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26 May 2010 @ 01:22 pm
still trying to define the season for myself  
I've been seeing (and hearing) a lot of comments like, "I wish they'd chosen someone really different to play Eleven/chosen to make Eleven really different; Matt Smith (or Eleven) is just David Tennant (or Ten) lite." I find these comments fairly baffling, in part because I've been reading season 5 as an extended meditation on the fact that Eleven is not Ten.

I would never have described Ten as "that old and that kind," for example; he was "fire and ice and rage." For Ten, the Time War was oppressive and omnipresent; for Eleven, it's a hint here, a "Bad things happened; don't want to talk about it" there. And I'm really enjoying that.

But I also don't think that Matt Smith is playing the Doctor in the same way that David Tennant did. They are both pale Brits with interesting hair, and they...both wear slightly odd clothes? Honestly, I'm out. I don't know, maybe it's because I always saw Ten's frequent streaks of babbling as at least 60% performance; from day one, he uses the fact that he's "certainly got a gob" to do things: to distract villains, to buy himself time, to avoid harsh truths. (As in the last scene of LotTL, when he's trying to act as though everything is fine--"I've always wanted to met Agatha Christie; bet she's brilliant!"--and Martha's going to come with him, even though he knows she's not.) There are times (and I want to say that this happens more often with Donna, but that's just a feeling, probably because I can remember Donna being frustrated with the babbling on several occasions) when Ten seems genuinely carried away by the sound of his own voice, when he starts trying to explain something to someone and just keeps adding provisos and qualifications, but the babbling "set pieces" are usually directed in some way, I'd say.

Eleven, by contrast, is much more inwardly focused: when he babbles, he's talking to himself because that's how he processes; hence the repeated thing where he rudely tells the people around him to shut up because he's thinking. (Ten does this a bit--the thinking out loud, not the "shut up" thing--as in "Smith and Jones," but the payoff seems to be the loud realization: that "Yes. No, wait a minute. YES!" thing that Ten does.) And I think that maybe that definition could describe the difference between Ten and Eleven as a whole: Ten is something of an exhibitionist and a performer--both at once, because he uses the performance of himself to hide emotions, but he's also always losing the mask and showing us what he feels. (This may be because the writing caters to David Tennant's ability to sadface so well.) Eleven is much more private and inward.

The other thing is that Matt Smith plays Eleven as young-and-old at the same time--he hops back and forth between moods in a way that's more genuine than Ten (and I don't mean that pejoratively; it's just that Ten is more deliberate about his mood shifts). I was expecting Eleven to be an old man in a young man's body, but that isn't quite what I'm seeing with him. On the one hand, the show has deliberately identified him with the oldest Doctor by having Matt Smith pull out his library card, with the picture of the First Doctor on it, instead of the psychic paper; and there's that lovely little moment in "The Hungry Earth" in which Eleven says "good lad" to Tony, who is physically much older than he is, and the man gives him a disgruntled look. And there is something a bit avuncular or grandfatherly about the way he relates to Amy at times (kissing her on the forehead, which is dear), or about his attempts to be "cool." ("Bowties are cool," he says, defensively, which only serves to show how not cool they are; or that ridiculously awkward moment when he tries to say "who da man?") If Ten was "geek chic," Eleven is professorial and out of step.

But on the other hand, Eleven's emotional reactions read as very young to me, much of the time. He does have those moments of "ancient and forever" (to quote Tim again), particularly in conversation with his alien antagonists. (Eleven has a slightly paternalistic attitude toward humans in those scenes in particular, a bit of familiar, pat-them-on-the-head loftiness.) But when he's sad, he looks about seven, and when he's upset, he sulks; that's why Amy can twit him as one would a little boy--"Aw, are we Mr. Grumpyface today?"--and it works. And because of that, he's vulnerable to me in a way that Ten wasn't (which is not to say that Ten wasn't vulnerable--but they were often snatched, accidental moments for me). And maybe that's why we've seen him interact with children so often this season, and why his chat with Amelia is so lovely, because he treats her with no trace of condescension: as though he's just as old as she is, and as though she's just as clever and brave as he. He's not acting like an old man in a young body; he's acting like a young man who nevertheless happens to be very old.

ETA: I knew I forgot one. This Doctor apologizes when he snaps at his companions. Yes please, and also, thank you.
 
 
 
Gileonnen: You and Igileonnen on May 26th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
This more or less summarizes why I love Eleven so much. All of it. ^____^
tempestsarekind: amelia pond (ready for adventure)tempestsarekind on May 26th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Well, yay! :)

I find myself just wanting to think about this season a lot, and I've missed that. But I'm also just enjoying it!
La Reine Noire: Elizabethlareinenoire on May 26th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
I have nothing to say beyond complete agreement. And it's the young-old-slightly alien aspect of Eleven that I just love so, so much.
tempestsarekind: a sort of fairytaletempestsarekind on May 26th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Me too! I was a bit worried about Matt Smith, because I'd only seen him in The Ruby in the Smoke (although I'd liked him in that, quite a bit), and just couldn't imagine what he would *do* as the Doctor. But I'm just finding more and more little touches that I love, both about the character and the way Matt Smith portrays him.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 26th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
But I also don't think that Matt Smith is playing the Doctor in the same way that David Tennant did. They are both pale Brits with interesting hair, and they...both wear slightly odd clothes? Honestly, I'm out. I'm with you. They are two very different actors. There is a realness about Matt's "alien" innocence, so his the youthful features work for him. The Wedding Cake scene was perfect, because I could really Hear Three and Four in that speech. And it was beautifully shot so the audience felt the "in the moment" awkwardness of Eleven and Rory's situation. There was no silly music, or drum roll gimmick. Well done to the director and editor. I think Matt's voice and cadence of speech helps with the old man image. You're looking at this face that could clearly pass for seventeen with the right camera angle, and out comes this voice of a sixty-year old thespian. When Eleven is loud, you hear power and authority you would expect from someone who is Nine hundred years old. He's not strident or snarling. It's very startling to hear that timbre and control come from that young face. Matt is doing a lovely job of making the Doctor, the DOCTOR, rather than David, who was giving the task of portraying the Doctor's torment as a character in itself.
tempestsarekind: eleven and amytempestsarekind on May 26th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
I think Matt's voice and cadence of speech helps with the old man image.

