Last week, Peter Capaldi announced that he’ll be stepping down from of his role as the Doctor in the BBC series Doctor Who. Several sites have already started speculating on who should next fill the role. There are a few actors whom I’d love to see in the Tardis. The betting line published by Ladbrokes has only two actors given 10 to 1 odds, with Kris Marshall from Love Actually and Death at a Funeral in the top position at 3 to 1, followed by Olivia Colman, who played DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, a series created by Chris Chibnall, who’s replacing Steven Moffat as Doctor Who‘s showrunner for season 11.
Stephen Fry (33 to 1)
Fry is perhaps best known for his roles as Deitrich in V for Vendetta and Mycroft Holmes in both Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). From being a key player in three of the Blackadder series, through his collaborations with Hugh Laurie (Jeeves and Wooster and A Bit of Fry and Laurie), and leading his own shows Absolute Power (2003-2005) and Kingdom (2007-2009), Fry’s become one of the most prolific comedic actors of his generation. It’s almost painful to watch him in his current role as Roland in The Great Indoors. The character wastes Fry’s great comedic talents. While he delivers the formulaic jokes well, it’s a bit like watching Usain Bolt walk a turtle.
The celebrity persona Fry has constructed over the last 30 years aligns with the Doctor. Fry has done a lot of work as himself; he’s cultivated an aura of being both extremely intelligent and empathetic. Also, there are times when the Doctor has to be a bit of a supercilious bastard. Some of the series best moments occur when the Doctor talks smack to his enemies. Think of Matt Smith’s taunt of Bob the Angel in the episode “The Time of Angels”.
Oh, big, big mistake, really huge. Didn’t anyone ever tell you there’s one thing you never put in a trap, if you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there’s one thing you never, ever put in a trap.
When asked “what is that”, he replies “me”. Fry could deliver the line with a mix of chuckle and contempt that’d be perfect for the character.
Tilda Swinton (10 to 1)
Tall, sinuous, inhumanly beautiful: Swinton’s persona aligns very closely with the great David Bowie. Swinton could create a character with the same kind of extra-worldly quality as Tom Baker. In both her most recent role as “The Ancient One” in Doctor Strange and her break-out role the titular Orlando in Sally Potter’s Orlando, Swinton attacked the idea of gender rigidity. This would give the Doctor a fascinating edge. She could give the Doctor a “left of center” quality the character hasn’t displayed since Eccleston. Her name has come up on a few lists. It seems hard to imagine, however, that Swinton would accept the role unless she had considerable input. That input may push the series to a more edgy content.
Jack Davenport (40 to 1)
Davenport is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Steve Taylor in Moffat’s earlier series Coupling. Those who’ve not seen the series may recognize Davenport as Norrington, a featured character in three of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. He also played Lancelot in
Kingsman: The Secret Service. Few actors can deliver a rant as well as Davenport. His rant on throw cushions highlights his greatness:
Oh, padding! Now, that’s interesting, Jane. See, I like padding. If I was, say, an American football player, and all those big bastards running at me, I would say ‘give me some of that padding and be quick about it.’ If my job involved bouncing down jagged rocks I would say ‘in view of those jagged rocks down there, I’ll have some of that padding, thank you very much.’ But Susan, Sally, Jane, this is a sofa. It is designed by clever scientists in such a way as to shield the unprotected user from the risk of skin abrasions, serious head trauma, and, of course [ducks behind couch] Daleks. Trust me, girls, trust me on this one: you do not need padding to tackle upholstery. So please, once and for all, tell me why on Earth you would want me to sit on one of these?
Davenport may be a bit too tall and pretty to play the Doctor. On looks alone, Davenport would likely act as a kind of James Bond version of the Doctor, although few actors do exasperation and bewilderment as well as he.
If the producers decide to go with a female Doctor, Norris seems like an excellent choice. She embodies many of the qualities of each of the rebooted doctors. Like Capaldi, she’s an acclaimed BBC actor with several feature roles. She also had a guest role on the rebooted series (Lundvik in the episode “Kill the Moon”). Like Tennant and Smith, she’s unconventionally attractive, and gives Eccleston a run in the brooding department. Finally, like the four previous Doctors of the new series, she has a proven range of handling characters as diverse as the intensely badass, business-only Roz Myers in Mi5 (Spooks), and the goofy, silly sexpot sister, Beatrice Kingdom in Kingdom.
Like Capaldi, Karan has appeared in the series already, as Rita in “The God Complex”, which incidentally was also the name of the character in her first featured role as the central love interest in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. As one of the players in the acclaimed HBO series The Night of, Karan may be breaking out already.
Oddly, Karan shares a similar appeal to that of Fry, in that neither need to act like they’re the smartest people in the room; in many rooms, they are. She could add the sexiness of River Song (Alex Kingston) with Smith’s exaggerated facial expressions.
Hoult’s been acting since he was seven. He may also bring the most Comic-Con cred to this group, as he’s played Hank McCoy/Beast in all three of The X-Men reboot movies, as well as Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road. Hoult also combines qualities of two previous Doctors: a face made to brood, like Eccleston, and the unconventional handsomeness of a slightly hunkier Tennant.
Currently, Brealey plays the (unrequited) love interest of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock, which would seem like an odd transition to playing the Doctor, except the character is as near Sherlock’s equal as any character in the series. Additionally, in Brealey’s other work, she demonstrates the chops to own the role.
One of the most underappreciated elements of playing the Doctor is great enunciation. There are times when the show’s writers appear to be the channeling the Marquis de’ Sade, by throwing at the lead actor long strings of technical words, which can easily dissolve into mumbles without a great command of the language. Brealey’s diction punches with the ferocity of a Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns’s jab.
Playing the Doctor has its advantages and disadvantages, and the actors have represent a mixed bag of experiences. None of the actors I’ve listed are anywhere near as obscure as Smith when he took on the role; Tennant had years of experience and was emerging with significant roles in several television series before being given the nod, and both Eccleston and Capaldi were highly acclaimed prior to taking on the iconic role. In other words, there’s really no telling where the series might go next.