Some Doctor Who spoilers below of the production-note variety. I imagine most of you have heard the news from the BBC by now, but if you like to stay away from any and all Who-related news, stop reading now.
So it turns out that “the fall of the Eleventh,” mentioned in Dorium Maldovar’s prophecy about the Fields of Trenzalore and the revelation of the Doctor’s name, probably does refer to the literal end of the Eleventh Doctor’s life. This wasn’t for sure. It could have meant a metaphoric fall from grace. It could, as I mentioned in my review of “The Name of the Doctor,” have meant the fall of the eleventh month, i.e. November, which would have fit perfectly with the date of the 50th Anniversary Special (November 23rd). That kind of wordplay is trademark Steven Moffat, and I was particularly fond of that theory.
Technically, the phrase could still refer to all of the above at the same time. However, given the announcement from the BBC yesterday that Matt Smith will be leaving the role at the end of the year, it seems that Eleven will literally fall and be replaced by Twelve, whoever that may be. It’s strange to think that we only have two episodes with the Eleventh Doctor left. When Tennant announced his departure in 2008, he still had a whole five special episodes to broadcast over the course of a year, giving fans an entire year to mourn and say their goodbyes. Although Smith won’t depart until December, the audience will have to make do with just the remaining 50th Anniversary and the Christmas Specials.
It’s a sad, strange time: The first Regeneration-speculation I’ve endured as I came to the show during Smith’s tenure. Sure, I’ve said goodbye to Eccleston and Tennant like everyone else, but I always knew when a regeneration was coming and who their replacement would be. The idea that, at this point, no one in the world knows who the Twelfth Doctor will be while also knowing that we will have a new, new, new, new Doctor by December of this year is surreal.
My first impulse is to react against the current deluge of speculation currently overwhelming the internet. The copious lists of who should play the Twelfth Doctor are annoyingly banal. These lists include all the usual suspects of currently popular actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Simon Pegg, etc. Those names, frankly, miss the point entirely. The new Doctor should be just that: New and fresh, not loaded down with baggage and associations. Like the Ninth Doctor said of his successor, “It’s a bit dodgy, this process. You never know what you’re gonna end up with.” And I like it that way. Now, I love the Batch as much as anyone, but if he took the role I’d know exactly what we’d end up with. It seems obvious to me that the best format is to cast a relative unknown, a la Matt Smith or, to a slightly lesser degree, David Tennant. Someone who has talent and experience but much to prove, and lacking any emotional associations brought along by the viewing audience. Or, if they do decide to cast someone more established, it should be someone like Christopher Eccleston who was completely out of left field. If Moffat chooses a well-known actor, I’d like him (or her) to be a piece of stunt casting who completely makes me rethink who and what the Doctor can be. Regeneration should push the envelope; Otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity.
New Who has excelled at this. Eccleston brought a hitherto unseen passion and intensity to the role; Tennant built on that to achieve new levels of charm, wit and emotionality; Smith once again incorporating his predecesors’ emotional and intellectual qualities while bringing the character closer to his alien roots. All of them are the same. Yet, at the same time, they couldn’t be more different. What a wonderfully paradoxical character. This story is, at its core, about change and the effects of time, even on the timeless Doctor. If it’s time for a change, I say to Moffat: Go for it. Embrace the change. Don’t play it safe. Don’t go for the obvious. Most importantly, don’t listen to the audience: They probably won’t know what they want until they see it. Try something new and unexpected. The story, and eventually the audience, will thank you for it.
So what are your thoughts? It’s hard to make predictions prior to seeing the 50th Anniversary episode, but are there any theories as to how and why the Eleventh will fall? Agree or disagree with my thoughts on casting and regeneration? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear it.