The Triumph of Doctor Smith

Doctor Who - The Time of Angels

His confidence in himself, although sometimes shaken (he doesn’t brag as much as the Tenth Doctor), manifests in many ways. His confrontation with Rosanna is almost flirtatious. He teases her with a predatory, sexual dance equal to her own, only to pull the rug from her by promising to tear her world apart. This aspect of the new Doctor is truly scary – and he knows it. There is an occasional sense of a truly dangerous and threatening Doctor just waiting to emerge in moments such as the one in which he ‘nicely’ asks Ambrose to leave her cache of weapons behind (The Hungry Earth). His intentions towards Amy also seem very dark. When he takes her aboard the TARDIS, he lies about his intentions (peeking secretively at the scanner display of the crack in the universe). Even after Rory’s double-death, he remains deceptive to Amy – when, as we later learn, he only needs to bump heads with her to explain the truth.

It is strange, but sometimes we like the Doctor to be scarier than the monsters he fights and it is tempting to think his nicer qualities are a front for what the Daleks call The Oncoming Storm. But it’s also very obvious that his experiences touch him – not just the thrill of them, but also the pain of them. When he has no choice but to abandon Octavian to the absent mercy of a Weeping Angel, he displays heartbroken tenderness (sensitively performed by Smith).

His deepest feelings are also exposed by an enigmatic but pained smile when Alaya asks him what he is willing to sacrifice for his cause. She thinks she has the upper hand because she is willing to die, but we already know him capable of sacrificing not only worlds, but worlds full of people very, very dear to him. It is only by a colossal act of will that he is able to keep his passions in check. This may add to our deepest concerns about the darkness he carries within him, but this is a man who is also capable of error, and the Dream Lord plays upon such vulnerabilities.

This Doctor also overlooks stuff and gets things wrong in a way that the Seventh Doctor never would (until the moment of his death): by allowing himself to become preoccupied he loses Elliot to the Silurians; whilst sitting on Rosanna’s throne, he fails to realise that he’s sitting on the key to her power; he is also guilty of a misplaced faith in own abilities: ‘Nobody dies today.’ Well, Alaya does. Rory does. There are far better stories this season, but the Silurian two-parter allows Smith to display the Doctor’s complex moral centre, and he plays it not as stoutly as Jon Pertwee did (in a similar story) but in a manner far more relaxed and intimate – a lot like Patrick Troughton might have.

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at

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