is more than the amount of time of all the previous Doctors combined! Although it is well known that the Doctor is prone to lie about his age, I think it’s safe to say that the Eleventh Doctor probably did live much longer than his other incarnations.
Number Eleven undergoes a lot of development throughout his life, too. In The Eleventh Hour, the Doctor is crazy and fun, jumping around and basically just having fun and acting like a young man. But this is the complete opposite of his appearance in “The Time of the Doctor.” Just watch his regeneration speech and you’ll know what I mean. He is poetic and meaningful, sad but accepting that his time as the Doctor is up. This is like an old man at the end of his life. Sad that he has to go, but he also accepts it as a fact. This is not the Eleven that stood on the roof of a hospital and told the Atraxi to basically run.
Although Matt Smith is the youngest actor to fill the role (so far), he was able to bring an interesting and believable quality to the Doctor who was truly the oldest of them all.