Will I miss Matt Smith?
No, I won’t.
Well on the one hand, you look at his stories and think they weren’t very good on the whole. When I come to rank all the Doctor Who stories from An Unearthly Child all the way through to The Time of the Doctor, I can’t imagine that many will feature in the Top 100 let alone the Top 50.
I would honestly say that there are four or maybe five really good Matt Smith adventures, and that’s it.
Meanwhile, at least two will definitely feature in my Bottom 10, and one is a genuine contender for the worst story ever.
So what’s the problem? Is it him?
Not entirely, but I’ll get to him later.
The big problem with Matt Smith’s era is Steven Moffat. He’s just not a very good show-runner. When he was just a guest writer for the show, his output included stone cold classics like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace, but when the responsibility of carrying the entire Doctor Who brand fell upon his shoulders, I think he failed and continues to fail to this day.
In the Matt Smith Era, Doctor Who became a mish-mash of repetitive fantasy yarns weighed down by convoluted story-arcs, recurring monsters and far too much fan-wankery. Don’t get me wrong, when fan-wankery is done well, it’s great, but some of just seemed so forced.
Of his 39 Matt Smith stories, 19 of them involved a monster/enemy who would appear in more than one of his adventures. I haven’t compared that to other eras of the show, but this is the only one where it’s been so obvious.
It’s not Matt Smith’s fault, but in his era you look at characters like River Song, The Daleks, The Cybermen, Madam Vastra and even the Weeping Angels and just wish they’d piss off, never to return.
And of course, with Moffat in charge, it’s not just that the quality of the show’s output has suffered, but the amount too.
As for Smith, I always felt his acting was too showy and performance-like. I’ve always believed that a good actor shouldn’t be seen to be visibly “acting”, but Matt Smith never showed anything less.
To me, Smith’s wild movements, delivery and gestures – along with the way he was written – felt forced compared to…well compared to almost every other actor who has ever played the part. In recent months we’ve seen him shown up by David Tennant, John Hurt, a really old Tom Baker, a 30 second cameo by Peter Capaldi and even Paul McGann. The public outcry from fans to get a Paul McGann series after only 10 minutes was incredible, but people wanted him because he just seemed a lot better – both in terms of characterisation and performance – than Smith.
Matt Smith has said he’s influenced by Patrick Troughton, but he’s nowhere near Troughton’s level. Smith, not now or ever, will command the screen when he is up against his peers.
So I won’t miss Matt Smith in the least; he wasn’t the worst Doctor, nor did he have the worst stories on average, but he’s a long, long, looooong way off being the best Doctor.
Anyway, here’s how I’d rank his stories…
39. The Crimson Horror
I say this without hyperbole; The Crimson Horror is a serious contender for Worst Doctor Who Story of All Time. It is awful. With a terrible script stuffed to the gills with misfiring humour and a dottled guest actress who wasn’t taking it remotely seriously, it’s just embarrassing.
38. The Vampires of Venice
While I consider Matt Smith’s first season to be his best, this was a real let down. It has a funny pre-credits sequence but after that it’s just style over substance.
An incredibly boring story. I can’t muster up much more to say.
36. Let’s Kill Hitler
Classically bad River Song drivel. One of these stories that you can’t watch on its own merit either.
35. A Town Called Mercy
There’s that word again; boring. Nice setting, nice costumes, shame about the script.
34. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
A good idea, but poorly executed.
33. A Good Man Goes To War
See “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Slightly better though.
32. The Wedding of River Song
Same again, though on the plus side it finally put that tiresome “Does the Doctor die” story-arc to bed.
31. The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon
30. The God Complex
I feel we’re going round in circles, but this is yet another case of style over substance. So many of these stories look interesting but don’t have the plots/scripts to back it up.
29. The Beast Below
I described it as dull and awkward, and complained that Steven Moffat usually did better work than it. A sign of things to come I think.
28. Nightmare in Silver
Just what we needed; more Cyberman episodes. And bratty children
27. The Snowmen
This felt like more of a set-up of what’s to come, rather than a solid episode in its own right.
26. The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe
While by no means a stand-out, this did what it set out to do; it provided a decent bit of Christmas Day viewing for fans and casual viewers alike
25. The Doctor’s Wife
I seem to be a lone voice in my lack of enthusiasm for The Doctor’s Wife. We’re beyond the bad stories now, but this just isn’t one that peaks my interest. The look is too grim for my liking.
24. The Curse of the Black Spot
Conversely, I enjoy this more than most. I don’t see much in the way of flaws and I described it as “inoffensive fun” in my review.
23. Cold War
It’s great to see The Ice Warriors back, but I felt this was more a case of fitting them in to an existing story rather than finding one for them to thrive in. To give it credit though, it was atmospheric.
