David Tennant will be leaving Doctor Who at the conclusion of the 2009 specials currently in production, the actor announced live on stage this evening at the National Television Awards.
The Guardian newspaper this evening broke the story prematurely, reporting on their website (in a report subsequently pulled down) that Tennant is "vacating the TARDIS and leaving the BBC's Doctor Who series at the end of next year. Tennant's decision brings to an end his popular four-year tenure as the time lord." The article went on to say that the BBC had confirmed that the actor "would complete the filming of four special episodes to be screened this year and in early 2010, as well as 2009's Christmas special."
The BBC Doctor Who website has now posted the full news: "I've had the most brilliant, bewildering and life changing time working on Doctor Who. I have loved every day of it," the actor says. "It would be very easy to cling on to the TARDIS console forever and I fear that if I don't take a deep breath and make the decision to move on now, then I simply never will. ... I'm still the Doctor all next year but when the time finally comes I'll be honoured to hand on the best job in the world to the next lucky git - whoever that may be." Tennant added that he "always thought the time to leave would be in conjunction with Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner who have been such a huge part of it all for me. Steven Moffat is the most brilliant and exciting writer, the only possible successor to Russell and it was sorely tempting to be part of his amazing new plans for the show. I will be there, glued to my TV when his stories begin in 2010." He furthermore says that he feels "very privileged to have been part of this incredible phenomenon, and whilst I'm looking forward to new challenges I know I'll always be very proud to be the Tenth Doctor." Says Russell T. Davies, "I've been lucky and honoured to work with David over the past few years - and it's not over yet, the Tenth Doctor still has five spectacular hours left! After which, I might drop an anvil on his head. Or maybe a piano. A radioactive piano. But we're planning the most enormous and spectacular ending, so keep watching!"
Says the BBC News site, Tennant is quoted as saying, "I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don't take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you'll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair." Tennant also says, "I think it's better to go when there's a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome," he said.
Tennant will appear in this year's Christmas special, as well as four specials being produced for 2009 and 2010 airdates by executive producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. Tennant confirmed to BBC News that the four specials for 2009/2010 will be "the four last stories that I do." New incoming executive producer Steven Moffat will then take over the series with new leads as the show returns for a normal, fifth series of episodes in 2010.