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Why Matt Smith Left Doctor Who

Doctor Who Matt Smith Regeneration Exit

Why did Matt Smith's tenure as the Eleventh Doctor come to an end in Doctor Who? When David Tennant announced that he was leaving Doctor Who in October 2008, there was intense speculation about just who'd take over. Incoming showrunner Steven Moffat initially planned to choose a middle-aged actor to play the part, even considering Peter Capaldi for the Doctor, but in the end opted for Matt Smith.

Smith had some big shoes to fill; he was the youngest actor to ever play the Doctor, and there have even been reports that Doctor Who's producers were unsure whether he'd be able to pull it off. He proved his critics wrong, though, and Smith's Eleventh Doctor quickly established himself as a definitive take. He became particularly well-known for his strangely intense stare, which was at odds with his visible youth, and created just the right kind of otherworldly young-old effect. He had a Patrick-Troughtonesque presence, meaning he could fade into the background when he wanted, and then suddenly dominate a scene with ease.

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Related: Doctor Who's Matt Smith & David Tennant References Were Smarter Than You Realized

In 2013, the BBC announced that Matt Smith was to leave Doctor Who at the end of the year. "It's been an honour to play this part," the actor announced in an official statement, "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..." That last sentence came to define Smith's departure, with the actor repeating it time and again in interviews and at different events. Although he didn't elaborate at the time, Smith has since explained that the demands of filming Doctor Who were the reason he ended up leaving the series.

Matt Smith in Doctor Who

"It’s a very intense process to play the Doctor," he admitted to The Hollywood Reporter. "The line-learning is really hard, and you have to live away from home for nine or ten months a year. I love the show, and it wasn’t an easy choice to come to, but it’s the right time for both of us." That's a common complaint from actors who've played the Doctor, and was key to David Tennant's departure as well; it may be the reason current showrunner Chris Chibnall has shortened Doctor Who's seasons is to reduce pressure on the stars.

Doctor Who served as something of a launchpad for Smith's career, and he's had a number of high-profile roles since, most notably playing Prince Philip in the first two seasons of The Crown. He's even due to appear in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, playing an undefined but apparently "key role," before entering the superhero genre as a villain in Sony's Morbius. Still, Smith has always admitted a fondness for Doctor Who, even coming to regret leaving. He'd have particularly liked to work alongside Jenna Coleman for a complete season, given he enjoyed acting alongside her, but as he put it - "when ya gotta go, ya gotta go."

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