22. Victory of the Daleks
While I really laid into this in my review, and branded it “ridiculously lazy and stupid”, its main problem was that it tried to redo Power of the Daleks in 12 minutes. That was never going to work, but what was left was still ok.
21. The Bells of Saint John
Though it all felt a bit “by-the numbers” this was a reasonably good episode that introduced Clara properly at last.
20. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
Not as good on second viewing as it is on first, this has its moments, but struggles to find the middle ground between grimness and buffoonery.
19. Asylum of the Daleks
This on the other hand is better the second time around, mainly because the first time I watched it I was caught up in the BBC’s lie about how it had every Dalek ever in it.
18. Closing Time
Not nearly as good as The Lodger, but still a pleasant watch. Cybermen being killed by love though really is them at their lowest ebb.
17. The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood
It’s “The Silurian Story 2K10″
16. The Rings of Akhaten
A sing-song in space. I thought it was breezy but enjoyable. Don’t understand the hate.
15. The Name of the Doctor
Strip away all the admittedly enjoyable fan-wankery, this is just the usual recent-Moff guff. But the fan-wankery was good this time.
14. The Eleventh Hour
A good start to Matt Smith’s era.
13. Amy’s Choice
I summed it up by saying “It’s a fresh, interesting idea and the small cast make the best of it, but there are some obvious flaws that hold it back.”
12. The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People
While it didn’t need to resort to having a “Monster” at the end, I thought this one was actually pretty impressive.
11. The Angels Take Manhattan
“As long as you don’t think about it too deeply (and by too deeply I mean “at all”), The Angels Take Manhattan is a very good story that combines emotion and visual impact to send off Amy & Rory in style.
But it doesn’t stand to reason, and that takes away from it.”
10. The Time of the Doctor
While it is what is it because of Steven Moffat’s inability to write story-arcs properly, I liked it. While not a patch on David Tennant’s final 20 minutes, Matt Smith manages to bow out with grace.
09. The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang
I said it was “epic in its scale, clever,funny, charming, witty, good fun and like a modern-day fairy tale, but also riddled with continuity errors and plot holes that just drags the whole thing down.”
08. Night Terrors
Featuring surprisingly highly on the list is Night Terrors, which is this high because in a sea of story-arc pish, it managed to be an enjoyable, self-contained episode that hit the spot.
07. The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone
While it weakened The Weeping Angels, there’s no doubt it’s still a solid piece of television.
06. The Girl Who Waited
I like that Doctor Who can still – when it wants to be – be fresh and interesting. This was that, both in terms of setting and storyline. And Karen Gillen was actually quite good, which is saying something.
05. The Power of Three
A pleasant change from what Steven Moffat usually churns out/commissions, this felt like an episode from a happier, by-gone era.
04. The Lodger
This story played to the strengths of everyone involved. Great stuff, though it would have been better if Meglos was in it.
03. A Christmas Carol
My favourite Christmas episode, I just don’t see how people couldn’t find this enjoyable and also a bit sad. Top cast, top effort.
02. Vincent & The Doctor
There’s a guy on the Pie & Bovril Scottish Football forum who’ll be raging at me for having Vincent & The Doctor this high, but I think it’s fantastic. The best story of its genre. Very well done.
01. The Day of the Doctor
That The Day of the Doctor finishes top of the pile sums up the Matt Smith Era for me. This is the best one in part because Smith shares the lead with other, more talented people. It’s also a brilliant story and a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of this amazing TV show.
Though Clara has far less to her character – in fact, she has almost nothing – I generally enjoy her performances. Amy Pond had more invested in her character than almost any other companion, but I didn’t like that character much, nor the actress who played her.
If only she had a reason to be there she’d be good, because Jenna Coleman is an accomplished actress
Some of the best bits of Matt Smith’s time in the TARDIS were when he worked alongside only Rory. A very underrated companion.
Were there any?
By default this surely goes to the cliffhanger at the end of The Name of the Doctor.
05. The Long Song (Rings of Akhaten)
04. The Sad Man With A Box (Various)
03. Abigail’s Song (A Christmas Carol)
02. Gallifrey Falls No More (The Day of the Doctor)
01. Four Knocks (The Time of the Doctor)
05. Season 7: Part Two (Mean Score: 26.625)
Absolute garbage for the most part. Not a single stand-out story in it.
04. Season 6 (Mean Score: 23.181)
Though it contained three stories in my top 12, the groan-inducing River Song/Doctor Dying story-arcs weighed his down heavily.
03. Season 7: Part One (Mean Score: 19.5)
A mixed bag, but it certainly had its moments.
02. Season 5 (Mean Score: 14.364)
In terms of actual seasons, this was Matt Smith’s best. Obviously before Moffat ran out of good ideas.
01. The 2013 Specials (Mean Score: 5.5)
There are only two of them, but one was good and the other was excellent.