By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
9:10 PM CDT, June 1, 2013
"Doctor Who" star Matt Smith will leave the role at the end of this year, BBC announced Saturday.
After four years as the Time Lord and appearing in the 50th anniversary special set to air Nov. 23 on BBC America, Smith's 11th Doctor will regenerate into the 12th during the 2013 Christmas special. The BBC statement said Smith's "spectacular exit" would be "kept tightly under wraps."
"'Doctor Who' has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I'm incredibly grateful," the 30-year-old actor said in a statement.
"It's been an honor to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one.' But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls," Smith said.
Smith, who is the youngest actor to play the Doctor, took over from David Tennant in 2010. In "The Eleventh Hour," his newly-regenerated Doctor crashed the TARDIS into the yard of a young Scottish girl named Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) who would later become his companion. Her boyfriend, Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), would later join they adventures.
In Smith's most recent adventure, "The Name of the Doctor," the Time Lord visited his own grave on the planet Trenzalore with his latest companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Louise-Coleman). At the end of that episode--spoiler ahead!--they met what appeared to be another version of the Doctor, played John Hurt.
It's not clear if Hurt is the new Doctor, but probably not. (Smith's hasn't regenerated, after all.) There are a ton of theories concerning Hurt, including that he's playing the actual First Doctor (before William Hartnell), or maybe the true Ninth Doctor (between Paul McGann's Eight and Christopher Eccleston's Nine, the one who fought the Time War), or the Valeyard.
Whatever the case with Hurt's Doctor, we'll have to wait for the 50th anniversary special to get that answer. But two out of three of those scenarios would make Smith's Time Lord the 12th Doctor, not the 11th. As many "Who" fans know, Time Lords only get 12 regenerations, so "Who" lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat has some tricky scripts ahead. (Moffat may have set up one possible escape from the problem in the episode "Let's Kill Hitler," when River Song gave the Doctor all her remanning regenerations.)
Saturday's announcement of Smith's exit already has sparked an uproar online, not to mention speculation about his replacement.
"Somewhere out there right now--all unknowing, just going about their business--is someone who's about to become the Doctor," Moffat said in the statement. "A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again. After 50 years, that's still so exciting."
Let me throw one suggestion out there: How about "Game of Thrones" star and Coleman's boyfriend, Richard Madden, who has told me he'd be interested in appearing on the show.
"I'd love to be in 'Doctor Who.' It's one of my favorite shows. I love that thing," he said last year after it was announced Coleman would be joining the series. "I think I was more excited than she was [when she got the role]. I was like, 'What?!'"
Who do you think should be the new Doctor? Will you miss Smith and the 11th Doctor? Read the full statement's from Smith and Moffat below.
"Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I'm incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realize all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.
Having Steven Moffat as showrunner write such varied, funny, mind-bending and brilliant scripts has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my career. It's been a privilege and a treat to work with Steven, he's a good friend and will continue to shape a brilliant world for the Doctor.
The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I've never seen before, your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number Eleven, who I might add is not done yet, I'm back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special!
It's been an honor to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt."
"Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me: the way he'd turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry, I just never knew what was coming next. The Doctor can be clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently. And even better than that, given the pressures of this extraordinary show, he is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Whatever we threw at him--sometimes literally--his behavior was always worthy of the Doctor.
But great actors always know when it's time for the curtain call, so this Christmas prepare for your hearts to break, as we say goodbye to number Eleven. Thank you Matt--bow ties were never cooler.
Of course, this isn't the end of the story, because now the search begins. Somewhere out there right now--all unknowing, just going about their business--is someone who's about to become the Doctor. A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again! After 50 years, that's still so exciting!"
Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC