Jan 6 2011 1:00pm

The Twelfth Doctors

This is a post in the Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.

The Twelfth DoctorsSince there hasn’t been a twelfth incarnation of the famous Time Lord as of yet—though many more than twelve actors have played him—I’m going to look at a couple of unofficial Doctors, and then open it up for discussion about what the next Doctor might be like.

I’ve heard it said that the first Doctor you watch sort of imprints himself upon you, becoming your Doctor. If this is true, Peter Cushing should be my Doctor, as I saw Dr. Who and the Daleks as a kid, long before I ever got into the show. I don’t remember that viewing well; I just remember being confused. My fondness for things Whovian didn’t develop until a few years ago when I saw the Tenth Doctor in “Blink.”

Cushing’s Doctor isn’t considered a canonical version for many sound reasons, chief among them being he’s a human. Writing him as a human scientist rather than a Time Lord makes me wonder why they bothered making the film, or its sequel, at all. Maybe they should have just re-done Quatermass. Making him human is enough to disqualify this as canon, and as such I think it accounts for the semi-disqualification of the Eighth Doctor. His story only counts in radio programs, right?

Also, this guy’s last name actually is Who. Perhaps he’s the descendant of Cindy Loo Who.

A few notable points about Dr. Who and the Daleks. Cushing plays a much nicer Doctor than Hartnell did, more of a scientific genius do-gooder than ancient alien outcast and kidnapper. All the Doctors since Hartnell have been more good-natured, though. Cushing plays, to the best of my knowledge, the only Doctor with a moustache. Also of note, the Daleks come in a variety of colors, as they did in the most recent season. Bernard Cribbins, who went on to play Wilfred Mott, father of Donna Noble, appears in the sequel to Dr. Who and the Daleks as a policeman.

Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal DeathAnother famous non-canon Doctor comes from the 1999 Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death, a parody written for Comic Relief by current showrunner Steven Moffat. Rowan Atkinson plays what I think is a perfectly credible Doctor, albeit in silly circumstances. Honestly, he wouldn’t have been a bad choice for the role on a longer basis. Jonathan Pryce plays an appropriately melodramatic and over-the-top Master, and Julia Sawalha, of Absolutely Fabulous fame, plays the Doctor’s companion and love interest Emma (and of course, Doctor-companion love played a large part of later canonical storylines). The Doctor dies and regenerates several times in a few minutes, running through Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and finally, Joanna Lumley (looking, dare I say it, absolutely fabulous).

As the Doctor faces his penultimate, but seemingly final, regeneration, Emma cries out, “You can’t die. You’re too nice, too brave, and far, far too silly. You’re like Father Christmas, the Wizard of Oz, and Scooby Doo.” I think this adds up to a pretty spot-on definition of the Doctor.

I hope to see many more seasons with Matt Smith, but I can’t help wondering what the twelfth Santa-Wizard-Scooby will be like. Ginger, at long last?

Before Smith was cast, there was talk of a black Doctor, or a female Doctor. Either (or both) could make for some interesting developments. Race and gender would affect the way the Doctor would be treated in many parts of human history. Race was touched upon in a few episodes with Martha Jones, but was generally a non-issue. I don’t know if the writers would make race and/or gender a central concern, or sort of gloss over it and carry on with alien invasions. Who Historians out there, tell me, have Time Lords ever changed gender before? At the very least, it would lend an unexpected twist to the River Song storyline.

Joanna Lumley, mentioned earlier, was once considered for the role, and I think she’d have been quite good. Still could be, really. I also think Gina Bellman, who has worked with Moffat before, has the right combo of intensity, charm and humor.

Richard AyoadeI don’t know if Richard Ayoade has ever been considered for the part, but I think he’d be a marvelous Doctor, especially when it comes to comic delivery. Though best known as the uber-geeky Moss in The IT Crowd, I can see him turning on charisma and an edge when required. Chiwetel Ejiofor could more than carry off the role as well, though I haven’t seen him in any humorous roles, and comedy is a pretty essential element of the show, especially under Moffat.

