Matt Smith leaves behind him three series (and a bit) worth of televised adventures. There are several justly celebrated stories nestled in his era; people love ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, they foam at the mouth over ‘The Eleventh Hour’, and they positively fall down and have a joy-fit when ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is mentioned; but what about some of his other stories? The stragglers? The forgotten? Or even the downright despised? Here’s my little list of 5 underrated Matt Smith stories:
The Beast Below
It came hot on the heels of ‘The Eleventh Hour’, perhaps the greatest first episode for a new Doctor ever and an all time Who classic. Beast is seen by many, Moffat himself included, as something of a stumble. Now look, I’m not saying it’s perfect, I know there are several things that just don’t seem to make any sort of sense, but there’s something about this story that just does ‘it’ for me. And it’s also completely INSANE. A whole city, riding on the back of a giant space whale? That is proper bonkers, but it works.
Victory of the Daleks
Hey, stop throwing that garbage at me and hear me out, damn it!
And so the stumble continued. Apparently. Episode three of the Moffat era, and we get to ‘Victory of the Daleks’, an episode that has had the vitriol of many a fan spewed its way. I think that’s very unfair, and a great deal of it can be boiled down to ‘Don’t like new Power Ranger Daleks, WAH!’. Personally, I don’t mind the bright colours; they’re bold and visually interesting; it’s the hunchback that riles me. ANYWAY. This has a lot to enjoy; Daleks serving tea – the Doctors rage as he beats one of the Ironsides with a massive spanner thingy – Spitfires! In Space! Attacking a flying saucer! – The Doctor facing down his deadliest foes with a Jammy bloomin’ Dodger!
It’s not perfect. There are things wrong with it. It really feels like it should have been a two parter. But come on, there’s plenty to love in there.
Another Gatiss episode. This is one of those stories that just seems to slip people’s minds completely. I remember at the time it received flak for not addressing the whole River-is-Amy’s-daughter hub-bub that just immediately preceded it, but I think it’s unfair to judge this episode solely on that. For one thing, it wasn’t even supposed to be at this point in the series, it swapped places with ‘Curse of the Black Spot’. I think if it had gone out in its originally intended slot, it would be looked upon much more fondly. That aside, it’s a wonderfully small and atmospheric tale; with Smith’s way with children at the forefront not for the first, or last, time. And those Dolls, they’re just damn freaky, okay? Time for a reappraisal, yes?
Let’s Kill Hitler
FUN. Come on, grouch; this one is a riot, with River Song, BOTH River Song’s, just ripping up the screen. I can understand why this annoyed some, it’s a case of foiled expectations. After the epic ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ and its revelations about the Pond baby, I think the last thing most of us expected was for it to be followed up by such a bizarre, funny episode. This is Moffat all over, zigging in the second part when you expect him to zag. Or something. And it’s why it’s so often looked down upon; a fan with expectations unmet is an arsey son-of-a-sod.
‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ is Moffat just pressing the joy button again and again. AND RORY PUNCHES HITLER.
The Time of the Doctor
YEAH. THAT’S RIGHT. This one received a lot of noisy hate when it aired, and it’s easy to see why. The expectation was sky-high, not only was it arriving hot on the heels of the hugely successful ‘The Day of the Doctor’, but it was Matt Smith’s finale. Moffat being Moffat, he didn’t write a straight-forward regeneration ep, but something a little more left-field, giving us something a bit unexpected. Even I wasn’t entirely sure on first watch, I came away a little dissatisfied, but on subsequent re-watches I discovered something wonderful: IT’S AMAZING. Yes, it needed to be longer to have more time to breathe, Moffat really did try to cram as much in as possible, but for large stretches it’s a simply magical journey and a beautiful send-off for one of my favourite Doctor’s; and since when does an episode have to be perfect to be awesome? Watch it again, maybe you’ll see it too.
So what do you think? And have I missed any that deserve a place on the list?