How do you make a whole nation tune in to the same TV channel at the same time? A state of the nation address by the head of state? Announce the death of a senior member of the royal family? Or simply tell them that they will find out who the next actor to play that wandering Time Lord, Doctor Who in his eleventh incarnation, will be? The latter, it seems!
So it was that Matt Smith was exhibited to the nation – a lamb to the slaughter perhaps? After all, this is one of the best loved TV characters of all time and those lucky (or foolhardy enough) to be chosen for and accept this role have the hopes of a nation (if not the English speaking world!) riding on their shoulders!
The BBC was, once upon a time, accused of not being very good at marketing or self-promotion. No so anymore! In an unprecedented move the BBC announced on New Year’s Day that they would be announcing the new Doctor Who, David Tennant’s replacement on Saturday 3 November. Usually it is done as an item at the end of the news – the ‘feel good’ story to give people that little pre-bedtime boost and it is reported in the newspapers the following day.
However, due to the huge popularity of the show, and the fondness people have for Mister Tennant, the BBC made an unprecedented move. They announced that they would be unveiling the new Doctor in a special episode of the popular spin-off show, Doctor Who Confidential. Normally shown on the digital channel, BBC3, the show was, for one day only, destined for the prime Saturday tea-time slot of five thirty-five on the BBC’s flagship channel, BBC1.
Tennant announced that he was quitting the show last year and the actor replacing him has been the source of intense and frenzied media speculation since then. The rumors abounded – would the next Doctor be a woman? Catherine Zeta-Jones has been thought to have been in talks with the corporation. Coming from
Would the next Doctor be black? Two well respected actors were thought likely to be in the frame – Patterson Joseph and Chitwel Ejifor. Ejifor has a successful film career and Patterson is best known to TV viewers for his role as Greg Preston in the recent revival of that other BBC science-fiction favorite, Survivors.
However, he choice was ultimately Matt Smith. Born in 1982 he is the youngest actor ever to take on the role. He is known to TV audiences for his role as Jim Taylor in the adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Ruby In The Smoke. Ironically he performed alongside Billie Piper in this role, who starred as the Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler in the rejuvenated series when it started four years ago. He also appeared beside her in the much raunchier vehicle, Secret Diaries of a Call Girl.
He has made a number of stage appearances, including the cast of Alan Bennet’s History Boys (it seems that no young British actor these days has not appeared in this!).
As a member of the National Youth Theatre he was well positioned to go on roles in television and his first professional performance was in Fresh Kills, starring Christian Slater.
He has received one acting award and that was the Lawrence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement or Performance in an Affiliate Theatre. This is sure to be the first of many now he has accepted the role of the Doctor! Smith will beginning filming later this year and the first full series starring him as the Doctor will show on British television in 2010.
Good luck to Matt!