“Doctor Who” returns on April 15 for the 10th season of its current series — the British program has been running off and on since 1963 in one form or another — but Peter Capaldi has announced that this will be his last season. He joined the show in season eight as the title character, a time-traveling alien who has lived for centuries but taken different physical forms. Capaldi is officially the 12th Doctor, though the role has been played by 13 actors when you count the late John Hurt, who guest starred as “the War Doctor” in 2013 for the 50th anniversary special. So that begs the question: Who should be the lucky 13th Doctor?
The Doctor has the ability to regenerate into other forms when injured or dying, which has allowed the show to adapt to cast changes, and like another iconic British role that often changes hands, James Bond, the character has become a subject of cultural and political debate. Nothing in the “Doctor Who” mythology dictates that the character must be white or even male, yet every Doctor thus far has been played by a white male actor. Is it time for a change?
If so, how about Idris Elba? His name has often been floated as a potential contender for the first black James Bond, but why not the Doctor? In the last year he has played a lion (“The Jungle Book”), a seal (“Finding Dory”) and a buffalo (“Zootopia”), so you couldn’t say he lacks the range. Other possibilities for a Doctor of color include popular comedic actor Richard Ayoade (“The IT Crowd”), Sacha Dhawan (who co-starred in the making-of-“Doctor Who” docudrama “An Adventure in Space and Time”) and David Harewood (“Homeland,” “Supergirl”).
A number of women may also be up to the task. Tilda Swinton, for instance, is such a chameleonic actor that she could conceivably play the next four or five regenerations of the Doctor. Other names that have been speculated about include Hayley Atwell (“Captain America,” “Agent Carter”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Alice in Wonderland”) and recent Golden Globe champ Olivia Colman (“The Night Manager”), who has worked with incoming “Doctor Who” showrunner Chris Chibnall on “Broadchurch.” However, Chibnall has said, “Nothing is ruled out but I don’t want the casting to be a gimmick and that’s all I can say,” so maybe he’s not really that keen on a female Doctor.
So if there ethnic or gender switch isn’t in the cards, there are still any number of worthy candidates. Russell Tovey is familiar to sci-fi fans thanks to his role as a shy werewolf in “Being Human,” and he also had a guest role in an episode of “Who” during David Tennant‘s tenure as the 10th Doctor. Irish actor Colin Morgan also guest-starred on “Who” before appearing in “Merlin” and “The Fall.” Andrew Scott has made a name for himself in the outlandish role of Moriarty in Steven Moffat‘s “Sherlock,” so there’s no doubt he could fill the Doctor’s outsize shoes.
Even James Corden is a “Doctor Who” alum, having guest starred in two episodes opposite Matt Smith‘s 11th Doctor. The Emmy and Tony winner undoubtedly has the personality, charisma and showmanship for the role, though he’s probably pretty comfortable in his late-night TV hosting gig on “The Late Late Show.” But one can dream.
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