Before reactions to Sunday night’s bloody episode of Game of Thrones nearly took down the internet, another TV pop culture shake up had enthusiasts both in the US and across the pond in the UK lamenting and grieving and mourning through cyberspace.
Matt Smith, the eleventh regeneration of the Doctor of the eponymously named beloved sci-fi adventure series, Doctor Who, is leaving the show. ::SOB::
It seems like only yesterday that baby-faced Matt took over for the popular and intense David Tennant. While Tennant’s Ten (as us fans refer to each doctor) wasn’t the first of the modern Doctors (that would be Christopher Eccleston’s Nine) he had put in the longest time in the modern era and would be a very hard act to follow. Ten was a version of the alien Doctor who was maniacally fun and dangerous as he gallivanted around the universe with his female companions Rose, Martha, and finally Donna, before regenerating. This was a genius decision by producers to keep the franchise going; rather than the Doctor dying from severe injuries-mental or physical- he regenerates into a new form, i.e. a brand new actor into Matt Smith.
Smith’s Doctor was all floppy hair, tweed jackets, and cool bow ties when he came on the scene. Along with a baby-face that emphasized his status as the youngest looking Doctor yet (a potential issue for the audience as while the Doctor could appear human) he isn’t human. He’s a Time Lord from Gallifrey and a very, very old one at that (he’s a tick or two over 900 years old). Eccleston and Tennant could pull off the maturity of a battle weary, centuries old time traveler. But twenty-something Matt Smith with his modern hipster look? It seemed like too much of a challenge for even the best under 30 thespian.
Well, Mr. Smith showed us. Not only did he rise to the occasion and sell us on the eccentricities of the Doctor, he made us believe that he had lived. That his Doctor, Eleven, had seen the beginnings and end of time and everything in between, had done things, and that he was the smartest creature in the room even though he didn’t always show it. Matt Smith’s Eleven stands as tall and awesome as all of the other Doctors’ previous regenerations. Whoever is tapped to step into his shoes as Twelve will have just as tough an act to follow with Smith as Smith did with Tennant.
Which brings us to: WHO will be the next Doctor? As soon as the announcement that Smith was leaving came out, there was a nanosecond of sadness before names were being floated on who should take over. Everyone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Head to Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint to House’s Hugh Laurie to Luther’s Idris Elba. While I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of these (especially Tony Head; that man needs to be back on TV full time), my personal picks would be Hugh Dancy of Hannibal or David Morrissey of The Walking Dead (who has been on Doctor Who as a man pretending/believing that he is a Doctor in one of the David Tennant Christmas specials).
The idea of finally casting a female Doctor is gaining steam; while there was a female Time Lord in the older series (Ramona) there’s never been a female Doctor. Many feel now is as good a time as any-especially since the Doctor only has twelve regenerations in his species before he (she?) finally dies. Although if you watched the May finale….we may be finding out that that’s not entirely true in the future. Gotta keep the franchise going!
Whoever is coming aboard, we’re going to find out soon. With the past two regenerations, the new Doctor makes his debut at the end of the old Doctor’s last episode. Matt Smith is scheduled to leave at the end of this year’s Christmas special which is or will be filming soon so the casting news will be hitting us before we know it. And then the Christmas Special will be here before we know it, a bittersweet Christmas gift indeed.