The Doctor in Doctor Who is one of the most prominent roles on British Television, a leading role on a primetime sci-fi show that is a big hit internationally. Many of the actors – from Tom Baker to David Tennant – have become recognizable after being The Doctor.
There have been reports and rumors that Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat’s time on the show is nearing to an end and the BBC will be needing to find a new star and showrunner for Doctor Who.
The Doctor is a unique character because there is no restrictions on race, class or creed, or even gender. They just need to be a good actor from any region of the British Isles who is a talented serious actor with excellent comic timing. There are many actors who want the role and others fans would like to see as The Doctor so we at Monkeys Fighting Robots look at ten actors and actresses who could make an excellent thirteenth Doctor.
This article comes with a note of caution because the BBC has surprised us with the casting of The Doctor – such as casting a then unknown Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.
Steven Moffat has stated he would like to see a woman play The Doctor and Hayley Atwell has expressed an interest in the role during a Twitter Q&A session saying “I’d like to BE Doctor Who”. Casting a woman as The Doctor (and having an actress who calls the character ‘Doctor Who’) would be a very controversial move that would divide fans, but Atwell would be a brilliant actress for the role.
Atwell is best known for playing Peggy Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and she gave that character plenty of spunk – she was introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger by punching an army recruit who sexually harassed her. Atwell can certainly play a strong-willed Doctor who would use all her guile and wits to face any adversary.
Atwell has looked good in historical costumes, dressing in Regency dresses (The Duchess), World War One nurse outfits (Testament of Youth) and World War Two army officer uniforms (Captain America: The First Avenger). The showrunners and costume designers would have a lot of historical outfits for her role as The Doctor and could give her a slightly masculine/tomboyish sense of dress to ease us into having a female Doctor.
However Atwell is busy leading Agent Carter for ABC, so it would be unlikely she could lead two major TV shows at the same time.
Richard Ayoade is a big personality in the UK, working as an actor, a TV presenter and as a writer/director and is considered by fans of Doctor Who to be a popular choice to play the famous lead. Ayoade is best known for playing the highly geeky Moss with poor social skills in The IT Crowd. It is a persona Ayoade has played up when presenting and appearing on comedy panel shows and he could easily transfer these characteristics if he got to play The Doctor. Ayoadye already has a distinctive look with his afro and glasses.
Ayoade would easily be able to portray The Doctor’s intellect – he has a law degree from the University of Cambridge – and he was the president of The Footlights Dramatic Club when he was a student.
If the showrunners do decide to go down the route of casting a female Doctor they need to find a talented actress with a wide range and make a character with their own distinctive style. Tilda Swinton and Helena Bonham Carter have been taunted by fans and the media, but it would be highly unluckily either of them would take the role.
Olivia Colman is a respected and prolific actress in the UK – appearing in shows like Peep Show, Rev and Broadchurch and movies like Hot Fuzz and Tyrannosaur. She clearly has the necessary comedic and dramatic abilities for the role. In the past Colman has played characters who on the surface seem like very sweet and nice persona but have darkness underneath. This was the case with Sophie in Peep Show who at first seems like a friendly co-worker but slowly evolves into a selfish woman who used Mark Corrigan and in Tyrannosaur she was a friendly charity shop worker who had a troubled home life. Colman also showed she can perform physical comedy as the Marriage Counsellor in I Give a Year, so it would be easy to picture her playing around with lots of high tech gizmos.
Colman could play a very kooky Doctor – being the crazy aunt version of the famous sci-fi character – but also harbor the burden of all the actions The Doctor has conducted and all the deaths he/she has seen.
Colman has appeared in the Fifth Series opener “The Eleventh Hour” as a psychic projection of Prisoner Zero and the show would need to address it like what happened with Peter Capaldi who also appearing as Lobus Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii”.
Since completing their work on the Harry Potter series Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have had great success. Their co-star Rupert Grint has a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately for Grint he has been seen as a potential Doctor by the media.
Grint is obviously best known as Ron Weasley, the comic relief out of the Harry Potter trio, but still very brave in the face of danger. Since finishing the famous movie series, Grint has appeared in the Dutch war movie Into the White, the music bio-pic CBGB and comedy movie Moonwalkers. Grint’s version of The Doctor would easily be a joker, a light-hearted figure but still willing to charge head first into battle.
One of The Doctor’s biggest fears is regeneration would give him ginger hair and it would be fun to see how The Doctor would react and have some self-deprecating humor at Grint’s expense.
Another alumni from Peep Show, and my personal top choice to make The Doctor, from made it onto this list is Paterson Joseph. Best known for playing Johnson on the cult sitcom, Joseph is a prolific actor on TV, appearing in shows like The Leftovers, Babylon and Hyperdrive. He has also appeared in plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company and film fans will know him for stealing the show in The Beach as Keaty, professing his love for God and cricket (a great example of what kind Doctor speech he could give).
As Johnson Joseph played Mark Corrigan’s boss, a highly confident businessman with an unshakeable swagger, a sharp dresser and at times a complete asshole, all great qualities for anyone to play The Doctor. He could easily give a smug, superior attitude, has the ability to put down his friends and enemies and during the Peep Show episode “The Affair” he played a more insane Johnson. Joseph could easily balance the comedic and dramatic side.
Joseph was the bookies favorite to replace David Tennant as the Eleventh Doctor before Matt Smith got the role. Joseph also played a role in the Series One finale, but the casting of Capaldi set a precedent that actors had previous preformed on Doctor Who can still be The Doctor.
