The next Doctor, and how to predict who it’ll be

Everyone seems to be trying to guess who the next actor to play the lead role in Doctor Who will be once Matt Smith regenerates in the 2013 Christmas Special.

Back when David Tennant announced his departure five years ago when the TV Today blog was still running, we ran a few features looking at some potential names:

I’ve seen three of the names above suggested this time round, too. Cumberbatch’s star has exploded since 2008, so we can safely assume that he’ll be out of the running. And similarly with the other three, while they are all interesting performers who would get the “other”-ness of the Doctor, I suspect their respective career trajectories would rule them out. (I do love the PhotoShop job I managed to do of Ayoade, though.)

Rather than settle on a specific name, I want to stick my neck out and come up with a few traits that I suspect the new TARDIS resident will have.

  • A limited TV profile. The actor may have one or two fairly recent, moderately prominent TV roles under his belt, just as Tennant had Blackpool and Casanova, and Matt Smith had Party Animals. But he won’t be one of the actors that you see everywhere. TV budgets, and the need to sign your life away for the best part of five years, dictate that the role will be taken by an actor who is not yet well-known or powerful enough to command a crippling fee.
  • A substantial theatre acting CV. Both Tennant and Smith had extensive acting credits prior to taking on the mantle of the Doctor – predominantly on stage rather than on screen. Expect the new Doctor to have one or two long West End runs under their belt, maybe some RSC or National Theatre work. Expect also that certain tabloid newspapers and TV magazines will brand them an “unknown”, as if nobody knows who actors are unless they’ve been in EastEnders or Coronation Street.
  • An older actor. Steven Moffat was originally looking to cast the Doctor as older when looking for Tennant’s replacement, but Smith convinced him otherwise. In fact, Smith’s onscreen portrayal often feels much older than the actor himself. I’d be surprised if another actor of similar age could pull that off – so expect the lead actor’s age to head upwards again.
  • Male. There are some fantastic actresses out there, many of whom could more than cope with playing one of the most iconic characters on television. And I would love to see a Saturday tea time drama that revolved around a strong, charismatic female lead. I have to be realistic, though, and suggest that the twelfth actor to play this role will be as male as his predecessors.

I have a list in my head of people who I think would be good for the role. Most of them only fit three out of the four points above. But that’s why I’m not a casting director.

Ten Things About Who: Nightmare in Silver

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

As we rapidly approach the end of this series, I’ve created an index page for all my Ten Things About… posts. And here are this week’s rambling musings about Neil Gaiman’s episode – which, far from being a nightmare, felt more like a bad dream brought on by a surfeit of cheese.

1. The Mechanical Turk

Did the concept of a ‘magical’ chess-playing automaton sound familiar to you? The Mechanical Turk, a life-size dummy built to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Just like the equivalent on Hedgewick’s World, the Turk was controlled by a human inside, whose presence was hidden away:

…if the back doors of the cabinet were open at the same time one could see through the machine. The other side of the cabinet did not house machinery; instead it contained a red cushion and some removable parts, as well as brass structures. This area was also designed to provide a clear line of vision through the machine.

For a more recent parallel, Big Finish’s 2011 audio drama The Silver Turk by Marc Platt features a similar machine which the Doctor identifies as a Cyberman. Continue reading “Ten Things About Who: Nightmare in Silver”

Revisiting Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

Imposing arbitrary limits on your own writing can be fun. Here’s an example, from a 2008 review of Doctor Who

Writing a review for Merrily We Roll Along in reverse (to match the narrative technique of the musical) earlier today was fun, even if I don’t think it really came off as well as it did in my head on the way home last night.

It was fun to try, though. Every so often, it’s useful to impose a strange limit on yourself as a way of shaking up how you write.

As an example, back in 2008 I reviewed the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, Partners in Crime. The episode saw Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, previously seen in Christmas special The Runaway Bride, rejoin the Doctor. A seemingly throwaway line about bees disappearing (a sci-fi spin on a real world problem) would turn out to have a greater significance nearer the end of the series. At the time, though, it spurred me to write the review using only 25 letters of the alphabet. And yes, that did mean that mention of Bernard Cribbins by name was out…

Originally published on The Stage’s website, it’s reproduced here in full.

Continue reading “Revisiting Doctor Who: Partners in Crime”

Ten things about Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

As with last week’s Asylum of the Daleks, rather than doing a straightforward review I’m listing ten points of note about this week’s Doctor Who episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

1. “Run‽”

One of the reasons the eleventh Doctor is so unpredictable is that, even in the scenes where you know what he’s going to say, Matt Smith often chooses a line reading that throws a conventional line – like the oft-heard “Run!”, such at the end of this episode’s pre-credits sequence – into new areas.

Part question, part panic, part “off you go, while I stay here and find out what’s going on, even though I almost certainly know whatever it is could well kill me”, Smith’s delivery is one that needs not so much an interrobang at the end of it, as a whole panoply of punctuation marks.

2. Big game hunter

At first glance, Riddell doesn’t seem like the sort of man the Doctor would hang out with – dalliances with dancers and liquorice notwithstanding. The sort of man who lives on the plains of Africa killing wild animals, though – why would the Doctor befriend him?

