The news that Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who hardly came as a surprise; by the time he hands back the keys to the TARDIS, Capaldi will have completed his third season as the Doctor and though he was asked to stay on, with Steven Moffat stepping down as showrunner, it seemed like the right time for him to depart, too.
Capaldi’s leaving gives incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall a clean slate to work with, and he might well decide to ditch companion Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, even though she has yet to make her debut. Naturally, talk now turns to who might succeed Capaldi, and a new face in the TARDIS is always an exciting prospect. Below, we have compiled a list of possible replacements, from the odds on favorites, to our own fanciful and wishful ideas on who could possibly take over as the 13th Doctor.
Let’s start with an outside bet. There are many, many names out there who would make a great Doctor; Stephen Fry, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston to name but a few, but they’re just not going to happen. Laurie, however, is a possibility, even if only a small one. An esteemed actor, and gifted at delivering both drama and comedy, Laurie certainly has the British temperament needed to become the next Doctor. He would bring dry wit as well as farce to the role, but he has the capabilities to tone all of that down in order to deliver the haunting heartbreak the Doctor sometimes feels as he continues to exist beyond all time and space.
However, his talent also means he’s in high demand, and owing to his critically acclaimed turn on British TV drama The Night Manager, as well as Hulu's Chance, Laurie is unlikely to take on the TARDIS, owing to the large commitment the role requires, as well as the pay cut that would involve.
Kinnear’s name has been in the running a couple of times as a potential Doctor; both when David Tennant and Matt Smith left. However, back in 2013, Kinnear responded to the growing rumors by claiming that he didn’t even watch the show and had no idea what all the fuss was about. Chances are, he’s checked it out by now, though.
Kinnear is best known for his role of Bill Tanner in the James Bond franchise, and he’s appeared in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre. The actor also has an acclaimed stage career, having starred as Laertes in Trevor Nunn’s Hamlet, and as Sir Fopling Flutter in The Man of Mode, for which he won an Olivier Award.
Once again, Kinnear’s name has come up almost immediately as a possible replacement. At 39, he would be a younger Doctor than Capaldi, something that Chibnall is likely to be looking for, but he does hold many similarities to Capaldi in his reticent, old-fashioned style of acting as opposed to the wacky, out-there antics of Smith and Tennant before him. If Chibnall is looking for a complete change of direction for the show, then Kinnear isn’t it.
And so we come to our first woman on the list. Time and again, the subject of a female Time Lord has been raised, and time and again it hasn’t happened. So could this regeneration be the one that breaks the mold? In all honesty, it’s unlikely. There will be those out there who love the idea, and those out there who are vehemently opposed to it. The official stance is that feasibly the Doctor could change gender or race, but Doctor Who is not exactly known for its ground-breaking stance on such things. In fact, Jack Harkness being bisexual was enough for some viewers to boycott the show. Chances are, with Doctor Who in rather dire straits regarding its viewing figures, that Chibnall will play it safe this time around and cast another male.
Still, Clarke would make a great Doctor. Sure, she’s a little busy with Game of Thrones, but what’s to say it couldn’t happen in the future? Her fresh-faced, endearing honesty would be a refreshing take on the role, and it would be great to see a young person taking charge of the TARDIS once more. How about reversing the roles and having Clarke as Doctor with an older, more curmudgeonly male companion?
Harewood isn’t so much of an outside choice as people might think. In fact, though it’s never been confirmed, there’s a strong chance that he was offered the role previously. Last year, when talking about diversity in Doctor Who, Moffat mentioned that the role of the Doctor had previously been offered to a black actor, but that it didn’t work out. It’s always been strongly rumoured that the actor was Harewood.
So, his name might well be in the mix again this time around, especially since he’s known to be friendly with Chibnall. Harewood, like Capaldi, has previously appeared on Doctor Who, back in 2013, but the list of credits to his name is vast. Roles in Homeland, Supergirl, and The Night Manager (to name but a few) have helped to cement him as one of the stalwarts of TV dramas.
Until recently, Grint would have been a strong candidate on the Doctor Who replacement list. His time playing Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise has earned him a wide and dedicated fan base, many of whom are also fans of Doctor Who. He’s well-liked, would fit the role, and his ability to play the lovable, cheeky, geeky character has worked well for him thus far.
For quite some time it seemed as if he had a pretty empty schedule so would have been able to take the role. Recently, though, Grint has landed roles on both Sick Note and Snatch, and the chances are that the role of the Doctor has actually already been filled. Usually, one Doctor’s departure isn’t announced until another is in place, anyhow. So, assuming this is the case, that would put Grint as a real outside bet. A shame, really, as he could be a great Doctor.
