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The World Doesn't End Because the Doctor Dances

Steven Moffat’s Known When Matt Smith Would Leave for Years


Like every plot twist in Doctor Who, it seems the cast and crew knew the departure of Matt Smith was coming far in advance of when we did.

The show runner told Entertainment Weekly recently that though he tried his best, he couldn’t get Smith to stay longer than the first-post 50th anniversary Christmas special, as planned when the actor took on the role:

We discussed ages ago that we would do three series and then he would do the 50th and then he’d do Christmas. That was Plan A for a very, very long while. That may sound cold that it was so far in advance but you’ve got to plan a career. [Laughs] The question was, “Will I be able to talk him out of it?” We went out for lunch and he said that he’d come very close to doing another series but it was the same argument: “If I do another series, I think I might do two more series, or three more series. I think I might never leave.” It’s that thing of wanting to leave while you’re a huge hit and not let it tail off. It’s part of the ecology of the program, it’s part of the DNA of the program, that there is going to be a new Doctor now and then.

Given the structure of the show, I don’t think anyone can begrudge a Doctor actor the change to go on and do something else with their career, especially given the show’s modern penchant for hiring relatively unknown but most of all young actors, ones at the beginning of their careers rather than the end or the middle. And the work schedule of such a role doesn’t leave a lot of room for other professional pursuits. Not that Moffat and team didn’t try to create some room if it mean they could convince Smith to stick around a bit longer:

It’s also, it has to be said, an overwhelming schedule for the actor playing the Doctor. As a workload it precludes you doing anything else. It precludes theatre, it precludes any significant other television or film work really. And even trying to crowbar some time in for him to do other things — which was part of our charm offensive — in the end he wanted to go and develop the other parts of his career.

The search for a new Doctor is always an exciting time to be a Doctor Who fan, and while I don’t think we’ll see a female doctor this time around (nor do I particularly want one at this particular juncture in the show’s history), it’s been really interesting to see the number of folks out there, fans and famous, who think the TARDIS is big enough on the inside for some genderswapping. We’ll just have to wait until this fall when filming begins on the Christmas special, when the BBC will have to announce their pick for the next Doctor.

(Entertainment Weekly via Blastr.)

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  • http://elisabethflaum.wordpress.com/ Elwyne

    The role didn’t stop Tennant from doing fifty other things.

    But OF COURSE they know these things before we do. Shooting is done months before airing, and writing months before that; they have to know. Nature of the business. And I really think a lot of DW fans, especially new-Who, have to get over their attachment to an actor. Not that Smith hasn’t been great; I’ve enjoyed him immensely. But it is in the nature of the character to change. Let him go.

  • Ray Burns

    What if they pull something like they did in “Destiny of the Daleks” with Romana. The Doctor regenerates into Dame Maggie Smith decides he doesn’t like it and then switches to David Harewood, then to Helen Mirren, then to David Tennant, and then, as Clara faints, he finally settles into …..

  • Harrison Grey

    I think the trouble with this loss of actor is that it feels so soon, and how little time left we have now that we know. Tennant lasted four full seasons before announcing his leave, and still had a year worth of specials after that. Smith is telling us that he’s leaving after only three seasons, and has two episodes left. Not to mention the fact that he’s an excellent Doctor who has had one excellent season, and then two (arguably) less than excellent seasons, so it also feels like a missed opportunity.

  • http://technicalluddite.com/ Hannele Kormano

    Ugh, that was what bugged me about Tennant’s departure – they made it this giant epic thing, like clearly this is the be-all and end-all for Doctor Who forever and ever (I don’t wanna go!), and even if it comes back it’ll never be the same again.

    And, to be fair, Moffatt’s hasn’t been the same as the RTD era, but that’s half the point of the show – the continuity in discontinuity. Although, I do wish there had been a little more cross-pollination in characters other than just River Song and the Doctor (and the Tardis).

  • http://elisabethflaum.wordpress.com/ Elwyne

    Tennant had three seasons, plus the specials, not four.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. :)

  • Anonymous

    It didn’t stop him from doing other work, but I know some of the past Doctor Who actors expressed worry that staying with the show too long might hurt their career. Like as much as we nerds love identifying geek actors by whichever sci-fi/fantasy/comic book role they did, that’s the kind of thing that can seriously hurt and limit your career.

  • Melynda

    It was good he had an exit strategy. It seemed like he was gonna go another series though, didn’t they even say he was going to? And then a few weeks later they announced he was leaving. I wish it was possible to avoid finding out who the new Doctor is until Christmas, but I can’t survive without internet that long.

  • Allison Hoekwater

    I know. I would love it they could keep it a surprise. Doctor Who sometimes gives too much away.

  • Sabrina

    As said, Tennant had 3 full seasons + 4 specials (well, 5 if you count End of Time as 2). Smith has 3 full seasons + 2 specials. For both they stretched the episodes over 4 years. There’s not that much difference.

  • cusinemakaty

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

    Well I’m disappointed that he’s leaving, but I mean how disappointed and shocked can we be when that’s why the regeneration angle is there? It’s going to happen eventually. Unless they decide that there are only going to be 13 regenerations.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    That’s… an ineresting thought. Save a female Doctor for #14/14 (Depending on which Doctor Hurt is in sequence, if he’s “Old 8″ or “True 9″. When the Doctor doesn’t EXPECT to regenerate, when he thinks he’s about to die, and suddenly he’s a woman. That might be more acceptable to all those damned whingey fanboys.

  • Harrison Grey

    Oh, right, forgot Season 4 was his 3rd. Still, we got a year’s worth of notification, as opposed to being sprung on us with two specials left.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Can’t believe people still trust anything that Moffat says. And in this particular circumstance, George Lucas tried that same bullshit line a couple times.