I understood that the line referred both to the fact that Ten had enjoyed being Five, "...dashing about and playing cricket" (Davison was less stodgy and authoritative than his precursors), as well as the fact that the Fifth Doctor was the one on the air when Tennant was a boy. He would have been about 9 or 10 years old at the time Davison began his run. What I didn't comprehend at the time was the emotion that Tennant displayed when he said that line. However when I watched Matt Smith say farewell as number Eleven in The Time of the Doctor earlier, something dawned on me.
Eleven just isn't my Doctor.
The feeling has been lurking in the back of my head ever since Smith took over for Tennant back in 2010. For the past 3 series, I've found myself liking the show less and less and series 7 was the worst so far. While there have been some standout episodes (Vincent and the Doctor, The Big Bang, Day of the Moon, The Doctor's Wife, and The Angels Take Manhattan come to mind), they don't hold a candle to the way I felt when I first watched The Empty Child and heard him ask, "Are you my mummy?"
That episode, from the 2005 reboot starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, is still the benchmark by which I grade all succeeding ones. It had so much drama in it, a lot of sadness, but the story was so hopeful. The ending was perfect, and Eccleston's smile as he... well if you haven't watched it, I won't spoil it for you and if you have then you probably know what I'm talking about. When Steven Moffat talks about how The Doctor is a hero's hero, one who is curious and caring and carries a screwdriver, not a gun, that is one of the moments my mind immediately goes to.
Tennant as Ten also had those moments. More of them in fact, as he got to play the role from 2005 to 2009. His run felt so optimistic to me, mostly because of the awe with which Tennant imbued the character with. He was so fond of saying how amazed he was of "you humans", and his infectious curiosity sold me on all the campy TV effects right from the start. His talkative, cheerful tone made those times when his mood shifted so much more effective. As Tennant's stint as Ten goes on, the loneliness of being the last Time Lord starts becoming more and more prominent, and you see the progression of his character's arc, feel it reach its peak once the 2008-2009 Specials start.
When The End of Time finishes and the Ood (aliens that the Doctor once liberated from slavery) begin their song for him, you can help but feel for the Doctor as he visits the people that touched his life. The anguish as he says, "I don't want to go," kills me every time.
And that brings us to Eleven and his goodbye episode, which feels a lot like the way the rest of Matt Smith's time as The Doctor feels to me. Short, convoluted, and forced.
WARNING" POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.
One of the things I've had the most problems with during the past three seasons were the ones where they brought back EVERY ENEMY THE DOCTOR HAS EVER HAD. Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, they've kept showing up. Then they keep bringing them back together again for the first time in one show... again. The Big Bang, The Wedding of River Song, and now with the final curtain call, they're joining forces to stop the Doctor from doing something or other.
Which brings me to the second thing that makes me unsatisfied with Smith's arc; the plotting. What the fuck is going on here? Look, if you ask me to explain it, I could tell you that he's got to stop the alien armada composed of races from all over the universe from blowing up a planet, but there's so much muddled continuity now its insane. Is the aforementioned embargoed planet Gallifrey? Or is it Trenzalore?
He's been to both (and recently), so he should be able to recognize either, right?
And then there's this message asking the "first question" that was alluded to a while back, the name of The Doctor; "Doctor Who?". The question is being broadcast during the last episode throughout the known universe in Gallifreyan, which The Doctor discovers once his Cyberman head translates the message for him. Why The Doctor couldn't understand his own native tongue is a question in itself.
Oh, and then there's the stuff about him getting old, and the stuff about this being his last regeneration after the War Doctor was revealed, and then the stuff about the town of Christmas needing protection, and then the stuff about the Crack in Time being back, AGAIN.
I liked Nine and Ten because though they had their dark side, we saw them going off on adventures, new adventures, discovering things that were new and awesome. We saw the end of the world and the end of time through their eyes, they met queens and devils and watched the human race spread throughout the stars. There was tons of adventure and mystery and fun.
In contrast, Eleven's tenure seems much more self contained and limited to me. I had high hopes at the start of the run because we had some great plot threads that Steven Moffat (the showrunner) could pick at, like the whole River Song mystery. They handled that rather abruptly with A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler.
Then there was that excellent prophecy about how "Silence will fall" that they were going on and on about, but nothing really happened there. We found out that the "Silence" wasn't anything fantastic after all, and the threat from it/them was rather empty after they were stopped at the start of series 6. The prophecy was supposed to be tied to the planet Trenzalore, but again, rather abruptly, that was nixed by The Name of the Doctor. The Silence monsters weren't even there. I thought that they were going to be this Doctor's Weeping Angels, but no. They're just another addition to the powerless Pantheon of bad guys that like to follow Eleven around, another race of monsters to populate this week's episode.
The Time of the Doctor feels like it wants to cap all of those little plot points that Moffat and Co. have left lying around, but it's only got an hour to do it in. People are all rushing around, back and forth, doing this and that, but there's no weight put on any of it. Remember when Jack Harkness held on to the TARDIS through the vortex all the way to the end of time? We'll Clara does something similar, but it's totally different because there was no emphasis put on the experience at all. She just shows up. I'm not sure why Moffat didn't use the entire series 7 to try and move some of this out of the way as the season could have really used the grounding.
Likewise Smith's final changeover to Twelve, Peter Capaldi is super-fast and relatively without much ado. He beats the Daleks (again) and BOOM, we're in the TARDIS with him and Clara and he's giving his speech, and FWOOSH. He's Capaldi.
Twelve says a few funny bits and it's done.
I feel like an old man saying this, but it's all too fast, too trimmed down. But then maybe that's the issue for me. Smith's Doctor is a young and vibrant one, more so than either of the other two that aired during my time as a fan. Maybe this Doctor is too young and vibrant for me.
Maybe he's just not my Doctor.