Sadly, Izzard is too busy with running marathons around the country and being political nowadays, but Izzard would or could have made a tremendous Doctor. If anyone could totally capture the zany, wacky, alien nature the Doctor has, it would be him. Izzard would shake the TARDIS up for sure, and no doubt bring his own special brand of off-the-wall humor to the role.
Izzard is hugely popular and very well-liked. He can play the lighter, more comedic characters with ease, as well as making a good dastardly villain. Okay, so the Doctor is essentially a force for good, but Izzard could deliver a potent mix of traits which would result in a unique take on one of the longest standing TV characters. This shake up is surely what Doctor Who needs right now, but it’s sadly not looking as though Mr. Izzard is the person to deliver it.
This list is going to end up riddled with actors who have worked within J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World in some capacity, but it’s hard to be sorry about that. What makes Redmayne and other Harry Potter actors so great is their commitment and investment in the franchise they are a part of. Redmayne’s enthusiasm for all things magical is infectious, and he’s made no secret of the fact that he loves Doctor Who, having grown up with the show as many Brits have.
As recently as November, 2016, Redmayne was all on board with fan’s calls for him to replace Capaldi, saying he’d do it if asked. He also compared his Fantastic Beasts character, Newt Scamander, to Smith’s Doctor, with his bow tie, scarf, and briefcase. Certainly if Redmayne were to take over, his Doctor would bear an uncanny resemblance to the 11th Doctor. Let’s be realistic, though, while the addition of Oscar-winning Redmayne would be a huge coup for the show, he is rather busy with filming the four remaining Fantastic Beasts movies, so it looks like we’ll have to be content with him being a Wizard rather than a Time Lord, for now.
Daniels is the closest any actor on this list has come to actually playing the Doctor; he was asked by the BBC if he’d be interested in the role as the 12th Doctor but Capaldi’s name was always in front of his. That said, Daniels didn’t drop out of the running until a couple of months before Capaldi was actually revealed, so he was a strong contender.
Much of the criticism surrounding Capaldi’s Doctor has been unfairly leveled at him being older. Following on from Tennant and Smith, both of whom were young and vibrant, Capaldi’s more world-weary Doctor didn’t appeal to everyone, and that could well count against Daniels this time around. He’s 52, so hardly ancient, but still not someone that a younger, primetime audience is going to necessarily want to see running around in space. One aspect that worked extremely well for Tennant was the romantic side of the Doctor, particularly his love for Rose. While many longtime fans didn’t enjoy the Doctor Who storylines taking this direction, the show undoubtedly pulled in massive viewing figures during this time, and it could well be that Chibnall decides to go down that route once more (just a warning!). For these reasons, despite being a good fit for the role, Daniels is unlikely to be chosen.
Moriarty to most, Scott has played Sherlock’s nemesis to sublime perfection over the last four seasons of the detective show, but he’s now dead once and for all, and it doesn’t really look as though Scott will be back on Sherlock any time soon. The actor also has a strong theater pedigree, as well as now being part of the Bond franchise. That said, his career is still at a stage where a role such as the Doctor could enhance it rather than set it back, and Scott, we know, is a great talent.
Drawing on his many roles, plus the character traits of the Doctors who have gone before him, Scott could deliver a shy, deeply thoughtful Doctor with a dark and dangerous edge. This could be great to watch, especially opposite the effusive Bill, or Nardole (Matt Lucas) who talks incessantly. Scott already has a large fan base, too, and many fans would love to see him on TV on a more regular basis.
Capaldi’s departure has brought with it growing calls for the new Doctor to be a minority casting, and representation is something that has been lacking from Doctor Who in recent years. The casting of Mackie as the new companion goes some way toward this, but the BBC could well decide that now is the time for a POC to be cast in the central role, and why not? The Doctor regenerates to someone with a different physical appearance each time, so why can’t race be a part of that?
Dhawan has a long list of TV accolades to his name, and yet his career is still very much in its infancy; thus far his biggest roles have come in the final season of Mr. Selfridge and as Ajay in Sherlock’s ‘The Six Thatchers’ -- the assassin who worked with Mary Watson. He’s definitely one to watch, whether he ends up as the Doctor or not, but Dhawan is good friends with Doctor Who writer, Mark Gatiss, so who knows? Let’s be shallow for a moment; he’s young, good looking, and talented. Pretty much all that could be asked of a new Doctor who will be under pressure to drive up the ratings for the show.
