Tomorrow is set to be a huge event for Whovians around the globe. According to a recent press release from the BBC, the channel will air a special live-event whereby they will reveal the identity of the actor (or actress) set to take on the mantle of The Doctor from current actor Matt Smith, who will depart the series following this year’s Christmas episode.
Inevitably, Matt Smith’s departure from Doctor Who last month produced instant speculation on who should play the 12th incarnation of the all-powerful Timelord. While actors Rory Kinnear and Ben Whishaw have been widely reported as likely candidates, both men have played down the speculation in recent weeks.
So who truly deserves to take on the mantle of everyone’s favorite time-traveling, two-hearted alien? More than likely, the candidate will be a relatively unknown actor. Still, it’s certainly fun to have a dream list of actors. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
One of the most extraordinary British actors to emerge in the past decade, Idris Elba helped to create one of the greatest TV characters of all time in the form of The Wire’s Stringer Bell. Despite Elba’s talents, however, his suave demeanor and commanding presence would seem to make him a better fit for a James Bond than a Doctor. That being said, I’m all for him making a possible appearance as a new version of The Master.
Few had heard of British thespian Tom Hiddleston prior to his casting as the devious Loki in Thor. After his performance at the Marvel Comic Con panel this year, however, it now seems as though there’s no one in the geek community not in love with him. If that weren’t enough, the man is a dynamite impressionist. Yet, while Loki may have made Hiddleston a fan favorite, it also burst open his career in a major way. As such, it’s unlikely Hiddleston will tie himself down to a single role just yet.
Malcolm f**king Tucker as The Doctor. That is all.
In the three years since Benedict Cumberbatch took on the titular role in the BBC’s Sherlock, he has amassed the kind of hardcore fanbase that most actors only dream of. Naturally, many are demanding that Cumberbatch be made the new Doctor. Ultimately, while the actor is certainly not one to pass up bouts of goofiness, he tends to take roles that highlight his icy demeanor. And while I’d love more than anything to hear Cumberbatch’s lovely baritone deliver The Doctor’s rapid-fast dialogue, his persona seems a bit out-of-sync with how The Doctor is traditionally portrayed. Not that it wouldn’t be an interesting choice, of course. As a compromise, I believe he should also be given the chance to play The Master, particularly if a certain co-star happens to be named The Doctor.
Best known to general audiences as Lucius Malfoy, the long-haired father of Draco from the Harry Potter series, Jason Isaacs has excelled at playing great baddies over the years, including in the Mel Gibson film The Patriot and the animated DC film Batman: Under the Red Hood, where he voiced Ra’s al Ghul. That being said, the sadly short-lived NBC show Awake showed that he could play a likable protagonist just as well as an evil bastard. While Isaacs’ Doctor might prove to be a darker one, it’d be one for the history books.
Prior to Matt Smith being cast as the 11th Doctor, Robert Carlyle was widely reported as a front runner to take over the role from David Tennant. Carlyle certainly has the pedigree, having played roles in light-hearted comedies (The Full Monty), devastating horror films (28 Weeks Later) and pitch black comedies that fall somewhere in the middle (the foul-tempered Begbie in Trainspotting). Could it finally be his turn to step into the TARDIS? Many Who fans are certainly petitioning for this to happen. The one downside? Carlyle also played Adolf Hitler in a 2003 television movie. Though he did a fantastic job, the idea of linking The Doctor to Hitler may be a bit much for some (series six episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” aside).
A hilarious presence on the British sitcom The IT Crowd, O’Dowd has achieved the significant feat of actually breaking into the mainstream American market with roles in Bridesmaids and a running arc on the HBO show Girls. Boasting a natural, affable charm and an endearing Irish brogue, few can deny that O’Dowd would make a great Doctor. That being said, his burgeoning career and ongoing role in the Christopher Guest series Family Tree would likely be a hindrance to accepting the role.
12. Rupert Grint
Where You Know Him From: The Harry Potter series, Cherrybomb
Pros: Plucked from obscurity at the age of 11 to play Ron Weasley, the loveably yet clumsy comic relief of the Harry Potter fillm series, Grint spent most of his adolescence developing his skills in front of a camera. Displaying a natural aptitude for comedy early on, it soon became apparent that Grint had more to offer than simply pratfalls and zingers, particularly in the series’ final installments where he was able to flex some dramatic muscles. While some may object to this choice, it would give Grint a great opportunity to break free of the Weasley shadow and show us what he’s really got. Plus, The Doctor can finally be a ginger.
Cons: Despite the international exposure that Harry Potter granted him, Grint has yet to find a major breakthrough outside of the Wizarding World. Thus, he has yet to prove whether or not he can carry a huge project on his own. And the Doctor Who name is nothing to be trifled with. At 24, he would be the youngest actor to ever play the character. After the success of Matt Smith, however, the show’s runners may very well want to keep the trend going by hiring a young actor with minimal previous exposure.
