Matt Smith is set to leave the hit science-fiction television series Doctor Who, after the show's Christmas special later this year, the BBC has announced.
The 30-year-old, who is the 11th actor to play the role of the wandering Time Lord from Gallifrey on television, will next feature in the show's 50th anniversary special in November. He has played the role since 2010.
Smith is the youngest actor to have played the role, and said it had been "an honour" to play the part.
"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," he said. "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," he added.
"Your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number 11, who I might add is not done yet - I'm back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special," he said, "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. Matt."
Smith, who made his directorial debut with Cargese for Sky Arts, has previously spoken about his wish for a film-making career.
The hunt is now on for an actor to replace him and become the 12th incarnation of the Time Lord. The producers and writers face an additional challenge, since according to Doctor Who lore, the Doctor can only regenerate 12 times, for a total of 13 incarnations.
Recent episodes, which have interfered with the Doctor's "timeline", suggest that we may see a complete reboot of the series, and perhaps even the first female Doctor taking over. Rumours abound that his current mysterious companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, could in fact be the new Doctor.
UK bookmakers are already quoting odds on the next Doctor, with stage actor Rory Kinnear at 3-1 the current favourite to take over the role, according to the Mirror.
Check out this YouTube tribute to Doctor Who's incarnations compiled by user tkearton15.