BBC Announces the Eleventh Doctor

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…and he’s probably not who you thought he was going to be.

After four more Russell T Davies-generated specials with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, new producer Steven Moffat’s first series will kick off in 2010 with new Doctor Matt Smith. Producer Piers Wenger praises Smith’s fundamental “Doctor-ness.” We’ll all pretty much have to take his word for it, as the 26-year-old Smith doesn’t have an extensive film or television record to check out. I was not a fan of the glacially-paced adaptions of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby and the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (in which, emphasizing the incestuous nature of British television, he appeared with former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper), nor of the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold-but no-professional-ethics soap Secret Diary of a Call Girl (hey, look, there’s Piper again), but he has a strong stage record. He’s the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor (three years younger than Fifth Doctor Peter Davison was when he took the role); whether that’s a positive or a negative remains to be seen.

Smith has a year and a half to hear about what big Converse shoes he has to fill before his first episode airs, so wish him luck.

Top Five Reasons David Tennant Isn’t Leaving DOCTOR WHO… Yet

Once more, the Doctor Who rumor mill is stuck in overdrive, with speculation running rampant that David Tennant is vacating the TARDIS. This time, it’s fueled by the cliffhanger ending of this season’s penultimate episode, broadcast Saturday in the U.K. (us poor Americans will have to wait weeks yet before Sci Fi gets around to airing it).

Since both the Beeb and Tennant have yet to officially confirm or deny that he’ll still be around when Steven Moffat takes over as showrunner in 2010, some fans are understandably alarmed. Not me, though. I’m not a bit worried. In fact, I’m almost certain Tennant won’t be leaving for at least another couple of years. Here are five reasons why:

#5. Yes, that cliffhanger at the end of “The Stolen Earth” was pretty darned shocking (I’m avoiding any overt spoilers for those who are on the Sci Fi Channel broadcast schedule), but the reality is that David Tennant is still signed on for four more specials over the next year. In fact, he’s already filmed the Christmas special (WARNING: Link is to spoiler footage). Given that, it seems pretty unlikely that we’ve seen the end of our beloved Tenth Doctor, no matter how it looks.

#4. Catherine Tate has confirmed that she will not be returning for another season as companion Donna Noble. Which means we’re going to have to get used to yet another new companion in the TARDIS. It’s likely that the upcoming specials will feature a series of one-shot guest stars, with a new regular companion settling in when the next full season commences in 2010. So are they going to want to introduce a new Doctor at the same time they’re bringing a new companion on board? Seems unlikely, as in the past cast departures have been staggered to provide some continuity. When Nine became Ten we still had Rose around to help us get used to the new guy. And likewise when Rose departed for her parallel universe the Tenth Doctor was there to introduce us to the next companion (and the next).

#3. With the departure of showrunner Russell T Davies, producer Phil Collinson and executive producer Julie Gardner—the trifecta responsible for making New Who such a success—the series is facing huge changes. Some have even wondered if new helmer Steven Moffat would want to start fresh with a brand new Doctor (with most speculation centering around James Nesbitt, star of Moffat’s Jekyll). I’ll admit that when I heard Davies was leaving I was greatly afraid Tennant would consider that his signal to jump ship as well. But now that Moffat’s on board I’m far less worried. After all, Moffat is: a) an experienced showrunner in his own right; b) a veteran Who writer responsible for some of the modern series’ greatest episodes; and c) a fellow Scot who, by all accounts, gets on famously with Tennant. And if I were Moffat? I’d want to sustain a little continuity for my first season. Starting the 2010 season with a new production team and a new Doctor and a new companion? That’s an awful lot of new to pull on their faithful viewers all at once.

#2. The British media are reporting that the BBC is prepared to offer Tennant up to up to £100,000 per episode. That may not sound like much compared to what some high-powered American TV stars make, but when you consider that the Beeb is a publicly-funded network (more akin to our American PBS than the commercial broadcast networks), that’s a whole lotta moolah. The story hasn’t been officially confirmed, but given the success of Doctor Who and the popularity of Tennant’s Doctor in particular, I’d say it’s pretty credible.

#1. And the number one reason I don’t believe David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who? Because the man loves being the Doctor. If you’ve ever watched the Doctor Who Confidentials or Tennant’s own video diaries (included on the series DVDs), his abiding love for all things Who is plain to see. (In the latest Confidential he was grinning like a kid and taking pictures with his cell phone the first time he saw <*insert spoilery supervillian name here*> in costume–this is not the behavior of man who’s tired of his job.) He’s watched the show since he was a wee bairn, he can stand toe-to-toe with any diehard Whovian in a test of trivia mettle, and he truly seems to consider this the role of a lifetime. Yes, one day he will surely turn in his TARDIS key and move on to bigger (though possibly not better) things, but I just don’t believe that day has come.

I could be totally wrong about all of this, but my instincts say there’s no reason to worry about losing Tennant just yet. My prediction? He’ll sign on for all of Moffat’s first season, then step aside at the end of 2010 to make room for a new Doctor to fill his shoes in that year’s Christmas special.

Only time will tell, of course.

Is Tennant Leaving DOCTOR WHO?

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British comedienne Catherine Tate has sent Doctor Who fans into a tailspin by suggesting on Radio 2′s Jonathan Ross program that this might be David Tennant’s last year in the Doctor’s rubber-soled shoes. Tate, who first appeared in the 2006 Christmas special, “The Runaway Bride,” is returning as the Doctor’s companion for the upcoming forth season, and confirmed that the season would definitely be her last.

Regarding Tennant, her exact words were, reportedly, “I think it’s maybe David’s last series.” It’s hard to tell whether she’s merely speculating or actually in the know, but given the history of leaks when it comes to Doctor Who, we should perhaps start preparing ourselves to bid goodbye to our beloved Tenth Doctor. The BBC has refused to confirm or deny the news.

Perhaps even more upsetting, however, is the rumor that Tennant’s departure might accompany a change in the production team. Britain’s Daily Express has quoted a source as saying, “We believe that Russell T Davies, the executive producer, will be leaving after the next series with Phil Collinson, the producer, who is moving across to Coronation Street. I am sure David chose to leave, but it was probably because everything’s changing.”

Davies, Collinson and executive producer Julie Gardner are the masterminds primarily responsible for the success of the BBC’s current Doctor Who relaunch. (For an insightful look at just how important they are, read this lovely behind-the-scenes look at this year’s Christmas special.) It’s one thing to get used to a new Doctor (we’ve done that before), but I’m forced to wonder if the show would be worth watching at all without Davies & Co.

UPDATE:  Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, David Tennant publicly laughed off speculation that he’s leaving the show. “I started getting all these phone calls on Saturday lunchtime saying apparently you’re leaving Doctor Who,” he said. “Catherine Tate’s just announced it on Radio 2–thanks Catherine!”

Tennant confirmed he was doing four Doctor Who specials in 2009, but said that he’d made no decision about the next season in 2010. “I’m doing four more specials and beyond that no one’s asked me to make any decisions and I’m quite happy to be enigmatic for as long as possible,” he said.