One of the wildest conceits behind Doctor Who is that, thanks to the strange physiology of his alien body, The Doctor typically regenerates into another body (and, conveniently, another actor) rather than dying. So far, there have been 14 Doctors, and that number will grow when Ncuti Gatwa takes the reigns of this BBC show in November. One constant throughout space and time is that fans love to argue over who the best Doctor is, and we’re here to settle it: Matt Smith is the best series lead that Doctor Who has ever had.
There are many reasons we love Smith in this role, and it’s not just because he somehow made bowties look cool. We also love having a Doctor who has comedy as a central part of his personality: despite being an ancient cosmic being of unimaginable power and resources, Matt Smith’s Doctor always has a quick joke or a silly comment to defuse the universe-threatening tension he is experiencing.
In this way, he pours an amazing amount of humanity into the role, and it’s something audiences understandably respond to in a powerful way.
“Hello… I’m the Doctor… basically… run.”-Matt Smith as The Doctor
In fact, while this is a quality that haters really love to pounce on, these very human foibles are a major part of what makes Matt Smith’s youthful Doctor someone we can relate to. Despite always being the smartest guy in the room, this is a Doctor who is often just as shy and even bashful as the biggest introverts you’ve ever met (somehow, we doubt the next Doctor, whose season premieres on Disney+ in November, will be much like this).
In fact, he’s so good at making the Doctor look serious and scary at times that it recontextualizes all of the times that his character made us laugh.
And every revelation about his personality makes, such as the fact that he rips the final page out of every book because “I hate endings,” makes us want to learn more about who this quirked-up time traveler really is.
The Romance Doctor
Additionally, while there are many who prefer a Doctor who is a bit more alien and remote, we also love the fact that romance is a key part of Matt Smith’s performance in Doctor Who.
His Doctor has a relationship with River Song that can only be described as one of the greatest love stories in television history, and it’s thrilling to see a character as lonely as the Doctor get to experience love and affection from someone who can keep up with him. Furthermore, the depths of his affection for River is a reflection of his affection for humanity, which gives his never ending quest to save Earth a personal quality.
Finally, while we earlier praised Matt Smith for giving Doctor Who a much-needed injection of humor and heart, it’s worth noting that he knows how to bring a dark and serious side, something we see in episodes like “A Good Man Goes To War.” In fact, he’s so good at making the Doctor look serious and scary at times that it recontextualizes all of the times that his character made us laugh.
Sure, he may be the guy who tells jokes about fish fingers and custard based on his cute meeting with an adolescent Amy Pond in his first real episode, but he revealed who he really was in an entirely different line later in the same ep: “Hello…I’m the Doctor…basically…run.”
And not only is this Doctor scary when needed, but his scary-good performance helped earn him the title (we’re sorry to say it, David Tennant) of the best Doctor of them all.