On December 25, 2009, I said goodbye to my first Doctor. I’d been hooked for nearly a year, having first seen the episode “Tooth and Claw” on the SyFy network. I’d since made up for lost time, quickly tracking down the previous seasons in time to watch Series 4 in real time. And so, on that Christmas Day 4 years ago, I watched in horrified silence as Doctor No. 11 defeated the Master and stopped the Time Lords from escaping time lock, only to be undone by his (in my opinion) most heartwarming companion, Wilf. However, nothing could have prepared me for what followed. I’d seen the Regeneration of No. 10 (Eccleston) into No. 11 (Tennant) and had been just fine. But when the well-dressed and debonair Tennant regenerated into nerdy-looking Smith, I was heartbroken. Alons-y was out and Geronimo was in. Wonderfully long coats were out of fashion, replaced by conservative sport coats and suspenders. I was mortified.
So, Matt Smith fans, I know what you’re going through; I was there. But please, please, please, don’t make the same mistake I did. Distraught with losing the Tenth Doctor, I watched Season 5 as if Tennant was still the Doctor and Russel T. Davies was still head writer. Everything that I disagreed with I chalked up as “mistakes” due to changes in the cast and staff. In retrospect, things weren’t really that bad. They were different, yes, but I shouldn’t have let that ruin the season for me. Indeed, upon re-watching Series 5, I see that Steven Moffat had a unique style I hadn’t noticed before.
Now that Smith has announced he’s leaving the show, I can finally admit that he’s grown on me. Looking back, I think that in some ways Smith was better for Dr. Who than Tennant. Now don’t get me wrong, I still think Tennant is the superior actor, but there are some things Smith was able to accomplish that Tennant couldn’t.
First and foremost, Matt Smith’s doctor became popular in America. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it did. Through the Tennant years, I had to buy my Whophernalia offline, namely amazon.co.uk. Now the entire series is in stock at Target or Wal-Mart, Hot Topic sells t-shirts and buttons galore, and Suncoast always has something random like a TARDIS cookie jar or Weeping Angel standee. Barnes and Noble and even Books-a-Million have Who tables selling books, puzzles, bookmarks, and games. And somehow, all this was done without turning Who into an American show; remember the failed attempt to bring Torchwood stateside? It makes me want to shout Fantastic!
Second, Doctor 11 introduced us Americans to a whole new culinary experience. We learned the joys of British-style custard and, yes, even tried it with fish fingers. Really, it’s not as bad as you’d think. Then there are the Jammie Dodgers, which are simply wonderful (and sold in the International section of my local grocer). If you haven’t tried either of these things, you should. Just don’t try them at the same time, your stomach can handle only so many new things at a time. Trust me on this.
Third, bow ties became popular. I’ve always liked bow ties, but others haven’t always appreciated them. They’ve been considered apparel for nerds, dorks, or old men. Admittedly, I fall into one of these three categories. Nevertheless, thanks to a 30 year old actor playing a 900+ year old alien, I can wear one in public without fear. In fact, I received several bow ties as gifts from my students this year, and several boys wore bow ties to the Spring Banquet because “bow ties are cool.” Matt Smith, I can’t thank you – and your costume designer – enough.
Therefore, I look forward to this Christmas with anticipation. Not because Smith is leaving – although at one point that would have been the case – but because I’m excited to see what the next Doctor will bring to Who. Maybe the next Doctor will introduce Americans to Spotted Dick or – one can only hope – make fezzes cool.