If there’s anything Doctor Who obsessives love more than discussing their favorite incarnation of the iconic character, it’s trying to predict who will portray The Doctor next.
With the news that Peter Capaldi’s time as The 12th Doctor is coming to an end at the conclusion of the revival’s 10th season, fans almost immediately started lining up their favorites to be the next face of the franchise.
A brief aside, just in case you’ve never watched Doctor Who and don’t understand how the star of the show can keep leaving: The centuries-old Doctor (please don’t call him Doctor Who) is a Time Lord who can travel through space and time (as you’d expect a Time Lord to do). He seems to have a pretty strong spot in his heart for Earth and many of his adventures revolve around our little rock, usually bringing along a human companion or two to accompany him on his adventures. Every so often, The Doctor “regenerates,” creating an entirely new version of himself with new looks and characteristics (in real life, it’s because they wanted to keep the show going when the original actor wanted out). So The Doctor has been played by 12 different actors (13, if you include John Hurt, but that’s some Doctor Who 2.0 stuff we can go over a different time).
Every actor who has portrayed The Doctor has brought something different to the table and remade the character in some way. Christopher Eccleston imbued the character with a post-war weariness, while Matt Smith brought a sense of whimsy and fun to his version. Capaldi grounded the character with a bit of a bite and acted as something of a reboot to the earlier days when The Doctor was always an older man.
That’s an important note when it comes to the casting of The Doctor as well. He has always been a he and there isn’t a whole lot of grounding in why that needs to be the case. Sure, he was born male but if he’s capable of regenerating into an entirely new person, why can’t he be a she? There was a lot of pushback on this issue from showrunner Steven Moffat (who has never had a great track record when it comes to female characters) but now that he is moving on from the show, it seems as likely as ever. And to be fair, Moffat oversaw a gender-switch regenerarion for The Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, so he has clearly made it canon that The Doctor is capable of being female now.
Also, let’s not forget that The Doctor has always been white… for some reason. Again, there’s no logical reason that an alien who can change his look to anything needs to continue to have white skin, and given the sheer number of exciting choices across racial lines, it would be silly for the BBC not to consider actors and actresses from all backgrounds.
So as we attempt to figure out what the next incarnation of The Doctor might look like, let’s acknowledge that it’s a great time to consider regenerating the iconic character into a new gender or new racial background. But then again, they might not. Here are some of the biggest names and most likely choices being thrown out there and what kind of odds we think they’ve got to get their hands on the sonic screwdriver. Note that we left off people like Idris Elba and Eddie Redmayne because while choices like that sound exciting, they’re never going to happen.
After all of that talk of diversity and gender roles, let’s admit that until someone actually pulls the trigger on any of that, a white English guy is always going to be the favorite to play the next Doctor. Right now, Whishaw is that favorite (literally, according to betmakers). You might recognize him as the new Q in recent Bond films but he was also in The Lobster, The Danish Girl, and was the voice of Paddington Bear in that recent film. The one thing working against Whishaw is his own success. He’s a hot commodity in the film world and might not want to put his movie career on hold for three to four years in order to play the character.
How Likely: Maybe we’re crazy, but we don’t see it. He probably would have done it during the last regeneration, but that ship seems to have sailed.
Comedy fans know Ayoade from his role on The IT Crowd, but he’s split much of his time between writing/directing films and appearing on panel shows in the UK. He actually just signed on to host British game show The Crystal Maze, so the timing might not work out. There are plenty of things working in his favor, however. He’s a known quantity, can bring back the quirky side of The Doctor, and his trademark hair gives him a built-in angle to work with. Sometimes, the look of The Doctor matters as much as who he is.
How Likely: Chances are that they’ll want to go with someone younger and quirkier than Capaldi and Ayoade fits the bill. Will he want the gig, however? We’ll put him on our shortlist.
If you don’t already know Olivia Colman, you clearly aren’t watching any good TV. From Peep Show to Broadchurch to The Night Manager to Fleabag, she’s either stealing scenes or elevating them just with her presence. Colman doesn’t need Doctor Who, but you could make a case that Doctor Who needs her. What’s so interesting about her is that it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of Doctor she would be… but you just know it would be good. Plus, she’s already got the backing of a former Doctor.
