When Jodie Whittaker was announced as the thirteenth incarnation of Doctor Who, reactions were fairly mixed, to put it as delicately as possible. A woman? As Doctor Who? What’s next, women wanting to vote?
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Let’s not forget that the doctor is an extraterrestrial Time Lord, whose appearance as any type of recognisable creature or gender is little more than narrative convenience, and a handy way to keep the special effects budget down.
Although Whittaker’s casting could be interpreted as progress, much like when Barack Obama was elected president, what happens now that Whittaker is leaving the role? Will the part be taken by yet another white guy, much like when Donald Trump was elected president?
The fandom might have very specific ideas about what Doctor Who should look like, but the BBC won’t necessarily agree. Yes, once upon a time, it could be safely assumed that whomever was cast as Doctor Who would very much fit a certain archetype. But the times they are a-changin’ and surely this makes speculation about who will be the fourteenth Doctor Who all the more interesting? Let’s take a very scientific look at who might be a contender, along with the work that makes them all sensible choices to enter the TARDIS.
He’s best known as the frontman for electro-pop band Years & Years (and these days, he’s the only man), but Olly Alexander initially entered the spotlight as an actor, working with such directors as Jane Campion (in Bright Star) and Gaspar Noé (in Enter the Void).
He received very positive notices for his work in the 2021 miniseries It’s a Sin, which was written by Russel T Davies, actually brought back Doctor Who in 2005 after a long hiatus. In fact, immediately after Whitaker’s announcement, Alexander became a frontrunner to replace her. It counts against him that he’s released a statement saying he would prefer to focus on his music if the role was indeed offered, but maybe Alexander will have to make a decision: a lucrative ongoing gig in a beloved show, or trying to schedule a Years & Years tour around the 287th Coronavirus variant.
Michaela Coel is nothing if not versatile. British viewers first got to know her from her insightful and warmly ludicrous sitcom Chewing Gum, and more recently, she delivered the searingly good drama I May Destroy You. The thing is that Cole does her most interesting work in material that she’s also written, meaning she might not want to commit to having so little say over her character’s direction and destiny. Doctor Who is also rather time-consuming, and Cole has just joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe (in the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), meaning she might be spoken for in terms of franchises.
Sure, Tovey has already made an appearance in Doctor Who, playing Midshipman Alonso Frame in the 2007 Christmas special Voyage of the Damned (alongside Kylie Minogue), but that’s not a dealbreaker. As a performer, he’s earnest and heartfelt, and this would make him an interesting choice to play the fourteenth Doctor. See his work in Years and Years (also created by Russel T Davies, and unrelated to Olly Alexander’s band) for proof. There’s also the fact that Davies wanted Tovey to be the next Doctor, and better late than never.
Netflix’s Sex Education has been a wonderful showcase for Asa Butterfield, allowing him to pivot from child actor to adult performer. That show is still running, but there’s going to come a time when Butterfield’s character has had all the sex education that a person could ever need. As Doctor Who, he would be reminiscent of the playful awkwardness of Matt Smith’s version of the character, but a younger, seemingly more innocent incarnation of the Doctor would add a new dimension. Check out Butterfield’s endearing work in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo if you need to be convinced.
There’s no other way to say it – Richard Ayoade would make a damn fine Doctor Who. Certainly, he’s best known to audiences as the uber nerdy Moss in the sitcom The IT Crowd, but there’s something about his persona that would give him credibility as the fourteenth Doctor. If you need evidence that he’s capable of more than wacky sitcom antics, check out his droll supporting role in Joanna Hogg’s rightfully acclaimed The Souvenir.
There’s another The IT Crowd alumni who might feel rather at home in the TARDIS. The trouble with Matt Berry is that his bombastic delivery attracts laughs from whatever he might be saying. The Daleks might not inspire terror, but Doctor Who facing off against an iconic adversary shouldn’t result in chuckles. He might well be on the BBC’s radar, but the feeling isn’t necessarily mutual. Berry might simply be too busy, with his ongoing commitments to What We Do in the Shadows, not to mention further instalments of Toast of London. Still, it would be fun to watch.
It’s unlikely that Doctor Who would regenerate from a woman in her 30s… to another woman in her 30s. But aside from making further cinematic chapters of Downton Abbey, Dockery might have room on her dance card. Also, if Doctor Who was to talk with an accent so posh that it could cut glass, people might be inclined to listen. She also plays being thoughtfully in peril rather well too, as seen in the enjoyably stupid Liam Neeson thriller Non-Stop.
An article in The Guardian suggested that the search for a new doctor shouldn’t happen at all, saying that the show is unable to compete on a level playing field alongside offerings from Netflix and Amazon Prime, and that a rest followed by a revival is in the show’s best interests. It’s less a case of Doctor Who, and more a case of Doctor Why? Wow, The Guardian… bet you’re fun at parties.