Allow me a moment or two of indulgence. I was late to the party when it came to watching Doctor Who, missing the hype that surrounded David Tennant’s era and passing the show off as something that would never interest me. But then I heard of the new one, of the Eleventh Doctor and heard it was airing on BBC America and I decided, what the hell, it may be a fun hour of television.
I began watching Doctor Who right before I entered college and now, Matt Smith’s era is ending as my senior year draws to a close quicker than I’d ever like. While it may seem like misplaced sentiment, I cannot help but feel an absurd attachment to the man in the bow tie for being the absolute perfect escapism when I needed it. It was an hour of wishes, of stars and dreams, of escaping into the universe for wacky hijinks and mayhem. It’s a show that’s had multiple pitfalls-especially under Steven Moffat’s run-but it’s a rare show that can completely take one’s mind away from real life worries and with Smith’s infectious personification of the Doctor, the Pond duo that he brought along with him and the many other faces that he’s crossed paths with, the show has always been a weekly highlight.
And now, on Christmas Day, we will bid adieu to the Eleventh Doctor and all of the wonderful magical moments that Matt Smith has supplied him with as we welcome Peter Capaldi as the 12th. It will undoubtedly be sad-as it is to any television fanatic parting with a fantastic character-but to stem the feelings of goodbye, I’ve decided to list my top ten episodes, that often contain my favorite moments, of Matt Smith’s era.
10. Amy’s Choice
This may not be an obvious choice but it’s some of the most fun the show’s had with putting its characters in seemingly unbeatable predicaments and by the stories end you realize how much of a character study it was. Sure, the TARDIS was floating to an ice star, the gang were being chased by alien elderly that turned people into dust, and Toby Jones was spouting meta nonsense at the Doctor but overall it was about our three characters, what constituted a dream and what was worth living in reality, and it showed the hints of a darker Doctor, one who wasn’t so friendly to be around.
9. The Big Bang
“I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay, we’re all stories in the end-but make it a great one.”
The best finale that Eleven’s run has had, this episode mixes emotional moments with action-adventure, allowing moments of bombastic natures as well as moments of near silence. We get the Doctor telling older Amy about how the crack in the wall has been taking away her memories, as well as a moment where the Doctor goes to young Amelia Pond as she sleeps awaiting his return, and puts thoughts and ideas in her head that will come back to her years later on her wedding day. It’s one of the first instances with this version of the character that we see the evidence of his age, as he slumps in his chair, the world on his shoulders and he laughs and his own memories, at the happy ones and the happy days behind and the lost ones ahead. It makes their reuniting at the end, at Rory and Amy’s wedding day all the sweeter.
8. The Time of the Angels
This is the Doctor Who monster for me. The Weeping Angels are suitably scary, providing a real threat to Amy and the Doctor. We get to see the Doctor put on his whiz kid hat and work his way out of the problem they’ve gotten themselves into. It’s the first time we see Smiths version meet up with River Song and Smith and Alex Kingston share palpable chemistry. It’s the episode in season five where the show really hit its stride and fans everywhere were sucked in for the mystery and intrigue.
7. Vincent and the Doctor
This may be the sweetest episode of the Matt Smith’s run as he and Amy travel back in time and make acquaintances with Vincent Van Gough. It’s an absurd premise and for some reason it’s riddled with melancholic sentimentality as we watch Amy will an unhappy man to change his ways as the Doctor tries to find a monster. In the end we see Van Gough see the legacy he left behind in one of the most touching moments the show has done and in one of the Doctor’s most selfless ones.
6. The Girl Who Waited
This is a favorite for a very different because it doesn’t show the best of the Doctor, but the worst. This isn’t an example of how the Doctor saves lives but at how he has the power to destroy them and he does to a version of Amy Pond. He accidentally leaves her behind to grow old, lonely for decades and when she seems him she’s full of bitterness and hatred towards him, very unlike the younger counterpart. There’s an important moment where the Doctor forces Rory into choosing which Amy comes aboard the TARDIS and Rory tells at him (a great showcase for Arthur Darvill) that if this is what traveling with the Doctor means, he doesn’t want to anymore. He says that he isn’t like the Doctor, he can’t be simply calculating. And we see as the Doctor close the door on a girl he held such affection for to save skin and it’s fantastic because all great characters have multi-facets of gray.
