A Day with the Doctor
Friday was an unusually busy day at Fan Expo in Toronto, reminiscent of a Saturday the year before. As people crowded into the north and south buildings, lining the aisles of retailers and artists alike, many people journeyed downstairs to room 105 to see one man: The Doctor.
Matt Smith, well known to Doctor Who fans, graced the stage in front of hundreds early Friday afternoon to talk about the show, answer fan questions and tell everyone a deep dark secret that earned him some boos and jeers from the crowd.
Smith loves “the spirit of conventions” and his ability to connect with his fans now that his days of being the Doctor are done. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s short on work. He’ll be playing a character in the new Terminator series that is “linked to John Connor”, but unfortunately Smith couldn’t speak more about the upcoming film. Panel moderator Teddy Wilson (of the Space Channel) was eager to talk about how hard the departure from Doctor Who was for Smith, who leaves behind a strong legacy in the realm of the Doctor.
“The show goes on without you and that’s just how it is.”
The star confessed, adding that it was difficult to leave a show that is considered by many a constitutional institution. Admittedly though, when Smith got the call about the role and was offered to go meet writer Stephen Moffat, he wasn’t exactly sure what the role entailed. Moffat, however, set him straight rather quickly. He recalled their first meeting with a smile;
“I arrived at Stephen’s home and on the table he’d laid out paper plates and napkins with David Tennant’s face on them and he said, ‘do you understand what this job is?’ That really stuck with me. Doctor Who is a cultural institution.”
Though he had never seen an entire episode of Doctor Who when he was hired (and that was the admission that drew some gasps and playful boos from the audience), Smith expressed to the crowd that he knew how important the show was to millions of fans, and was both nervous and excited to be a part of it. It was clear to everyone in the room that he knew how important the character and the role were, and he didn’t disappoint during his time on the show.
As eager fans began to line the sides of the stage to ask their questions, one fan asked Smith if he could ‘run with him’ as a companion. Smiling, Smith obliged, inviting the fan up onstage and asking him if they were running towards or away from danger.
“The thing with Doctor Who is that we always run towards danger,” He explained, taking the fans hand and looking over his shoulder, “It’s a monster!” and then forward, “Oh no, an angel!” before the two of them ran across the stage as the audience laughed an applauded.
Another fan asked what his favorite episodes featuring the 11th Doctor were, and I was happy to hear that one of my favorites had made the list. In no particular order and while Smith said he could barely narrow it down, he selected the 11th Hour, The Pandorica Opens, Aslyum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and everyone’s favorite heartwarming (and heartbreaking) episode, Vincent and the Doctor. The crowd reacted especially well at the last one, leaving Smith to let the audience clap and cheer for a moment about his choice in episodes.
Moving on to speak about the 11th Doctors battle between the constant darkness that threatened to consume him, Smith explained that he believed that the version of his Doctor was a very curious one, and it was that curiosity that kept him afloat. Without it, he was sure there would be too much pain, especially after losing Rory and Amy. It was a delicate balance of light and dark that the writers had to walk down in order to be successful and they did it wonderfully.
Of course, the topic of companions came up, but instead of having Smith forced to pick a favorite companion, the question was more about which companion he would want to be. Smith explained that his choice would probably be Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) saying,
“…maybe Piper because she’s really hot and gets to kiss David!”
He said he wouldn’t pick Karen because “she’s too gangly and ginger!”, teasing his costar with a laugh and a ‘just kidding’ saying that he was sad she was missing Fan Expo weekend. He also mentioned Alex Kingston (River Song),
complimenting her, calling her “an absolute dream” and “the most sensational woman on the planet.” He also admitted that if Capaldi’s Doctor got any time with River, Smith may “bang my fists on a table in protest!”
When asked about his favorite one-liners, Smith spun a story about how ‘Geronimo!’ was never meant to be a catchphrase at all. He added it at the end of a sentence once and kept on doing it until Moffat began to write it in for him after it stuck. Moffat also tended to write things into the script that he’d overheard Smith talking about; a comment on how he noticed he was getting grey hair resulted in the Doctor’s line, “I have seven grey hairs”. A teasing friend who poked fun at Smith’s chin resulted in Oswin calling him ‘Chin Boy’, and a request for a hat resulted in the now infamous fez. Of course, Moffat didn’t anticipate that Smith would fall in love with the fez and it would become such an icon of the 11th Doctor.
There was one moment that was sure to be engrained into the minds of every Who fan in the panel (and I’ll admit, even I got goosebumps!) was when a fan asked Smith if he would read something from the episode “Survival” featuring Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor. Before a silent crowd he read,
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace – we’ve got work to do!”
The result was a resounding applause from the crowd who seemed spellbound by the man’s performance. Truly, Smith has a way of capturing his audience and making them feel his words, not just hear them, and perhaps this is another in a long list of why he is one of the most popular Doctors. It was unfortunate that we had to say goodbye to him on Doctor Who but I’m sure many will agree with me when I say we can’t wait to see what he brings us next.
If you’d like to see more photos from Matt Smith’s panel, please visit our FAN EXPO GALLERY for all additional photos, courtesy of our staff photographer, Marc Daniel Delledonne.