11. Helena Bonham Carter
Where You Know Her From: The Harry Potter series, Fight Club, The King’s Speech
Pros: Since taking on the role of drug addict Marla Singer in the 1999 cult film Fight Club, Helena Bonham Carter has seen a massive shift in her public persona, to say the least. Whereas she previously starred in more traditional British costume fare such as The Wings of the Dove and the Shakespeare adaptation Twelfth Night, recent years has seen her playing characters defined by their extreme look and even more extreme personalities, including the murderous Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, a petty thief in Les Misérables and the ill-tempered Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. For her part, Carter has seemed to embrace this new phase with great relish. Her effortless mix of sexy and eccentric would appear to make her a highly viable choice for a female Doctor.
Cons: With two Oscar nominations under her belt—one for The Wings of the Dove and the other for 2011’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech—Carter might have a bit too much feature film clout to abruptly move into a television role—no matter how iconic.
Who truly deserves to take on the mantle of everyone’s favorite time-traveling, two-hearted alien? More than likely, the candidate will be a relatively unknown actor. Still, it’s certainly fun to have a dream list of actors. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
10. Emily Mortimer
Where You Know Her From:
The Newsroom, Lars and the Real Girl, 30 Rock
Pros: There’s always been something a bid mad about Emily Mortimer, particularly when one witnesses the neurosis she’s able to bring to her roles in Shutter Island, 30 Rock or The Newsroom. Being that The Doctor has frequently sums himself up as a “mad man with a box,” why can’t Mortimer be the first official “mad woman with a box?” Boasting both a striking beauty and a warm, accessible presence, Mortimer seems like an ideal choice.
Cons: Purely a scheduling issue, really. With The Newsroom currently in its second season and showing no signs of slowing down, Mortimer’s free time will be limited and being The Doctor is nothing if not a full-time, year-round job.
9. Hugh Laurie
Where You Know Him From:
House, Blackadder, Sense and Sensibility
Pros: An adept actor, comedian, writer and musician, Hugh Laurie is nothing short of a modern day renaissance man. A popular fixture on some of the best British TV comedies of all time, his turn as the cantankerous Gregory House brought him well-deserved love in the States and anchored the series throughout its often shaky eight-year run.
Cons: Having played a surly misanthrope for so many years, Laurie’s current image might be a touch too dark to play the typically jovial Doctor. Then again, that’s not to say The Doctor has never been an abrasive grouch, as demonstrated by First Doctor William Hartnell and Sixth Doctor Colin Baker.
8. Bill Nighy
Where You Know Him From:
Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Shaun of the Dead
Pros: Very few actors embody both extreme authority and extreme cool quite like Bill Nighy. A prime example of an actor with a late-in-life career boast, Nighy has played a wide variety of roles in the past decade, including the villainous, squid-faced Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the non-nonsense newspaper editor in the BBC miniseries State of Play and the very nonsense-prone aging rocker in Love Actually. Adored by his fellow actors and considered a treasure by any director he works with, Nighy has already secured the “beloved” stature. Being the next Doctor would just be icing on the cake.
Con: He would be the oldest actor to ever portray the Doctor. While it would be a pleasant surprise to once again have a more mature Doctor, the renewed trend towards younger does not appear to support this possibility. Plus, he’s already made an in-show appearance as an art curator in the fantastic series five episode “Vincent in the Doctor.” Then again, between Colin Baker, Freema Agyeman and Karen Gillan all making appearances in the show prior to acquiring more significant roles, it’s not without precedent.
7. Robert Sheehan
Where You Know Him From:
Misfits, The Red Riding Trilogy, Season of the Witch
Pros: As Nathan, the foul-mouthed but relentlessly entertaining juvenile delinquent from Channel 4’s breakthrough sci-fi program Misfits, Robert Sheehan endowed every second of his screen time with the kind of manic energy that would make the Doctor proud. The good doc would no doubt disapprove of the character’s crassness, but that’s beside the point. Besides his scene-stealing role in that show, Sheehan has also portrayed a decidedly more downbeat, traumatized character in the excellent Red Riding Trilogy. Few can deny Sheehan’s talents and one can only imagine the fascinating Doctor he’d create.
Cons: Sheehan carries a ton of (adult oriented) baggage with him. Certainly Nathan is about as far from the good-natured benevolent Doctor as you can get. Also, just as in the case of Rupert Grint, the BBC might tend to avoid young actors (Sheehan is 25) who have already played an established, well-known character.
6. James Nesbitt
Where You Know Him From:
, Jekyll, Bloody Sunday
Pros: One of Britain’s best kept secrets, Nesbitt is an actor of incredible range. Upon breaking through with a leading role in the hilarious dramedy series Cold Feet and a notable supporting role in the 1998 British comedy Waking Ned Devine, Nesbitt quickly transitioned into more dramatic fare, including playing real-life Irish politician Ivan Cooper in the Paul Greengrass-directed television film Bloody Sunday as well as a modern-day version of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in the Steven Moffat-penned drama serial Jekyll. With that Moffat connection firmly established, it only makes since that the current Doctor Who showrunner would have Nesbitt in mind as the next Doctor
Cons: Not a lot. Despite his age—he’s pushing 50—Nesbitt’s past performances reveal an actor still able to cut loose and bring the kind of energy required to play the Doctor. He’d certainly be a more rugged Doctor than either David Tennant or Matt Smith but that’s far form a bad thing.
