Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Christopher And His Kind: Glad it wasn't Tom Baker

Christopher And His Kind: Douglas Booth and Doctor Who actor Matt Smith
- why not insert some joke about 'playing with a sonic screwdriver'. (Pic: BBC) 
The most peculiar thing about Matt Smith's role as writer Christopher Isherwood in BBC Two 90 minute 'think piece' drama Christopher And His Kind was not seeing the actor who plays the current Doctor Who vigorously bumming another man and looking like he was enjoying it (that's called acting); but it's the fact that no other actor to have played the Doctor would probably ever have gotten away with that scene, or even chosen to do such a film in the first place.

The human brain's not advanced enough to image ninth Doctor Chris Eccleston in a gay sex scene - he prefers grit to gay - or, say, the mid-1980s Doctor actor Colin Baker in a drama where his character stops off in a lay-by for a quick spot of cottaging in the loos on a sunny day: "I just fancied a bit of fun, Officer."

And that's before we consider Sylvester McCoy - even the most devoted or pervy Doctor Who fan would need centuries more evolution before you'd cast the seventh Doctor, or rather the actor who played him, in some raunchy gay sex drama (you would hope).

Only with the most recent former Doctor, David Tennant - and always keen to take on challenging roles - do things become less clear.

Would Tennant have taken on the Isherwood part, in a drama that focuses on a key time of the author's voyage of self discovery? Hamlet and widowers and Casanova yes, creative gays? Probably a no.

Not, in fact, a Time Lord

With only a few weeks to go until Matt Smith's second series as the Doctor begins, it shows how far, in some ways, telly has come: an actor who portrays what is essentially a child's hero in a family show can also take on a part in a film where the lead character spends a lot of the time, erm, 'discovering his sexuality' (bumming lots of men), against a backdrop of the rise of Nazism in a late 1930s Berlin while occasionally sharing scenes with the bloke who plays Billie Piper's boyfriend Ben in Secret Diary of a Call Girl but with a German accent that comes and goes.

There's no reason why Matt Smith shouldn't have made the film of course - the sex scenes are only a small part of a much larger coming of age love story, and even then the sex is hardly pornographic.

Also, the film was shown in a later slot and, most importantly, most people 'get' that Matt Smith is an actor and not, in fact, a Time Lord travelling around in a time machine.

But Christopher And His Kind has been sitting on the shelf for months as if the BBC weren't quite sure when they should schedule it, after it was pulled from its original slot last autumn - which suggests that maybe the Doctor's shadow loomed large after all.

In the press material for the programme, Matt Smith said: "First and foremost as always it was the script that attracted me to the role. I loved the idea of playing someone so extreme to me, that different kind of vocalisation and physical shape.

"I hope that you look at this and quickly forget that you're watching the Doctor."

Well - maybe. As engaging and absorbing as both Smith's performance, and Christopher And His Kind as a whole, was - as good as the end revelation regarding the relationship between his brother and mother was slightly unsettling - it's likely the Doctor was never too far from any one's minds.

Especially in the sex scenes - thousands of devoted grown up Who fans, all sat there, wondering: "Is that what might happen in the TARDIS in between adventures?"

But either way, just be thankful they didn't cast fourth Doctor Tom Baker - he'd probably enjoy it all way too much.

You'd never look at the sonic screwdriver in the same way again.

No comments:

Post a Comment