Hugh Laurie is a great British institution, an actor and singer who has starred in Blackadder and House and would make an excellent Doctor, even if his casting would be more fanciable we can still dream.
To British audiences Laurie is best remembered as Prince George and Lt. George in the third and fourth seasons of Blackadder – both were upper-class twits. One of them is a spoiled man-child, the other a well meaning but dim army officer. However it’s his work on House and Spooks that shows what sort of Doctor Laurie could be, an egotistical being who relishes his intelligence and love for high culture and treats everyone around him with contempt. It would be in keeping with the Doctor’s character traits.
House helped make Laurie into a household name in America, but the drawback for Doctor Who was becoming one of the highest paid actors on TV, earning $409,000 per episode and he has been linked to big movies like Superman Returns and the 2014 reboot of Robocop. But it would be a coup for the BBC if they were able to rehire him.
Back in September 2015, when the ninth season was first aired in the UK, viewing figures were low and there were rumors in the British press that the BBC were considering replacing Peter Capaldi with his fellow Scot Richard Madden. However the reason the viewing figures were low was because of the Rugby World Cup and in an age of digital recordings and catch up TV audiences were able to watch the show any time they wanted, making it a non-story. Still let’s give Madden a fair hearing.
Madden is best known for playing Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, being a young man who is thrust into leadership and become a skilled military commander. He was a fighter and a romantic and he has appeared in other shows such as BBC’s adaptation of Birdsong with Eddie Redmayne, the Discovery Channel mini-series Klondike and a TV movie adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Madden has also been breaking into Hollywood, playing Prince Kit in Disney’s live-action version of Cinderella.
Madden is talented but his ability with comedy is unproven considering many of his roles have been serious and straight. He is also appearing in the upcoming action movie Bastille Day with Idris Elba, so he properly has ambitions to start in more movies after appearing so much on television.
If Madden did play The Doctor he should play up a light-hearted swashbuckling type: he has proven he can handle a sword in Game of Thrones and Cinderella. He could dress in a similar manner to Prince Kit in Cinderella, in some sort of pseudo-18th style clothing, or maybe be the upper-class Victorian version of the Doctor, someone who wears coat-tails and top hats.
Madden does have some similarities to former Doctor David Tennant – both are Scottish, can do an excellent English accent and are renowned for being very good looking. He is also Jenna Coleman’s partner in real life, so she can give Madden some tips.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, James Nesbitt has been a prolific actor in the UK, starring in shows like the police drama Murphy’s Law, comedy-drama show Cold Feet and Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday. Film fans would recognize him as Bofur from The Hobbit trilogy. Nesbitt has also worked with Steven Moffat on his modernized adaptation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, simply titled Jekyll, which put Nesbitt at an advantage.
Throughout his career Nesbitt has weaved between being deadly serious and very jovial – sometimes within the same role. He would be an excellent fit to play The Doctor, a charming Jack-the-Lad type with a sense of humor, but also delivers on the dramatic side. His work on Jekyll shows he flips between being a desperate family man to a more vicious thug.
Nesbitt was considered by the bookies the favorite to replace David Tennant as The Doctor during the Season Four finale “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” when it looked like there was going to be a surprise regeneration. He is also set to star in a new series, Lucky Man, created by Stan Lee.
We have had Doctors from Scotland and various regions of England, so why not have an Irish Doctor?
Another Irish actor that should be ideal for the role of The Doctor is Chris O’Dowd. Hailing from the Republic of Ireland, O’Dowd is known for his role on The IT Crowd as the slightly more socially apt but grumpy Roy. Considering he has to answer the same questions everyday you can hardly blame him acting like that.
O’Dowd has been more successful as an actor than his IT Crowd co-star, appearing in movies like Bridesmaids, Thor: The Dark World, Calvary and St. Vincent. He also writes and stars in his own Irish sitcom, Moone Boy where he plays the imaginary friend to a weird child. O’Dowd has also been branching out into more serious roles, co-starring with Ben Foster in the Lance Armstrong drama The Program.
O’Dowd has a deadpan delivery and that would be a great virtue for any Doctor as he faces his enemies, answers stupid questions or simply defuses a tense situation for his companions. It would be a defence mechanism as much as a character trait.
O’Dowd would be a great Doctor, but his busy schedule may make his casting less likely.
In a recent Q&A session on Reddit where Tim Roth allowed fans to ask him anything he was asked if would like to be the next Doctor. His response was “Ok. If this is the casting director, I’m all for it”. Obviously the statement needs to be treated with a pitch of salt seeing he could hardly saying “no”, but let’s treat Roth’s statement with respect.
Tim Roth is an accomplished actors, starring in movies like Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight and The Incredible Hulk and he would bring a lot of gravitas to the role of The Doctor. Roth has also been doing more independent movies recently, starring in the independent British movie Broken, had supporting roles in movies like Selma and has done television work – starring in the TV series Lie to Me and the TV movie Skelling. He has however starred in some clunkers recently, appearing in Grace of Monaco and the notorious FIFA propaganda movie United Passions as Sepp Blatter. Roth even admitted he only did United Passions for the money.
Roth is an intense actor, many of his roles have been in serious dramas and he could easily deliver being the lonesome traveller who has seen the universe and all the pain and suffering that comes with it. Peter Capaldi was originally envisaged to be a darker version of The Doctor, but Roth would be a better fit for that type of Doctor (Capaldi is known more for being a comedic actor). He has played many villains during his career (i.e. Planet of the Apes and The Incredible Hulk) and other characters who have had mixed loyalties, so Roth could easily portray a conflicted version of The Doctor.
Also Roth has played The Doctor in an episode of Robot Chicken.