This time tomorrow we’ll know who the Twelfth Doctor is.
I originally commented that I loved this post about how underrated the Sixth Doctor was, but I redacted it because I got to thinking about how this “role model” was primarily known for strangling his female companion within moments of laying eyes on her, and not treating her much better after that. (In fairness, she was hands down the most irritating companion the Doctor has ever had, and I’m counting Dodo Chaplet.)
But then on third thought, I do still see where Jack was coming from. The Sixth Doctor’s televised stories were almost uniformly regrettable, unpleasant, ugly, violent, and charmless (“The Two Doctors” is the only one that brings me any real pleasure, and that’s largely because of the location filming and the performances). And yet real life is often all of those things, and within the long history of Doctor Who it’s almost obligatory that we should have a stretch of time and space that embodies those qualities. And the Sixth Doctor was almost uniquely suited to the situations he encountered. It’s difficult to imagine the other incarnations facing up to the same horrors with any comparable degree of presence. He’s physically imposing, steadfast in his self-belief, unrestrained in his anger, sarcastic and kind in appropriate measure, and occasionally ruthless — and despite all that, often more endearing than his predecessor. He deserved better stories, but his stories deserved him.
The other reason I redacted my comment was that the discussion was veering into Matt Smith-bashing, and I really do think we’re going to be very very lucky to get anyone as good as Smith in the role again. Tom Baker’s my Doctor, and Troughton and Eccleston deserve most of the praise they get, but for my money Matt Smith acted the role with more skill, commitment, range, and overall excellence than anyone else we’ve ever had. Yes, he was marketably cute (not my type, none of them have been, but I get it), and I can see how he wouldn’t have been prickly enough for a Colin Baker fan. His stories weren’t consistent in quality, but he always was.
Initially I was mildly dismayed by Smith’s casting; he seemed too similar to Tennant. But he won me over immediately, just as he did so many fans, and if I hadn’t imprinted in grade school on the Hinchcliffe era, the Eleventh would probably be my Doctor today. It’s possible I’ll be just as charmed by whoever’s next, but it’s hard to imagine, even after experiencing the Tennant/Smith transition. The Eleventh Doctor feels like lightning that probably won’t strike twice.
But who knows? What I do suspect is that we’ll get another Sixth Doctor, in the sense that he’ll* be the right Doctor for the right time. And if so, I’m telling myself even though I’m increasingly nervous, that will be enough.
* Or “she’ll,” but really, who are we kidding?