The best answer is that he is another of the Doctor’s little projects, and is not necessarily a cold-blooded killer (any more). During the episode, his initial instinct to kill the encroaching dinosaurs comes from a sense of self-defence, and when fending off the raptors at the control room he goes for stun guns rather than applying lethal force.

I’d say that, while Riddell might present himself as a big game hunter, if anything it’s a bit of a front: he’s more likely to end up in Alan Quatermain-style scrapes, occasionally with a bow tie-clad lunatic at his side.

Continue reading “Ten things about Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

Much Ado about cast recordings

Whenever a new musical comes to the West End, there’s always a bit of a buzz about a possible cast recording. Different productions take wildly different views: Love Never Dies put its cast recording on sale so far in advance that it was more of a concept album than a record of the eventual stage production, in any of its reworked forms. Legally Blonde the Musical waited until there was obvious demand for a West End version in addition to the original Broadway recording, while Stiles and Drewe’s magnificent music for Betty Blue Eyes may eventually be available next month (although a sampler CD was issued with the Evening Standard newspaper as part of the show’s initial publicity drive). And while Ghost the Musical, which holds its press night tomorrow, hasn’t officially released its cast recording yet, it’s currently available to listen in a streamed form on the show’s Facebook page.

What’s unusual, though, is for a straight play to release a cast recording. But the production of Much Ado About Nothing currently playing at Wyndham’s has done just that.

Continue reading “Much Ado about cast recordings”

Much Ado About Nothing, Wyndham’s Theatre

Editor’s Rating

Of all the companions that David Tennant’s Doctor had during his spell in the TARDIS, it was Donna Noble that suited him the best. Pitting Catherine Tate against Tennant’s fast-talking wide boy was a match of competing, but equal, egos. When a double act works as well as Tennant’s and Tate’s did, it’s easy to reach for the Hepburn-Tracy comparison – but it feels appropriate with this pair of actors, who fizzle and spark off each other so well that it’s hard to believe that The Runaway Bride was the first time they had worked together.

So it’s good to see that now Tennant has long since turned over his TARDIS key to the new guy, the pair have found an opportunity to work together again, in Josie Rourke’s exuberant version of Shakespeare’s screwball comedy. Casting Tennant as Benedick and Tate as Beatrice feels a safe decision – not in the sense of not casting dangerously, but in that one knows that the pair will be able to portray the ups and downs of the prototypical odd couple extremely effectively.

That said, I honestly hadn’t expected Much Ado About Nothing to be so funny. Many renditions of Shakespeare’s comedies induce little more than polite laughter, but this production regularly induces real bellyaches.

Continue reading “Much Ado About Nothing, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Much Ado About Nothing, Wyndham’s Theatre4Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 12:43:00Of all the companions that David Tennant’s Doctor had during his spell in the TARDIS, it was Donna Noble that suited him the best. Pitting Catherine T…

Paul Kasey: The man in the steel mask

Originally published in The Stage

Costume actor Paul Kasey has played a variety of monsters on Doctor Who, from Autons to Ood. As he prepares to play the Cyberleader in this year’s Christmas special, he tells Scott Matthewman how he got the job

“I do get asked by children if I can go and put my Cyberman suite on. I’ve been asked by a couple as well, which caught me completely off guard. People think I’ve got them all hanging in my bedroom.”

He’s been one of the more regular cast members on Doctor Who since it returned to the screens in 2005, but unless you were a keen-eyed viewer of documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, the chances are that you wouldn’t recognise him. Paul Kasey is one of several actors who regularly play monsters in the series, and this Christmas is performing in a number of roles as a variety of Cybermen in the Christmas Day episode, The Next Doctor.

“I can’t wait to see it,” he says. “This time as well as the Cybermen, there are Cybershades, the Cyberleader and then there’s the Cyber controller. And I’ve been all of them.”

While this episode is set during a snow-laden Victorian Christmas, it was actually shot during the summer – but the costumes were not too uncomfortable, he says. “A lot of the time we were filming outside, and you tend to be the one that’s nice and cosy, while everyone else is putting jackets on and trying to keep warm. On interiors though, depending on how small the room or the set is, with all the lights and the people and everything, then it can become quite warm. But we drink lots of water, and when they’re setting up all the different shots we get plenty of breaks.”

Although he’s been playing monsters in Doctor Who for a number of years, his start in the profession was by no means out of the ordinary. “I originally trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey, starting there in 1990 on a three year course, although I got awarded a scholarship so I did a fourth year. I trained in every aspect of dance, musical theatre, acting and singing.

“I was quite lucky, because at the time they allowed you to work as well as train, so I was working from my second year onwards. I did pantomime and summer seasons, but I also did trade shows with Kim Gavin, who at the time was choreographing Take That. He would come down to Laine’s and get students to do some of his fashion and trade shows as well.”

