In Season 8 of Doctor Who, we learned definitively (leaving out all of the other canon) that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate. Knowing this, it seems especially ridiculous that The Doctor has always been a dude. While events in the show lead us to believe these powerful aliens have at least a little control over their next appearance, reactions to a new body show us just how little that influence may be. There's a new showrunner coming after the next season, and although Peter Capaldi has been asked to stay on through season 11, he has dropped hints that he may be leaving as well. That known, the time has never been more ripe for a big shake up in the TARDIS.
In choosing these fourteen actors, we set the following broad conditions: the actor had to be female, had to be British (although we did violate this rule once), and could not have played more than an ancillary role in the show to date (nobody who was already a companion). We set no restrictions on age, fame, career level, or anything else — so we’ve ended up with some world-famous actors, a member or two of the OBE, and some new and exciting thespians early in their journeys. Any one of them would would be amazing bouncing around the time vortex, and we hope they get the chance.
So, friends, grab your sonics and check out our 14 Female Actors Who Should Play The Next Doctor.
14 Louise Brealey
Who She Is: Louise Brealey is likely to be best known to viewers from her turn as pathologist Molly Hooper on the excellent BBC-run drama Sherlock. She also had a major role in the BBC’s Ripper Street and Bleak House, and bit parts in the feature films The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Victor Frankenstein. The 37-year old is also a writer on film and entertainment, and was until recently the deputy editor of Wonderland.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Brealey already has strong ties to both the BBC and the Doctor Who team — in fact, she auditioned for the role of Rose Tyler, and has performed in a Big Finish Audio Doctor Who story. Her work on Sherlock shows her ability to nail both clever and awkward — two almost-essential traits for any Doctor. In addition, she has received incredible reviews for her West-End theater performances, with the Times of London calling her “brilliant,” and The Spectator saying “Brealey is the only performer who uncovers the pathetic poetry beneath the indolent superficialities.”
13 Maisie Williams
Who She Is: Most will know Williams as the fierce and headstrong Arya Stark from the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. She’s also had an important role in the last season of Doctor Who, playing long-living Viking Ashildir. Her actions lead to the departure of Clara Oswald from the show.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Williams is a fan favorite all over the world. At a very young age (19), she has shown a tremendous talent, bringing anger and fury to the forefront of her performances. While we don’t know where series ten of Doctor Who will take us, it’s hard to imagine The Doctor won’t be angry at somebody, and Williams’ knack for such emotions would be compelling. In addition, we learned with the 13th Doctor that people he’s met can influence his regeneration, and Ashildir has had a tremendously deep emotional impact on him this season. As a (virtual) immortal, Williams has displayed the ability to seem ageless, displaying a wisdom and tiredness behind her youthful appearance.
She's been rumored to be a candidate for the next companion (rumors she's flatly denied), though we'd like to see her take on an even bigger role. If she's not too busy wreaking havoc in Westeros and Essos, that is.
12 Indira Varma
Who She Is: Indira Varma is a veteran actress of both television and films. Her breakout role was starring in 1996’s Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, though she's probably best known to viewers as the hyper-dangerous Ellaria Sand, the lover of Dornish prince Oberyn Martell and the mother of the Sand Snakes on Game of Thrones. She played opposite Eighth Doctor Paul McGann in the BBC series Luther, and had a key role in the American television series Human Target. EDIT: Updated to mention (when reminded by a commenter thanks!) that Varma has already been part of the Whoniverse with a role on Torchwood.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Like Louise Brealy, Varma has deep ties to the BBC. She is known for her ability to portray a wide range of emotions, and smoldering underneath all of them. Her intelligence as an individual shines through her performances, and her ability to play cunningly complex characters is clearly shown in Game of Thrones. In her early 40s, she could bridge the gap between those who had difficulty relating generationally to Capaldi, but felt that Matt Smith was too young to play the centuries-old Time Lord.
