The Unknown Next Doctor

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Guest contributor Ross Whyatt examines why a largely unknown actor is most likely.

Finally, on Sunday we will be able to end the long drawn-out hype of who will play the next Doctor. But do we already know? Bookies have opened their doors to thousands of fans who believe they have the answer we are all waiting for. But there is one thing each and every prediction has in common: they are all pretty well known actors. Ben Whishaw from Skyfall, Damien Molony from Being Human, Peter Capaldi from The Thick of It (and… Doctor Who, Torchwood), and Helen Mirren from well… everything. They have all been linked with the role and can be regarded as established actors. Do we want someone who we’ve seen before, or are we after a fresh new face?

Matt SmithIt is common knowledge to Doctor Who fans that back in 2010 when Matt Smith was announced as the 11th Doctor, nobody expected him. His acting credentials were very low and he only happened to find himself as an actor after suffering an injury as a semi-professional football player. Yes, he had starred in a couple of episodes of this and that, but he was still regarded as “unknown”. This didn’t stop him though and he took to the role like a duck to water. He brought his own flare but still managed to pull off the ongoing personality of a “mad man in a box” perhaps better than anyone before him. Because he was an unfamiliar actor, I believe audiences found it easier to regard him as “the Doctor” without trying to separate the character from any different roles Smith had played. This is why I think it is absurd that over the past few months, interviewers have asked Daniel Radcliffe if he would ever consider the role. The world has unfortunately typecast him as “Harry Potter” and he could never successfully play another character that is so well known. I, like many others, struggle to watch films like “The Woman in Black” without wondering where he has misplaced his glasses or when he will whip out his wand. It just would not work.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell, was active as an actor for an amazing 38 years before he took the role of the Doctor, but had no inclination how big this new show would become when he first signed up. For him, it looked good on paper and he was creating a new character. Every actor since then has had an increasingly harder time taking to the role as the popularity of the show has grown and each new Doctor must adapt their version to all previous versions to bring something new, but also still stay true to the character. Hartnell was cast as a reasonably well known actor having starred in many Television shows and films prior to the Doctors casting but if you were to ask someone today who they think of when you say his name, they will most likely reply “the First Doctor”. If it is a well known actor Moffat has chosen, he will have chosen someone who is known but not associated such with any other role.

Along with the constant churned out reports of a gay Doctor, black Doctor, female Doctor, or you-name-it Doctor, another question that has been commonly asked is if the next Doctor will be even younger than Matt Smith was when he began. Surely if this is true and it’s a well known Doctor they are after, the producers at the BBC will be scouring through the credits of such shows as Waterloo Road or Tracy Beaker to find the next suitable replacement. Goodness, can you imagine? I highly disagree with the thought of each Doctor getting younger as the fact that the role is played by an adult actor, but the character is so childish, forms one of the Doctors traits we’ve encountered over 11 incarnations and 50 years. I felt with Matt being so young, he struggled to bring the same playful behaviour we have seen in older Doctors such as Tom Baker or David Tennant, as it was just expected from such a young man.

If Moffat stays on form, he will no doubt surprise us all once again with someone who we do not expect. That is a risk but he’s taken that risk before and it worked, which means he is more than capable of taking that gamble again. I’m telling you it’ll be someone who we may recognize from a drama a few years ago, but other than that, the name won’t “ring a bell”.

I want to know what you think about the casting of the next Doctor. Should he/she be a well known actor or somebody we’ve heard nothing or little about? I personally hope Moffat makes the right decision in choosing an actor who we don’t associate with another character. Somebody who has had experience in the television industry would be good but not someone we would be able to recall. Whoever this person is, their life is about to change so so much.