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article imageDoctor Who: Matt Smith is the Thirteenth Doctor — official

By Mathew Wace Peck     Dec 11, 2013 in Entertainment
Matt Smith is the thirteenth incarnation of the Time Lord known as the Doctor, the enigmatic character at the heart of the BBC’s 50-year-old science-fiction TV drama series, it has been revealed.

Since 2010, Smith has been playing the Eleventh Doctor in the long-running show, but is due to relinquish the part to Peter Capaldi in this year’s Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, Capaldi having been unveiled as the Twelfth Doctor in a live-broadcast show, Doctor Who Live: The Twelfth Doctor, on August 4.
The List of the Doctors
Prior to Capaldi’s casting in the series, and up till earlier this year, eleven official Doctors existed in the Doctor Who TV universe:
1. William Hartnell (debut: 1963)
2. Patrick Troughton (debut: 1966)
3. Jon Pertwee (debut: 1970)
4. Tom Baker (debut: 1974)
5. Peter Davison — pictured (debut: 1981)
6. Colin Baker (debut: 1984)
7. Sylvester McCoy (debut: 1987)
8. Paul McGann (debut: 1996)
9. Christopher Eccleston (debut: 2005)
10. David Tennant (debut: 2005)
11. Matt Smith (debut: 2010)
However, in May, at the climax to the season-closing story The Name of the Doctor, a hitherto unknown incarnation of the Doctor was introduced. Played by John Hurt, and subsequently referred to as the War Doctor, he returned to the series on November 23, alongside Smith and David Tennant, in the recent 50th-anniversay feature, The Day of the Doctor.
In Who lore, when on the verge of death, a Time Lord can save him- or herself by regenerating. In effect, changing his whole physiology and appearance. However, as laid down During the Fourth Doctor’s era — in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin — the process can be used a maximum of 12 times, meaning that each Time Lord can only have 13 incarnations (that is to say, 13 different bodily appearances).
Since that fact was made known, Doctor Who fans have speculated how the show would continue beyond the Doctor’s allotted regenerative cycle, with that debate becoming evermore intense as the Doctor nears his final — twelfth — regeneration and, hence, his final — thirteenth — body (originally thought to be the Doctor after Capaldi).
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor regenerates!
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor regenerates!
All that has been turned on its head, however, with the news, courtesy of the Radio Times and the Mirror, that Doctor hitherto referred to as the Eleventh Doctor (Smith) is, in fact, the Thirteenth Doctor.
Writing in the Mirror, Mark Jefferies talks of an interview he had with Moffat at the Doctor Who Celebration held at ExCel in London last weekend. Moffat revealed, says Jefferies, that Smith “is actually the 13th and final Doctor.”
In an attempt to clear up the confusion caused by this revelation — as to how many different bodies the Doctor has had and how that relates to what has always been understood in relation to the Doctor’s different personas — Moffat explains:
“John Hurt is officially now a Doctor and David Tennant used up an extra regeneration during his stay,” in storylines dating back to when Russell T Davies (Cucumber) was Doctor Who showrunner (2003–10).
Three Doctors for The Day of the Doctor (Matt Smith David Tennant  John Hurt)
Three Doctors for The Day of the Doctor (Matt Smith,David Tennant, John Hurt)
BBC / Doctor Who
To clarify, then: in the 2008 story The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, the Doctor hitherto referred to as the Tenth Doctor (Tennant) is exterminated by a Dalek, which triggers the start of his regenerative process. However, instead of undergoing a full regeneration this time, the Doctor manages to use his regenerative powers to save his current incarnation. Also, in the process, some of that regenerative energy gets directed to the Doctor’s severed hand (see * below), thus creating a clone of himself. This “other” Doctor, the Meta Crisis Doctor (also Tennant) looks just like the Tenth Doctor, but lacks a Time Lord’s ability to regenerate.
( * The Tenth Doctor lost his hand shortly after his previous regeneration, in The Christmas Invasion (2005), during a fight with the Sycorax leader (Sean Gilder). Luckily, for the Time Lord, because he was within 15 hours of having regenerated, he was able to generate a new one.)
Fast-forward eight years, to last month’s Doctor Who 50th-anniversary celebrations and Moffat’s thoughts on Hurt’s War Doctor. Subsequently reported by Digital Spy, the current Doctor Who showrunner, referring to the period from 1989, when the BBC cancelled Doctor Who, outlined his thinking:
I wanted to make [the 50th] about the Time War. And I wanted that 16-year gap to mean something. I thought it was so exciting that [at] the end of The Name of The Doctor […] it was revealed that during the 16 years it was off air, when [former Controller of BBC One] Michael Grade unwisely axed it, there was a whole other Doctor [who] we got conned out of. We could have had the adventures of John Hurt, in the nineties but ...
The Time War has been referred to on many occasions over the past eight years and has defined much of the narrative of Doctor Who since its return to TV screens in 2005. The Time War involved many planets and aliens within the Who universe, but centred on the battle between the Doctor’s own people — Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey — and their sworn enemies, the Daleks. At the end of that battle, both the Daleks and Gallifrey were destroyed, leaving the Doctor as the last-known surviving Time Lord.
