Doctor Who has been a staple in the lives of millions of fans for almost 60 years. And, while most television roles as iconic as that of The Doctor are filled, for the entirety of their run, by one actor, Whovians have seen several actors take on the part in the franchise. Whenever you have a television show that's been around for as long as Doctor Who has, and has seen as many lead actors come and go, fans end up with some pretty strong opinions about the direction of the show and can end up giving some truly hilarious backhanded compliments when they come into contact with the actors they've been watching.
Three of the recent actors to fill the position of The Doctor (current star Jodie Whittaker, and former Doctors Matt Smith and David Tennant), recently sat down with HBO Max (the new streaming home of the sci-fi hit) to talk about Doctor Who and their experiences during and after filming the series. During the conversation, though, talk frequently turned to the backhanded compliments they've been known to receive from people who love the show.
Jodie Whittaker, who was announced as the Thirteenth (and first female) Doctor in the summer of 2017 and has completed two seasons as the alien time-traveler, revealed that one fan encounter had her very hopeful...until it didn't. She was in a cafe, and was approached by a teenage girl, whom she was quite excited to see because the girl seemed like "her demographic." Unfortunately, this teen had other ideas, and told Whittaker:
I really wanted Ben Whishaw.
Ouch! It's one thing to have a fan call you out for not being the actor they wanted to see in your part, but it seems like a whole different and far less appealing encounter to have that person tell you exactly who they think would be better at playing The Doctor than you. Whittaker was able to laugh it off in the interview, and I have no doubt that she was able to gather a sense of humor about such fan interactions pretty quickly after snagging The Doctor, but I can't imagine that not stinging at least a bit when originally faced with it.
This may be even more true for Whittaker, seeing as how she helped break the mold when getting cast as our first female Doctor. Sure, some people were very glad for the change to happen, and many were as accepting as with any other cast change for the long-running series, but there were also a ton of fans who were not on board with The Doctor regenerating into a woman after several decades of men taking the part. To the point where the BBC felt the need to respond to all those complaints about her casting.
Of course, Jodie Whittaker is far from the only actor who has played The Doctor to see such backhanded words from fans. Matt Smith, who was the Eleventh Doctor from 2010 through 2013, piped up during the interview to share something which he says he's gotten "a lot of":
You're not my favorite, but... I really like you.
Ooof. Man, people really need to rethink how they approach celebrities sometimes, don't they? I cannot dream of a situation where I'd say such a thing to someone who is clearly doing their best to keep a long-standing franchise afloat. Though, I have to say, I don't think that the fans who come up with these things are generally trying to be mean on purpose. They probably just didn't know what to say, so the first refreshingly honest thing which popped into their heads is just what came out.
David Tennant, who of this trio had the longest tenure on the show with the Tenth Doctor (from 2005 through 2010) and is still generally beloved by the fanbase, has also seen some well-meaning, accidental negativity, even though he took over from Christopher Eccleston, who left the series with some very bad blood. According to Tennant, he's heard:
You're definitely in my Top 5.
I mean, when you're talking about one of the actors who's held the role of The Doctor the longest, we have to be dealing with fans who really do think they're either being funny or giving a genuine compliment here, right?
The good thing is that Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith and David Tennant clearly haven't let any of these backhanded fan compliments sour their thoughts on Doctor Who or the experiences they've had with the franchise and the fans overall. Plus, they were all able to laugh about these interactions, so we can likely count on them being willing to talk Who for many years to come.