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: The Name of the Doctor

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

Okay, this time more than ever, you must watch the episode before reading anything about it. Spoilers, sweetie…

Read previous Ten Things About… posts

1. “Less poetry, Doctor”

Do you hear the Whisper Men
The Whisper Men are near
If you hear the Whisper Men
Then turn away your ear

Do not hear the Whisper Men
Whatever else you do
For once you’ve heard the Whisper Men
They’ll stop… and look at you

A simple, but effective, design helps lift the Whisper Men from being the generic henchmen that they would otherwise become. I couldn’t help being reminded of the Gentlemen that Joss Whedon created for one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best ever episodes, the near-silent Hush. True, they stole hearts rather than just stopping them – but they, too, were presaged by a cod nursery rhyme:

Can’t even shout, can’t even cry
The Gentlemen are coming by
Looking in windows, knocking on doors
They need to take seven and they might take yours
Can’t call to mom, can’t say a word
You’re gonna die screaming but you won’t be heard.

Continue reading Ten Things About Who: The Name of the Doctor

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

Ten Things About Who: The Bells of Saint John

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

For new visitors: rather than episode reviews of Doctor Who, I pick ten points for discussion based on the episode. Enjoy – and if you agree or disagree, leave a comment!

1. The Bells of Saint John are…

…A device to keep the Doctor at arm’s length for a while – and as an episode title, to be engimatic by mentioning something which has nothing to do with the main plot of the episode.

Or does it? The “bells” bring the Doctor and Clara back in contact with each other again, and that is the whole point of the episode, after all.

2. The woman in the shop

Dangling thread alert. Just who was it that gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? Has Martha dumped Mickey and started working at PC World?

And who gets an internet support number from a shop anyway?

These questions (well, maybe just the first one) may turn out to be important. At least we’re not being belted over the head with these sort of clues this time. It may come to naught, of course, but I think that both this and Strax’s mysterious rescusitator may have further roles to play…

Continue reading Ten Things About Who: The Bells of Saint John

Ten Things about Who: The Power of Three

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

I really liked this week’s episode of Doctor Who. The conclusion to the main threat was ever more perfunctory than usual, mind, but that didn’t overly detract from the beauty of the character studies involved. But on with this week’s Ten Things…

If you’ve missed previous ones, read my Ten Things About… Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and A Town Called Mercy.

1. Kate Stewart

When I saw the new head of UNIT’s full name listed in the latest Doctor Who Magazine, I knew that there would be a link to the organisation’s most famous member, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

And here she is: the daughter of the man himself. And, in a fan-pleasing touch, it’s a character that has already previously appeared in Doctor Who, having appeared in Gary Russell’s novel The Scales of Injustice, which featured the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Liz Shaw.

Jemma Redgrave is a worthy addition to the Doctor Who roll call, I think. I hope we see her again.

2. “Twitter!”

Of course the mysterious cubes would have several Twitter accounts set up within minutes. Even the “Essex Lion” had at least two. But I do long for the day when the positives about social media can be referenced, rather than being the butt of cheap jibes.

Still, at least Doctor Who is referencing social media correctly. It’s light years on from when, in Utopia, Jack and Martha’s sharing of anecdotes about the Doctor is wrongly chastised as “blogging”.

Continue reading Ten Things about Who: The Power of Three

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

Ten things about Who: Asylum of the Daleks

Ten Things About Who


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

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

I’m not going to do full reviews of the new series of Doctor Who, which started last night on BBC1. But I thought I might try and come up with ten points I liked, didn’t like, or thought worthy of further discussion. Hence, Ten Things About Who.

If you haven’t yet seen the episode, what the hell are you doing here? Go and watch it, and don’t come back to this post until you have done!

Continue reading Ten things about Who: Asylum of the Daleks