For a brief moment, in my head, I pictured Shah Rukh Khan as the Doctor. I don’t know if he’d ever take a TV role, but he can be very funny, romantic, and has near-superhuman charm.

And as for white guys, I’d still love to see Bill Nighy. Phil Jupitus would make a cool departure from the skinny pretty boy trend (not that he’s a bad looking guy, mind, but not as pretty as the last few). And though he’s been on the show already, Simon Pegg would rock. Come to think of it, Pegg’s Spaced and Doctor Who alum Jessica Hynes would be a solid choice, too, as would Mark Heap.

And if at all possible, I would love to see the return of the Doctor-who-wasn’t, played by David Morrissey, with his more-or-less sonic screwdriver and hot air balloon TARDIS. Oh, and I would welcome a season without Daleks. Just to shake things up. 

Now it’s your turn to play casting director. Who do you see as Twelve?

Jason Henninger has never been offered a part on Doctor Who, except for in his mind, where he and Rose Tyler got along quite well.        

Ruth X
1. RuthX
What about the Doctor in "The Next Doctor"? Or does he not count becase . I really do think he was a Doctor of sorts.

I haven't given 12 much consideration yet. I've heard some people suggest Bernard Cumberbatch, but I think he'd be a better Master for 11.
2. ivocaliban
Bill Nighy gets my vote, but I don't imagine we'll see an older actor in the role after this recent run.
Nina Lourie
3. supertailz
I really really want Paul Gross as the Doctor. Also strong contenders for me would include Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth (but only after seeing him in The King's Speech) and Russell Tovey.
Jason Henninger
4. jasonhenninger
"The Next Doctor" is the one I mentioned at the end. I thought he was a great character, and very well acted. As for Cumberbatch, he's fantastic, and though I think he'd nail the role, I'd rather see him continue as Sherlock Holmes. As a Master, though...very interesting idea!

@3 I don't know Paul Gross. What's he been in?
5. Kevin J Marks
Stephen Fry would be a splendid doctor. Eddie Izzard would also be excellent.
6. Nicole Cushing
Kenneth Branaugh; he has the Shakespearean acting chops to follow in the footsteps of someone like David Tennant, and...since he has a little bit of age on him these days...he might work well as a more mature doctor. I'm seeing him with a goatee and buzz cut.
7. Rowanmdm
I adore the idea of Cumberbatch as the Master opposite 11. That would be so amazing.

I actually think it would be really interesting to have an asian or Idian Doctor. There's this awesome Korean actor whose name completely escapes me at the moment who would be an awesome Doctor. I don't know if his English is up to the role, but his acting sure is!
ronnie stanton
8. ronsmonkeys
as a side, i was disappointed with the last master. I was so excited when it was Jacoby, but they spoilt it by having him regenerate.

as for doctor number 12 my son thinks ewan mcgregor i think maybe patrick stewart, pete postlethwaite or david suchet
9. Bigvern
Pete Postlethwaite might be a problem, as he died last week... Love the idea as Cumberbatch as the Master. Ben Miller might be good as No 12, does tetchy very well but is an accomplished comic actor.
10. Kudzu
Paul Gross was Const. Benton Fraser on dueSouth and also the lead in Slings & Arrows (character name escapes me now)
11. Jawshco
I'm rooting for a Ginger Doctor for either 12th or the final 13th doctor. Am I right that the 13th is the last right since they can regenerate 12 times? Anyways, I'd like to see Rupert Grint. He's a good young actor, who I think will keep getting better. I also thought he was great in his non-Potter role.
12. Gene Bannister
No where, that I've found, in Doctor Who televised history did the matter of gender in regeneration occur. It is notable that when the Time Lady (or is "Lord" a generic term to both sexes?) Romana regenerated at the beginning of the 1979 "Destiny of the Daleks", she tried out different bodies before settling on Lalla Ward's. It shows a control over the process (explained in novels & audio plays) but it also does not show her changing gender. I would expect, then, that all incarnations of the Doctor must be male...he can only regenerate as a male.
Troy Lissoway
13. Troylis
It's dangerous to assume anything in the Doctor's universe. Perhaps Romana's control of the process extends to her preferring to be female? Perhaps the Doctor prefers to be male, consciously or subconsciously? Unless there's an explicit, canonical ban on gender-changing (actually, let's face it, even if there is) I would expect that any gender swap would be explained with a quick bit of hand-waving.

