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Interview with ‘Doctor Who’ star Matt Smith: ‘The essence of the show is the same – old alien, hot chick travel through the universe’

Neela Debnath

doctor1 300x187 Interview with ‘Doctor Who’ star Matt Smith: ‘The essence of the show is the same   old alien, hot chick travel through the universe’

Matt Smith as the Doctor (BBC)

Neela Debnath caught up with Matt Smith on the set of ‘Doctor Who’ to talk about the upcoming Christmas special ‘The Snowmen’ and working with Jenna-Louise Coleman.

What can you tell us about this episode?

Well, a lot of snow obviously. We meet Jenna-Louise [Coleman] who plays the new companion and it’s our introduction to the new Doctor Who companion on Christmas day. Richard E. Grant as the dastardly villain and I’m really excited about it. I think Steven’s [Moffat] on top form.

What sort of mood is the Doctor in at this point?

We’ve left him post the fall of the Ponds and obviously that’s had a grave effect on the man and I think he’s quite lonely really and removed from the universe and removed from the world. Not really engaging in the way that he was when he was at his best with Amy and Rory. So, handily he meets a jaunty new companion.

Are we going to get any payoff with regards to Oswin being a Dalek?

The Christmas episode is more about the meeting of these two new people, one more reluctant than the other. But of course by its very nature we met [one] version in a different time zone. At that stage he doesn’t even know. I imagine as the series goes on there’ll be putting two and two and making whatever. What’s interesting is that it’s having a new companion, that new role for the Doctor, it does something to him, hopefully it changes the way he is slightly and affects his personality.

Does it feel like the job is reinvented for you?

Well, it does. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you on your toes as an actor and because it keeps the character on its toes. It challenges the show and it challenges the people that make the show. So, yeah, I suppose to a certain extent it does, it is refreshing.

He’s quite attracted to this new companion, can you elaborate?

Well I think that at some stage the Doctor is always attracted to his companion in one way or another because he asks them to come with him. He’s certainly taken by this striking, young lady and intrigued.

Would you say that he rushes into this to try and forget his guilt over Amy and Rory?

No, because there’s a great deal of time that’s passed in cunning story terms. It’s great because you kind of go: ‘500 years later…’ but the burden of that loss will always be with him. Like the burden of losing Rose Tyler or whoever it is – is always with him to some extent. But I think particularly for my Doctor it is. Amy and Rory were so significant. But what I would say as well is I always think it’s important for the show for that grieving to have its place but move on. I felt it affected Martha’s journey quite a lot that he was always talking about Rose, which is completely understandable, because the Tenth Doctor and Rose had such a wonderful connection but the show has to propel forward back into adventure mode.

simeon 300x209 Interview with ‘Doctor Who’ star Matt Smith: ‘The essence of the show is the same   old alien, hot chick travel through the universe’

Richard E. Grant as Simeon in 'The Snowmen' (BBC)

Has anyone on set brought up the fact that Richard E. Grant has played the Doctor?

Yeah, me actually and Richard was kindly repeating lines from Withnail and I as well. He’s just a delight, a total delight of a man and he’s perfect for Doctor Who. There are some actors that are made for Doctor Who and he’s one of them.

How have you welcomed Jenna on to the set?

I look back on my first day and I was on a beach doing The Time of Angels and it’s only with looking back that you have any context for the pressure that comes with it. So, one tries to say ‘this is what you can expect, this is what will happen’ and the transitions. So much occurs and you learn so much with this job and it has such an impact on your life but to sort of explain that to someone is impossible.

But in terms of trying to make her feel welcome, absolutely, we welcome her into the family of Doctor Who and embrace her. She’s doing brilliant work. I think that in the episode Asylum of the Daleks she’s instantly likeable and I think in terms of Doctor Who companions that’s really important. There’s an instant empathy with her and she looks so stunning on camera and I think she’s in with a real good chance of being really popular.

Is there a special pleasure to doing the Christmas episode?

Yeah, there really is because of the scale of it. Snow in the middle of summer, there’s something kind of magic about that as well. I love the Christmas episodes, I love being part of them. I think it’s a wonderful tradition, we have a wonderful tradition in England of family television on Christmas day which they don’t have as much of in the States and different countries like that. It’s wonderful for Doctor Who to be at the heart of that. I’m very proud to be a part of it and you get a great, big star in it always. We take an extra two weeks to film it. It always feels special.

