Sunday, August 21, 2011

{alltv} There is something Shakespearian about Doctor Who

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There is something decidedly Shakespearian about Doctor Who, according to current doctor Matt Smith.

The subject came up during the recent Television Critics Association tour in Los Angeles, when Smith was asked about the challenges of being the 11th doctor. The series returns for the back end of its sixth season (in its current incarnation) Saturday, Aug. 27 on Space with a new episode titled Let's Kill Hitler.

"I think the essence of the character is always there and has always been there," Smith said. "Fundamentally, he is a good man. Fundamentally, he is very brave.

"But it's like playing Hamlet. There are fundamentals to Hamlet, but every actor has to re-invent it.

"And that's the key, you have to be brave with your interpretation of the doctor, much like you have with the companion (currently Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan). They have to be brave choices."

There is, of course, an important difference between re-inventing the time-travelling Doctor Who and re-inventing Hamlet.


As a British TV show that aired in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before re-emerging in the 21st century, there are reruns and DVDs of previous doctors aplenty for instant perusal and comparison. So fans of the series can continuously rank doctors in a more convenient way than theatre lovers can rank Hamlets.

"Yeah, but I know people who have seen Hamlet 10 times," Smith said. "You can see Hamlet enough times if you want to go and see it. So it depends on how much you seek it out.

"Everyone always will have an opinion on how the doctor should be played. Everyone always will have an opinion on how Hamlet should be played. But that's one of the things that makes Doctor Who great, the enthusiasm and the dedication and the commitment of opinion from the fans.

"However, as an actor and an artist, it's my responsibility to make the creative choices, so I do that independently and without hesitation."

Smith arguably is a more quirky doctor than some of his predecessors. But the on-screen chemistry between Smith, Gillan and Arthur Darvill, who plays Amy's husband Rory, is undeniable.

According to Space, Doctor Who is the most-watched series in the history of the channel. The first half of the sixth season drew an average of 520,000 total viewers, setting a new record for Space.

Smith, 28, is too young to remember the first era of Doctor Who, so obviously he didn't grow up dreaming of playing the doctor.

"But it feels like a dream to do it," Smith said. "It's a wonderful part and also a wonderful experience to see the genuine love and enthusiasm and affection from the fans. It's astounding, actually."

So what is the best part about playing Doctor Who?

"The fact that he always is the most intelligent person to walk into a room, which means he is the most stupid and he's the silliest," Smith said. "So you can explore him in any direction. He really can go from A to Z.

"But he's a remarkable man to play and someone I've grown very fond of, actually, weirdly enough."

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