Five more days til Matt Smith's final Doctor Who episode. Notice I didn't say "appearance." 'Cause, since Day of the Doctor, and even moreso Night of the Doctor, I'm not ruling out the possibility of any Doctor or Companion somehow reappearing down the road. Still, this will be the last substantive view of this particular Doctor and I am sad for it.
Part of the joy in a good continuing series is that you get to hold onto characters you've come to love. Then the evil day comes that either the actor leaves or the series ends.
If you're lucky, the writers are able to orchestrate a graceful exit. This is something that Doctor Who does especially well. I still miss any number of characters, but I can enjoy subsequent episodes without feeling (for example) a Donna-Noble-shaped hole in the proceedings. Perhaps Julian Fellowes should take a few pointers on transitioning characters; decisions around the actor attrition has Downton Abbey jumping more than a healthy number of sharks.
When it comes to closing an entire series, it's best when the creative team began the show with an exit strategy in mind and then were allowed to see it through. We're always going to miss living in these worlds with these characters, but at least we feel a sense of ... damn, I hate the word "closure" but there's no better way to say it. Even if the story arc didn't include a pre-determined conclusion, a team has a chance to make it work if they're given sufficient time to wrap things up. Last year, Eureka! managed well; Fringe a little less so. I continue to miss both shows (and think they both had a couple more solid seasons to give) but I feel more comfortable about where I left the people of Eureka!
The worst thing is when a series ends abruptly. I may never forgive HBO for the Carnivale debacle. When they decided to pull the plug prematurely, there simply wasn't enough time to bring this very complex, layered plot to a satisfying conclusion. The final episodes were a desperate mad dash to reroute character arcs into sone kind of resolution. What had been a rich, fascinating story was crippled by a feeble, sometimes ridiculous ending. Years later, I still feel robbed! And, btw, when people talk to me about renting/streaming Carnivale, I'm not shy about warning them of their eventual disappointment. If you're ever fortunate (?) enough to find yourself running a series, I suggest you take Carnivale as a cautionary tale: prepare each contracted block of episodes as if it might be the last.
Getting back to where I began this... Soon Whovians around the globe will be getting the gift of a Christmas episode that makes us say good-bye to a favourite hero. Like all good stories, the story of the Eleventh (ish?) Doctor is coming to an end. And a new story, which we will also learn to love, is about to begin. Transition is always bittersweet.