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who
Rankin / PR
Subsequent events — most notably in Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways (2005), Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (2007), The End of Time (2009–10) and The Day of the Doctor (2013) — have overturned much of that, however.
Back to the present — or is it the future? — presumably, Moffat has worked out a way for the Doctor to survive beyond the death of Smith’s Doctor, as evidenced by the knowledge that he will regenerate into Capaldi’s Doctor at Christmas.
Confusion of the Doctor
But what of the fact that William Hartnell has for decades been referred to as the First Doctor, Tom Baker the Fourth Doctor, Colin Baker the Sixth Doctor and so on? Moffat has addressed that, too. As reported by Digital Spy, Moffat says:
If you worry about such things, and I do, then I specifically said [in recent episodes], John Hurt’s Doctor doesn’t use the title [of the Doctor]. [Smith’s Doctor] is in his twelfth [sic — should read "thirteenth": see Mirror quote, above] body but he’s the eleventh Doctor; however, there is no such character as the Eleventh Doctor — he’s just The Doctor, that’s what he calls himself. The numbering doesn’t matter [within the series], except for those lists that you and I have been making for many years. So I’ve given you the option of not counting John Hurt numerically — he’s the War Doctor.
Relisting of the Doctor
Recently, in the closing moments of The Night of the Doctor, the short-film prequel to The Day of the Doctor, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) regenerates into Hurt’s Doctor, placing him between the Eighth Doctor and Christopher Eccleton’s Ninth.
Therefore, the updated full list of official Doctors known to exist in the Doctor Who TV universe is now as follows (NB: the numbers refer to regenerations not incarnations — a “regeneration” being the process by which one Doctor changes into another; an “incarnation” being each separate Doctor created as a result of the regeneration):
1. William Hartnell (debut: 1963) — first regeneration leads to second incarnation …
2. Patrick Troughton (debut: 1966) — second regeneration leads to third incarnation …
3. Jon Pertwee (debut: 1970) — third regeneration leads to fourth incarnation …
4. Tom Baker (debut: 1974) — fourth regeneration leads to fifth incarnation …
5. Peter Davison — pictured (debut: 1981) — fifth regeneration leads to sixth incarnation …
6. Colin Baker (debut: 1984) — sixth regeneration leads to seventh incarnation …
7. Sylvester McCoy (debut: 1987) — seventh regeneration leads to eighth incarnation …
8. Paul McGann (debut: 1996) — eighth regeneration leads to ninth incarnation …
9. John Hurt (debut: 2013) — ninth regeneration leads to tenth incarnation …
10. Christopher Eccleston (debut: 2005) — tenth regeneration leads to eleventh incarnation …
11. David Tennant (debut: 2005) — eleventh regeneration leads to saving of eleventh incarnation and creation of the “clone Doctor” …
12. David Tennant (debut: 2008) — twelfth regeneration leads to thirteenth incarnation …
13. Matt Smith (debut: 2010) — thirteenth regeneration leads to fourteenth incarnation …
14. Peter Capaldi (debut: 2013) — and, therefore, fourteenth incarnation …
… however, a thirteenth regeneration and fourteenth incarnation of the Doctor should be, according to Doctor Who rules, impossible.
Hence, by the time Tennant regenerated into Smith — in The End of Time Part 2 (2010) — though unknown to viewers at the time, the Doctor had used up all his 12 regenerations and was from then on in his 13th incarnation (or body).
Back to Moffat, who, first, confirms the 12-regeneration limit: “[It’s] a central part of Doctor Who mythology — science fiction is all about rules, you can’t just casually break them.”
Coda of the Doctors
Other actors to have played the Doctor in the TV series include: Richard Hurndall, who recreated the First Doctor in The Five Doctors (1983); David Bradley, who did likewise in An Adventure in Space and Time (2013);
An Adventure in Space and Time: the story of the beginning of Doctor Who
An Adventure in Space and Time: the story of the beginning of Doctor Who
BBC / Doctor Who
as did Reece Shearsmith for the Second Doctor. Other TV “versions” of the Time Lord include Michael Jayston (the Valeyard) in The Trial of a Time Lord (1986); Richard E Grant (alternative Ninth Doctor) in the Scream of the Shalka (2003), a web series originally planned as a continuation of the TV series; and Toby Jones (the Dream Lord) in Amy’s Choice (2010).
Elsewhere, Peter Cushing played the Doctor — known as Dr. Who — in two 1960s movies — Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966); Trevor Martin played an alternate Fourth Doctor in the 1974 stage play (and 2008 audio drama) (Doctor Who and the Daleks) The Seven Keys to Doomsday and David Banks played an unspecified incarnation of the Doctor in another stage play, The Ultimate Adventure, in 1989.
The world TV premiere of Matt Smith's final outing as the Doctor will be broadcast in the UK on Christmas Day (Wednesday, December, 25) on BBC One, at 7.30 p.m. , GMT.
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