Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor is coming to a close on “Doctor Who,” so it seems only fitting to look back on some of his best moments. Zap2it’s resident Whovians are selecting their favorite 11th Doctor episodes to take a look at exactly why they’re so important, not only to Smith’s portrayal of the role but for the show’s legacy.
“The Almost People,” a continuation of the story arc started in “The Rebel Flesh,” introduced a fun dynamic only revisited in the 50th anniversary special: two Doctors interacting. Except instead of showcasing two of the Doctors’ regenerations working alongside one another, “The Almost People” had the 11th Doctor create a Ganger version of himself to prove that Gangers and their real counterparts can live alongside one another in peace. That was great for audiences, because as has been repeatedly proven, two Doctors are better than one.
The concept was a fun, bizarre premise for the show to play around with, and it caused the audience to question pre-conceived notions not only in the show but also in real life. That was largely possible thanks to Smith’s convincing portrayal of both versions of the Doctor, and the gravity he brought to the Ganger Doctor’s plight. Like many alien story arcs in “Doctor Who,” this two-parter examined whether the Gangers should be enslaved and treated as lesser species than the humans simply because they are copies.
Seeing Smith play the two versions of the Doctor in this episode really showcased his mastery of the role, especially once “The Almost People’s” (first) big twist was revealed. Though the audience — and then-companion Amy Pond — thought they had kept track of which person was the Doctor and with was the Ganger, it turned out that he had switched roles as a test to prove that the humans’ mistrust of the Gangers was totally misplaced.
The revelation that Amy had been treating the real Doctor with the disdain she thought she was directing at the Ganger version of him was one of the hardest moments to watch in all of Season 6. As for the episode’s second big twist, the Doctor’s realization that the Amy he had been traveling with was a Ganger herself — and that the real version was being held captive — was one of the most shocking in the new “Who” up until that point.
This episode showcases so much of what Smith is great at as the Doctor. He straddles the line between playful and serious, heartbreaking and childish, and can walk between the dual personas — and in this case, dual Doctors — with ease. But at his core, what makes Smith a great Doctor is his ability to infuse even the character’s darkest moments with a sense of hope.
As the 11th Doctor tells Amy Pond so eloquently in this episode: “I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams.” We’ll miss you, Matt Smith.
What is your favorite Matt Smith episode of “Doctor Who”?