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.

War Horse, New London Theatre

Editor’s Rating

I promised myself that I wouldn’t see Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film before experiencing the National Theatre’s multiple award-winning play. Over Christmas, I caught a repeat of More4’s documentary, Making War Horse, about how the NT worked with Handspring Puppet Company to adapt and expand upon Michael Morpurgo’s original novella.

Every single one of my friends who has seen War Horse has raved about it. That’s unique – I usually can’t get my friends to agree on anything, so the unanimity was reassuring. Disconcerting at the same time, though – could any one show be as good as everyone was suggesting?

Last night, I got to find out that not only was it as good as everyone said, but they were downplaying it somewhat: it’s a beautiful, emotional piece of storytelling that feels like one of the great theatrical pieces of all time.

I don’t have the time, or the tear ducts, to devote to writing a full review. All I can say is that Handspring’s work on the horses is stunning. Each of the principal horses is controlled by three performers (billed in the programme as ‘Head’, ‘Heart’ and ‘Hind’), who imbue the animals with such nobility and character that the people operating them just fade away. It’s a phenomenal achievement, and one I am truly grateful I have at last witnessed.

I’m not sure if the Spielberg film can possibly be as good as the theatrical version. However, it’s certainly going to be easier to get a ticket for it – although the play is set to tour next year.

War Horse, New London Theatre5Scott Matthewman2012-02-02 14:08:52

I promised myself that I wouldn’t see Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film before experienc…