Who could Matt Smith be playing in Star Wars Episode IX?

The former Doctor Who star is reported to have joined JJ Abrams’ sci-fi sequel – but what sort of character could we see him as?

Matt Smith (Getty, EH)

As part of pop culture’s ongoing attempt to satisfy the fanboy dreams of every overgrown sci-fi viewer, it’s been reported that Doctor Who star Matt Smith may be joining the cast of Star Wars Episode IX, making for one of the best intergalactic crossovers ever and delighting legions of fans worldwide.

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At the moment, all we know is that he may have “a key role,” with no details as to what sort of character he might be playing, but that hasn’t stopped fans online from theorising that he could be playing some sort of First Order meanie in direct conflict with our heroes.

In a way, this interpretation makes a lot of sense. Smith certainly has the vibe of an Imperial/First Order officer– English accent, angular face, ability to sound like a withering posh person – so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this is the role that Episode IX director JJ Abrams (and casting director Nina Gold) have in mind for him.

In fact, when you consider the last major role Smith played – that of Prince Philip in Netflix’s The Crown – the argument for him playing a First Order villain makes all the more sense.

Directors and casting agents around the world will have spent two years watching Matt Smith play a frequently foiled, troubled and often unsympathetic military man operating at the highest echelons of society. Who better for a First Order lackey, or high-ranking officer?

Hell, now that Richard E Grant has ruled it out, who’s to say he couldn’t be playing fan-favourite character Grand Admiral Thrawn (a blue alien baddie who has appeared in Star Wars novels and TV shows, but never in live action)?

Still, we shouldn’t take things for granted when it comes to Star Wars – it’s fair to say none of us could have predicted the character Simon Pegg ended up playing in The Force Awakens – and it’s entirely possible Smith is playing an entirely different sort of figure, perhaps one allied with the struggling Resistance.

Given how little we know about the story of Episode IX, it’s difficult to say exactly what sort of role this could be – though he hasn’t done much of it in the past, it could even be that Smith is doing voice or motion capture work to portray an alien character, like Lupita Nyong’o – and at the moment the only clue to his involvement is the fact that he seems to have been added to the cast much later than the other actors (most of whom were unveiled in an official Star Wars release when filming began in July).

He isn’t alone in this, of course, with Lost and Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan reported to be joining the Star Wars sequel this week as well – who knows, maybe they’re playing characters who are linked in some way – but it does suggest his role may be on the smaller side, with less involvement in the main plot than the earlier-announced main cast.

In the past, Smith has excelled playing smaller, comic-relief characters, notably stealing the show in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as a particularly obsequious Mr Collins, so who’s to say he couldn’t fulfil a similar role here? Given his track record – lest we forget, his Doctor in Doctor Who was possibly one of the more physically comic – it doesn’t seem completely out of the question that Smith has been brought along to add some levity to what could be an overly-momentous final chapter.

Of course, in truth we don’t know whether that’s what’s been planned. As the weeks and months go on and we learn more about Episode IX’s story, we may begin to realise how exactly Smith could slip into this cast, but at the moment the best we have is educated guesswork.

But that’s not so bad. At least at the moment, it’s still TECHNICALLY possible that Smith is just playing the Doctor for the Time Lord’s first entry into the Star Wars universe, allowing the heroes of the Resistance to solve all their problems with time travel and lighting up his sonic saber for the good of a galaxy far, far away.

Now that really WOULD be fanboy wish fulfilment taken to its logical conclusion.

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Star Wars Episode IX is released in December 2019