The BBC announced it today: The Christmas 2013 Special of Doctor Who will be the final episode to feature Matt Smith as the role of the title character known simply as “The Doctor.”
This comes weeks after the amazing Series 7 finale, which teasingly addressed the issue of the characters real name, as well as answered the question of just who is the “Impossible Girl,” Clara Oswald.
This also comes after a statement coming from the BBC that Smith was confirmed for Series 8. This stays true, since he will be in the series 50th anniversary episode,starting along side fan-favourite 10th doctor David Tennant (how we have 2 doctors in the same story is more than I am going to get into here, just watch the episode to find out!).
This episode is confirmed to be the Series 8 opener, on November 23rd, 2013, leaving just one month of time before the Christmas episode, where, as with 10 actors before him, Smith’s “11th” doctor will go through his regeneration (the show’s mechanic of changing actors) and be replaced with a new actor, playing the same beloved character.
You might ask why this is such a big deal, if this has happened so often? For a 50 year old Science Fiction programme, you would think this is commonplace, right?
Well, it is. Let me explain a bit.
Fans of the show knew that, inevitably, this moment would come. Every doctor before, From the 1st Doctor, William Hartnell, to the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, has had their last moment in the show be a scene of them “regenerating” into a new body. The change from the 8th to the 9th doctor was skipped as “people would not have as much emotion invested in the character”, instead choosing to start with a fresh face from the get go. This process, however, allowed the doctor to continue to be the same character, but be portrayed by completely different actors, by simply having a plot mechanic of him being able to change bodies when the old one is dying.
Yes, the Regeneration is a staple of Doctor Who, but it is still a very emtional event for fans of the show. Fans spend year growing accustomed to the actors who play this very special role. Just like any movie series or TV show, people grow to like the actors as the characters, and they become one in the same.
The difference in this case is, the new actor is playing the old character, and rather than be an odd, completely unexplained quirk, such as the change in male leads in the 60’s American TV programme Bewitched, in Doctor Who this is by design; as such, while each actor plays the same character, each one still brings their own personality to the role, and we grow attached to them just as each was an independent character in the story.
What does this all mean to me, though?
I am a recent fan of Doctor Who. I have known of the series since my youth, due to a joke in The Simpsons mentioning the show. I didn’t know WHAT it was about, but I knew it existed.
Recently, in late 2012, I had some friends suggest the show to me. I watched an episode, the Series 7 opener “Asylum of the Daleks” and fell in love with the show.
It was, of course, a recent episode, and featured Matt Smith. A common question among the fandom is “who was your first Doctor?”, a question asked to gauge just when someone got into the show and what they were first exposed to. In my case, yes, Matt Smith was my first Doctor, but I do read up on the show’s history, watch what I can of older episodes, and really try to study the full show. It’s my kind of science fiction, and quickly became one of my favourite topics of discussion among friends.
Hooked instantly, you could say.
While yes, I have studied the history of the show, and honestly think William Hartnell, the 1st Doctor, was the best one, Matt Smith and his portrayal of the 11th Doctor is still always going to be the way I first experienced the amazing show that is Doctor Who.
I am sad to see him go, especially so soon after I finally got into the show, but I am excited for the mystery of who the new doctor will be, and seeing how a fresh face takes the role.
Most fans would agree every actor who has played the role did so well, and kept the spirit of the wandering Timelord generations have grown to love. Time will tell what the end result is of this change, but if history h
as anything to show for the future, this will be an exciting moment for everyone Whovian out there.
I’m sure there are fans out there who are outraged. I ask them to try to remember how everyone else felt when their favourite actor left the show. Perhaps how the fans felt in 1981when, after 7 years, the longest for any one person to play the Doctor, Tom Baker was replaced with Peter Davidson. Smith only did the role for 3 years.
As I said, I am sad to see an amazing actor leave the role, but I am happy to think about what may come of this change.