Matt Smith’s replacement as the Doctor will be announced in a special programme broadcast on Sunday. But with the show enjoying its fiftieth birthday celebrations in November, who will get the top job?
It is actually virtually impossible to say but here are a few guidelines based on past regenerations…
It is unlikely to be anyone famous.
Be warned: even after the new Doctor is announced on Sunday, your first question on hearing the name in question may well be appropriate: who???
For if history has taught us anything about the Doctor Who selection proves, it is that generally less famous names tend to get it. As with James Bond, those casting seem to prefer seasoned relatively familiar actors for the role rather than household names or out and out unknowns. Very famous and successful actors are also less likely to want to be tied down by the role.
Who, after all, knew Matt Smith well, when he was selected as the youngest ever Doctor (at 25) in 2010?
The actor was a familiar face to fans of TV’s critically acclaimed drama Party Animals (which also featured rising stars Andrea Risborough and Andrew Buchan). But that series was never a ratings hit and few had Smith down as a potential timelord.
The same might be said of David Tennant who was booked as the second of the new Doctors in 2005 once Christopher Eccleston quit soon after his first episode had been screened. Tennant was making a name for himself in shows such as Dennis Potter-eque musical drama Blackpool (alongside future Who co-star David Morrissey). He had also starred, more tellingly, in Casanova, a series written by Russell T Davies, who had, of course, revived the science fiction franchise. Tennant was immediately mooted as a possible successor to Eccleston. The role has probably boosted Tennant’s career more than any other actor. He is now a household name and has escaped typecasting.
Christopher Eccleston , who was picked to star in the series on its return in 2004 was, in fact, more famous than most new Doctors, perhaps explaining why he relinquished the role so quickly. He had already starred in Our Friends In The North and on the big screen in Gone In Sixty Seconds.
Yet he was still less famous than Alan Davies, Richard E Grant and Eddie Izzard: all names thrown into the rumour mill as possible Doctors the time.
It is unlikely to be anyone who has already been in the series already.
Oddly, a consistent feature of speculation is that someone who has already appeared in the series before will be picked as the next Doctor.
This explains why names such as David Morrissey (who did play a sort of alternative Doctor in one Christmas Special, Paterson Joseph (best known as Johnson in Peep Show) and Russell Tovey are sometimes mentioned.
Even more bizarrely, John Simm, who played the Master was strongly mooted last time as a successor to David Tennant have been the likes of Alex Kingston, Billie Piper and Jenna-Louise Coleman.
Ignoring the fact, only Morrissey, Simm and Joseph on this list would really fit the bill anyway (and the first two were probably too successful to want it), I’m prepared to bet having appeared in the series before would generally count against you being picked as the new Doctor.
Although it should be noted Freema Agyeman was picked as assistant in 2006 soon after playing a small role in the show.
A female Doctor?
This has never happened before but this is the fiftieth anniversary year so why not? The Daily Mail has also stated its opposition to this occurring which seems as good a reason for having a female in the Tardis as any.
The element of surprise
Several plausible names have been mooted in recent days:
Peter Capaldi: Probably a little bit too famous for the role since The Thick of It and with too much to lose. Recent Doctors have tended to be younger too (he is 55) although he would doubtless be great in the role.
Ben Whishaw: In theory ideal, but perhaps unlikely as his film career is taking off.
Ben Daniels: Possible.
Rory Kinnear: Possible.
Alex Kingston: No.
Jenna-Louise Coleman: Unlikely.
I doubt it will be any of these, however. The one certainty here is that the new Doctor will be a total surprise.
And even that isn’t certain.
The 11 Doctors
1. William Hartnell (1963-1966)
2. Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
3. Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
4. Tom Baker (1974-1981)
5. Peter Davison (1982-1984)
6. Colin Baker (1984-1986)
7. Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996)
8. Paul McGann (1996)
9. Christopher Eccleston (2005)
10. David Tennant (2005-2010)
11. Matt Smith (2010 – 2013)
So much for predictions! The choice of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor makes a mockery of my theories that the new Doctor would be firstly, an actor who would never have been in the series before (Capaldi appeared opposite David Tennant in The Fires of Pompeii in 2008)
Capaldi is also far from largely unknown. Capaldi is well known for his role as foul mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in comedy The Thick Of It and has been well known for thirty years thanks to roles in Bill Forsyth’s film Local Hero, Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons and TV’s The Crow Road, amongst many others.
Yet he is a brilliant actor and we should wish him well.
I gave up making predictions, because I got it so wrong about Smith, whom I was convinced would be rubbish. Capaldi wasn’t an obvious choice (and he’s been in the show!) but a good one, I think.
Eccleston’s fear of typecasting explains part of his rationale for leaving after only one series, but the truth is far more complicated. We don’t know all the details, but he’s admitted in interviews that he wasn’t happy with the way the show was being run at a managerial level, and I think we may look to this – rather than any creative concerns – as the reason he jumped ship.
I was convinced it would not be Capaldi, on the basis that the bookies had started to peg him, and historically they’ve actually be a poor predictor. But hey, they were actually right this time. 😉