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article imageMatt Smith 'quitting Doctor Who at Christmas'

By Mathew Wace Peck     Mar 22, 2013 in Entertainment
The BBC has played down a report that Matt Smith, star of their flagship science-fiction drama series Doctor Who, will be quitting the show at the end of its 50th-anniversary year.
According to the Sun, Smith will bow out in this year’s Christmas special, which – as has happened for the past eight years – is likely to be broadcast on Christmas Day itself.
“Insiders say the festive special will be Matt’s last outing as the Doctor, after a triumphant four years in the role,” the paper reports.
However, the BBC has been quick to, while not exactly deny the story, at least play down the rumours. As reported by Den of Geek, the BBC issued the following statement: “Sorry folks, but even we don’t know what’s going to happen at Christmas. It’s not been written yet! But Matt loves the show and is to start filming the unmissable 50th anniversary, and the new series starting on Easter Saturday.”
Smith signed up to the show in 2009, when, at just 26, he became the youngest-ever person to play the Doctor, the central character of the series. His first appearance as the Eleventh Doctor was broadcast on New Year’s Day 2010, when the David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was killed off. Tennant had been in the role since 2005.
Earlier in the week, Smith was a guest on ITV's The Jonathan Ross Show. There to promote the new season of Doctor Who, inevitably, Smith was asked about his future plans. “At the moment, it’s 2013 and we will see what 2014 holds,” was the actor’s reply. However, there has already been much speculation as to whether Smith would be moving on after the 50th-anniversary year. Having joined Doctor Who as a virtual unknown, Smith’s global stock has risen year-on-year and he’s made no secret of wanting to move to Hollywood. Indeed, the now-30-year-old actor has already to star in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster, due out in 2014.
Metro has also reported on the rumours and the BBC’s response. It then refers to Smith telling Ross, “Doctor Who is one of those jobs that you have to take year by year, it’s ten months a year, it’s all-consuming,’ he said. ‘So I don’t think you can plan five or six years ahead, or even two years ahead.”
Daily Mirror front-page “exclusive”  1 September 2012
Daily Mirror front-page “exclusive”, 1 September 2012
Daily Mirror Twitter
This isn’t the first time that rumours have surfaced about 2013 ushering in Smith’s Doctor Who swan song. Last September, on the day that the 2012 series began, the Mirror ran the story, “I QUIT! Doctor Who’s Matt calls time on Time Lord”. On that occasion, the BBC’s Head of Communication, Sam Hodges, took to Twitter to deny that Smith was leaving the series. Hodges tweeted, “#DoctorWho fans - Matt Smith hasn't quit. See him in Asylum of the Daleks, tomorrow at 7.20 on #BBC1,” and “Matt Smith hasn't quit - just an over excitable headline.”
The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Time Lords have the ability to renew themselves when injured or dying, healing themselves through regeneration, a concept introduced into the series way back in 1966, when, after three years in the role, the original actor to have played the Doctor, William Hartnell, quit the show.
Matt Smith becomes the eleventh Doctor  The End of Time  1 January  2010
Matt Smith becomes the eleventh Doctor, The End of Time, 1 January, 2010
BBC screenshot
The continued popularity of Doctor Who during the tenure of Hartnell’s successor, Patrick Troughton (The Box of Delights), secured the series’ continuation beyond the loss of its lead actor.
To date, eleven different actors have played the part in the TV series. Jon Pertwee was the third actor to take on the part, following Troughton’s departure in 1969. He was followed, in 1974, by Tom Baker, then Peter Davison in 1981, Colin Baker three years later in 1984 and Sylvester McCoy in 1987. Paul McGann became the Eighth Doctor in 1996 and his successor, Christopher Eccleston, first appeared on screen in 2005.
Speculate! Speculate!
The identity of any new Doctor is always met with fevered speculation, even more so since the show’s return to TV screens, in 2005, and Doctor Who’s subsequent soaring global popularity. The last time a new Doctor was announced, in 2009, the BBC broadcast a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential to introduce the actor they had chosen. Prior to the moment in the programme when he was unveiled, Matt Smith’s identity as the Eleventh Doctor had been kept a secret.
Five years earlier, however, Doctor Who’s producers had failed to keep from the press the news that Christopher Eccleston would be playing the Ninth Doctor for one season only. His departure from the show was reported just a few days after his first episode aired, amid such headlines as "Eccleston stuns Universe!".
At that time, David Tennant’s name was associated with the part early on and, as it turned out, he had already been chosen as the Tenth Doctor.
Once chosen as the Doctor, demands from press and public alike about the intentions of the incumbent actor relinquishing the title role become part and parcel of the job. Tennant revealed in 2009 that one of the first things he was asked on becoming the Doctor was when he intended to leave!
Regenerate! Regenerate!
In 2008, Russell T Davies managed a “false-flag” regeneration by having the Tenth Doctor exterminated by a Dalek at the end of The Stolen Earth, with the now-familiar regeneration to start to consume him. However, following a week of speculation in the press, the Tenth Doctor was seen to be able to shut down his regeneration by channelling his regenerative energy into his own severed hand, thus creating a second Tenth Doctor!
Months later, however, while collecting a “Best Actor” award at the National Television Awards, Tennant announced live on air that he would be quitting the role after four specials to be broadcast throughout 2009. After four and a half years in the role, Tennant’s final moments as the Tenth Doctor were shown at the end of the 2010 New Year’s Day special, The End of Time Part Two, which also heralded the beginning of Smith’s tenure as the Eleventh.
Celebrate! Celebrate!
It has already been announced that several Doctor Who specials will be broadcast towards the end of this year as part of Doctor Who’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. These will include An Adventure in Space and Time, by Mark Gatiss, a dramatisation of the creation and early years of Doctor Who. For the one-off 90-minute film, David Bradley and Reece Shearsmith will recreate the roles of the First and Second Doctors, as well as playing the actors who originally brought them to life, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, both who are now dead.
Speculation also abounds as to how many separate Doctor Who episodes will be broadcast to mark the anniversary itself. As previously reported by Digital Spy, he show’s head writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, has already suggested there could be more than one. However, what is known is that there will be one episode broadcast on Saturday, 23 November 2013 – which, rather neatly, is the exact day and date of the Doctor’s very first TV appearance, in the Doctor Who episode, An Unearthly Child, broadcast 50 years ago in 1963 – as well as the now-traditional Christmas special. If there are to be others, one of them could well be broadcast on New Year’s Day. And, if Smith is indeed stepping down from the role, doing so exactly four years to the day that he made his first appearance as the Doctor would be similarly neat.
Resonate! Resonate!
In the meantime, Smith returns to TV screens at the end of March, with eight brand-new Doctor Who episodes. In the first episode, The Bells of Saint John, he will be joined by his new companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman). Other episodes include ones that see the return of the Ice Warriors, in a story written by Gatiss, the Cybermen, this time from the perspective of Neil Gaiman, and Steven Thompson’s intriguing Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
Doctor Who returns to TV screens in the UK, US and Canada on Saturday, 30 March, Australia, Poland and South Africa on Easter Sunday, 31 March, with other territories following shortly after.
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