With Doctor Who‘s seventh season finale approaching, the excitement over the 50th anniversary special has been pitched a bit higher since learning that Tenth Doctor David Tennant will be returning along with Billie Piper as Rose Tyler (arguably the Doctor’s best companion). There are even more shake-ups on the way, with reports that Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures alumnus Brian Minchin will serve as executive producer for Season 8 (and probably beyond).

And what of Matt Smith, our Eleventh Doctor and the current master of the TARDIS? Recent rumors of his departure were floating around, and Smith’s own reaction to these were vague. However, we can now confirm that Smith will return for season 8.

In a recent interview with TV Magazine (while on a break from filming Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut How To Catch A Monster, in which Smith plays the lead), the actor put his fans at ease, saying he’s definitely returning for the eighth season: “We come back and shoot the Christmas special over the summer, then we go on to the next series, which will either start filming at the end of this year or at the start of 2014.”

Smith’s debut in 2010 – like every new incarnation of the Time Lord – was off-putting to some critics and fans, which Smith acknowledged, drawing parallels to his introduction as the Doctor with Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond: “We both came into our roles at similar times and got frosty receptions. That’s not what James Bond is’, ‘He can’t be the Doctor, he’s too young.’” Indeed, Smith seemed to face a particularly tough time when following up one of the most beloved (and greatest) Doctors of all, David Tennant. Still, his unique mix of charm and weirdness has proven a perfect fit for the character and the franchise is now more popular than ever.

There is no indication of how long after the next season Smith will stay aboard. At 30, he is the youngest Doctor in the history of the franchise, so it would seem that he could still have a long way to go. Still, Smith is 30, an age where any actor who has finally broken through and achieved a mass awareness will look toward other opportunities, with Smith’s involvement in How To Catch A Monster perhaps a sign toward a life beyond Doctor Who.

Certainly Smith has made fans nervous – or downright scared – in the past with remarks like this one to Empire Magazine: “I couldn’t do this for seven years. I’d be run into the ground. I don’t think you can sustain it…” Or this one in 2011: “I’ve got another year of Doctor Who, but then I’m certainly going to come and give it a shot, come and hang out in LA.

With so many Doctor Who events this year, (“The biggest in its history,” according to Smith), it’s not much of a surprise that Smith is rather off-handedly confirming his presence for next season… unless it’s a red herring, designed to keep people focused on the big anniversary and Christmas special. The Time Lord doesn’t die, after all, he regenerates – we’ll have a new incarnation eventually, but not just yet.

Meanwhile, learn the Doctor’s name tonight on the Doctor Who Season 7 finale! The 50th Anniversary Special is expected to air November 23rd, 2013.

In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List!

Source: TV Magazine [via Doctor Who News]