On smiling

Reposted from Whitechapel:

I’ve only just watched it and I’m agreed with Phranky – [Matt Smith is] nuanced, very physically adept and, like Magnulus said, already very different from Tennant as The Doctor.

I loved his listing of the acts of humanity escaping to the stars like an academic enthused about his subject that then turned back into playful energetic movements from on-to-off screen as soon as he saw the girl crying; he seems to have adopted an intriguing wringing of his fingers against each other; as well as pushing his neck forward when inquisitive or in the thrall of understanding something; his accordion face is now one of his greatest assets – it gives him age and a curious, mad wisdom; in regard to his temper, I can see where you’re coming from Ian – there is a moment of hesitation where his voice wavers at the end of his shouting – but if you look at the moment when he says ‘As soon as all this is done, I’m taking you home’ I think he’s revealing the darkness we might get more of toward the end of the season, fingers crossed.

The Beast Below episode verdict: ‘And once every five years, everyone chooses to forget what they’ve learned – democracy in action…hold tight, we’re bringing down the government…say weeeeeeeeee’ ‘AAAAAAAHHHHHHH’, excellent; ‘Right then, this isn’t going to be big on dignity – GERONIMO!’ more excellence that would have my nephew laughing his little socks off and had me smiling that Smith somehow did retain his dignity; the demon headmaster(!) as the right hand of the throne; unsure at the direction of the piece because it seemed a little rushed toward the end [the flashback thing will get old quickly] but the same director’s doing the next one so time will tell and, finally, the script had pearls in it but I felt that too was a little rushed – there’s a lot of room left to explore though so I guess Moffat’s acting as facilitator as well as writer on that front.

Jebus – now that my obvious fanboy is outted…erm…any thoughts?


15 thoughts on “On smiling

  1. I’m absolutely delighted by this series so far. I think all of us Who fans were genuinely a little concerned at the thought of Matt Smith, but those worries have been completely cast aside. Much more ‘the Doctor’ than Tennant, Smith seems to have taken on a younger/older Traughton persona, and one which is delightfully, really, actually very weird. Tennant was great, but all too likeable and a little too human. We have had a great taste of the Doctor’s alien brain-workings in the past two episodes and he seems cracked and alien, yet the humour and the humanism is pitched beautifully.
    The Beast Below was inspired, it really was. I love the way the new series has featured as the baddies a crack in a wall, and fear itself. This is what Doctor Who should be all about!
    The casting has been spot on as well. I too was delighted to see Terence Hardiman (‘why are you so sleepy… so early in the day?’) Demon Headmaster FINALLY cast somewhere in the series. I’ve been waiting 5 years for someone to dig him out, and he should have been used ages ago (perhaps instead of Trigger in the rise of the cybermen?).
    This series is going to be great. Daleks in WWII, Van Gogh, Weeping Angels and Silurians. I love it.

    And no more farting aliens.

  2. Just to mention the aesthetics for a moment, I was pretty excited by the fact they have finally picked up on the possibilities of a steam punk style Tardis. I’m really surprised it’s taken so long to be honest, the cobbled- together- charmingly- decrepit feel is perfect. I have a feeling this whole series will be some what influenced by the fashionably vintage style of the 40’s and 50’s – ‘The Beast Below’ seemed to take place largely within a vintage clothes fayre. The Doctor himself sports a terribly Goldsmiths bow tie. It also seems to be far more self consciously presenting itself as British. Union Jacks all over the place, Winston Churchill on the phone, a small village with a duck pond… I hope it doesn’t all become far too twee for its own good. But then again, Matt Smith is decidedly untwee, so maybe I’m worrying needlessly. I feel like I’m cheating on Tennant a little bit saying this, but damn, I like him. I find myself near abouts transfixed just by the extraordinary movements of his face. I’m really looking forward to how he develops the character. EXCITING.

  3. Excellent points, both.

    I agree, ‘delightfully, really, actually very weird’ comes out in his movements, his walk especially and his much-less-human-than-Tennant/RTD morality – he was going to lobotomise The Beast so I think we’ll get a very alien, very brilliantly mad series!

    Moffat’s scariness is quite brilliant: simple things alongside political critique – the first for the younguns, the latter for us; it’s all about scaring the 8 year old in me alongside creeping the 25 year old the fuck out – the Smilers? Jeeebus would I get the shivers if I ever dreamt about them – especially because there used to be a London gang called The Chelsea Smilers who’d cut you a smile for supporting the wrong team.

    I was unsure about the episode’s reveal of the ‘starwhale’ [an RTD idea if ever there was one] as the conceit was already revealed and I felt that they’d jumped the spacewhale on that one a bit – I know what you’re thinking, ‘it was for the kids’ and you’re right, they did need something but it would have been a lot better if they’d left it right until then end [alongside that excellent crack in the ship] to reveal the actual size of the thing

    and given it a better name. =D

    It’s so weird that you should say that about The Demon Headmaster instead of Trig, I had that same thought when watching it. God call, sir! Good call.

