TV News

Matt Smith Leaving Doctor Who; Last Episode will be the 2013 Christmas Special

Doctor Who has a built-in capacity for routine creative rejuvenation.  Once producers and/or show runners get burnt out or run out of ideas they move on and are replaced by people with a new approach and fresher minds, and when the actors no longer want to do the show they move on and are replaced by exciting new actors with an interesting new character interpretation.  This is what, historically, keeps the show from running stale.

Yeah, cherish that thought because you’re going to need it to your cushion your fall after hearing the following news: Matt Smith is leaving the show.

As had been originally reported back in March by the UK paper The Sun, Matt Smith’s final episode will be the 2013 Christmas special in which Smith’s 11th Doctor will regenerate into a currently unidentified 12th Doctor.  In the months since The Sun broke the story there have been a series of vaguely phrased press releases from the BBC, and a rather confusing series of interviews (first in Radio Times and most recently in TV Magazine) in which Matt Smith was similarly vague but appeared to indicate he would be back on the show in 2014.  It is entirely possible Smith was simply making up his mind and at one point had genuinely intended to return in 2014, which would have been his fourth season on the show.   Either way, all was cleared up Saturday afternoon when Smith’s departure was officially announced by the  BBC.

Here is Matt Smith’s full statement pertaining to his departure from the show:

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 show runner 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.

Here is Steven Moffat’s full statement pertaining to Matt Smith’s departure:

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!

Well, this is a tall glass of suck.  Matt Smith has starred as the titular Doctor since the end of 2009, at which point he replaced the departing David Tennant.  Smith was only 26 at the time he was announced as the new Doctor, making him by a fair margin the youngest actor to have been cast in the role to that point.  He was a relative unknown at the time, having starred in more theater projects than film and television.  Moreover, in replacing David Tennant he was stepping in for the most popular Doctor in the show’s history other than Tom Baker.  So,of course he’d go on to be among the greatest Doctors of all time, right?

Well, yeah, actually.  Smith joined the show at the same time as Steven Moffat was replacing Russel T. Davies as Executive Producer and head writer.  Plus, his Doctor was introduced with a brand new companion (Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond) who had no prior connection to Tennant’s Doctor.  As such, there was a clear delineation between the eras of the show, with precious few references to anything that had come before.  This made for a show which could (and widely was, based upon American viewing figures) picked up by new viewers unfamiliar with anything that came before.  Under Moffat’s watch, the show became something more akin to a dark fairy tale with entire, complicated mysteries centered around incredibly simple phrases such as “The Girl Who Waited” or “The Cracks in Time” or “The Impossible Girl.”

Smith, playing essentially a very, very old man in an incredibly young man’s body, was the perfect Doctor for the material.  He rather quickly reached the point at which he is so stellar in a scene you have to admit “David Tennant couldn’t have done that scene any better,” and not too long after that reached the point where you realize “I love this Doctor and never want to see him leave.”

Here is how Matt Smith was introduced on the show – staring down a ginormous eye-ball shaped alien and getting it to run away by simply introducing himself as The Doctor:

However, the recently concluded 7th season was rather divisive for fans.  Although Smith’s performance as the Doctor never faltered, Moffat appeared to overreact to criticism of the heavily serialized fifth and sixth seasons by fighting his own natural creative impulses and instead crafting a more episodic television show.  The result was a show which was never outright bad, as it had been a time or two during the Russel T. Davies era, but rarely ever great.  However, much of this dismay was tempered by the generally stellar season finale (“Name of the Doctor”) and excitement for the show’s 50th Anniversary Special set to air at some point in November of this year.

We will now see Matt Smith in the role two more times, acting alongside David Tennant in the multi-Doctor 50th Anniversary Special, and in the as-yet-untitled 2013 Christmas special.  He will presumably leave to pursue stardom in Hollywood, a tactic which recently worked for his former co-star Karen Gillan who was just cast in Marvel’s forthcoming big budget comic book movie Guardians of the Galaxy.  Meanwhile, someone, possibly another unknown, will be announced as the new Doctor in the forthcoming months, and we will hate the sight of him because he’s not Matt Smith.  That’s how this works, duh.

For the record, Matt Smith departs the show having played the Doctor for three seasons and a handful of specials, roughly the same as his predecessor David Tennant.  So, whoever the new guy is we’ll likely have them for around 3 seasons.

We will have more coverage on this and more in-depth reactions in the ensuing days.  For now, here’s another moment of Smith being awesome:

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