As far as race goes, I don't think a show with a non-white Doctor would explore racial issues to any large degree. I've noticed that most family-targeted fantasy shows I've seen from Britain are almost dogmatically colour-blind. The recent Robin Hood series merrily casts actors of various ethnicities to play English peasants with nary a mention. Usually, SF and fantasy shows are better able to tackle social issues by using metaphor and non-Terran stand-ins.
14. Melissa Cheran
Benedict Cumberbatch as the Master ... the very idea scares the pants off me. He'd be wonderful. Eddy Izzard was in the original running for 9 and I still think he would be fantastic. Rupert Grint ... wow, surprizing but may work out (those shoulders!) or perhaps Mr. Weasley if all we need is a ginger. Of course, if the Doctor keeps getting younger, the last actor would have to be a fetus.
Ryan Britt
15. ryancbritt
Oh man. This idea of Cumberbatch as The Master is fantastic. Clearly the people who read are a clever bunch.

Somebody make sure the Moff is reading this.
Chris Meadows
16. Robotech_Master
Just to note: the Peter Cushing version of "Doctor Who" was human because, at the time, the Doctor was, too. They didn't come up with the whole regeneration schtick until later when Hartnell's health deteriorated to the point where he could no longer continue in the role—so rather than kill the show off at the height of its popularity, they allowed the Doctor to regenerate.

I'm a little surprised you didn't mention the other Hartnell stand-in, though. He was dead at the time they made "The Five Doctors", so they got actor Richard Hurndall to step into his shoes. (They had originally planned for him to turn out to be an android duplicate of the First Doctor, out of respect to Hartnell's family, but then Hartnell's family said they didn't mind having him in the role so he became the "real" First Doctor instead.)
Sky Thibedeau
17. SkylarkThibedeau
I thought that since the Doctor seems to get younger each time the 12th doctor should be a 10 year old Kid.
Jason Henninger
18. jasonhenninger
What do you think of the Romana=River Song theories?

Yeah, it seems most likely to me that, were there to be a non-caucasian looking Doctor, that race (or, racial appearance, really, as he's not a member of the human race, after all) might play a subtle part now and then, but I can't really see the Who writers making a big deal of it.

Interesting! Thank you for the clarification(s). I admit my knowledge of the first Doctor is pretty sketchy. I wasn't aware of the Richard Hurndall thing. It's amazing how much there is to learn about this show. I've barely scratched the surface.
Maggie M
19. Eswana
I've always thought Chris Rankin (who played Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films) would be an excellent Twelve- he is ginger, after all. And not at all rude!
But Nicole Cushing's sugggestion of Kenneth Branaugh has me reconsidering. Branaugh is brilliant, and I've been in love with him since he was the perfect Henry V so many years ago. Oh my, he would be a splendid Doctor indeed.
20. Gene Bannister
I don't think River Song can be Romana. Here's the argument: the character of Romana decided to stay in E-Space at the end of the 1981 story "Warrior's Gate" rather than return to Gallifrey. Although, in the novelizations, the character has returned to Gallifrey and was Lady President. If either are considered canon, then Romana is either still in E-Space or was killed, along with every other Time Lord at the end of the Time War. Also, The Doctor would've known about another Time Lord (Lady) surviving. The reason he didn't know about The Master was because he had hidden as a human (via the Chameleon Arch). As far as who River Song is, I have no idea but will love to find out.
Chris Meadows
22. Robotech_Master
And by the way, in one of the Big Finish alternate-history Doctor Who stories, the Doctor did have a female regeneration.
Ruth X
23. RuthX
Sorry, Jason my eyes jumped over that last paragraph...funny enough because I was looking for it. :P Glad you liked the idea for the Master. Now we all just need to make waves until Moffat sees it. :)
Sky Thibedeau
24. SkylarkThibedeau
@Gene Bannister. I sometimes think that River Song is The Rani regenerated and reformed(well partially reformed anyway) .
25. Alexander K.
Just a little note/correction:

Wilfred Mott was Donna Noble's grandfather, not her father.
26. Evan H.
I'm surprised no one has suggested the obvious: Keanu Reeves.

