Doctor Who replaces its lead actor every few years, making way for a new incarnation of the character to emerge. This time-honored tradition brings with it another time-honored tradition: wishful thinking as to whom should next inhabit the role.
Since the announcement earlier this week that Peter Capaldi is stepping down at the end of 2017, an online consensus has begun to emerge in regards to actors that would make a perfect Doctor. Here’s who keeps popping up in the minds of the show’s fans.
Ben Whishaw is the favorite pick for the bookies at Ladbrokes, where he leads with 5/1 odds (though the odds are admittedly a guessing game at this point). Further, Whishaw is no stranger to the BBC, having starred in The Hour, London Spy, and the Hollow Crown Trilogy where he played Richard II. He has that Doctor-y look about him: good with glasses or without, a specific and unique physicality, memorable hair. His resume reveals him as a subtle actor who has no difficulty with high drama and tension, but he also brings a certain sweetness and vulnerability to any role. Indeed, his work as Q in the current iteration of the James Bond films is a possible angle on his version of the character, but perhaps with a bit more eccentricity. (He’s also so good at bad jokes in that oh-no-dad-humor kind of way.) Even with the little we’ve seen of Pearl Mackie’s Bill so far, they seem like they would be a wildly entertaining pair, with the Doctor potentially being the more subdued one for a change. Whishaw would also have the distinction of being the first gay actor to ever play the Doctor.
Richard Ayoade (who, just last summer, was at 6/1 odds to replace Capaldi according to Ladbrokes) carries an unabashed nerdiness, a sweetness, and a deep love of film. He would be the Doctor you’d most want to meet in person; could most easily see yourself hanging out with. His sense of humor can range from gentle and whimsical to witheringly sarcastic, but the role of The Doctor would also allow him to dive into some more dramatic range, playing an even more socially awkward than usual Doctor who embarks on a series of picaresque adventures with a companion who is always more comfortable than he is. And it’s always fun and goofy…until it isn’t. And then Ayoade could apply some of the existential yearning that pops up in his directorial work to the Doctor’s universe.
Steven Moffat has been building precedent for a female Doctor throughout his tenure on the show, first with offhand lines about gender-swapping Time Lords, on to a female incarnation of The Master that not even the Doctor saw coming, and further to an onscreen Time Lord regeneration that made both gender and race fluid. Doctor Who audiences have been curious about a female Doctor since at least the 1980s, and the possibility of a female Doctor has never seemed more likely.
Forthcoming showrunner Chris Chibnall is tasked with casting a new Doctor, and should he throw open the TARDIS doors to every possibility then it’s easy to see him picking the extremely reliable Olivia Colman as the next Doctor. As this article in the New Statesman suggests:
Mostly though, new Doctors have been people who have worked extensively with those making the decision to hire them. […] Applying all these precedents to new Doctor Who “showrunner” Chris Chibnall ultimately leads you to the conclusion that he’ll cast one of the stars of Broadchurch. As David Tennant is not exactly likely, under the circumstances, that leaves to my mind only one plausible candidate.
Not surprisingly, David Tennant himself thinks his co-star would be a “magnificent” choice for the next Doctor.
Imagine a team-up episode with the Tenth Doctor and Colman’s Thirteenth. That would be positively head-spinning.
Hayley Atwell notably threw her hat into the ring a couple years back, just as Capaldi’s run was getting started. Although the timing was off, the idea of Peggy Carter in control of a TARDIS was electrifying. An idea so good and perfect you can’t believe nobody thought of it sooner.
Further, Atwell’s latest project Conviction was cancelled by ABC in November 2016, leaving the actor conveniently available!
The new Star Wars movies are fertile ground for finding new actors that could expand to fit the role of the Doctor, and Rogue One‘s Riz Ahmed fits that progression perfectly. We’re already pretty used to seeing Ahmed in crisis situations–as Rogue One’s deserting Imperial pilot; as Jake Gyllenhaal’s assistant/driver in Nightcrawler; as a man accused of murder in The Night Of. (The farther back you go in Ahmed’s resume, the more this trend continues.) And what is Doctor Who but a series of crises—serious, goofy, both—that only the Doctor can set to rights? Ahmed has a bundle of characteristics that worked for previous iterations of the Doctor, from a wide-eyed stare to a certain nervous energy, but his screen presence also suggests that so much more is going on with him than what he’s saying or doing. He’s always calculating; he’s very good at showing us all the things his characters worry about. It’s not with a frown, or an expression, but the way he carries himself through each situation. Like the rest of the new-Who Doctors, he’s got a face that can look strikingly handsome in one moment, and entirely ordinary the next. But as Thirteen, he could bring a different sense of purpose, and a curiosity grounded in not just solving things, but trying to understand what’s happening now, and what’s happening next. Plus, he’s already practiced at flying spaceships, right?
The Guardian‘s wishlist for the next Doctor contains an inspired choice: Ruth Negga. Spooky and otherworldly on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., grungy and biting on Preacher, oh, and now Oscar-nominated, Negga would bring an emotional range to the show that would elevate every aspect of Doctor Who as a drama. Negga would be a next-level Doctor, achingly real, captivating, and impossible to predict.
The actor is a bit out of reach of the show now. (An Academy Award will do that.) But her inclusion on The Guardian‘s wishlist is a good reminder to fans to keep pushing the boundaries of the show.
Not to play the we-liked-her-first card, but some of us have been impatiently waiting for Natalia Tena to get a truly starring role since 2005’s Mrs. Henderson Presents, in which she played a dancer in Judi Dench’s nude review. Tena has been Tonks, and she’s been Osha, but so far she’s never gotten the spotlight she deserves. Tena has a much fiercer presence than the last few Doctors—she’s more Jack Harkness than Eleven—but she can also be loose and funny, and has one of the things all our new Doctors have had: a very, very expressive face. Her Doctor could be thrown into super tense situations and we’d believe she’d come out on top, but she could also easily carry the goofier episodes, the fluffier side of Who, with ease. Imagine her with brightly colored hair and a wardrobe full of stompy boots and drapey, layered sweaters and coats, defeating Daleks and having a brilliant laugh while doing so. (Or just looking like the picture above, which is perfection.)
Okay, this pick isn’t on anyone’s list but ours, and Mary-Rosa Alleyne Berry, CBE, is not an actor. However, in this case, we’re not looking for acting chops, just the pure, glowing British-ness that can knock up a perfect Victoria Sponge to go with tea. She’s been the motherly-yet-stern judge on The Great British Bake-Off for BBC Two from 2010 until 2016, and is the author of seventy (!!!) cookbooks. If Mary Berry sees an alien attempting to invade London, she’ll tell them, gently but firmly, that their time is better spent on other endeavors. Wouldn’t they rather learn how to make a perfect currant scone? Or perhaps a platter of jaffa cakes? There now, dear, that’s your Sunday afternoon sorted.
And then Paul Hollywood turns up as The Master, and the whole thing goes pear-shaped.
Stubby the Rocket is the nom de plume of the Tor.com writing staff.