The Console Room

GeekPlanetOnline's resident Doctor Who Correspondent Martin Thompson takes a deeper look at the adventures of a mad man in a box, along with his friends, foes and fandom. With over fifty years of rubber monsters, changing faces, dented police boxes, exterminations and pointed goatees to look at, he has more than a few things to say on the subject...

The new series has now officially started, and already Bill Potts seems to be winning over audiences as she has embarked on the trip of a lifetime (although rumours now have it that she will only be with us for a single series). However new and shiny this series feels, though, there is something a little off with the knowledge that both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat will be leaving us at the end of the year, so there is somewhat of a cloud hanging over it - an oncoming storm if you will.

Whilst we know that Chris Chibnall is the new head honcho we still don’t know (at the time of writing) who will be the next Who. Capaldi was given the opportunity to stay on by Chibnall, but after the now traditional three years he has confirmed that he will be returning the electric guitar to the TARDIS music room at Christmas 2017, stating that the job is a very intense one and that he didn’t want to get to the point when he would be “phoning it in”, which demonstrates the great respect he has for the role. That same respect I feel is also extended to the incoming showrunner who, from the beginning, Capaldi has felt should have his own Doctor to make a mark on the show with. Indeed, it would have been interesting to see how long he would have stayed on had Moffat signed on for series 11 or had left a couple of years ago. Capaldi has also been quoted as saying that he has already shot his regeneration despite the fact that filming is yet to begin on the Christmas special. The latest series trailer also appears to show the Doctor regenerating.

To be honest, whilst the casting of a new actor is exciting, in recent years it has become a part of the modern series that I dread, as fandom will become divided over not just who should play the Doctor but their skin colour and gender. The idea of a female Doctor was first introduced by a demob-happy Tom Baker upon his resignation in 1980 and, although the idea was brought into the series in The Doctor’s Wife by mention of The Corsair and the introduction of The Master’s new female incarnation Missy, Moffat put a full stop on it in Hell Bent, where we witnessed the old, white, male general regenerate into a young, black female. With trans issues very much in the news these days, a female Doctor could add an edge to the character and lend comment to a very hot topic of our times. I also find myself swayed in part by the argument that the Doctor should remain a man because there are very few heroes around these days for young boys to look up to who use their brains rather than their fists.

Before I write further, I should just add that personally I’m willing to give whoever is cast in the role a chance no matter who they are and what background they are from regardless of race, gender, colour and creed. Even writing this, I feel that I will have to be prepared for a backlash as we only seem to only see things in extremes these days. You’re either an overly PC leftie or a sexist, racist jerk and this is part of my problem as well as the urgency; headlines scream out from the internet that THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW, as if the casting of a Doctor that is outside of the usual white male template is the last step we need to complete a Utopian society, which it isn’t. It’s just the lead actor in a TV show and one that will change over and over again. What matters is that we get the best person for the job. A good dramatic actor who can also handle comedy, lots of technobabble and can embody a certain alien quality. Chibnall has said that he didn’t want the casting to be “a gimmick”, and the sad truth is that if the Doctor is anything other than a white male then that is exactly what it will be seen, in the eyes of the media at least, until they are allowed to bed into the role. Matt Smith came under some terrible scrutiny for his youth all of which was mostly forgotten once he showed us his stuff in The Eleventh Hour. The producers were initially looking for an actor over 40 but Matt impressed them so much that he was offered the gig.

Around this time, any celebrity who expresses an interest in the role seems to be treated as if they have already got it. Indeed, last time around in 2013, Paris Jackson (daughter of Michael) made the front cover of The Sun simply by saying that she would love the role.  So who are the runners and riders this year? Well, at the time of writing, My Family and Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall was rumoured to have been cast, and personally, I think he would be an interesting choice. Good at comedy, but I haven’t seen enough of him as a dramatic actor. The same could also be said of comedian Richard Ayoade, who is also being rumoured for the role. On the non-male side Agent Carter’s Haley Atwell would be a great choice, and her time in that role has shown that she can handle action, drama and humour. Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge is also a bookies favourite and will already be featuring in another famous sci-fi franchise when she appears in the currently-filming Han Solo movie; she could certainly bring the otherworldliness needed and a steely intelligence to the role. David Harewood has also been mooted but he’s presently in Supergirl as Hank Henshaw, so he’s probably signed up to a contract should a third season be commissioned. Tilda Swinton, Natalie Dormer, Maxine Peake, Richard Madden and Olivia Coleman have also been mentioned. Eddie Redmayne also said he would love to take on the role and in essence he already has; few fans could have seen his performance as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them without thinking of the Eleventh Doctor.

Personally, I would love to see Ben Wishaw take on the role after his turn as crusading journalist Freddie Lyon in The Hour, although he’s already taken on the role of Q in the recent James Bond films and has said that he wouldn’t want to take on another iconic part. I also feel that anyone who saw Bertie Carvel play magician Jonathan Strange in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell can doubt that he would be a marvellous Doctor. Finally, a letter to Doctor Who Magazine #510 by Mark Holding proposed that the Thirteenth Doctor takes an “all of the above” approach that would see regeneration in a permanent state of flux between alternate leads swapping each (or even mid) episode. Now that really would be revolutionary. 

Whoever gets handed the key to the TARDIS, the casting will likely be met with another glitzy BBC announcement-fest as with that which greeted Peter Capaldi. At least once this is done the “new Doctor” speculation and hoopla will be over (for at least another three years, anyway) and we can go back to enjoying the new series and the final hours of Peter Capaldi before everything changes once more; I doubt that any changes to the Doctor’s colour or sex will make much of a difference to the show’s core format of action and adventure anyway. No matter what happens, when the chips are down and an invading army is on the way, the Doctor is the person that you trust to save the day no matter what appearance they may take.