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Who Will Play The Next Doctor Who?

Picture of Graham Fuller
Film Editor
Updated: 22 February 2017
Peter Capaldi’s decision to leave Doctor Who has ignited rampant speculation about which actor—or actress—will become the 13th pilot of the TARDIS in the long-running BBC sci-fi show.

Peter Capaldi will bow out of Doctor Who after appearing in the 12 episodes of the season that starts on BBC 1 and BBC America on April 15, as well as in the Christmas special. The Scottish actor replaced Matt Smith as the doctor in 2013. The spring 2017 season will be the 10th since the 2005 relaunch, and the 36th season in all. Launched in 1963, Doctor Who was off the air—apart from a 1996 backdoor pilot—between 1989 and 2004.

Casting the Doctor transcends mere showbiz and entertainment industry chatter. Much like James Bond, whose big screen debut (in 1962’s Dr. No) preceded the first Doctor Who episode by just over a year, the shapeshifting Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey speaks strongly to British notions of heroism at its most cerebral, boffin-ish, and irritable.

Whereas Bond fulfills fantasies of idealized machismo, virility, courage, materialism, and “the good life,” Doctor Who espouses eccentricity, canniness, and intellectualism. Only David Tennant’s incarnation of the Doctor exuded any of Bond’s raffishness—but Tennant was equally likely to be donnish.

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Ben Whishaw in ‘Skyfall’ | © MGM/Columbia Pictures

The masculine foundation on which the Doctor was built may be about to crumble, however. Though UK oddsmaker William Hill is tipping Ben Whishaw at 5/1 to assume the mantle, actresses Miranda Hart (8/1), Helena Bonham Carter (10/1), and Olivia Colman (14/1) are also in the running.

Other possible contenders include Richard Ayoade (6/1), Rory Kinnear (7/1), Ben Daniels (8/1), Jason Flemyng (9/1), David Harewood (10/1), Alexander Vlahos and Daniel Rigby (both 12/1), and Michael Sheen (14/1). 007 hopeful Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Russell Tovey are at 16/1. It has to be admitted that not all of these actors have the requisite gravitas to play the Doctor. Whishaw’s meticulous turns as Q in the Bond films Skyfall and Spectre strongly recommend him.

A few movie stars have been mentioned. Tom Hiddleston is at 20/1, but will surely hold out for Bond. (His brilliant Night Manager co-star Colman would be the more adventurous choice. Besides, it’s hard to imagine Taylor Swift humming the Doctor Who theme.)

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Tilda Swinton in ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ | © Soda Pictures

You can get 25/1 on both Tilda Swinton (who as a vampire recounts her experience of different centuries in Only Lovers Left Alive), Helen Mirren, and Eddie Redmayne. At 50/1, Hugh Grant and Damian Lewis are outsiders.

Depending on which source you consult, you can get 8/1 on Rupert Grint and 33/1 on Daniel Radcliffe. Since no one has mentioned their fellow Harry Potter alum Emma Watson, it’s clear that residual sexism may yet prevail in the selection of the next doctor.

But enough already with these kids. To add to the confusion, Culture Trip would like to throw more names into the hat: Maxine Peake, Art Malik, Stephen Dillane, Miranda Richardson, Ioan Gruffudd, James McAvoy. And—yes, he’s a man, he’s white, and he’s a veteran, but no one else could fumble the key to the TARDIS like him—Bill Nighy. He was approached for the part in the past and turned it down, but we can but hope.

Failing that, reader, who would you choose?