MATT Smith is comfortably at home in the Tardis now.
With one series and a Christmas special under his belt, the blue police box and the coveted role of the Doctor are firmly his.
On Easter Saturday, the new series of the show starts on BBC One, bringing more adventures for the former Northampton School for Boys pupil from Great Billing, Northampton, who plays the eleventh incarnation of the timelord.
But if the new series promises adventure - one swashbuckling episode has a pirate theme - it also brings with it a darker edge: the run of episodes has been split into two parts, which will screen at Easter and then in the autumn, to allow showrunner Steven Moffat to write a ‘game-changing cliffhanger’ at the end of the first part, allowing for an ‘earth-shattering climax’ before the show resumes after the summer, thereby effectively dividing this series into two.
Trailers for the opening episode of the new series are already being shown on television and the world’s press, including the Chron, was given an exclusive look at the two-parter at a special event at the Doctor Who experience at London’s Olympia last week. After the screening, the stars of the show were on hand to answer questions from those in the audience.
The new series is described as ‘a lot darker’ than previous episodes and opener The Impossible Astronaut includes not only the kind of psychological baddie it takes a certain kind of cunning to defeat, but a shock death Moffat implored journalists to keep quiet.
So, with not only a series of Doctor Who behind him, but also a scene-stealing performance as writer Christopher Isherwood in a recent BBC Two drama, how is 28-year-old Smith feeling as we gear up for series two?
“I’m excited. I’m really proud of the episodes that we’ve got coming up. I think that’s great television and it’s good to be part of it. I think Steven’s really pushing the form and the way he’s telling stories. It feels a great privilege. It’s wonderful.
“I take [playing the Doctor] year by year, month by month. So I’ll finish this particular season – and sit down with Mr Moffat and see where I go from there. It’s certainly not a part I want to give up anytime soon. I love playing him.”
When Smith was announced in the role, there were questions raised about how an ‘unknown’ could take on such an iconic part, particularly coming after David Tennant. But episodes from the likes of Richard Curtis proved Smith was more than capable of rising to the challenge, while Moffat as showrunner and Karen Gillen (and Arthur Darvill) as the new Doctor’s companions marked a very definite departure from the years with Russell T Davies at the helm, the years of Billie Piper and Catherine Tate and John Simm.
According to timelord lore, the Doctor is only allowed 13 generations, with Smith the eleventh. Such has been the popularity of the programme it has endured almost half a century and the 50th anniversary of the Tardis coming to British screens is only a couple of years away. A quick look at stills online reveals how much the show has changed, from being in black and white with what now look like very special effects, to becoming one of the BBC’s grandest productions, a ratings winner with the central role itself arguably the biggest part on British TV.
As ever with Doctor Who, the new series includes a number of guests stars. Alex Kingston reprises her role as the mysterious time-travelling archaeologist River Song, James Corden returns as the Doctor’s flatmate and David Walliams and Hugh Bonneville are among the other guest stars.
Meanwhile, popular author Neil Gaiman has written an episode entitled The Doctor’s Wife, again demonstrating the pull the show commands.
“I think this season, I think each episode has the ambition of a film and the scope and the scale and the visual feels quite filmic,” said Smith. “And to do that in the time we have is a challenge. But it’s a good one.”
Doctor Who returns to our screens with The Impossible Astronaut on Saturday, April 23 at 6pm on BBC 1.
The Who-nited States
FOR the opening episode of Doctor Who, the cast and crew of the show decamped to America.
Action in the first two episodes is set in the United States during the Nixon adminstration, and stars the president himself, as well as an astronaut and some scary monsters.
Fans of the show will be pleased to know the episodes have it all: nail-biting tension, the kind of monsters which will see some children (and adults) reach for the nearest cushion, laughter aplenty and heaps and heaps of action.
What is evident is that the Doctor’s women will be important this series, and Alex Kingston as River Song steals the episodes, with a wonderful portrayal of a woman whose life is somehow intertwined with the Doctor’s. The answer to one of the most pressing questions, about the real identity of Song, will be revealed in this series.
“We only found out last week,” Matt Smith told the audience at a special screening of the first two episodes earlier this month, of the secrets of the series.
“All the information has come script by script, week by week. So we’ve sort of been theorising who she is and what she means and just what’s going on.”
In one scene, the Doctor, played by the former Northampton School for Boys pupil, is slapped by River Song, as actress Alex Kingston recalled. The pair also kiss.
“I had to slap him many times and his cheek was getting redder and redder and he was getting actually irritated,” she said, adding he lost his sense of humour after the fifth take. “I don’t pull my punches.
“But the kiss was nice too. I didn’t have to kiss him so many times as I had to slap him. But they’re both fun. I quite like slapping.”
When asked his highlights of the new series, Smith referred to the episode starring Hugh Bonneville, which features pirates and which he described as “a belter”.
“The current episode we’re filming now, which is Steven’s opener of the second season, it’s a particularly brilliant opening. That’s been fun.”
While it is hard discussing the season in too much depth without inadvertently revealing the odd spoiler, what is clear is that the new series will bring the Doctor’s darkest hour.
But with Matt Smith at the helm of the Tardis, you can’t but feel fairly certain everything will be fine.