The Question of the Summer: Who Should Play Doctor Who’s Twelfth Doctor?

Naturally, all Doctor Who fans are feeling a bit sad about the news that star Matt Smith has decided to hang up his sonic screwdriver. At the same time, it’s hard to not also feel the tiniest, teeniest bit excited, because change is what this show is all about in many ways and a large part of the reason it’s been able to survive and stay fresh for so long.

So, yes, we’re losing Smith and Eleven – and we’ll obviously miss them both – but it’s also a bit thrilling to think about the next person who will take control of the TARDIS. What kind of performer will he or she be? What kind of character will that person’s interpretation of the Doctor be?

But the question of the moment remains – who will play Twelve? Despite a media rumor mill spun up to full force the second Smith said he was leaving – and a surprisingly active market among bookies – no one has any idea.  It could be anyone – and subsequently, literally everyone seems to have a top three (Or five. Or seven.) list of actors they think would be perfect to play the Doctor.

Now, it seems pretty unlikely that an actor hasn’t already been chosen for this part – the casting process was probably conducted (and multiple Non-Disclosure Agreements secured) well before anyone ever thought of officially announcing Smith’s exit. But, it’s fun to speculate about what different actors could bring to the role, and everyone else is doing it, so why not.

In no particular order: These ten individuals would all be stellar Doctors  -

Benedict Cumberbatch.  (Spoiler: This is my personal dream Twelve casting choice in case you couldn’t tell.) This is never, ever going to happen, given Cumberbatch’s insanely busy schedule with Sherlock and the apparently limitless number of new movies he is signed up to star in.  Plus, he’s just too big of a name now to tie himself down to a role that shoots for nine months out of the year. But, just think for a second how incredible Cumberbatch would be in this part and what a complicated, brilliant Doctor his Twelve would be. Now, feel free to sit and have a cry at the thought that he’s never going to do it.

Oh, and did we mention casting him would finally make the Doctor a ginger at last? It’s so unfair. Let’s just all keep the faith that one day one of these incessant rumors that he’s going to guest star as the Master at some point will actually come true, shall we? 

Idris Elba. Elba may also be an actor that’s just on the cusp of being too well known to take on a role like the Doctor. He’s fairly recognizable on both sides of the pond for his performance as drug dealer Stringer Bell in The Wire, has been in a bunch of major movies and he’s already got a leading role in a BBC show,  currently starring the dark (and excellent) crime drama Luther (though it’s rumored Series 3 will be that show’s last). Elba would bring a sort of gritty toughness to the role that we haven’t really seen since at least Christopher Eccleston, combined with a Bond-esque cool factor. And, as we've seen in Luther, Elba is great at playing good guys with an edge (or who are maybe slightly crazy), which would be a very interesting switch for the Doctor.

Ben Whishaw.  Whishaw is one of the most versatile British actors working today and has a great career, though perhaps not a role that one could point to as a breakout hit. Nevertheless, he had a big year in 2012, playing Q in the latest James Bond film Skyfall, King Richard II in Shakespeare miniseries The Hollow Crown, and about six different characters in the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas.

As an actor, he manages to convey an air of simultaneous manic intelligence and heart wrenching melancholy. Seeing a more fragile sort of Doctor (Whishaw tends to remind his fans of nothing so much as some sort of magical woodland creature) could be incredibly interesting.  And The Hour’s already proven he can rock a suit.

Richard Madden. Best known for playing Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark, Madden is also the real-life significant other of current Doctor Who companion Jenna-Louise Coleman, which could make for some very interesting chemistry in the TARDIS.  Madden has that sort of young heartthrob/hero vibe down pat (his next role is literally playing Prince Charming in a live adaptation of Disney’s Cinderella) and it’s pretty easy to picture him swooping in to save the day on pretty much any alien planet.

Aidan Turner. One of the original stars of cult supernatural drama Being Human, Turner left the role of vampire Mitchell to go play the dwarf Kili in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Being Human – despite a valiant effort from its remaining cast members and a creative reset from its producers – never really recovered from his departure. Turner is a very talented actor with a wide range; his Doctor could basically be anything from rageful to incredibly emo.  And he’s easy on the eyes, to boot.

Alexander Vlahos. A former member of the Merlin cast – he played the infamous Mordred – Vlahos has the benefit of being relatively unknown (which will probably appeal to producers) and a surprisingly good actor (which will appeal to fans). One of the few highlights in Merlin’s terribly uneven final series, Vlahos has proven that he can act and that he can spin gold out of fairly dreadful plotlines.  He’s quite young though and, at 24, would actually be younger than Matt Smith was when he was cast. 

Damien Molony. Molony was the one bright spot in the otherwise forgettable death throes of the final series and a half of Being Human and his performance as the vampire Hal proves that he can do emo, eccentric, charming, threatening and arrogant really well.  He’s also got that unknown newcomer thing going on, since unless you watch Being Human you probably have no idea who he is beyond “that guy who replaced Aidan Turner”. 

Rory Kinnear. Rumors abound that Kinnear has already been offered the part (though a family friend of the actor has denied this on Twitter).  He played the MI-6 officer Bill Tanner in the last two James Bond films, so you might be aware of him in a vague “hey, it’s that guy!” way, but Kinnear is actually a phenomenally good actor. (Catch him as Boilingbroke in The Hollow Crown when it airs this Fall.)  If you follow British theater at all, you’ve doubtless heard the raves for his recent performances in Hamlet, Mary Stuart and the Othello that’s currently playing at the National Theatre. It would be outstanding to see him get the chance at a role like this!

Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor has won both a BAFTA and an Olivier Award, but somehow has still never had an incredibly high profile role, so he’s actually not terribly well known. (I don’t know why either. He’s crazy talented.)  Yet, he’s got a varied background in film, television and the stage - you’ve probably seen him in movies like Love Actually or American Gangster or in series like The Shadow Line or Dancing on the Edge.  Plus he's also already said that he'd take the role immediately if it was offered to him.

Dame Helen Mirren. Hey, she said she wanted to be a Time Lady. If Mirren can handle playing Queen Elizabeth II twice, surely she can be trusted with a sonic screwdriver. And isn’t it time little girls get to dream about being the Doctor, too, instead of just the Doctor’s assistant? We’ve already had it confirmed (in The Doctor’s Wife) that Time Lords can change gender between regenerations, so this isn’t an impossible wishlist item. Can you imagine? It’d be like the sci-fi version of Downton Abbey getting Dame Maggie Smith. While’s it’s probably doubtful that Mirren would actually want to put up with the grueling Who filming schedule, this would certainly shake up the franchise! 

What about you? Would you pick any of these folks to play Twelve? If not, who would be your dream choice to play the Doctor? Sound off in the comments!


Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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