DOCTOR WHO: Is Matt Smith the 13th Doctor? (2013)

After this past weekend’s phenomenal 50th anniversary DOCTOR WHO special “The Day of the Doctor,” which clarified that John Hurt’s portrayal of The Doctor was indeed one of thirteen regenerations, wild speculations arose as to whether Matt Smith could actually be the 13th Doctor. In fact, the Blastr article: “Confused? Moffat addresses all those Who regeneration limit questions” offered an intriguing analysis based on executive producer Steven Moffat’s recent statements in support of the theory.

With DOCTOR WHO spanning 50 years, it has been tricky to track all the regenerations. But when examined in detail, Matt Smith as the 13th Doctor theory holds up. Here are the known regenerations of The Doctor:

1st regeneration = William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton
2nd regeneration = Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee
3rd regeneration = Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker
4th regeneration = Tom Baker to Peter Davison
5th regeneration = Peter Davison to Colin Baker
6th regeneration = Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy
7th regeneration = Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann
8th regeneration = Paul McGann to John Hurt
9th regeneration = John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston
10th regeneration = Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant
11th regeneration = David Tennant (used up another regeneration in “Journey’s End”)
12th regeneration = David Tennant to Matt Smith

This essentially makes Matt Smith’s version the 13th Doctor – the last Doctor – since The Doctor cannot regeneration more than 12 times.

So if The Doctor dies with Matt Smith’s departure from the series, whom will Peter Capaldi be playing? It seems improbable that he can be The Doctor that we know and love. He would have to be portraying a different Time Lord. And, as we now know, there are lots of Time Lords left after Hurt, Tennant and Smith’s Doctors all worked together to perpetuate a subterfuge by moving Gallifrey and all the Time Lords into a frozen space of time during the great Time War with the Daleks. So, because Matt Smith’s Doctor did not have his memories wiped like Hurt and Tennant’s Doctors, he is the only one who remembers what they did. As he declared in “The Day of the Doctor,” “I have a new destination — the same as anyone’s — at last I know where I’m going, where I’ve always been going: home — the long way ’round!” It becomes his final quest to find and retrieve Gallifrey.

It has not yet been revealed if the upcoming Christmas special entitled “The Time of the Doctor” will be an adventure in Gallifrey or the search for Gallifrey, but that is a journey that The Doctor seemed determined to embark upon. So what if The Doctor’s final journey is disrupted and his time runs out? Would he not recruit another Time Lord with the duty of finding Gallifrey? Is that who Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is? He is the replacement Doctor because our Doctor’s time is simply up? Twelve regenerations is a finite number. It is one that even Steven Moffat has declared is canon that cannot be changed.

The death of The Doctor has been foreshadowed for nearly the entirety of Moffat’s tenure, and it would be fitting bookend to Matt Smith’s tenure to allow The Doctor to die with his departure. It makes perfect sense then that they would recruit as a new Doctor, a Time Lord that we have not met before to complete The Doctor’s final journey – to find Gallifrey. It is a journey that could last many seasons or could be resolved in a blink of an eye. Moffat likes to be twisty that way.

It would also fit with the choice to cast an older actor for a role that has been getting progressively younger in recent years. It would help differentiate between Matt Smith’s Doctor, the young Doctor who is dying, versus the older Time Lord that Peter Capaldi will be portraying. It makes sense if he is portraying a Time Lord who agrees to pick up the mantle and legacy of our Doctor. One could even speculate that the only other Time Lord still running amuck in the universe is the Master – since all the others are still frozen in Gallifrey. So perhaps Capaldi’s Doctor is the Master who has been recruited by Smith’s Doctor to continue the name of The Doctor and the quest to find Gallifrey.

This is all wild speculations, but given what we know and how clever Steven Moffat likes to be, this would be just the kind of surprise he would love to spring upon us. With less than 30 days ‘til Christmas, what a wonderful Christmas gift this would be!

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