Will this be your last Christmas special?

No.

Are you doing the next one?

Well, I might be. I hope so. Yeah, 2014, who knows? We’ve got a 50th anniversary and then after that of course – that goes out in November – so one assumes there’ll a Christmas special after that and I would hope to be a part of it. I take each year as it comes.

Is there a finite time you can play the Doctor in your own mind?

I think there always [is], all good things come to an end. My mum is aghast at the thought of me ever not being the Doctor. But the show is the star and it will continue without me and be infinitely successful without me. Who knows, at the moment I’ve got the rest of this year. I’ve got the 50th year next year. I’m committed to the show next year, after that I’ll sit down with Steven and see where we go next. Maybe someone could do it for seven years like Tom Baker but it’s 10 months a year.

matt smith jenna 300x225 Interview with ‘Doctor Who’ star Matt Smith: ‘The essence of the show is the same   old alien, hot chick travel through the universe’

Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (BBC)

What is the difference between the dynamic of the relationship between you and Karen and you and Jenna?

Fundamentally, they are different people, so therefore they are different actors. Steven is absolutely writing a different companion and the Doctor is a different man to when I first started. He’s a bit more fully formed now but he’s lived a bit more. He’s got a bit older, he’s lost a lot more and all those things affect how a character is. Add into that, a different type of companion. She’s [Jenna’s character] a completely different type of companion because she’s a completely different person who belongs to completely different times.

The Doctor under Amy and Rory eventually became like their pet, he was just this sort of strange pet that could talk, that would sweep in every now and then. He’s meeting someone new because he presents himself in a hew light and she forces him to be a different version of himself slightly.

As always with Doctor Who, the essence and heartbeat of the show is the same – old alien, hot chick travel through the universe and get into capers. That will always be the heartbeat of the show and it’s whether it’s more flirtatious, whether there’s more attraction, whether there’s more zing, you’ll have to wait and find out. I’m sure we’ll cover all that territory.

Do you have any memorable moments from filming the Christmas special?

We filmed in Bristol and there were hundreds and hundreds of people [who] had turned up. There were quite a few photos in the papers and it’s always remarkable when it’s three at night and wonderful when there’s a load of people there cheering you on.

Doctor Who has made a phenomenal comeback, which show do you want to make a comeback?

If I could bring anything back it would be Some mother do ‘ave ‘em because I think he’s a total genius in it. I think [Michael] Crawford the stunts he does, you wouldn’t get anywhere near doing that now. Weirdly enough, when I was started playing my Doctor I watched loads of him [Frank Spencer], I watched load of Peter Sellers and I watched loads of Blackadder and somewhere betwixt the three is the Doctor.

Do you miss working with Karen?

I do. We’re great pals and I miss working with Karen and Arthur and I miss having them around but as with everything, as with this show, it changes and you move on and we embrace Jenna. I enjoy working with her and I’m looking forward not backwards which is what the show does and why it’s successful. So, that’s absolutely the ethos that I buy into.

This year’s ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special ‘The Snowmen’ will be on 25 December at 5.15pm on BBC1

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  • independent15

    Well (sob) if you’re sure (sob). I was beginning (sob) to think (gulp) I didn’t have a right to contribute anything (swallow).

    I also liked Eccleston (see?), and Rose, and Freema, and the comedian. And I liked Cap’n Jack and Rose’s boyfriend that couldn’t stand the pace. And River Song was excellent (did you watch ER?) – obviously it’s not her fault her parents gave her such a silly name.

    Actually, I’m not so singular either. We have regular well-attended side-meetings of a Doctor Who Let’s Get It Together Again sub-group at my local Get A Life Club.

    Love and kisses.

  • Diana123098

    Well goodness, my apologies for expecting a bit more maturity and coherency from someone of “50 odd years.” Though, I suppose senility does require a “Get A Life” club.

    Sorry, while I admire Alex Kingston, I don’t care for ER. And, if you’ll remember, her parents named her Melody. Unless you consider that a silly name.

    “I also liked Eccleston (see?)” What am I supposed to see? That you ARE capable of some form of rationale? (Still not quite seeing it, but good on you for attempting it.)


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