    A fine point – the Doctor’s out of time but within all time is a perfect steampunk set up – we just need more steam! Bring on the clankings and huffings of the unreliable tardis, maybe there’s a new hanger for aerial vehicles in there, Tennant might have flown an air balloon but give Smith a zeppelin and I’m his.

    On that front, you’re not really cheating on Tennant – like he said in the last two episodes of his run, he’s dead. You’re in mourning, dammit and Matt Smith may just be the madman to entertain you until you laugh.

    I laughed at the bow-tie at first because it was funny, secondly because it’s soooo Goldsmiths [I saw an old Goldsmiths student working in American Apparel today and he might as well have been sporting a sonic screwdriver because he was wearing Matt Smith’s exact costume] but thirdly because it’s perfect – like Ben said, it’s Troughton but it’s also Pertwee and (occasionally) McCoy.

    And so we come back to the Who legacy – Pertwee’s entire first series was England based with UNIT and now Moffat’s making it all very stiff upper lip, what? I’m unsure I’d like it to be all too Earth bound but, you’re right Anna, I can already see an excellent 40s Britain nostalgia coming slowly out [perhaps just in time for the election – that’s exactly how I felt about The Beast Below’s slightly anti-conservative timeliness, anyway.]

    However, much like Moffat Amy’s influence is far from Conservative [yep, a big C this time] and so I doubt we’ll be seeing too much twee but just plenty of space-faring twee-d.

    Bringing us back to your comment about Smith and his face – it is hypnotic, isn’t it? But watch out for his walk and the way his arms wave wide when he jumps over on on things – the man may as well be in The Cure at points – he’s excellently gangly but just rockstar mad enough to pull off some sort of ADD-McGann-Troughton.

    Finally, if you’re referencing what I think you’re referencing – I too loved the psuedo-childish way he was with his “Sorry about that – new tardis…quite EXCITING [insert goof]”.

  4. Out of curiousity, what do you guys make of the new assistant Amy Pond? I found the thinly veiled allusion to her career as a stripper pretty hilarious, but overall I think I rather preferred her as a sardonic child than a pouty adult. That kid was brilliant.

    I’m getting pretty sick of the pervading idea behind the assistants in general to be honest; Young, hot girl is rescued from her everyday existence to follow around an emotionally stunted man on his Very Important Adventures, whilst making goo goo eyes as he pretends not to notice. Quite frankly, it’s just sexist. These are always girls who are ‘street smart’ as opposed to clever, a little on the naive side, and utterly infatuated with the doctor, who generally teases them mercilessly. Donna was the only exception, and being a dribbling idiot, she basically doesn’t count. None of these women are left particularly empowered by their encounter with the Doctor either, he picks them up, takes them round the universe a bit, and them dumps them back on earth to spend the rest of their lives recovering. Look at Sarah Jane, she’s in her 40’s and still hanging around with a metal dog in the hopes of just one more fleeting encounter with the ever youthful doctor. I’m not complaining, as some people are, that Doctor Who has been too ‘sexed up’ rather that it’s fallen into a lazy form of sexism. How about an experienced, intelligent woman as the Doctors companion, who actually features for more than one episode before committing suicide. A nineteen year old ex model in a policewoman costume wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

    Ok, sexism rant over!

  5. It’s a fair point, and one which has not escaped my attention. I don’t know what I think of Amy Pond yet, I thought the kissogram thing was plainly daft (I didn’t know they even still existed) especially considering the small-village existence she formerly lead. I have been told that Moffat has written her as a strong and intelligent character, but there is always the problem that being young and extremely beautiful, this often produces patronising results in Buffy-style ‘kick-ass’ femininity, instead of an equal standing or anything really resembling one.
    I’m still waiting for a female Doctor. It has been proven in the past that Time Lords can regenerate as women – Romana was, at one point, male.
    I do like Amy Pond, though. I really do.

  6. I want so much for there to be a female Doctor. I’m not sure it will ever happen though, I can imagine many a fan being up in arms about it. It would add such an interesting dynamic to the show though… How much would the Doctor be affected by a change in sex? Would she have predominantly male companions? Would she be a ‘feminine’ Doctor, or the same as ever with some new organs? There would be so many new and interesting facets of the Doctor to explore, not to mention the challenge it would offer to the current gender power dynamics. But yeah, I can’t really see it happening any time soon. Maybe if interest drops off and they need a radically new approach to reinvigorate the programme.

  7. Regarding the lazy sexism and working-class dis-empowerment, I’d agree that RTD’s run on the show was difficult, to say the least – especially Martha’s [Freema Agyeman’s] stay.

