It is the best of times and the worst of times for “Doctor Who” fans. The show is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, a rare feat for a television program, but it’s also about to say goodbye to its current doctor, played by Matt Smith.
Smith managed the tough task of taking over from the previous enormously popular doctor, David Tennant. Now someone else will have to fill his aubergine blazer and become the twelfth doctor. BBC America will announce the next Doctor on Sunday in a live TV special.
At the show’s recent Television Critics Association events, the actor shared a few tidbits about about November’s 50th anniversary special, what the show’s golden anniversary means to him and his thoughts on his imminent departure.
The 50th anniversary special will feature David Tennant and John Hurt, who was in the previous season finale as a disgraced former Doctor. Smith relished working with both actors. “Tennant’s a fabulous Doctor, and he’s a good bloke, great bloke. So yeah, it was great,” Smith said. “And also, Johnny Hurt. Me and Dave would be climbing the walls and, like, you know, just doing anything. And John just flicks his eyes, and the camera goes, ‘Yep, let’s watch John Hurt.’”
Smith admitted that the gravity of the 50th anniversary has not hit him yet. “You know, we’re locked away in Cardiff. We do our thing. And then we jump into the hype and all the fandom when we come to Comic-Con and to here [TCA] and to things like that. So we just crack on with it. And the thing with “Doctor Who” is that sort of every episode tends to escalate somehow. If it’s not the 50th anniversary, then you’re going into the regeneration. And then after the regeneration, you’re going into the first Doctor’s episode, and then you’ve got to plan a new season anyway. So it’s always got to go up.”
The actor explained why he is choosing to exit the show now. “I’ve done it for four years, and we shoot nine, ten months a year. I think the show has come to a sort of a natural tipping point, and it’s at the top of a cycle, and I think I don’t know really… It’s a good time for me and for the show. But I’ve had a great time. I’ll miss it, and it was a hard choice.”
Smith also reflected on what being the doctor meant to him. “I feel sort of very proud to be part of such a wonderful legacy of actors. And I think, hopefully, we have the 50th coming up, and we sort of honor the history and heritage of those who have gone before us. And I think the thing about “Doctor Who” is that it always looks forward. That’s the key. And the show will get bigger and better and carry on without me, and people will forget.”
Smith faced a unique challenge. He is the youngest actor to play the doctor, but he is playing him when he is at his oldest. “That was always one of the interesting things to me actually that I could, you know, because I looked so young, but I could play quite old because he is very old. ”
Smith professes not to have any plans for his post “Doctor Who” life coyly saying, “I’ve got to wait to find a script that suits me.” But he acknowledged that playing the iconic role altered his professional trajectory. “It’s transformed my career. One hopes that it sort of sets you up to get other work. But, you know, it’s just actors, we go, we audition. I’m the same as anyone else. You know what I mean? Just because I’ve done “Doctor Who” doesn’t give me any divine right to walk into other jobs.”
“Doctor Who’s” 90-minute 50th Anniversary special, written by Steven Moffat, airs this fall on Saturday, November 23.
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