How Likely: If they’re finally going to go with a female Doctor, they’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than Colman. Fingers crossed.
Kinnear is an extremely-talented and established actor in Britain. American audiences probably either know him as Frankenstein’s Monster in Penny Dreadful, Tanner from the Daniel Craig Bond movies, or “the guy who has sex with a pig” in Black Mirror. But he’s got a lot more than that going on (his Shakespeare and stage credits are too many to list). He’s not the sexiest pick, but he’s a dependable one.
How Likely: Kinnear was reportedly in the running, but lost out to Capaldi last time. That said, we think they pass on him now since they likely want to go with someone who brings back some quirk to the character. Don’t cry for Rory, he’ll be fine.
His credits are full of great performances and accolades, but let’s face it: You know him as Moriarty on Sherlock. You know this because his performance is among the most memorable things about the show. Scott is the kind of actor who makes choices. Sometimes those choices are big and sometimes they’re subtle. But they’re always interesting.
How Likely: Moriarty as The Doctor? YES YES YES. Scott’s had a very busy couple of years in cinema, but perhaps he’d be willing to put that on hold for this juicy role. We’re hopeful.
Ron Weasley? For real? Well, let’s think about it. After a bit of a post-Harry Potter lull, Grint’s career is taking off again. He’s starring in the new Snatch TV show and has another starring role coming up in Imperial City. He’s got a good mix of geeky and lovable if they want to soften the Doctor. He’s a good age if they’re looking to go younger with the character. His ginger hair will give The Doctor an angle for plenty of jokes. It’s possible.
How Likely: Grint has three different TV series in various stages right now. Would he actually add a fourth, especially this one? Seems unlikely. Plus, he’s already spent a huge chunk of his life in one epic fantasy story. Does he want another one?
Another actor who was reportedly high on the list until Capaldi snagged the role last time, Daniels’ career has taken off since. He’s currently starring in The Exorcist TV show and had a good role in Rogue One. The openly gay actor could bring a new element to the character if they decide to lean into that aspect. Otherwise, he’s a talented, well-respected thespian who could do some interesting things with the role.
How Likely: Another actor who probably could do it, but just doesn’t feel right anymore. At 52 years old, he’s probably aged out of the role now and besides, he’s got a full plate anyway.
An interesting choice here. Yes, he’s an older, white male, but he’s also a unique type of actor to step in and replace Capaldi. Flemyng has made a career of fantasy and sci-fi foles (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, X-Men: First Class, Black Mirror) and often finds a way to stand out even in crowded casts. He’s not the highest-profile name, but perhaps he’s the right kind of actor to make this important transition.
How Likely: We could see it. He’s a busy actor, but doesn’t have too many commitments that he couldn’t shelve for the role. And he’d bring a real sense of unpredictability back to the character. We’re intrigued.
Helena Bonham Carter
HBC has long been on the shortlist for actresses who would make a good Doctor and that hasn’t changed. She doesn’t do as much Hollywood fare as she used to (though she’s in the upcoming Ocean’s Eight), so it’s entirely possible she’d be up for it. Based on her varied career choices (Fight Club, Sweeney Todd, The Harry Potter movies), you just know she would create a unique vision of the character beyond the gender shift.
How Likely: There’s something about it that just doesn’t seem too likely, but we suppose never say never if they want to make a splash.
Word on the street is that Harewood has been offered the role before and there’s no reason to think they might not consider him again. He’s got the chops as a Royal Academy of Dramatic Art-trained Shakespearan actor and he’s also got the fantasy cred, thanks to roles in Supergirl, Robin Hood, and even a one-off in a Doctor Who episode a few years back. If they want to diversify the role and give it to a worthy actor who can sink his teeth into something, Harewood could be the person.
How Likely: Very possible, though that could complicate his ongoing role on Supergirl. He’d probably have to choose between the two.