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The Eleventh Doctor will bring his run as Doctor Who to a finale this December. Today the BBC announced that Matt Smith, the actor presently playing the near-immortal Time Lord in the show, will be departing the series after the airing of the 2013 Christmas Special.
"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," said Smith in an official release originating from the BBC. "I'm incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience."
Smith has played The Doctor since 2009 and through three seasons of the series. He will star alongside the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, in a special 50th Anniversary Special scheduled to air this November, and then hand off the role to a new Doctor at the conclusion of the Christmas Special.
"It's been an honour 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'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys," Smith ended his message with.
Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat will remain on the series, guiding the development of the next Doctor, whomever that person will be. "Of course, this isn't the end of the story, because now the search begins," said Moffat. "Somewhere out there right now - all unknowing, just going about their business - is someone who's about to become the Doctor. A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again!"
Actors come and go playing The Doctor, and Smith's four-year run isn't so unusual. David Tennant played the character through five seasons, and the man immediately before him, Christopher Eccelston, only wore the black leather coat of The Doctor for one season.
With Smith's departure now a confirmed event, the fanbase of Doctor Who will start speculating on who they would like to see play The Doctor in his next regeneration on the show. Could the twelfth on-screen incarnation of The Doctor break away from tradition and see an actor of different skin color play the Gallifreyan Time Lord? Or what about a female Doctor inhabiting the role for a spell?