The work continued after he left college, at which point he also started auditioning for musicals. A two-year spell in Grease at the Dominion Theatre followed, and in 2000 he performed in Fosse in the West End for a year.
“Fosse was just going on a world tour, which I wanted to do and never, ever wanted to leave it. But just coming up towards finishing that initial run, I auditioned for a role in the film Blade II, although I didn’t hear anything for a while. There was about a 15 week gap before Fosse went on tour, and I auditioned for and got a job on a cruise ship for 12 weeks, which would have fit in that gap perfectly. The contract for that was in the post, and then I had a phone call from the Blade II production company saying they’d like to offer me one of the parts.”

The role in the Wesley Snipes-led vampire sequel was of a Reaper, and would signal the start of a career in prosthetics work for Kasey. He followed it up with a role in British horror film 28 Days Later, in which he played an infected human. “I sort of went back to dancing after that, but at this point it was more sort of doing the odd choreographic work and lecturing as well.

“And then I auditioned for Doctor Who. They were looking for five main creature role people who had a background in prosthetics and costume work. And when they offered me the job, I really couldn’t say no to it, because it’s become something I’ve absolutely loved since getting my first taste of it on Blade II.”

Since featuring in the first episode of the revival as an Auton, a shop window dummy that comes to life, Kasey has worked on all four series of Doctor Who as well as spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. When it comes to developing a style of movement for each new species, the approach can vary slightly. “On Doctor Who, we have a choreographer called Ailsa Berk, and she deals with the movement of all the monsters and creatures like the Cybermen and the Ood. She gets the script and works out what’s needed with the director, then she rehearses with us. With something like Torchwood’s Weevil, I was just asked to do it. So I had to read the script and the breakdown of the creature itself, and while on set work with the director.

“But also, when I have the fittings at [costume creators] Millennium FX, you get a good sort of idea of how you want a creature to move in your own mind’s eye. And obviously, as time progresses, you can tweak it as you go along. Having the background in dance and movement is a great asset, just to have that knowledge and that physical awareness of how creatures move.”

The costumes Kasey has been given to wear all vary substantially, he says. “Some of them may have an animatronic head, you might have gloves, or they can be a full suit like the Cybermen. They’re all challenging in their own way. There are never two monsters which are exactly the same. They are comfortable – very comfortable – and any potential problems get sorted out at fittings prior to filming.

“You do have to be careful though, especially with costumes like the Slitheen or the Cybermen. In the suits we’re quite big, so you have to look after the suits, making sure you sit down carefully. When we’re up on set, a team from Millennium FX is there looking after everyone and making sure everyone’s okay. I do get very well looked after.”

Maybe it’s just as well that he has a team around him, as other people tend to shy away from the characters he plays. “What can tend to happen, and often does, is that you’ll go up on set and people can back away and not really want to speak to you. Even though they know someone’s inside, or they know who’s inside, on the outside we look completely different and they react to that. They’re not intentionally trying to alienate you, you know, but it can tend to happen.

“When I did 28 Days Later, and the sequel 28 Weeks Later [in which he also acted as a movement adviser], at lunch people wouldn’t sit with you. But when you’re covered in blood and look that gruesome, that’s completely understandable. So the only people that would tend to sit and talk to you are the people who have made the prosthetics, or the make-up artists who have made you up, because they’re quite used to it.”

Being encased in a costume also brings a degree of anonymity. “When I was the Weevil in Torchwood and we first started filming, I’d be there with my head on, which had to be glued down and all painted in. So none of the cast members had actually seen me and didn’t really know what I looked like. What tends to happen is that you go in the dinner queue and no-one really knows who you are, which is quite funny.” A positive aspect to the anonymity is the prospect of repeat work on Doctor Who. “Once you’ve been seen, and possibly killed, on Doctor Who, then you can’t really come back. If something was to come along and someone was to say, ‘We’d like you to play this part,’ and it wasn’t a creature, then I’d be all up for it. But it’s not like I’m desperate to get out and be me, if you see what I mean. I’m definitely in my element and loving it. It’s great fun.”

Outside of the Doctor Who stable, Kasey can also be seen (albeit in costume again) as a Minotaur in the current film Inkheart, starring Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren. 2009 will see him perform in BBC3’s supernatural drama Being Human, but he remains tight-lipped about his precise role. “I’m playing a creature, a very good one,” is all he can say at the moment.

While a full series of Doctor Who is not on the cards for transmission in 2009, a number of specials are due to be filmed before production starts on the fifth series later in the year. For Kasey, “Doctor Who starts up again just after Christmas. I’ve been asked to do the first recording block, which starts in January. There are three or four specials being filmed and then they go straight into the fifth series, so there’s not much of a rest for me.”

Along with the rest of the country, it seems, Kasey has also been caught up in the speculation about which actor will succeed David Tennant in the role. “I get asked all the time who it’s going to be, and I don’t know. Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant are completely different as actors, and in terms of how they bring the Doctor alive, but each is as fantastic as the other, really. I’m sure whoever comes in to play the Doctor after David will bring something as exciting and special as David and Christopher have.

“But it’s very exciting, isn’t it? And it’s making the news as well, which just goes to prove how big Doctor Who is. It came back, and just exploded! I know I’m part of it and everything but Saturday nights just aren’t the same now without watching a series of Doctor Who. It’s become such a big part of people’s lives and what they watch. Each episode in so completely special in its own way, and just as exciting as the last.”