It's been a complicated year for fans of Doctor Who. Over the course of the last nine months viewers watched as the Doctor welcomed a new companion, said goodbye to fan-favorite travelers, and crossed his own time stream - all leading up to a highly-anticipated 50th Anniversary Special (scheduled to debut in November). For months, fans have been wondering if the season 7 finale (titled: "The Name of the Doctor") would kickoff the fall of the 11th Doctor - and signal the impending departure of actor Matt Smith.
Recently, Smith dispelled the rumors, claiming he would return for season 8 - with an intended start date in late 2013 (or early 2014). Given the steady growth of the show's popularity across the globe, not to mention consistent numbers in the UK, season 8 of Doctor Who was a forgone conclusion; however, at the time of Smith's comments, BBC had yet to officially announce the pickup. Now the network has made it official - asserting that not only will the show return for season 8, lead-writer Steven Moffat is already busy mapping out the series' next chapter.
Here's the official report from BBC:
We’re delighted to confirm a new series of Doctor Who has been commissioned and the show’s lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, has revealed he’s already plotting a brand new run of adventures for the Doctor.
Episode-to-episode Doctor Who series 7 delivered plenty of fun and unique standalone story lines but many viewers considered it to be one of the more turbulent seasons of the show - at least in recent memory. Despite a solid goodbye for Amy Pond and Rory Williams, the build-up to their departure was choppy. Similarly, while the "Impossible Girl" reveal was satisfying, earning Clara her companion title, the overarching mystery was often forced-into otherwise standalone episode installments.
Fortunately, fans can expect that Moffat and new executive producer Brian Minchin should be able to deliver a more straightforward narrative in season 8 - since Clara is likely to stick around for awhile. That said, prior speculation pointing to an exit of Matt Smith after the 2013 Christmas Special indicates that, while the actor will return for season 8, his return might be short-lived - meaning that the upcoming "run of adventures" could lead to the actual fall of the eleventh and an all new Doctor in a near-inevitable season 9.
At this point, there's no way to know for sure but Smith has previously stated that while he loves being The Doctor, he does want the freedom to explore other opportunities - opportunities that often conflict with the time-intensive filming of Doctor Who:
“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.”
This year, Smith was able to slip away from Doctor Who to star in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster alongside established Hollywood talents like Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, and Eva Mendes. However, it's unclear how many projects the actor has passed-on and how many more he'd be willing to sacrifice - in favor of the "all-consuming" Doctor Who schedule.
Even if you're not a fan of Matt Smith, Doctor regenerations are intimidating to think about - since it takes time to acclimate to a new actor (and the nuances they bring to the character). Fortunately, while fans might be mixed on the success of this last season, there's plenty to look forward to before viewers are faced with another major shake-up - since Smith appears to be around for (at least) thirteen more episodes of the series, the 2013 Christmas Special, as well as the 50th Anniversary Special (which will feature a 10th and 11th Doctor team-up).
After copies of the Doctor Who season 7, part 2 DVD arrived early to certain U.S. consumers (before the finale episode aired), Moffat promised to unveil behind-the-scenes footage of the Anniversary Special - if fans didn't spoil the season 7 ending. True to his word, the show runner authorized BBC to release a 50th Anniversary teaser - which features David Tennant and Matt Smith side-by-side discussing the episode, the challenges of playing the Doctor, as well as playfully teasing a key 50th Anniversary character (and actor).
Check out the behind-the-scenes video below:
Who exactly are the actors talking about? We have an ideas but we'll have to wait until the 50th Anniversary Special airs on November 23rd 2013 to be absolutely sure.
In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List.
Matt Smith will return as Doctor Who on November 23rd for the 50th Anniversary Special, followed by the 2013 Christmas Special on December 25th, with season 8 of the series scheduled to star production in late 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Doctor Who as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.