11 Charlotte Hope
Who She Is: Our third straight GoT veteran (we're fans, can you tell?), Charlotte Hope is an up-and-coming actor best known for her portrayal of Ramsay Bolton’s jealous and evil girlfriend Myranda, who just so happened to bite the dust in last year's season finale. She’s also had a recurring role on BBC’s The Musketeers and portrayed Stephen Hawking’s younger sister Philippa in the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Hope is a rising star, who brings much of the panache of Maisie Williams to the screen without the instant association with a major character in another series, nor the baggage of playing a pivotal character in Doctor Who. She’s young, and could be primed for a long run as The Doctor, bringing some stability to what has felt like a bit of an unstable show for the past few years. She plays menacing very well, and it would be fun to see what a young female Doctor with serious edge could bring to the Whoniverse.
10 Joanna Lumley
Who She Is: Joanna Lumley, OBE, is best known for her role as Patsy on the long-running and much-loved comedy series Absolutely Fabulous. She also played Margot Robbie’s Aunt Emma in Scorsese's 2013 hit The Wolf of Wall Street. She is one of Britain’s most prolific actors, working constantly since the late '60s.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Lumley is, to date, the only woman to have already played The Doctor. In 1999’s non-canon (but Moffat-penned) bit The Curse of the Fatal Death, Lumley was one of many actors to play a Doctor who kept regenerating. Beyond that, however, she is hilarious. Her years of experience in dramatic acting could balance that comedy, but a truly funny Doctor — like Matt Smith was after the heart-wrenching loss of David Tennant — could bring some relief from the tension losing a Doctor always brings. While in her seventies now, having two “older” doctors consecutively might make the gender-change easier to swallow for fans who are deeply entrenched in outdated beliefs.
9 Carey Mulligan
Who She Is: Carey Mulligan is a bona-fide leading lady in Hollywood. She's been nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Tony award. Best known for her leading roles in An Education, Drive, and The Great Gatsby, Mulligan is beloved by fans of Doctor Who for her leading role in the Doctor-lite episode Blink, which introduced the Weeping Angels into the Whoniverse.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Mostly, because she’s just great. Mulligan can play funny, innocent, sexy, charming, dark, and clever with aplomb. As part of The Doctor’s past, she could have been someone who imprinted on him significantly enough to factor into a regeneration. She’s a movie star these days, and could introduce an entirely new audience to the widely beloved-but-niche show, and her turn as Sally Sparrow in Blink is perhaps the best bit of acting the show has ever produced. This might be a pipe dream, though it's one we'd love to see.
8 Emma Watson
Who She Is: Everybody knows Emma Watson. She’s been famous basically her entire life, beginning her portrayal of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when she was just ten years old. She has since gone on to star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and will portray Belle in the forthcoming live action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Watson is also known for her activism on behalf of women worldwide, filling the role of a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations HeForShe program, which encourages men to advocate for gender equality.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Well. She's Emma. Watson. If Carey Mulligan would bring star power to the role, Emma Watson would bring galaxy power. She is beloved by people young and old, respected for her talents as an actor, and certainly capable of bringing a new audience and identity to the franchise. In addition, given her hard and important work on behalf of gender identity, it seems fitting that she would be the first to steer the Daughter of Gallifrey in a new direction. Again, this is a longshot, but we're daring to dream here.
7 Naomie Harris
Who She Is: Naomie Harris is on the verge of superstardom. Best known to most viewers as the new Moneypenny in the James Bond films Spectre and Skyfall, she is currently playing Nisha in the forthcoming live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book (Andy Serkis' film, not the one hitting theaters this weekend). She’s also starring with Ewan McGregor in the upcoming espionage thriller Our Kind of Traitor and with Kate Winslet and Will Smith in Collateral Beauty.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Harris is a brilliant actor who is about to be a very big name if the movie gods are fair and just. She’s even got long family ties with the BBC (her mother is a screenwriter on East Enders). She's able to convincingly pull off action and humor, so she’s perfect for The Doctor’s blend of both running and talking fast to get out of bad situations.
