The 11th Doctor gets somewhat overlooked in my view compared to the ultra-popular 10th and 12th Doctors. Matt Smith was given the unenviable task of following David Tennant’s phenomenal performance and in my opinion, he succeeded spectacularly, portraying the age and darkness and otherness of the Time Lord with a hint of whimsy. These are the episodes from the 11th Doctor’s era that we think stand out as being the best.
Vincent and the Doctor
This episode featured the Doctor and Amy Pond traveling back to 19th century France to visit Vincent van Gogh, played superbly by Tony Curran. What followed was a tender and touching exploration of depression. Some people believe that this episode should have been a pure historical (ie no Krafayis) but I felt it was interesting for the Doctor and his friends to defeat the monster but for the victory to be hollow because the creature was blind and not actually evil. This can also be seen as a metaphor for the subjective nature of reality. The scene at the end of this episode where the Doctor takes Vincent van Gogh to the Musee Dorsee in 2010 Paris to see how famous and beloved Vincent’s work has become is absolutely beautiful, and rightfully one of the most famous scenes in either Classic or New Who
The Doctor’s Wife
Written by Neil Gaiman, this episode saw the soul of the TARDIS be placed into a human body and interact with the 11th Doctor. There is so much to love about this one. From the dark and grungy planetoid the TARDIS is initially drawn to, to the disembodied House playing cat and mouse with Amy and Rory inside the Doctor’s stolen time machine, to the affecting relationship between 11 and Idris, this episode justifiably won the Hugo award for being so good. In contrast to the more action-based episodes of the 9th, 10th, and 12th Doctors, Matt Smith’s adventures would often focus on what made people who they were, be they great artists, tongue-tied twentysomethings or the physical embodiment of the TARDIS herself. I defy anyone not to cry during Idris’s final moments when she finally says “Hello” to the Doctor. As a side note, a musician named Allegra Rosenberg has written a song based on this episode.
Day of the Doctor
The 50th-anniversary episode. Despite the stupendous performances by Sir John Hurt and David Tennant, Matt Smith gives us a surprisingly introspective Doctor in the special’s more serious moments, questioning who he even is and unsure of what path he should take. After some encouragement by Clara (Jenna Coleman), the Doctors unite with their past and future selves to save Gallifrey and not destroy it. I love this episode because it was a fitting tribute to 50 years of Who that dealt with the changes the series had undergone both in-universe and on a meta-level whilst paying tribute to what came before. The personal journey that the 11th Doctor goes on throughout this episode was brilliantly acted by Matt Smith, and by the end, we see him hopefully looking towards the future, as we as fans also did.
The Beast Below
Perhaps an odd choice, but I’ll explain why. Here we see the Doctor and Amy Pond visit a gigantic starship that houses the entire population of Britain. There’s a mystery to be solved as to how the ship can fly with no engines, and it is revealed that the entire vessel is being carried on the back of a Star Whale. I think this episode is great because we see the Doctor get angry with his companion for concealing information from him and we almost see him murder the Star Whale so the ship can fly in peace. There is no real monster in this episode unless you count ignorance and lack of understanding. Amy Pond saves the day and reminds the Doctor of who he is, much like Clara did in Day of the Doctor. This episode also shows that the Doctor does what he does out of kindness and a desire to protect the young, an idea that would be explored further in Peter Capaldi’s era.
The Eleventh Hour
Matt Smith’s first episode as the 11th Doctor gave us a riveting 65 minutes of adventure, action, and whimsy. The newly regenerated Doctor crashes his TARDIS into Amelia Pond’s back garden and attempts to help her with the mysterious crack in her wall. The scene with 11 trying different kinds of food in Amelia’s kitchen before settling on fish fingers and custard is funny and heartwarming, as are the Doctor’s interactions with the other people in the village. Matt Smith is absolutely captivating as the Time Lord from the first moment he pops his head out of the crashed TARDIS. It was clear that the producers had made the right casting decision, and I personally felt somewhat vindicated that Matt Smith was so good, as I always thought he would be. Arthur Darvill plays an endearingly hapless role as Amy’s boyfriend Rory, and Karen Gillan hits a real emotional note when she shouts “And why did you say 5 minutes?!” referring to the Doctor’s promise to 11-year-old Amelia.
Which 11th Doctor episodes are your favorites? Who would you have liked to have seen Matt Smith share the screen with? Leave a comment below and remember, I wasn’t always a madman with a time machine. It took ages before I got the time machine.