The easiest part of writing this entry was the title. Let’s face it, there are already probably hundreds of blog entries, YouTube videos, articles and such with the same name. It’s a line written for us by Steven Moffat back in Series 6, and I’m sure it’ll be repeated again before the year is out.
Matt Smith has made his decision to leave the role of the Doctor, and the BBC have confirmed this in an official announcement which was dropped on us last night (June 1st). It’s sad news, of course. Smith’s tenure as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor has been a pleasure to watch since his first episode, and through a combination of excellent performances and clever marketing, the programme itself has massively grown in stature across the world with Smith as the incumbent.
The beauty of Doctor Who is that it is possibly the only television show in the world where the lead actor can decide to leave, and another actor can take his place, and this can be explained away with only one word – ‘regeneration‘. To some, a regeneration can be an exciting event, a chance for the show to get a breath of fresh air, a lick of paint and a few new ideas to take the whole thing forward. To others it can be heartbreaking, as they come to the realisation that ‘their’ Doctor, the incarnation they have always loved, will soon be gone and replaced by something totally new. The idea of regeneration is something utterly brilliant – it is the reason why Doctor Who continued for so long since 1963, and it is the reason why we are still able to enjoy brand new episodes of the series almost forty years after the death of the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell. It is fitting, therefore, that we get to enjoy the excitement/heartbreak/tedium* of a regeneration in the 50th Anniversary year of the show.
(*delete as appropriate)
I am not devastated by Smith’s decision. I believe three series is long enough to leave a lasting legacy, and while I would have been delighted for the Eleventh Doctor to carry on for a few more years I will never be averse to a regeneration and a new take on the eponymous hero. What bugs me slightly is the way that we’re told the news more than 6 months prior to the actual event itself. I appreciate that Doctor Who is now one of the biggest and most popular non-soaps on television at the moment and as such keeping things like this secret would take an effort of such enormous magnitude that it would be laughable, but I just don’t feel like anyone actually tried. This happened with Eccleston’s Doctor and then subsequently Tennant’s, where we knew months in advance that the regeneration was coming and who was going to take over the role. I would, just for once, love to be taken totally by surprise by a regeneration in the show. During David Tennant’s era, he was shot by a Dalek at the end of The Stolen Earth and his subsequent ‘regeneration’ was left as a cliffhanger. We then had a crazy seven days where the press went mental with speculation as to who was taking over. The second part of that episode, Journey’s End, was hugely anticipated. Obviously in the end it all turned out to be a bit of a red herring, but the point was that the surprise element of a possible regeneration out of nowhere was amazing to be part of.
But, we know now, so let’s get on with it. Sadly, the official announcement means we are now going to be subjected to months and months of speculation as to who will be taking over the role, and then the inevitable mass disappointment when we find out the truth. In the last 24 hours I have already seen some frankly ridiculous suggestions, not least that David Tennant should return. No, he really shouldn’t.
We have also, again, returned to the old argument that the Doctor should be played by a woman, and I’ve even heard some mutterings that it’s unfair that the role has thus far been monopolised by male actors. The Doctor is a male character. Sherlock Holmes has also been played exclusively by male actors. If Benedict Cumberbatch decided to quit his role as Sherlock, would it be realistic to expect female actors to be given the chance to take over? Of course not – so why should we expect the same with the Doctor? Granted, we have already heard in The Doctor’s Wife that the Corsair, a fellow Time Lord, used to regenerate into a female form – but the Corsair doesn’t have his/her own show.
I will admit to being one of the show’s fans who wasn’t happy with the casting of Matt Smith as the Doctor initially. I felt he was too young, that he had only been chosen in an effort to win over the female fans and younger audiences, and that the show might suffer for it. I was terribly wrong. Matt Smith proved himself time and again with some phenomenal performances, some of which saved otherwise lacklustre episodes of the show. As such, no matter who gets announced this time around, I am sure I will be initially critical before being blown away when they take over. The BBC have an excellent track record of picking the right actor for the role, and I have no doubt they will do it again.