    Poor Freema, I really felt for her as an actor: “Here you are Freema, here’s a badly written and underdeveloped character in the biggest British show on telly and one of the largest in the world. Now make Betty Boo eyes and be SEXY!”

    Up until Moffat’s run, I agree with you entirely, Anna.

    Especially in retrospect. At the time it wasn’t necessarily something I’d consider regularly.

    However, I think that Pond might be different.

    My reasons being: she’s getting married – or is supposed to be – and thus isn’t displaying immediate romantic affection; I think that her growing up with him in mind as ‘an imaginary friend’ would have meant more of an non-sexual, Famous Five sort of set-up; she’s fierce as hell and, from the little I’ve gleaned so far, on a parallel as opposed to infatuated path with The Doctor.

    If anything, the relationship I feel that’s developing is one of kinship – he’s crazy, she’s a little “4 psychiatrists…bitten” crazy (in a good way of course – let’s keep the world as weird as possible, if you please) – but they’re adventurers together like you might have been with a member of the opposite sex at the age when Amy first met him. Also, I see a little paternal feeling come from this new Doctor for her and, seeing as how this season seems a little more aimed at kids, hope that there’ll be no need for all the sexing with Moffat.

    [“Sexing with Moffat” should be an ITV special.]

    Regarding an intelligent, mature companion: I’m waiting until River Song gets her first meeting with The Doctor. I’m ridiculously excited about that.

    Female DOCTOR!?>!>?!?!


    [fanboy says no]
    Ben says: YES!

    [Also, don’t forget The Doctor’s Daughter, Jenny, is still alive out there somewhere. She has a rocketship. Sweet.]

  8. I dunno Ben, she seemed pretty thrilled about The Doctor getting his kit off in the hospital changing rooms… But we’ll see. Oh and I whole heartedly agree, bring on River Song!

  9. Yeah – I was unsure about that bit too. Was it intrigue? Was it some odd fascination with someone she thought was possibly imagined? Was it ‘sexytime’? [Yes, I just said that.] Or was she simply unashamed to assert her confidence in the, quite funny, situation?

    I’d like to think the latter but the direction and quick editing didn’t give you time to really consider it.

    Just found this from Moffat about Matt Smith’s Doctor “Matt’s costume is distinct; it’s lovable; it’s accessible to children, they all think he’s funny. One of the odd things about Matt is that if you make him look cool, he looks insanely cool, and the Doctor shouldn’t look too cool. You want kids to run up to him and take his hand.” From here.

    This makes me wonder if Amy is going to always be the kid that goes up to The Doctor and holds his hand. I hope so – friends and someone she can trust. No need for any more – like Patrick Troughton and his Scottish nephew Jamie [why exactly was he Scottish? – it’s Doctor Who, it doesn’t matter. That’s why :D]

  10. I didn’t like River Song. Her character benefited from being in a truly excellent episode but…meh. Didn’t think much of her.
    The whole staring at the Doctor’s arse thing was fine, though, Wasn’t it? A bit of light relief at nobody’s real expense, and not something wholly unrealistic. I put my hands up and wholeheartedly admit that I would have been looking too. I like a nice bum.

  11. I would have watched – how do we know what an alien bum looks like otherwise?

    In fact, considering that ‘seeing is believing but feeling is the truth’, I may even have given the man a squeeze

    on the shoulder to check he was real.

  12. I think it was definately a bit of eyebrow raising ‘sexy time’, but perhaps also a means by which to show what a modern, sassy girl Amy supposedly is. I just found it a little exasperating they were injecting sexual tension into an episode that had, up until that point, been mainly about friendship and trust between the two main characters. I dont WANT the Doctor to always be an object of lust. It’s boring. Although… I am in agreement with you guys, I probably wouldn’t avert my eyes either. But maybe it all comes down to plain old human curiousity as to the sight of an alien bum.

  13. Ok wow, that interview makes Matt sound completely and utterly adorable. Like a happy bow tie wearing puppy bounding around with a sonic screwdriver in its mouth. Also, I can see the point about his capacity to easily appear too cool. The boys a lanky, weirdass looking clothes horse who could easily look like some bizarr-o alien model. And one model in the series is quite enough.

  14. Hahah! I too thought ‘puppy’ when reading that.

    He is a bit indy, a bit Goldsmiths but then – like the interview said and I said in my post – he’s also a tweed-wearing-scientist-academic. Well said on his lanky, clothes-horse-ness – even Moffat called him a giraffe. =D

    I hope that they both keep up the pretty good standard of acting we’ve seen thus far – Saturday will be intriguing as it’ll be the first time we see him come face to face with…oh, you know who.

  15. I really hope we don’t get a load of churchill-bumming tomorrow, though. It might put me off the whole series. Hopefully Moffat’s Scottishness will come through and draw some relevant comparisons between Churchill and Davros.

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