Season eight of Doctor Who premieres in just over a week, and it brings a new Doctor along with it. Veteran actor Peter Capaldi has taken the reins, and while I’m looking forward to knowing the Twelfth Doctor and his kidneys, I’ll miss Eleven. Matt Smith wasn’t my first Doctor, but he was my Doctor. He may have been the youngest actor to portray the Time Lord in the TARDIS, but he was able to show the Doctor’s 900+ years in his every action. His eyes carried the weight of one who’d seen joy and pain and thousands of places, and I’ll never forget the way he balanced the Doctor’s goofiness and gravitas.
Before we embrace number Twelve, let’s take a look back at Matt Smiths five best episodes as the Eleventh Doctor.
“The Eleventh Hour”
Matt Smith made one hell of an entrance. He had my attention from the first “Geronimo!” It’s not easy for a Doctor to make a good impression in his initial episode since many fans are still sad about the change, but Smith had such a strong presence you couldn’t help but warm to him. From his endearing interaction with a young Amy Pond to his face off with the Atraxi – he stepped into the role and didn’t look back. He showcased the Doctor’s sweet side and also the part of him that is intimidating. Plus, he got in an impressive speech right off the bat – it still gives me goosebumps.
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically…run.”
“Vincent and the Doctor”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more emotional hour of television than “Vincent and the Doctor.” The episode aired in season five and featured Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor visiting Vincent van Gogh because they spotted a monster in one of his paintings. Tony Curran shined as the painter wrestling with depression but so did Smith. He got to be the brash Doctor who went after the Krafayis, the concerned Doctor who tried to care for and encourage van Gogh, and the heartbroken Doctor who realized the value of the Krafayis’ life. The episode had such an effect on me that I admit to weeping whenever I hear composer Murray Gold’s music from it.
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
“The Doctor’s Wife”
This Neil Gaiman-penned episode aired in season six and brings the TARDIS to life. Like, humanoid life. Watching the Doctor speak to his ship and friend, who calls herself Idris (or Sexy), for the first time was riveting. Their back and forth banter was almost like reading a Calvin & Hobbes comic. Well, not the flirting part. The TARDIS couldn’t retain her human form so the episode has a bittersweet ending, but the introduction of Idris enriched the Doctor Who world and changed the Eleventh Doctor. Just a little.
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “You’re a bitey mad lady! The TARDIS is up and downy stuff in a big blue box!”
“The Impossible Astronaut”
The season six opener, “The Impossible Astronaut”, brought the filming of Doctor Who over to the United States for the first time. Part of the story takes place in Utah, and the Doctor dies at the hands of River Song at Lake Silencio. Smith had to play the Doctor at two ages, almost 200 years apart. The differences aren’t obvious, but you can see the younger man who comes to Utah isn’t the same as the older man who goes to his death. It’s something about the way he carries himself. The episode also sets up the arc for the season and, for better or worse, it isn’t resolved until the finale, “The Wedding of River Song.”
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “I’m being extremely clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed! What’s the point in having you all?”
Another episode from season five (it’s Smith’s strongest season as far as I’m concerned), “The Lodger” makes my list because it’s a light, humorous break. Laughter is neat, and Smith has a knack for playing awkward and bumbling. The resolution of the alien mystery wasn’t as smart as it could have been, but I could watch Smith act opposite of James Corden (Craig) all day. That must be a popular opinion since Craig returned for season six’s “Closing Time.” Anyway, seeing the Doctor struggle to act like a human is priceless.
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “Well I’ve got one of those faces. People never stop blurting out their plans when I’m around.”
Bonus: “The Day of the Doctor”
I couldn’t leave out Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special, but since it is a special, it doesn’t seem fair to put it in the pile of Smith’s other episodes. How could they compete with a plot that put together Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt? It’s not possible. Though “The Day of the Doctor” had a couple of hiccups, the episode was powerful and presented a rare opportunity to see different Doctors side by side. It was nothing short of delightful to watch Smith interact with Tennant and Hurt – so much so that I want to see a spinoff featuring the trio having adventures.
Favorite Eleventh Doctor quote: “…I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours, the same as anyone’s. It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but, at last, I know where I’m going, where I’ve always been going: Home, the long way ’round.”
Tell us about your favorite 11th Doctor episodes in the comments.