5. Jack Davenport
Where You Know Him From: The Pirates of the Caribbean series, Coupling, Smash
Pros: As demonstrated in the Coupling clip below, few actors can pull off a ridiculous monologues quite like Jack Davenport. And what is The Doctor if not an endless stream of nonsense technobabble and amusing asides?
Cons: Minimal to non-existent. With NBC’s Smash over, Davenport appears to currently be a free agent.
4. John Noble
Where You Know Him From:
Fringe, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 24
Pros: As Dr. Walter Bishop, the deranged, yet brilliant scientist at the center of Fox’s beloved science-fiction program Fringe, veteran Aussie actor John Noble was nothing short of a revelation, bringing both the frenetic energy that gave the show it’s comedy and the gravitas that gave it its heart. In many ways, Walter Bishop stands as a more real world version of The Doctor. In addition, having an Australian Doctor might prove to be a nice switch-up.
Cons: Similar to Bill Nighy, Noble is up there in years. While he would no doubt make a fantastic Doctor, it might simply be too much of a whiplash for an audience accustomed to the lanky, sprightly youths that have inhabited the roles since the series was renewed.
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Where You Know Him From:
Serenity, Children of Men, Talk to Me
Pros: One of the premiere figures in British film and theater, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name has yet to really take off in America (to be fair, it is a doozy to pronounce). While Ejiofor’s American work has thusfar been uneven, with roles in 2012, Melinda and Melinda and Four Brothers underutilizing his talents, his award-winning performance in the British film Dirty Pretty Things, a supporting part in Children of Men and a Golden Globe-nominated lead in the TV film Endgame have successfully kept him in high regard—not to mention his fantastic turn as The Operative in Serenity. With many critics calling out for a bit more racial diversity in regards to The Doctor, few actors are more qualified than Ejiofor to break that tradition.
Cons: Ejiofor is getting early buzz for his lead performance in the highly anticipated new Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave. And, yes, the word “Oscar” has been tossed around. With his fortunes in America rising, Ejiofor might be understandably hesitant about tackling a role that would force him to stay in one place for too long. Then again, he could always opt for the Christopher Eccleston route and tap out after one season.
2. Martin Freeman
Where You Know Him From:
, The Office, Sherlock
Pros: Much of Martin Freeman’s most notable work has had him stepping into the role of the everyman, whether it be the fun-loving, yet down-to-earth underling to Ricky Gervais’ David Brent in The Office, unassuming homebody Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy or the literal Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in the beloved BBC show of the same name. Yet, Freeman’s resume is also choked full of more outlandish performances, including appearances on the British sketch show Bruiser, a mime accused of murder in the short film The Girl is Mime and a small but memorable part in Love Actually. Freeman’s inherent charm and propensity for silliness certainly have the makings of a great new Doctor. Also, like James Nesbitt and Jack Davenport, he has the Steven Moffat connection from Sherlock. Finally, how awesome would it be if Martin Freeman were The Doctor and Benedict Cumberbatch was The Master?
Cons: Between Sherlock and The Hobbit, Freeman’s profile is at an all-time high. While he may be more open to playing The Doctor in the future, it just may not be the right time at this point in his life.
1. Richard Ayoade
Where You Know Him From:
The IT Crowd, The Watch
Pros: Anyone who has seen even a few seconds of Richard Ayoade’s scene-stealing performance as the socially stunted Maurice Moss on The IT Crowd can predict he’d make one hell of a Doctor. Boasting an off-kilter charm with an ability to rattle of technical jargon at a moment’s notice, Ayoade’s performance made for some of the show’s most gut-busting moments. Close your eyes while watching the show and you can picture Ayoade darting around the TARDIS controls, prattling on about some alien matter. Add in his unique heritage—Ayoade’s mother is Norwegian while his father is Nigerian—and you have a new Doctor for a new era.
Cons: With the exception of a scene-stealing role in the mostly forgettable comedy The Watch, Ayoade’s on-screen appearances since The IT Crowd have been relatively sparse. Thus, we’ve seen very little of him beyond his Moss performance. When it comes to casting The Doctor, as any Who fan will tell you, one of the essential elements is the ability to be funny while never letting it undermine the drama of the story. The Doctor’s comedic craziness must always be balanced by moments of legitimate dramatic heft. And while Ayoade’s directorial debut, Submarine, displayed his excellent grasp of the thin line between humor and melancholy, his dramatic abilities as an actor have yet to be explored. Furthermore, with his second feature currently wrapping up, it’s possible that Ayoade might very well prefer his future to be behind the camera.