Whenever we're on the verge of getting more Doctor Who episodes, it seems like obsessive questions about swan songs, endings, and new beginnings start to pop up. Basically, everyone wants to know when Matt Smith is going to leave.
One of those people is UK chat show host Jonathan Ross, who asked Smith during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show how much longer he would be comfortable as the Doctor and whether he'd started to think about moving on. With a fair amount of candor, Smith offered his answer, an answer that actually inspired a response from the BBC over Smith's status as the Doctor.
Here's what Smith told Ross:
"I'm very happy doing it. I mean, I go and I do the anniversary special, then I go away for a bit, and then I come back and we do the Christmas special. And its sort of one of those jobs where you have to take [it] year by year, really, because it's 10 months a year, its all consuming. So, I don't think you can plan sort of 5 [or] 6 years ahead, or even 2 years ahead. So its a year by year thing and at the moment, it’s 2013 and we will see what 2014 holds."
And here's the BBC statement via The Sun, who had reported that Smith would indeed be bowing out after this year's Christmas special:
"Sorry, folks, but even we don’t know what’s going to happen at Christmas. It’s not been written yet! But Matt loves the show and is to start filming the unmissable 50th anniversary, and the new series starting on Easter Saturday."
As Smith explained later in the Ross interview, he is set to film How to Catch a Monster - actor Ryan Gosling's directorial debut - during his hiatus from Who. One could see how that could lend a small amount of weight to the well worn speculation that Matt Smith will leave the TARDIS behind in search of Hollywood fame, but as previously stated, this is a familiar dance.
In December, while promoting last year's Christmas special in an interview with Collider, Smith said:
“I take it year by year, you know? See what comes. I love working for Steven Moffat. I love making the show, it’s unlike any job I’ll ever have."
This followed remarks that he had made to Empire Magazine, wherein he said, "I couldn't do this for seven years. I'd be run into the ground. I don't think you can sustain it..."
"Matt Smith hasn't quit - just an over[ly] excitable headline. [...] He says in an interview that he won't be the Doctor forever - hardly quitting!
Smith also put a scare into Whovians in 2011 when he said: "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."
One would imagine that the BBC would be tired of these repeated rumors and that Smith would become exhausted by the constant questions about his desire (or lack thereof) to stay in the role that made him famous, but then again, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Remember, the premiere is very close and every little drop of ink helps. This buzz won't hurt ratings, and in fact, were Smith genuinely settled on leaving the show, it seems unlikely that he and the BBC would keep it a secret and forfeit the opportunity to cash in on the benefits of a farewell bonanza a la David Tennant's departure.
Then again, maybe they're just waiting for the right opportunity to reveal that Smith is leaving?
So in answer to the other ultimate question, "Is Matt Smith leaving Doctor Who?" the answer is: Yes... someday. Honestly, when Matt Smith is really ready to leave Doctor Who, he will surely proclaim it loudly and proudly, so until then, maybe we should all just relax, enjoy the ride, and stop fixating on it like a death obsession.
Doctor Who premieres on BBC America Saturday March 30th @8pm.