Unless you live under a TARDIS, you know Matt Smith is quitting his tenure as the Doctor. Perhaps the only likely suspect who could get me to watch the next regeneration is Benedict Cumberbatch.
But, given his new Star Trek fame (and the fact he better damn well be concentrating on new Sherlock episodes), he’s a long shot. Also he’d be about as boring a status-quo Doctor as you could possibly squeeze out of the Dr. Who machine: tall, thin, dark and terribly British.
So who could break the Dr. Who mold? Here are my top-ten picks of people who probably won’t even be considered.
1. Dame Judi Dench
The first name that came to my mind when I thought about possible Doctors-in-waiting was “Jude”. And, oddly, it wasn’t Jude Law. No, we’re talking The Dame. Not only would she be a hard-as-nails Doctor, she’d bring a much needed reserve to her portrayal of the famous Time Lord. Also, she could play the role as a bit of a grandmotherly figure, which could be an interesting dynamic. Sort of like a sci-fi Nanny McPhee. But let’s face it, though she played M in the James Bond films (proving she’s not shy of lowly “genre” work), she’s not going to do it. So why bother even entertaining the daydream?
2. Helen Mirren
Someone who might do it though, is UK television aluma Helen Mirren. And she might even be a better choice. Old enough to play that same grandmotherly angle, but young enough that we’d not be worried about her breaking a hip. We already know from Prime Suspect she can also do hard-as-nails and, from those RED movies, she can do whatever action is required by Dr. Who. As a bonus, she’s more suited than Dench to playing up the Doctor’s annoying “zany” side (while still dialing it way back, hopefully).
3. Tilda Swinton
When I think of the Doctor, I think, “What a weirdo.” When I think of Tilda Swinton, I think, “What an awesome weirdo.” Done and done. Other than the fact she might actually be a Time Lord in real life (or a member of some other alien race) and might not want draw attention to that. Not that the Doctor has ever been terribly covert operator.
4. Adrian Thaws (Tricky)
So far I’ve been focusing on possible female actors to add a little much needed gender parity to the franchise. But, assuming they’re not going to make the Doctor a woman, how about a man who isn’t whiter-than-white? Tricky‘s done some underrated acting and is, like Tilda, a bit of a damn weirdo. I could listen to that odd marble-mouthed voice all day. Plus, his music career has been sputtering and stalling for the last decade and it’s been a bit painful to watch. Maybe a stint as the Doctor could help jump-start it again. Or just distract us from what’s become a perennial series of “come back album” failures.
5. Naveen Andrews
Yeah, Sayid from Lost. How about a suave and swarthy South Asian Doctor? It seems like an obvious choice for regeneration since this particular Time Lord is so freakin’ obsessed with being British every single time that he’d look to Jolly Old’s colonial past for inspiration. I know, I know, he couldn’t even choose to be ginger when he ended up as David Tennant, but still…
6. Dawn French
Considering how being “wacky” is apparently an entrenched character trait, a good Doctor should actually be played by a good comedian. And there aren’t many British comedians better than Dawn French. In fact, I think she might actually be my top pick on this list. If the producers would be brave enough to picture someone who is not male, not rail-thin and is over-40, French would be a perfect fit. In her career, she’s played characters who’ve displayed all the qualities required by a Doctor. Most importantly, when she acts goofy, unlike a certain someone named Christopher Eccleston, she’s entertaining to watch. That is, she induces laughter and not massive, full-body cringing.
7. Lenny Henry
Equally funny, though not as versatile (from what I’ve seen), French’s ex-husband Lenny Henry would be an interesting over-40 choice. Personally, I’d like to see a Doctor with the kind of snarky, ballsy, cocksure, arrogant-to-a-fault attitude displayed by his Chef. Also, dude’s black. Win-win.
8. George Takei
Sure, the obvious Star Trek veteran to play the Doctor would be Sir Patrick Stewart. But maybe it’s time for an American actor to fill the role. Why always British? Why always straight? I don’t think I really have to make a case for why George Takei would be an amazing Doctor. You’re already nodding you head. Oh myyyy indeed.
9. Katie Leung
Likewise, the obvious Harry Potter alumni for the role would be Dan Radcliffe, or the more likely in need of work, Rupert Grint. But what about Katie Leung who played Cho Chang? Scottish and Asian! Okay, okay. She’s more an “affirmative action” choice here. She made no impression on me at all as Cho other than being oatmeal. So, really, she’d be perfect companion material. Spunky but kind of boring. There needs to be a little diversity on that side of the Dr. Who equation too, after all.
10. Rowan Atkinson
Okay, if there has got to be a white guy in the list (since they’re obviously going to pick a white guy), how about Mr. Blackadder Bean? Like Dawn French and Lenny Henry, Rowan Atknison is a top-shelf comedian. And though we rarely get to see him not being a completely irritating clown, he can do straight as well as anyone (and also comedy that isn’t based on pulling stupid faces). It’s actually a crime against acting that his serious side hasn’t really been given its day in court. It’d be interesting to see the Doctor as an older, Oxford professor type as well. Leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket and all that. Maybe smokes a pipe and needs reading glasses. Dr. Who could be the role of his lifetime.