6 Juno Temple
Who She Is: Juno Temple is surprisingly unknown, given her resume and accomplishments. With a filmography that includes The Dark Knight Rises, Horns, Black Mass, Maleficent, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Killer Joe, Atonement, and Magic Mike, she could very well already be a household name. She won a 2013 BAFTA award for Best Rising Star, and she’s currently starring in the HBO series Vinyl.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Temple lives in the sweet spot that is just perfect for taking on a role of this magnitude: she has a resume which displays her talents clearly, but has not yet attained superstar status. She could elevate both the show and her own status by taking on the role, much like Matt Smith did. She plays naivete very well, and that could be a very interesting direction to take The Doctor, but her talents far exceed that limited box.
5 Emma Thompson
Who She Is: Emma Thompson is one of the great living actors. While she is probably best known for her roles in Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility, and Nanny McPhee, there is probably no role too large for her to play. She’s played in comedies, dramas, Shakespeare and more. She’s won two Oscars — one for Best Female Actor for her brilliant performance in Remains of the Day and another for her writing work on the screenplay for Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Thompson is probably the biggest actor to actively come out and say she would love to helm the TARDIS. She’s been linked to the role in the past, but has never seriously been approached by BBC (as far as we know). Given her talent, range, and name recognition, the depth she could bring to The Doctor is nearly inconceivable.
4 Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Who She Is: Mbatha-Raw will be familiar to Whovians from her turn as Martha Jones’ sister Tish during the 10th Doctor’s run. Since then, she’s gone on to bigger and better things, appearing in Jupiter Ascending and Concussion. In the coming months she’ll be starring in Free State of Jones, God Particle, and Beauty and the Beast. Most notably, she has been linked to 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Like Naomi Harris and Juno Temple, Mbatha-Raw is an up-and coming actor with a very bright future in front of her. However, she brings an innate connection to Doctor Who from her previous work on the series. Her role in Belle won her a number of awards, including Best Actors from the African American Film Critics Association and the British Independent Film Awards. Her talent is undeniable, and she could take the TARDIS in exciting new directions.
3 Ruth Negga
Who She Is: Ardent television viewers will remember Negga from her memorable role as Raina on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s also appeared in 12 Years a Slave, Fury, and World War Z, with forthcoming roles in Warcraft and AMC’s Preacher.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Like Juno Temple, Negga is at that certain sweet spot in her career, which is perfect for Doctor Who. While not yet a household name, she is certainly headed in that direction. She’s no stranger to the world of sci-fi, and her performance as Raina left fans begging for more. She’s smart, her acting is sharp and seductive, witty and stern — all inherent traits of The Doctor.
2 Tatiana Maslany
Who She Is: Tatiana Maslany is the Canadian (we know, we cheated!) star of the BBC’s non-Gallifreyan flagship program Orphan Black. In the show, Maslany plays multiple clones, taking on thus far eight different roles in the series, each with distinctive accents, mannerisms, personalities, quirks, and subtle differences. Her performances have won her a number of awards and nominations, including a (long overdue) primetime Emmy nomination in 2015.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: Is there anything Maslany can’t do? In Orphan Black she does it all — and then some. Beyond that, it was rumored that Orphan Black may be planning its wind-down for 2017, and with that coinciding with the possible end of Capaldi’s run in the TARDIS, the stars and planets may have aligned perfectly to drop this gravity bomb. With Maslany’s talents, there's no direction the new showrunners could not take.
1 Ruth Wilson
Who She Is: Ruth Wilson won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance in the 2014 Showtime series The Affair. On the BBC, she has been lauded for her performance as Alice, the slightly crazy, slightly evil-but-also-good foil to Idris Elba’s Luther. The thirty-five year old actor will be starring in the upcoming adaptation of Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman’s marvelous short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties.
Why She Should Be The Doctor: When we think of The Doctor, the most important trait which comes to mind, across all iterations, is that they're clever. The Doctor is smart, cunning, conniving, a liar, and, ultimately, kind-hearted. In her portrayal of Alice on Luther, Wilson is all of these and more. She’s the Bond villain you want on your side, the bad guy you cheer for, and the smartest person in the room full of smart people. We've rooted for her to land major parts in the past because she’s able to play emotional depth: rage, love, fear, and hope fight for dominance in her nuanced performances, and you’d be hard matched to find anyone who has already played The Doctor who could do it as well.
What do you think? Which women would you like to see as the next Doctor? Let us know in the comments!