We’re in limbo with Doctor Who again. It’s always a strange place to be and the fact the show is in this position every few years doesn’t make it any more comfortable. With a single episode due this year, Moffat stepping down next year and Chris Chibnall coming aboard, there are nothing but questions. Will Capaldi stay? If not, who will Chibnall get in to replace him?
And, most interestingly, will this Doctor be male? Or white?
Missy and the first on-screen male-to-female regeneration in “Hell Bent” seemed to be easing us into the idea of a female Doctor. River’s regeneration in “Let’s Kill Hitler” proved that changing ethnicity is no barrier for Time Lords. It opens the door not just to some fascinating new takes on the character but to an incredible range of some of the best actors and actresses on the planet. We don’t know if a non-white, female Doctor is being looked at as the next incumbent of the TARDIS but we do hope so. After all, this is a show defined by change and those are two changes that when they finally arrive will not be a moment too soon.
So, join us for a look at our dream shortlist. The next Doctors will see you now…
Dame Helen Mirren
Let Me Dream A Moment, God, Part One… Mirren was one of the instigators of the original female Doctor conversation and at the time hinted she’d like the role. She’s since rowed back from that, instead stating her desire to be a Bond villain which would also be amazing.
However, the thought of a Mirren-commanded TARDIS is a truly wondrous one. Her wit and presence are perfect for the role and even better, she’d open the door for other actresses of similar reputation to be on the show. A Dame Judi Dench Missy would be the stuff of magnificent, artful nightmares. So, not going to happen, but lovely if it did.
Let Me Dream A Moment, God, Part One… Attwell has said she’d like the role and she’d knock it out of the park. As Peggy Carter she’s shown immense grit, determination, compassion and physical presence. She’s also got a bone dry, laconic approach with a light seasoning of “Tally ho!” flamboyance that would suit the Doctor to a tee. I don’t rate the chances of getting her as particularly high but if we did…
I’m calling it now, if Chibnall casts a female Doctor, and he should, it will be Olivia Colman. Here’s why; firstly she’s amazing. If you’ve only seen her in Peep Show then you’ve seen a third, at most, of what she’s capable of. She’s naturally very funny and can play multiple tones within that. Witness the gradated levels of social embarrassment in Peep Show versus her magnificently crude turn in Hot Fuzz.
But that’s just the start. Her work on movies like the crushing Tyrannosaur and shows like Broadchurch coupled that humour with presence, intelligence and raw emotional honesty. Her work on Broadchurch also means she has a strong, previously-established relationship with Chibnall and Tennant. Capaldi’s talked a lot about how having a mentor of sorts in Matt Smith helped him adjust to the role and if she wants it, Colman clearly already has that in place. In other words, if a female Doctor is being looked at, and it should be, then it’s Colman’s role to lose.
Harris’s take on Moneypenny in the current Bond series is excellent, in some cases despite the scripts. She, like Archie Panjabi who we’ll get to in a minute, can project threat very easily. Her work on 28 Days Later was an early indicator of just how physically capable, and intimidating, she can be when needed. That, coupled with her intelligence and subtlety as a performer would make for a very interesting, very different, kind of Doctor.
Crichlow has geek cred for miles thanks to her excellent work in Being Human, Black Mirror and, like Meera Syal below, a memorable guest turn on Doctor Who. She’s naturally charming in a way that’s a lot more open than many of the other performers here but also excels when she’s allowed to work from a position of authority. Plus, as with Syal, there are interesting thematic reasons for the Doctor to choose this particular face.
One of the biggest names on this list, Panjabi is best known for her starmaking turn as Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife. She excels at nuanced performances, able to play a character clearly thinking and reacting on multiple levels at once. She’s also naturally very funny as shown in East Is East and, when called upon to be, one of the most intimidating performers on this list.
Ramon Tikaram is one of those actors who improves whatever he’s cast in. He was excellent in Fortitude, had a memorable supporting turn in Primeval and stole Dragon Age: Inquisition as the charmingly snippy Dorian.
He’d be a perfect Doctor because, like so many other performers on this list, he has huge natural charisma and authority. Tikaram commands your attention, always gives the impression he’s thinking three or four steps ahead and has arguably the most mellifluous voice since Tom Baker’s. For those reasons in particular, he makes the list.
The first of the two Sense8 cast members on this list, Andrews is best known for his role as Sayid in Lost but his turn in Sense8 is a hint of what his Doctor would be like. In fact Jonas is basically an audition reel for the Doctor; a more than slightly otherworldly, compassionate genius whose polite reticence may cover a very dark past. It’s a great role, one that plays to Andrews’ numerous strengths and sets him up as another Doctor-in-waiting.
There are three things that make Meera Syal perfect for The Doctor. The first is her wonderfully long-suffering comic timing and delivery. The second is her natural presence, a vital factor in a character who has to own every scene without visibly stealing them. The third, weirdly, is canonical. Now we know the Doctor can choose faces of people he’s met, there’s some interesting emotional baggage attached to Syal. Dr Nasreen Chaudhry, the character she played in “Cold Blood” and “The Hungry Earth”, sacrificed everything to join her not-quite boyfriend a thousand years in the future. She was brave, compassionate and selfless. In other words, exactly what the Doctor tries to be.
Henry has been writing, producing and starring in TV for decades. He’s a weirdly underrated performer too, a man who has huge intelligence and authority as well as bringing a captive audience of sorts with him to the role. He’s also firmly in the Capaldi zone; an endlessly respected character actor known for other work who could bring his own unique stamp to an iconic role.
Oyelowo’s had a really interesting career. Excellent, if on occasion chronically underused, in Spooks he graduated to Hollywood and worked his way up to a starring role in the incredible Selma as Martin Luther King. The determination, strength and compassion he showed there demonstrated just how talented a performer he is. Those qualities are what the Doctor aspires to and, sometimes, doesn’t reach and Oyelowo could show every inch of that struggle in a way the role hasn’t seen since Peter Davison.
Ameen doesn’t quite have the experience of some of the others on this list but he makes up for it with talent and sheer presence. He’s amazing as Capheus in Sense8, balancing incredible compassion and serenity with a huge amount of natural humour and exuberance. Sound like anyone we know?
One of the finest actors of his generation, Malik is a man so talented he even found some measure of depth as the world’s most stereotypical terrorist leader in True Lies. He is, like so many other people on this list, the total package. He’s got intelligence by the bucket load, incredible presence, excellent comic timing and is the perfect age to continue the intense feel the Capaldian era has had.