The hit BBC show Doctor Who released some saddening yet inevitable news this weekend; Matt Smith, who plays the eleventh incarnation of the titular Doctor, will be leaving the show following this year’s Christmas special. Smith’s departure is not unprecedented; in fact, the very nature of the character at the centre of the show is that they regenerate into a new person every so often, a loophole that allows for a seamless departure of a performer without disrupting the show. Speculation on who shall play the Time Lord after Smith’s departure has always existed in some form, never lower than a murmur, and is bound to intensify now that there is a definitive end date to Smith’s tenure. To that end, here are ten performers we’d like to see take on the role of The Doctor after Smith’s departure.
Known to many film fans for head-turning supporting performances in Serenity, Children of Men, and Inside Man, Ejiofor has proven himself capable of handling a wide variety of emotions convincingly and effectively, a key trait for anyone who takes on the role of The Doctor. The part requires someone who can go from conveying a sense of childlike awe to giving the air of a ruthless army general at the drop of a hat, something Ejiofor is perfectly capable of doing. In making him the Twelfth Doctor, the show would gain a fantastic actor, and Ejiofor would get a well-deserved high profile role, making it a win-win for everyone.
Kate Ashfield is perhaps best known to many for her role as the object of Shaun Pegg’s affections in the 2004 zombie comedy hit Shaun of the Dead. Her ability to keep a straight face and play it serious in the face of increasingly incredulous surroundings, however, as displayed in the movie, makes her a great fit for the role of The Doctor. Whoever takes on the role will have to effectively sell the idea of The Doctor’s numerous unconventional foes, from the Daleks to the Weeping Angels, being among the most feared beings in the universe, a feat that Ashfield is more than capable of pulling off if given the opportunity.
3) Lara Pulver
One of the highlights of Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat’s other show, Sherlock, was the character of Irene Adler. While many have expressed concern about the changes the show chose to make from the version of Adler presented in the original books, very few disagreed with the notion that Lara Pulver was perfect for the role, exuding a sense of confidence and an air of being the smartest person in the room. Those same skills would serve her well in playing the role of The Doctor as well, and her prior work with Moffat gives her an added advantage of being comfortable with him as well, making her a great choice to take over from Matt Smith.
Actress Naomie Harris has turned in a series of strong supporting performances over the years, in everything from 28 Days Later to the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean features, to Miami Vice to, most recently, Skyfall. The diverse range of film genres in which she has worked proves her versatility, and her ability to get noticed even when working alongside stars such as Johnny Depp and Daniel Craig are proof positive that she can handle a leading role as big as the one she’d be given with a show like Doctor Who. All told, Harris would be an excellent selection for the Twelfth Doctor, and would be able to put her own spin on the character while staying true to the show’s roots.
Known to most for his fantastic turn as Iraqi ex-soldier Sayid Jarrah in the hit series Lost, Naveen Andrews may seem like an odd choice for this role, given that Sayid was a stoic and calculating character who rarely stepped into the forefront without assessing a situation thoroughly. However, those are key ingredients of the Time Lord at the centre of Doctor Who as well, and Andrews would be able to perfectly convey the Doctor’s desire to intervene when necessary, but remain in the shadows when it is not. In addition, out-of-character interviews with Andrews reveal an individual with a genuine sense of humour, which is a side Andrews was unable to show much of on Lost, but which would fit in right at home on Doctor Who, allowing him to blend both sides together to give a potentially memorable performance.
Perhaps best known for her leading role in 2002’s surprise hit Bend It Like Beckham, Nagra has also since spread her wings on television, in key roles on E.R. and the short-lived Alcatraz. All three performances required her to portray a character who was resourceful in the face of adversarial situations that seemed over her head at first glance, and she delivered equally well all three times. Ending up in adversarial conditions that require a level of resourcefulness to resolve is one of the defining traits of The Doctor, thus making Nagra a sure thing in being able to convey the sense of danger and skill, week in and week out, that make the character so iconic, and thus a great choice for the role.
7) Paul Bettany
Paul Bettany has made a career out of playing unexpected and offbeat supporting roles in movies such as A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code, making, in a sense, his entire career a leadup to the most offbeat role of all, that of a 1200 year old time and space travelling alien with two hearts. Bettany’s proven himself a skilled actor time and time again, often being listed as the highlight of otherwise dismal features, and there’s no doubt he would be able to pull off the demands of playing The Doctor, and bring a unique style to his performance that would set him apart from the other inhabitants of the role.
8) Romola Garai
In her role as 50s news producer Bel Rowley on the BBC series The Hour, Garai commanded the screen as her character battled through pressures from all facets of her life, trying to do what was right, and what felt right, throughout. The Doctor has similarly been called on to grapple with moral dilemmas and questions of the greater good, and will no doubt continue to do so, and Garai has proven that she can bring the necessary gravitas to her performance to lend weight to those situations, and how she tackles a role in a completely different genre from her last television outing could prove fascinating to watch.
9) Rupert Grint
Perhaps the most famous name on this list, Grint already has a career-defining role in his resume as Ron Weasley, best friend to Harry Potter across eight films spanning ten years. The standout trait of Weasley, which Grint was able to wonderfully convey onscreen, was his compassion and willingness to wade into danger to help protect someone. Fans of Doctor Who will recognise this as something Ron has in common with The Doctor, who will often come to the defence of seemingly outmatched beings in the universe, often being the only thing standing between them and total destruction, and Grint would be able to convey that determination to do good excellently. He would also fulfill a lifelong dream of The Doctor by being the character’s first ginger incarnation, which is a nice bonus.
10) Terence Stamp
Despite its recent rise in popularity in North America, Doctor Who remains, at its heart, a quintessentially British show, and very few working actors are more quintessentially British than Terence Stamp, perhaps best exemplified and played up in his role in The Limey. Stamp has proven, over his long career, to be effective at tackling roles of all kinds, whether serious, comedic, or a blend of the two, and is no stranger to the science fiction genre, most notably playing the role of General Zod in Superman II. He can be relied on to pull off being the centre of focus no matter the situation, and would be a fantastic choice to take over from Smith.
Of course, these are just a few of the people who would be a great addition to the group of actors who have driven the TARDIS. None of this accounts for the possibility of going outside the UK to find someone suitable for the role, taking someone like John Cho out of the running, nor does it allow for the possibility of someone who has previously appeared on the show to return as the newest incarnation, ruling out the likes of Sophie Okonedo, who played Liz 10 in Season 5 of the show. The show, since its revival in 2005, has also done an excellent job of casting previously unknown performers, all of whom have been stellar choices, and going down this route is likely to yield positive results once again. No matter who ends up in the role following the Christmas Special and Smith’s departure, however, one thing is sure; watching their translation of The Doctor will be a lot of fun.
– Deepayan Sengupta