BBC will unveil the new star of “Doctor Who” on Sunday during “Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor,” a live television program on BBC America and BBC One.
The half-hour program, which will air at 11 a.m. PDT, will feature interviews with outgoing “Doctor Who” star Matt Smith, executive producer and lead writer Steven Moffat, as well as special guests, including previous Doctors and companions. The show will also spotlight moments from the “Doctor Who’s” 50-year history.
The identity of Smith’s replacement has been a closely guarded secret, and Moffat has admitted to lying outright in order to keep it.
“Amongst all the speculation and betting, there has been lots of fun and intrigue at work as we’ve been using the codename Houdini as a decoy,” said Ben Stephenson, controller for BBC Drama Commissioning, in a news release. “It’s the biggest secret in showbiz, even those working with the new Doctor on other projects at the moment have no idea they are in the presence of the 12th incarnation.”
After he or she is unveiled, the new actor is expected to join the cast in this year’s Christmas special, which presumably will feature Smith’s departure via regeneration, opposite Jenna Coleman’s Clara, the Doctor’s newest traveling companion.
Speculation about the new lead has abounded, with many fans wondering if the next regeneration of the Doctor will be a woman or a person of color. Among the favorites for the part are Peter Capaldi (“The Hour,” “The Thick of It”), Burn Gorman (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Pacific Rim”), Julian Rhind-Tutt (“The Hour”), Dominic Cooper (“Captain America”), David Harewood (“Homeland,” “Blood Diamond”) and Ben Daniels (“House of Cards”).
The Christmas episode will follow the show’s 50th anniversary special, which will be simulcast in 200 countries, meaning American fans can watch at the same time as their British counterparts.
In the special, Smith and Coleman are joining forces with “Doctor Who” alumni David Tennant and Billie Piper, as well as newcomer John Hurt, introduced in the Season 7 finale as a previously unseen incarnation of the Doctor.
"Doctor Who" has clocked more than 50 years, transporting fans through time and space on remarkable adventures. Here's a look back at the Time Lord's regenerations over the years. (BBC)Link
William Hartnell, right, played the First Doctor from 1963 to 1966. (Getty Images)Link
Patrick Troughton played the Second Doctor from 1966 to 1969. (BBC)Link
Jon Pertwee played the Third Doctor from 1970 to 1974. (Evening Standard / Getty Images)Link
Tom Baker, center, played the Fourth Doctor from 1974 to 1981. (BBC)Link
Peter Davison played the Fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984 (BBC)Link
Colin Baker played the Sixth Doctor from 1984 to 1986. (BBC)Link
Sylvester McCoy played the Seventh Doctor from 1987 until the show's cancellation in 1989.Link
Paul McGann played the Eighth Doctor in 1996. (BBC)Link
Christopher Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor in 2005. (SyFy)Link
David Tennant played the Tenth Doctor from 2005 to 2010. (BBC)Link
Matt Smith has played the Eleventh Doctor -- the Time Lord's current incarnation -- since 2010. (BBC)Link
Smith, who first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010, introduced Whovians to a protagonist who seemed to viewers as much a fairy-tale character as a superhero. Nicknamed “raggedy man” by his first traveling companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Smith’s mop-haired Doctor loved unraveling complicated puzzles of time and space, eating fish fingers and custard, and insisting, despite raised eyebrows from his accomplices, that “bow ties are cool.”
“Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me,” Moffat said in the network’s announcement of Smith’s departure. “The way he’d turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry, I just never knew what was coming next. The Doctor can be clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently.”
Smith’s run as the Doctor has been accompanied by growing popularity in the U.S., where, until recent years, the British show had garnered only a cult following in the States. Now American fans, many wielding their own sonic screwdrivers and donning Dalek or TARDIS costumes, gather en masse at conventions. The show is BBC America’s highest-rated series, drawing more than 2 million viewers for its mid-season premiere in March.
Although Moffat has been tight-lipped about casting and his plans for the future of the franchise, he offered some insight about the character and his many incarnations during the show’s panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month.
“There’s only one Doctor. He has lots of different faces, but he’s always the same,” Moffat said. “He lives in the moment all the time. He never really looks back because if he did, he’d be staring all day. He’s a creature of the moment, right now…. I also think he’s every age at once. He’s a child, he’s a stroppy teenager, he’s a middle-aged bore, he’s a grumpy old man — all at once, all those things at the same time. I think that Matt, to date, has done the best to combine the old man and the child.”
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