The Matt Smith era on “Doctor Who” will end this Christmas after three seasons.
The BBC made the announcement Saturday as fans get ready for the 50th anniversary of the franchise in November. And in the words of showrunner Steven Moffat: “Now the search begins” on who will replace Smith.
“Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me,” Moffat said in a statement. “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 a clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently.”
Smith is expected to make his exit during this year’s Christmas special, one year after his new companion played by Jenna-Louise Coleman was introduced. BBC did not say whether Coleman would be back after Christmas, but did confirm already that Moffat would return as showrunner. Although Smith’s involvement was not included in that announcement, it had been believed Smith had signed for another season.
“‘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,” Smith said in a release. “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.”
Smith joined “Doctor Who” in 2010 following the departure of David Tennant as the 10th Doctor. To help accommodate Tennant’s schedule, the series had gone into a bit of hiatus the previous year, opting for three television events that year instead of a regular series. Tennant than departed during a special New Year’s Day special, as well as then showrunner Russell T. Davies, opening the door for Smith and Moffat.
At the time, Smith was the youngest actor to play The Doctor at 28 years old. Before the casting, few people outside of England had even known about the actor. Since then, he has become a household name not only in Britain, but in North America as well, receiving critical acclaim for his portrayal of the iconic character.
“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,” Moffat said. “Whatever we threw at him — sometimes literally — his behavior was always worthy of The Doctor. But great actors know when it’s time for the curtain call, so this Christmas, prepare for your hearts to break as we say goodbye to No. 11. Thank you, Matt — bowties were never cooler.”
Smith has been nominated for nine different awards over his time on “Doctor Who,” winning three of them — two SFX awards in 2011 and 2012, and a National Television Award in 2012. Smith was the first actor in “Doctor Who” to be nominated for a BAFTA, which he earned in 2011.
He appeared in 46 episodes of “Doctor Who” overall, most recently in the seventh-season finale, “The Name of The Doctor.”
“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,'” Smith said, “When when ya gotta go, ya gotta go, and Trenzalore calls.”
Trenzalore was the planet featured in the season finale, marked as the burial site for The Doctor. Of course, it’s not clear if that is where the Christmas special might take place — the interior of The Tardis in that episode did match the current model employed by Smith’s Doctor.
“Doctor Who” returns for its 50th anniversary on Nov. 23, and again for Smith’s exit on Dec. 25 on BBC, BBC America and Space.