Yes, another Harry Potter alum, but Lewis’ turn as Neville Longbottom was truly a career defining moment for him. Fans watched Lewis grow up on screen, and, like Grint and Redmayne, he remains incredibly proud of and dedicated to the Wizarding World. Lewis’ name cropped up before as a possible Doctor replacement, and he certainly has a large female fan base who would be likely to tune in. It’s not all about ratings, though; the chosen actor must be able to convincingly portray a Time Lord that is hundreds of years old and who has seen it all on his quest to keep the universe safe from alien life forms. Not only that, but they must bring something new, dynamic, exciting and unique to their incarnation. Could Lewis do all of that?
Roles in Happy Valley and Ripper Street would suggest that yes, all those requirements are within his capabilities, plus his role as fitness mad Patrick in Me Before You once again showed of the comedic skills that Lewis first showcased in Harry Potter. He is a known name, but not so well-known that we all know what to expect from him, and the Doctor could be just the right role for Lewis to take.
Perhaps the strongest female contender for the role is Atwell, who showed she’s more than capable of dealing with the bad guys when she fronted Marvel TV show Agent Carter. Like it or not, there is a growing voice for a female Doctor, and Atwell herself has made no secret of her wish to fulfill the role; when asked in a Twitter Q&A whether she would ever like to appear on Doctor Who, she replied, “I’d like to BE Doctor Who.” Ever since then, her name has frequently come up when talk turns to a female replacement. Okay, so that might be a somewhat tenuous and unofficial connection, but Atwell would be a great choice; a feisty, strong female role model for young girls to look up to, who wouldn’t let anything phase her.Again, though, it’s all a question of whether the BBC think a female Doctor would connect well with the Doctor Who audience. It could well be that Chibnall is all for it, but if the BBC think it’ll lose even more viewers, then the option will never fly.
If you were to ask a Brit their favorite choice to succeed Capaldi, chances are that Ayoade’s name would come high on the list. Star of The IT Crowd, Ayoade exudes a quirky, eccentric wit and intelligence that makes you feel as if you’re watching an incarnation of the Doctor no matter what he’s doing. Ayoade was a member of Cambridge University’s infamous Footlights theater company, which is where he started acting. Thus far, his work in front of the camera has mainly been in comedy, but Ayoade is also a writer and director and has two feature films under his belt: Submarine and The Double.
In recent years, Ayoade has become more of a social commentator, appearing on many panel and discussion shows in the U.K., and he is hugely watchable and likable. It would be good to think that he might find his way back to acting roles once again. His Doctor (we think) would be a uniquely eclectic mix of Colin Baker, Matt Smith, and David Tennant’s Doctors -- all three of which are generally viewed as the three most popular actors to have taken on the roles. Right now, even though Ayoade has not spoken publicly about anything Doctor Who related, he is second favorite along with Daniels and Kinnear. Can Ayoade overcome the next entry on the list?
Another choice with the quirks and eccentricities needed to portray an almost 3,000-year old Doctor from Gallifrey. Whishaw comes up time and again as a possible Doctor replacement, because, like Ayoade, he just seems so right for the role. Sometimes that instinct can be proven correct, but sometimes we never get the opportunity to find out.
Whishaw has many projects on the go, including reprising his role as the voice of Paddington for Paddington 2. He is also set to star as an adult Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns, plus, as most will know, he plays the role of Q in the Bond franchise. Whishaw has spoken about the possibility of playing the Doctor before, saying that he didn’t feel it was possible to play both Q and the Doctor, but he might well have changed his mind.
Right now, Whishaw is very much the favorite to take the role, though as we all know well enough by now, just because someone is favorite, it doesn’t mean they’re a shoo-in. Of course, all these new names are great to speculate over, but there’s one more possibility…
David Tennant/ Matt Smith
Not both at the same time, obviously, but it would be rather nice to have one of these two reprise their role. Smith’s Doctor would be the more likely of the two, but he’s ruled it out previously. Tennant makes no secret of his love for the show, but he too would be unlikely, and anyway, we can’t have Ten without Rose.
Both Tennant and Smith were hugely popular Doctors, and it’s easy to see why. Both very different, they still shared that off-the-wall humor and bright vibrancy that made audiences so excited to see what was going to happen each week. That has been lost under Capaldi’s tenure of the TARDIS; not necessarily his fault at all, in fact it’s more that he was a victim of circumstance and writing. Either way, though, Doctor Who needs an energy boost in a big way. It might get a bit of a face-lift in the form of the new companion and Nardole featuring in season 10, but Chibnall will be looking to make his own mark on the show, and to bring it back to its former glory.
Doctor Who is a show that many hold in deep affection, owing to its longevity. Adults who watched from behind the couch as children are now watching with their own children. This is a show that people want to see succeed, and if Chibnall picks the right person for the job, the Doctor could well be entertaining legions of new fans.
Doctor Who season 10 will air on BBC1 and BBC America from April 15.