With regards to Harmon's return, it's certainly unheard of for a show-runner to come back after he was essentially fired, but perhaps this was the only logical choice that NBC and Sony had after unexpectedly giving the show a renewal for a 13-episode fifth season. After all, they tried to tinker the show after Harmon left to try to make it less niche to fit in with all of their other new "broader" comedies of the season and yet it was Community (and Parks and Recreation) who made it through the season. There was also a growing contingent of fans and critics who have been disappointed by the show's latest season, calling it a pale comparison to the "Harmon era." I liked the season more than many, but still recognize that something was off, different. Was it lacking Harmon's vision, voice? NBC is hedging their bets by thinking this way and so Harmon is back to right the ship (or at least to go down with it to the very end).
Matt Smith's departure is less shocking, but probably the news more people are talking about this weekend. After all in nerd world, this is pretty much akin to hearing a Pope announce his retirement. In a statement he gave to BBC, Smith expressed his immense gratitude in playing the iconic role:
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. [...] 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 is the 11th actor to portray the Doctor and will subsequently appear in the 50th Anniversary special with the 10th Doctor David Tennant later this year. Smith's final episode will be the Christmas episode when audiences worldwide will also witness a new actor taking up the mantle as the Doctor. It is highly convenient for a show to easily change its lead actor, but doing so also creates advance buzz. Already there has been endless articles, conversations and debates on who the next Doctor will be with many hoping that perhaps this time around they cast someone who isn't white or even male. My favorite suggestion at the moment is Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, Submarine). But that's thinking ahead when I really want to stop and praise what Smith did with the role. Following Tennant's Doctor must have been daunting as Tennant had grown quite beloved even outside of Doctor Who fandom. And being the youngest actor to portray the role had its own pressures. Yet in time, Smith was able to make his unique mark on the character highlighted by his stunning ability to somehow convey age-old wisdom and weariness through his youthful demeanor. This is even funnier to me since it was his relative youth that many fans, including myself, latched onto as a cause for concern when he was first cast.
Even Dan Harmon commented on this weekend's Doctor Who news:
Curse you, Matt Smith.I haven't been this unfairly upstaged in the news since my Fall 2001 Atkins Announcement.
— Dan Harmon (@danharmon) June 2, 2013