Jason Henninger
27. jasonhenninger
Drat! Right you are. Don't know why I wrote that.
Skip Ives
28. Skip
I'm surprised no one mentioned Ewan McGregor, if for no other reason, than to have someone every episode say "I've got a bad feeling about this ..."
Daniel Brown
29. I_Slap_Raptors
Ben Miller, Sean Pertwee, Mark Gatiss, Guy Flanagan, Adrian Lester or - if the producers decide to go the old man route again (which I know is deeply unlikely) - Billy Connolly for me. As a bit of an outside bet, Michael Fassbender.

I'll get slaughtered by a lot of his fangirls/boys for saying this, but I'm one of the minority who think that Cumberbatch would be a disastrous choice for the The Doctor. I'm just able to buy him as Holmes, trying to sell him to me as a charismatic 900 year old alien would be a step too far.
30. Nightsky
Richard Ayoade FTW! He'd be marvellous. OTOH, I think Russell Tovey would be a mistake. He's so perfectly cast as George in Being Human that I think the remake is doomed to failure unless and until they can clone him, but as the Doctor? Cannot see it.

Everything we've seen in the show supports the conclusion that Gallifreyans are sexually dimorphic, just like humans. We've seen several Time Lords who have regenerated (the Doctor, the Master, Romana, Borusa, arguably Rassilon), and in every case they have kept their genders on regeneration. That said, it's canon that they can change SPECIES on regeneration (stated in the TV movie and the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor"), so a little thing like gender should certainly be possible--and note that the Eleventh Doctor's shocked "I'm a GIRL?!" strongly implies that he thought he could be.

I think it'd be interesting if they did change genders on regeneration, at least in some circumstances--it would certainly make for some fascinating worldbuilding, if the writers explored how Gallifreyan society would be if its members could change gender. Especially considering how few Time Ladies there seem to be in the crowds on Gallifrey (in "The Deadly Assassin", for instance).
31. nidanprak
Jeff Goldblum. The only American who could pull it off. Think of a cross between Ian Malcolm, Seth Brundle, and David Levinson.
32. bugs nixon
Henry Ian Cusick! Desmond from Lost!!!

Am I right?
Emily Asher-Perrin
33. EmilyAP
Haha, funny enough, when I mentioned the idea of Cumberbatch for the Doctor, the first thought in my head was that he could also pull off the Master flawlessly. I think there are very few actors who could manage both of those roles, and he is definitely one of them.
ronnie stanton
34. ronsmonkeys
skip: i believe i mentioned mcregor

bigvern: blimey i did not know that. that is indeed sad news.

i still stick with patrick stewart and david suchet for next doctor we need old again
35. Gerry__Quinn
It may be that Time Lords do not die after 12 regenerations. They change gender, but are coy about explaining this.
36. Akheloios
Paterson Joseph, I really thought he'd get the part this time around, I was quite disappointed when he didn't, though I've come to love Smith.

After doing quite a bit of genre work and his fantastic performance of the Marquis de Carabas in Neverwhere, I thought Joseph was a near cert. A great coat, superior intellect, and a dismissive sneer to those who are in his way, he was practically the Doctor already.
Skip Ives
37. Skip
ronsmonkeys @34 - yes you did mention him. The lack of capitalization must have made me miss it. ;)
38. Makeda
I thought that we did see a Time Lord change gender during Tom Baker's reign. I haven't found the reference. However, Tom Baker's Doctor became President of Gallifrey at one point. He abdicated and when he returned, his (equivalent) vice president was now female. Does anyone remember this?
39. Cygnia
If I recall correctly, Richard E. Grant was an alt!Nine in the web animation "Scream of the Shalka" as well (which also had Jacobi as the Master as a holographic reluctant Companion of all things) before the TV reboot.
42. kaffyr1
If, as I believe I heard recently, Robert Carlyle is finally free of Stargate: Universe, I'd pitch him as an excellent Twelfth Doctor.
43. tjakab
Alan Moore. Or Lemmy.
44. Tyler Childers
Remake some of the lost episodes. Sir Ian McKellan as the First, and Eddie Izzard as the Second.

Now, who would be your choices for companions?
Luis Milan
45. LuisMilan
Eddie Izzard would be a sweet choice for a Doctor... he would make a great Executive Trasvestite Doctor.
46. grs1961
About the 12 regenerations thing - easy handwave, it was the Time Lord Council that enforced the limit, with the council no longer extant, the Doctor can regenerate as often as he likes.
47. LAJG
I kind of like the idea of Jim Broadbent as the Doctor, if they wanted to go older - though he was a bit too shy in Curse of the Fatal Death :)
48. Novashannon
I actually came on to say the same thing as Jawshco! I'd like to see a ginger-haired doctor, and Ru
49. Mrs David Tennant
I've thought for a while that Rupert Grint might be able to be the next doctor, especially if Matt Smith stays for a couple more years. I love the idea of a ginger doctor, and I think Rupert is a very appealing actor. So I'm glad to see that others feel the same way!
50. Bruce A.
I can see Paul Gross as a Doctor, particularly after his performance as Geoffrey Tennant in SLINGS AND ARROWS. Geoffrey Tennant is a theatre director in (incomplete) recovery from a mental breakdown, whose idea of stress relief is to put a razor blade in his mouth. It's a comedy, and Gross makes the character work in that context.
51. Atinius
Why not bring back an actor. I know Peter Davison has said he could bring more to the role now than back in the 80's. It could be explains as some sort of regeneration fluke that happens every once in a while where a Time Lord regenerates to an older looking version of himself. If Grover Cleveland can be the 22nd and 24th President of the United States then Peter Davison can be the 5th and 12th Doctor.
52. funnelwebkitten
It was always my opinion that James Nesbitt would make an excellent Dr Who, he was amazing in Jekyll, and would make a very very dark Dr, one that you could imagine doing whatever has to be done, no matter the cost.
53. Doctor12
Alan Cumming would be a perfect Doctor!
Travis Butler
54. tbutler
Back in the 80's hiatus, there was a suggestion that first boggled me, but then made a lot of sense: Gene Wilder, in the vein of his performance as Willy Wonka in the 70's movie. He certainly managed to capture a Doctor-esque manic energy and near-alienness...
55. Quaiti
I wrote a big long thing, but as I was finishing up a list, including pros and cons for all of them, I realized that the Best Doctor Ever would be Mandy Patinkin.

You can't tell me that his whole career doesn't scream DOCTOR WHO.
Helen Peters
56. Helen
Glad you included Cushing, I remember that film well, not least for Roy Castle (I think) in tartan trousers. I missed the comic relief one, except the the little 5 minute skit David Tennant and Peter Davidson did a couple of years ago.

Regarding The Doctor changing gender.... I'm convinced that somewhere back in the deep and distant past (Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker time, they're my Doctors) he dropped off one of his assistants along with the line 'Women aren't allowed on Galifrey'. And yes, that's been me confused ever since Romana regenerated (even more so when she lived next door to my nan for a few years!). So really he shouldn't be able to change gender.
57. a-j
Can't say I remember that line, but I do remember the 4th Dr telling Sarah Jane that humans were not allowed on Gallifrey. It was the reason he had to ask her to leave.
Helen Peters
58. Helen
No humans, not no women. That makes much more sense.
59. Shtaan
As for a Ginger Doctor, I can't believe no-one's mentioned Damian Lewis. I think he'd make an excellent follow from Matt Smith. As for Rupert Grint, hmm, jury's still out on that one as I've seen him as nothing other than a Weasley so far.
60. Karen MT
Nighy has already been on the show, during Vincent and the Doctor, in the museum. Unless they retconn with an explanation.
Andrew House
61. housephd
Ooh. There have been some really good suggestions. But I feel compelled to add one:

Alan Rickman

That would delight me to no end.
62. John Seven
Richard E Grant also played the animated original 9th Doctor in Scream of the Shalka, which was a lot of fun. His companion was a robot version of The Master voiced by Derek Jacobi. It was penned by Paul Cornell. My understanding is that there was supposed to be a whole series but that got scrapped and then the 2005 revival happened. There were certain elements of it that the 2005 version borrowed.
63. missallen
Oh, why don't the producers just make it easy on themselves:
Martin Freeman as the Doctor (after he gets done with the Hobbit)
Benedict Cumberbatch as the Master.
And a story arc of at least 5-7 episodes with them locked in an epic power/death struggle
No Daleks for at least an entire season or more. I'm heartily sick sick sick of "EXTERMINATE!"
64. carrie80
Big Finish has a female Doctor (Annabella Weir) in one of their Doctor Who Unbound audio dramas. The theory in that one is that Time Lords change sex on regeneration after committing suicide. As I recall, it's a fun, silly take on what might-have-been.
65. Bowster
@16 - Hartnell is definitely NOT human - in "Unearthly Child" he talks about being from another world & another time.
66. ck_gets_spam
Wow... so many unofficial Doctors you didn't cover at all! There's a long and lovely article to be written about all the not-Doctors someday. From Trevor Martin as a pseudo-Fourth Doctor, entirely unlike Tom Baker's, in the 1970s stage play "Doctor Who and Seven Keys to Doomsday," performed between Jon Pertwee's final season and Tom Baker's first, and which started with a video of Pertwee regenerating into Martin (who, incidentally, played one of the Time Lords who put the Second Doctor on trial in "The War Games") . Richard Hurndall, who played the First Doctor in "The Five Doctors," as Hartnell had passed on. The alternate Doctors of Big Finish's "Unbound" series, including, most notably, Sir Derek Jacobi and Geoffrey Bayldon as alternate First Doctors and David Warner as an alternate Third Doctor, among others. "Cyberleader" David Banks, who understudied the role of the Doctor in the 1980s stage play "The Ultimate Adventure" (which originally starred Jon Pertwee, then Colin Baker), and got to go on once, wearing a so-80s-it-hurt Ocean Pacific-style t-shirt as part of his "Doctor" costume of choice. Michael Jayston as The Valeyard from "Trial of a Time Lord," who was, in some sense, the worst parts of the Doctor's persona made flesh... as was, in a different, more subtle and more insidious way, Toby Jones as the Dream Lord in this past season's "Amy's Choice." And there was Adrian Gibbs as The Watcher in "Logopolis," who, confusingly, turned out to have been "the Doctor all along." Did I miss anybody... ? :)
67. Doug H.
Idris Elba is who I want to see play the next Doctor.
Tamara Allen
68. tamaralynn
I am a huge Eddie Izzard fan, but as much as I love him, I can't see him as the Doctor. Richard Ayoade might be OK, but all I've seen him in is The IT Crowd. David Morrissey was very convincing, though he was so serious. The thing about the Doctor is that he's fun. My first Doctor was Tom Baker, but to me, David Tennant has been the best, because of how much fun he put into the character. Matt Smith does OK, but to me he's at his best when he does things that are David-like.

I didn't like Kenneth Branaugh in Harry Potter because of the character, but my daughter (a huge KB fan) says he'd be awesome (she's 21). She also likes the idea of Stephen Fry or Martin Freeman. How about Greg Wise (from Sense and Sensibility)?
69. Scotticus
There was a episode set on Galifray during either Tom Baker or Peter Davidson's stint where a Time Lord was speaking among a group of Time Lords. He turned to ask his father his opinion on the topic and a female Time Lord responded. It didn't seem accidental either, so clearly they were demonstrating that a Time Lord's gender could change.

I guess I am assuming that the gender change was a result of regeneration...
70. sherlock_14
I reckon Damian Lewis. I love Doctor Who and can just see Lewis saying, 'I'm ginger? YES!'
He could be a very, stare and think really long Doctor, instead of always going crazy like David Tennant. (btw, I love David Tennant. He's my favourite actor, favourite Doctor).
But yes, I vote for Damian Lewis as the Doctor.
And now that I've read it, Benedict Cumberbatch as the Master. He'd be brilliant as the Doctor but I reckon he could play evil much better.

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