That's a very good point; there really is something about his speech that is rather unexpected. And he uses that very well.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 26th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
To clarify what I mean about David: David did wondefully as well, but his head writer was very committed to showing a "Side" of the Doctor we had not seen before --except with Six! -- and David's task as an actor was completely different. David was given the task of portraying these emotions the Doctor hides from himself, or the side of the hero we don't like. His Angst became a "character". Eleven gets flaws and all, but Matt has to portray the Doctor as Moffat envisions him, which is not as Ten different people, but one person always, who has had ten different faces. Matt's Doctor plays the Doctor like someone who made a drastic hair-color comestic surgery change, so people react to HIM different, but he's still the same person who fled with his Granddaughter to Earth centuries before, with just more experiences. And now -- well humans are the ONLY family he has. Earth is "his" world.
tempestsarekind: ten has a secrettempestsarekind on May 26th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see what you mean. And if you're going to make Ten's angst as much a part of the role, then you want someone who can pull it off as well as David Tennant can--but that very specific "I am Ten, and I am grieving" thing did get old after a while.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 27th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
Oh, as much as I adore David I was well at that "Louie,Louie, still whining?" Point by the last episode. I think had we kept David though I could have enjoyed half a season of Valeyard as long as he had something Akin to the Master's sense of humor.
Constant Reader: doctor who - TARDISskirmish_of_wit on May 27th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
YES. All of this. I love Eleven more and more with each episode, and get more and more disappointed that we never got to see David Tennant work with a less asshatty version of the Doctor.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 27th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
Okay. "Asshatty". I must confess I have never encountered that term before. Please expound.
Constant Reader: asshat (10 gallon)skirmish_of_wit on May 27th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
Deriving from "asshat," i.e. to have one's head so far up one's ass that one's ass becomes a hat. The noun form, the state or process of behaving like an asshat, is "asshaberdashery."
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 28th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the explanation. I love that term.

The other thing is that Matt Smith plays Eleven as young-and-old at the same time--he hops back and forth between moods in a way that's more genuine than Ten (and I don't mean that pejoratively; it's just that Ten is more deliberate about his mood shifts). I was expecting Eleven to be an old man in a young man's body, but that isn't quite what I'm seeing with him

Ten seemed like a teenager with too much power and responsiblity shoved at him. Ever see the film "Our Mother's House"? Creepy, excellent little British movie. A mom dies leaving a house filled with children from about sixteen to a toddler; they bury her in the Garden House I think, and decided fend for themselves, rather than call the authrorities and risk being split up. The older two childre are flying blind. They understood their mother had traditions and rules, but understanding why she behaved liked this, or what was right, wrong, and what was neither -- somethings are a part of life. After a seance -- to discover what her mother would have done to her beatiful younger sister who is caught flirting -- they hack off the younger sisters' hair. Horrific scene. Nine was the war weary soldier, lone survivor of a bitter, long conflict. When exactly did Eight turn into Nine -- a moment of sacrifice or was it a moment of violence? Would Nine have given Martha as shining and romantic picture of Gallifrey as Ten did? Romanticizing the Time Lords was perhaps the only way Ten could live with his actions. The survivors guilt, because he caused the end, must have been unbearable. Is it possible Ten began to believe that his people were as wonderful as he wanted them to be? If that is the case, this left him absolutely no guide as what to do. Time Lords DID interfere, especially if they judged a race not ready to compete. They stole the Earth, covered up curruption. The Doctor had, from all canonical accounts rebelled from the womb or loom (which ever canon one prefers) against his society, but did he ever really see it or understand it? It was possibly more layered than a young Time Lord would think. Also Ten's sense of absolute judgement reflects all of us when we're young and haven't experienced much (unless there was abuse in our lives -- then there is a different kind of judgement). Maybe, as portrayed by Tennant, The Doctor wanted to BE the Time Lord that he knew, none of his people were.
tempestsarekind: martha + ten + TARDIStempestsarekind on May 28th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I've never seen that movie, no--it sounds chilling!

I think Ten just started to buy into his own hype, yes: he's a Time Lord--the very last of them--and this is what Time Lords do. If he's the only one left to judge and arrange, then, despite his rebellion, he has to take on that role. Which is part of why I didn't believe "The Waters of Mars," in a way: this was supposed to be a new realization for him, that he can bend the laws of time and space to suit his whims, but he'd had that streak from his first day.
tempestsarekind: world in peril? have some teatempestsarekind on May 28th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I love Eleven more and more with each episode, and get more and more disappointed that we never got to see David Tennant work with a less asshatty version of the Doctor.

Yes--though I think my disappointment reached such a pitch with "The End of Time" that it just shorted out entirely. All I wanted from that episode was to be able to say a proper goodbye to a Doctor whom I had loved, despite all his crappy behavior--and I couldn't even do that, because the episode showed Ten at his absolute worst. So now it's just onwards and upwards--and hoping I get to see David Tennant in a lot more parts now!