The BBC and the creatives of "Doctor Who" are about to tip their hand at who is set to play the next Doctor after Matt Smith departs the show this Christmas.
A live show airing at 7 p.m. U.K. time (2 p.m. EDT) on the BBC this Sunday will reveal the man or woman who will step into the TARDIS starting next year.
Smith and showrunnner Steven Moffat will join BBC host Zoe Ball for the show, now confirmed by the BBC, for a "time-and-space-shattering announcement."
“The decision is made and the time has come to reveal who’s taking over the TARDIS," Moffat said. "For the last of the Time Lords, the clock is striking twelve.”
#DoctorWho fans. There will be an announcement at midnight. That's all I'm saying...— MSN UK Entertainment (@msnents) August 1, 2013
But perhaps the biggest mystery (besides the identity of the next regeneration of the last remaining Time Lord of Gallifrey) is whether the new Who will be identified as the Twelfth Doctor -- or the Thirteenth.
A cliffhanger at the end of the seventh series finale revealed the existence of an unexpected incarnation of the Doctor, portrayed by John Hurt, who will play a critical part in the upcoming 50th anniversary special in November. Speculation on this "dark Doctor" has him existing between the eighth and ninth doctors, which could make Smith's Doctor the Twelfth, instead of the Eleventh.
More than any other regeneration, Smith's tenure as the sonic screwdriver-wielding alien has been marked with a push for his successor to break from the mold set by the previous 50 years. Fans have clamored for the next Doctor to be played by a non-white man or even a woman.
Still, betting has -- for the moment -- given rise to "The Thick of It" star Peter Capaldi to take up the role. Other actors linked to the role in recent weeks are Rory Kinnear, Ben Daniels, David Harewood, Daniel Rigby and Damien Molony.
While Moffat has said little other than to leave the possibility the show would return to an older actor (Smith is the youngest to ever play the Doctor), he indicated it was unlikely a woman would be cast.
"I don’t think that would be a sensible thing to do, no," Moffat said. "I think you’d have to make a decision on the gender before you approached it, I would say."
"Within the narrative of ‘Doctor Who’, it is possible that he could be female? Yeah," he added. "But as to whether The Doctor will be female in the future, I’m not going to comment on that."
"Doctor Who" first aired in 1963 and traveled through space and time with seven different Doctors through 1989, when the show was taken off the air. The Eighth Doctor appeared for a TV movie in 1996, and then the show was revived in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor.
Matt Smith first appeared in the final moments of "The End of Time Part 2," the final episode of the fourth series of the revitalized show, on January 1, 2010.