WARNING! As the headline suggests, this article contains a huge Doctor Who spoiler. If you’re yet to watch the sixth season premiere, and you want to keep the storyline a surprise, we suggest you look away now and come back once you’ve seen it...
So now we know. When Steven Moffat warned us that one of Doctor Who’s main characters was going to die in the sixth season debut he was in fact talking about the main character: The Doctor. Regular characters have died in Doctor Who before, but thanks to the writers’ vivid imagination (and need for story arcs) they’re often written back in in no time at all. Is it that simple this time round though?
The matter is confused by a younger version of The Doctor being shown, saving the universe one alien at a time, but when we saw Matt Smith’s older Doctor die there was no regeneration, he actually seemed dead. For good. Of course that’s what the writers’ want you to think: they drove this point home by having the assistants burn him on a traditional Timelord funeral pyre.
This almost certainly won't be the end for The Doctor, though, and maybe not even the end for Matt Smith’s incarnation. After all, The Master “died” in exactly the same way and yet he was brought back to life in the same form--the fact that The Doctor's pyre was identical to the one used for The Master was certainly a big nod to that particular passing.
There's also the small matter of regeneration. Matt Smith plays the Eleventh Doctor, and those who’ve read the books, watched the show from the beginning or done their homework (gold star!) will be aware that there are at least two more regenerations due--or perhaps even more, thanks to some murkiness in the lore introduced by Russell T. Davies. The second part to this debut, which airs next Saturday, provides a rather large teaser as to what may happen to the Time Lord, but we’ll let you watch that for yourself.
The next, perhaps more important, question is this: will Matt Smith be bowing out of the show soon? “I certainly don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, I love this character,” the actor admitted at the sixth season press launch: “I take it year by year, month by month. I finish this season in a month and then I’ll sit down with Mr Moffat and see where I go from there.” There were, however, rumours at the end of the fifth season (Smiths’ first) that he wanted to move on and build a career in film.
Regularly killing characters only to bring them back can make viewers hostile and untrusting of your work. Doctor Who’s showrunner Steven Moffat admits there’s only so much, as a writer, you can do to keep viewers interested in a long-running show though. While The Doctor’s death will seem like a cheap trick to some, for others it’ll have raised enough curiosity to keep them entertained.
What did you make of The Impossible Astronaut? Do you think The Doctor’s assistants will ever tell him what happened? What new theories do you have? (See, lots of questions!)