5. The Rings of Akhenaten
“I walked away from the last great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time, no space. Just me! I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman! And I watched universes freeze and creation burn!” Not only was this episode the best example of music usage, the best utilization of Clara’s character (played by Jenna Louise-Coleman) and the best episode of season seven, but it was also the best example of exactly what Matt Smith has to offer and it’s quite a lot. The speech at the end of the episode shows a Doctor that is weary, that is too old for his young body that is desperate for ill-fated memories to be taken from him. It’s chill inducing and shows how despite Smith’s young age he’s the best at inhibiting the idea that the Doctor is very old indeed.
4. The Pandorica Opens
“Something else I don’t have, anything to lose.”
Directed by Toby Haynes this episode is one of the best the show had to offer in terms of action packed excitement. It also introduces Rory the Roman after having been believed to have been dead. It’s an episode that brings back the Doctor’s foes as they all fight for control over the universe through the pandorica. It’s a hell of a good time and it shows the Doctor as the powerful, threatening man we’ve been told about.
3. The God Complex
This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of an overall disjointed season six, as we see the Doctor, Rory and Amy all imprisoned in a hotel where each room and every hallway contains a new threat to the characters psyche. The Doctor must get them out in time all the while facing off with his own worst fear-one that is never revealed to us. It’s the episode where we see Amy’s worst fear, her disillusionment of the Doctor, where her hero-worshiping ends. We see a room where young Amy sits and waits, looking to the stars for the mystery man to sweep her away-and he doesn’t come. It’s a sobering moment followed by an unexpectedly sad one as the Minotaur who they had believed to have been chasing them was revealed to have been a fellow prisoner. It’s an episode of poignancy and revelations where all three see each other as they truly are.
2. The Eleventh Hour
I doubt there’s ever been a better introduction into a character. Fans and critics were dubious when Matt Smith was cast as the eleventh Doctor, citing his age as a detractor and his lack of acting experience. After David Tennant’s hugely popular run people couldn’t believe that some fresh faced kid was going to come and take the reigns-but he did and in his first hour he made audiences fall in love with his enthusiastic, always late and curious Doctor. We are introduced to him through a child’s eyes (young Amelia Pond) and it’s there we see what she sees, an old man, a mad man in a blue box who’s fallen from the sky to poke about a bit. And so he does, crash landing into the episode and leaving his mark immediately. The most affirming moment comes late into the hour when he walks through holograms of all of his past selves to scare the baddies away and does so with confidence, only needing to say “run” to save the planet. It took me ten Doctors to finally watch Doctor Who, it took me only one hour to fall head over heels for the one I chose to watch.
1. The Doctors Wife
“I just wanted to say, hello Doctor”
Neil Gaiman gets to forever be heralded as the man who created the episode that became the pinnacle of season six as well as Matt Smith’s run. He managed to combine science fiction lore, action-adventure, love story aspects and a tale of the old man and his ship with aplomb, managing to converge genres in a way that showrunner Steven Moffat has difficulty with. The tone was exciting, the set designs were futuristic and stylish, and the chemistry between Matt Smith and Suranne Jones as Idris-the TARDIS- was touching. They seemed like old friends seeing each other for the first time because ultimately, the Doctor is a lonely man and his most constant companion has been his blue box who as we find out, has always taken him wherever he needed to go. They’ve lived a long and complicated life together which makes their final goodbye all the sweeter because after all of this time, all she wants to say to him is hello, and how glad she is to see him. Our Doctors faces may change, the interior may look different, but the core relationship is steady and always growing. It’s an example of not only one of Smith’s brightest moments of acting (he plays subdued, understated sadness with skill) but it was also one of the best insights we’ve seen into the Doctor whose mission has always been to explore-and now he got to see the soul who allowed it.