In the season premiere of the new-look Doctor Who, the Time Lord is all but denied his usual bag of tricks. The result is an episode that hones in on establishing the two characters played by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
“That’s what makes it so interesting for me,” Smith tells TV Tonight.
“It’s about the meeting of the Doctor and the Companion, which is done in such a magical way. That’s kind of what the episode focuses on, which made it really interesting to play because it’s about relationships, which is really interesting territory for Doctor Who, I think.”
If ever there has been pressure on an actor to live up to the expectations of his predecessor, it is Smith and the Doctor. But he has managed to find a methodology to make the role his own, while still staying faithful to history.
“I read a lot about Albert Einstein. Because I thought of all the human beings in the world, who is closest to the Doctor?” he asks.
“And I remember that picture of him with his tongue out. I spent a lot of time reading quotes and then I wrote some short stories about him and the Doctor travelling around the universe.
“Aside from that like any other process you get the scripts and you try and invest in it as much as you can. You learn the lines, get on the set on the day and be as brave as you can. But with this part particularly it’s a real process of evolution. It took me a month or so to get to know him I think.
“If you look at episodes 12 and 13, it’s a different Doctor to the Doctor you see in episode 1. But that’s the same with all Doctors, actually. If you look at Tom Baker in his first episode to Tom Baker in his ninth episode, he’s a different man. That’s why he’s so rich and so varied, it allows you to keep exploring.”
And then there is the suggestion, prompted by his cameo in the end of the last series, that ‘Geronimo’ will become his catchphrase. But Smith is reluctant to commit.
“‘Geronimo’ is something that this Doctor says, I’ve got to say, but I think if there was more a catchphrase it would more be that bow ties are cool.”
Smith clearly relishes the opportunity Who affords him. It has elevated him from his lead role in Party Animals to bonafide star. With its huge BBC budget, the series lands the best in themes, locations, guest stars and writers.
“We got to go to Croatia to film an episode called ‘Vampires in Venice,’ which was brilliant. And we do an episode with Vincent Van Gogh which is terribly exciting because it’s written by Richard Curtis, who’s a wonderful writer from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill,” he says.
“The Daleks are always a highlight, and I got to play football in one episode which was just a joy. It was one of my top days filming!”
Having completed all 13 episodes, Smith embarked on a national tour of the UK, which helped him gauge audience reaction. He prefers to rely on first-hand experience than tackling the endless reactions online.
“I have my family and friends, but we’ve been taking it out on this tour around England, and showing it to children and adults. We had overwhelmingly positive results, and there have been some previews, so I’ve got a sense of it. And I have Q & As afterwards so they tell me. There’s always going to be a group of people who won’t like it, but there are people who do like it, and this show will always divide opinion.”
Smith even entertains the idea of a visit to Australia in the near future.
“I’d love to come! I think I might be coming out next year. I might come and hang out in Sydney and Melbourne and do some interviews and stuff and say hello to the people who watch it,” he says.
“I had no idea that they followed it out there, but I’m told there’s a really big following?”
At this point interviewer and subject suddenly switch roles…
“If Chris (Eccleston) or David (Tennant) were in Australia, people would know who they were?”
“Wow, that’s mad!” he laughs.
I remind him the show has been airing here since the 1960s.
“Of course, so it’s as much your show as it is ours,” he realises. “Have you never thought there might be like an Australian version of the show?”
Ummm, no. We probably love to watch Double-Decker buses, phone booths, cabbies and the London Eye as much as you guys love watching Ramsay Street. It’s escapism, Matt. But it was nice of you to invite Kylie to appear, we’ll settle for that.
“I was talking to the Make-Up Artist and there were pictures of Kylie on the wall and everyone said she was so lovely!” he says. “They couldn’t believe that Kylie was in Doctor Who. It was sort of incredible. Kylie is massive in England. She’s one of our nation’s heroes. People love Kylie Minogue, they really do.”
And I’m guessing by now they probably love Matt Smith too…
Doctor Who airs 7:30pm Sundays on ABC1 and is available on iView from 12am tomorrow.