Throughout the history of Doctor Who there have been “what-if” turning points. What if David Tennant had decided to stay on another year? What if Mr Pastry HAD taken over the TARDIS after all? And would Bill Nighy have actually made a good Time Lord?
But now, one of the biggest Sliding Doors-style moments of the sci-fi series has been unveiled, as former Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith (who held the title role from 2010-2013) revealed that he very nearly turned down the part altogether.
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Speaking on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs earlier today, Smith said he had “a wobble” after being told he’d be the man to follow in David Tennant’s converse-adorned footsteps, initially telling his agent he’d step aside.
“I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to do it’,” he told Kirsty Wark. “My agent said, ‘You’re going to do it.'”
“It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life,” he added later, citing the “gargantuan number of lines” as one of the most difficult challenges he faced in the role.
“I learn [lines] rhythmically. I would literally rap them,” he recalled.
Still, in the end Smith stayed the course, and never regretted it.
“It’s the greatest part of my life,” he said. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I loved every minute of it.”
And with another new Doctor set to take centre stage, the actor seems even more positive about Jodie Whittaker’s chances in his old role.
“[She’s] a brilliant choice,” the actor said. “The show relies on big, broad, creative brushstrokes.
“It’s brilliant, it’s high time and she’ll be sensational.”
For our part, we’re now imagining the parallel world where another actor played the Eleventh Doctor, tried to pull off a cool bow tie and ate fish fingers with custard onscreen. Truly doesn’t bear thinking about.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn