This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.
Since 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.
Another 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.
I 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.