As many of you no doubt read on Saturday afternoon, Matt Smith is hanging it up as The Doctor after three years in the role. In my head three years doesn’t feel like a very long time, but in fact it’s just about the average tenure for actors playing the Doctor. The only exceptions are Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, the Third and Fourth Doctors respectively. He’s hanging it up during the annual Christmas special this year, just after the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special in November.
This is the first time such a transition has happened since I’ve started watching the show. I came on board shortly after Matt Smith began, and though he isn’t the first Doctor I saw, he’s definitely “my” Doctor. One of the strange things about a show as long-lived as Doctor Who is that every fan has their own interpretation of the show’s history. We all like different episodes and hate other ones, and we all have our favorite Doctors. Maybe it’s the one you saw first. Maybe it’s the one who has your favorite stories. Maybe it’s simply the one whose performance you appreciated the most. That last one is definitely the case me with Matt Smith.
It’s strange how attached we get to pop culture artifacts. That’s really what a geek or a nerd is: it’s caring a lot about stuff that is basically just entertainment. I don’t mean it as a bad thing. It’s what we choose to do when we have a moment, and wouldn’t that be something we all care about? In that respect, we all have a little nerd in us. Maybe you shed a tear when your team loses the championship. Maybe you drew band logos on your school notebook. Or maybe you’re like me and feel an unexpected sense of loss when an actor you admire quits a show that you love.
Of course this isn’t the end of Doctor Who. One great thing about this show is that he’ll regenerate, and we don’t know who will be the new Doctor. Will he be kind of goofy like Tennant or Smith? Will he be stuffy and pompous like Pertwee? There’s talk about possibly casting a black actor, or even a lady. I’d be fully in support of both of those. Or maybe the Doctor will finally get his wish and regenerate as a ginger. We really don’t know, and that sense of the unknown is what makes the show so cool to begin with.
I’m sure a lot of people will hate the new person whoever it is. I shudder to think of the response in some circles if the Doctor ends up black and/or female. But optimism is always my watchword with stuff like this. Sometimes it’s easy to care too much about these things, and we forget to just have fun.