This Saturday at 7.50pm on BBC1, Doctor Who fans finally get to see the show’s 50th anniversary special episode, The Day Of The Doctor, bringing three different Doctors together in their greatest adventure…
Matt Smith spoke to What’s On TV about celebrating half a century of Doctor Who.
Was it strange to act alongside David Tennant as The Doctor?
“It’s wonderful having David back as his Doctor. For my Doctor, it’s like meeting somebody as fast and super-intelligent as himself. They size each other up and it’s so funny. Both react completely differently to the same situations – especially to women and certain aliens!”
How do the pair of Doctors get on?
“David’s Doctor is more swashbuckling where as mine is more of a weirdo. We’ve approached it in different ways. We’re the same, but we’re different. There’s also a sense of, my sonic is bigger than yours, whose TARDSIS is faster and so on… Stephen Moffat is so good at plucking those details out of each Doctor and of your own personality as well – cue the chin jokes with my Doctor! You’ve also got to remember my Doctor is the oldest, but looks the youngest.”
And how was it having John Hurt as the Doctor, too, after his shock appearance in the series finale earlier this year?
“John Hurt is acting royalty and another wonderful Doctor. He’s the kind of actor who just moves his eyes in a certain way and gets you totally engrossed in his character. John also adds gravitas. I just think I’ve got to try to move my eyes like him.”
The adventure takes the Doctor and Clara (Jenna Coleman) into outer space where an ancient battle is raging, involving the Daleks. They also visit Elizabethan England in 1562 where they investigate some murderous goings-on. Plus there’s a mad dash around present day London. This episode has plenty of great locations, doesn’t it?
“Yep the locations are really varied and wonderful. It’s great to get big landmarks like Nelson’s Column, The Tower of London and The National Gallery into the show. Something will fly the TARDIS into Trafalgar Square, and it leaves there with the Doctor hanging from the bottom of it! I was hoisted up over 90ft, double the height of Nelson’s Column. It’s a terrific scene.”
The Doctor faces plenty of familiar enemies, including the shape-shifting Zygons – first seen in 1975 – plus his all-time greatest foe, the Daleks. Fans are getting something special aren’t they?
“It’s great to have classic monsters, and the Zygons are brilliant. The episode is about celebrating the heritage of the show, but the character of the Doctor is also moved forward in a really epic way.”
There are guest stars galore this time. Another favourite making her return is Billie Piper, as the Doctor’s former companion Rose Tyler, Gavin & Stacey’s Joanna Page as a young Queen Elizabeth 1, and Jemma Redgrave returning as UNIT’s Kate Stewart….
“It’s great to have Billie Piper back. There’ll be a lot of clever nods and things familiar to each character. Hopefully for fans, it’ll be like the best wedding and birthday do they’ve ever been to, all rolled into one.”
Were you sad that Christopher Eccleston didn’t do this anniversary episode?
“I absolutely respect his decision. As a fan, yes, but I wouldn’t want to comment too much on that because there’s absolutely no pressure for anyone to do anything. He was a wonderful Doctor – he’s a brilliant actor and this wasn’t the right thing so that’s fine. Onwards you go and no hard feelings whatsoever. I have the greatest respect for Chris and I’ve always admired him as an actor. I’d have liked to have done something with him, but hey ho….”
How epic and important is this 50th anniversary epsiode?
“It’s obviously a big one and the fact it’s going to be shown in 3D, released in cinemas and hopefully it’s going to be as epic as we can make it. And having the meeting of the three Doctors just sprinkles a bit of fairy dust on it. Doing it and seeing the different Doctors’ costumes next to each other – the Converse and the bow ties – it really is kind of cool.”
In your time as Doctor Who, what’s the most unexpected place you’ve been recognised?
“I’ve been followed to the toilet and asked to speak to somebody’s wife on the phone. It was at the NTA’s and I was having a wee and this guy followed me in and his wife was on the phone and I was having a wee and he was like, ‘It’s Sheila – or whatever she’s called – can you have a word?’ and I was like ‘Dude, this is not the best time for me!’ so I went and washed my hands and THEN I said hello, not weeing! It’s when you’re in remote places like Brazil or a little corner of Italy you think how on Earth do you even know what Doctor Who is?”
The first ever Doctor Who director Waris Hussein recently criticised the show for being too sexualised. What do you think about that?
“I think with the greatest respect he made the show in a very different time and I absolutely disagree. What does he want us to do? Put everyone in straitjackets? Also look back at the history of the show. There were women in Tarzanian outfits were there not? And I don’t think it’s sexualised at all! I think it’s just fun and rollicky and people romping around. There’s the odd snog here and there, but that’s it. I’m sorry, but with the greatest respect I categorically disagree.”
Do you have the sense of how Doctor Who is perceived in the States?
“I go to America a lot to promote the show and they are well into it. They support it. We have a good set of loyal and cult fans. We’re on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and on BBC America the ratings are going through the roof. We’re doing well over there.”
What other TV shows do you watch at home?
“I’m hooked on Game Of Thrones, and I really like MasterChef. I also watch a load of football and you’re going to hate me for this, but I love Geordie Shore! There’s loads I can’t bear, too.”
What do you think of your action figure?
“I have quite a strange relationship with it, I’ve realised, because you can’t have it in your house. Where do you put it? I just give them to my mum, but it’s weird. I’ve got them in boxes and people say they’ll be worth something some day.”