It was the shock that shook the Whoniverse as BBC announced last weekend that the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, would be departing the role of the Time Lord at the end of the year with his Doctor regenerating into a new one at the end of the 2013 Christmas episode.

What Smith accomplished during his reign as the 11th Doctor was no easy feat. Having to follow David Tennant’s tenure as the 10th Doctor, Smith faced an uphill battle to have fans accept his version of the mad man with a box and despite all the obstacles, he succeeded.  Now 4 years later, it’s time to say goodbye.

In a statement, Smith says of his days on ‘Doctor Who: ‘

Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I’m incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.

Having Steven Moffat as show runner write such varied, funny, mind bending and brilliant scripts has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my career. It’s been a privilege and a treat to work with Steven, he’s a good friend and will continue to shape a brilliant world for the Doctor.

The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I’ve never seen before, your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number Eleven, who I might add is not done yet, I’m back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special!

It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with ‘the ginger, the nose and the impossible one’. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys.

Since the news was released, speculation as to who could be replacing Smith began. As Moffat stated, “… now the search begins. Somewhere out there right now — all unknowing, just going about their business — is someone who’s about to become the Doctor. A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again!”

Interestingly enough, the BBC is not ruling out hiring a female to become a new Doctor! (Hear that Helen Mirren?) According to The Sun, “All actors, no matter their sex or race, will be considered. If they are good enough, the part is theirs.” They went on to say that several actresses are on the short list to become the new Doctor. While many may discount any information from ‘The Sun’ (as they are equivalent to ‘The National Enquirer’ in the States), the gossip rag is on par with what other sites are reporting in that the BBC is open to hiring a woman to replace Smith.

Astoundingly enough, the search isn’t going to take that long (or as some already suspect, the search has already occurred) and insiders from the BBC tell Radio Times that they may have an announcement as early as next month. Since Smith’s Doctor is supposed to regenerate at the end of the Christmas special, the beebs don’t think they could keep the identity of his replacement a secret for very long. Because the special will begin production next month, they thought it best to reveal who will become the next Doctor before then. So expect an announcement soon!

Regardless of who will become the next Doctor, Whovians will have to wait until August 2014 to see the new Doctor in action as that is currently the rumored time table when season 8 of ‘Doctor Who’ is set to air. Fortunately, it’s being reported that it will not be a split season and all 12 episodes will air weekly.

So while fans prepare for the 50th anniversary special, we will also be preparing for the departure of the 11th Doctor. Moffat said it best:

“… great actors always know when it’s time for the curtain call, so this Christmas prepare for your hearts to break, as we say goodbye to number Eleven. Thank you Matt — bow ties were never cooler.”

So before we finally bid a “Goodbye, Sweetie” to Smith, let us know what you think about the news of Smith’s departure and the possibility of a female Doctor. Who would you like to see as the next Doctor on the series?