Who Will be the Next Doctor?
Idle speculation is a national pastime in the UK. Be it about the gender of the next royal baby or who’ll be managing some ailing football club, we’ll happily spend an inordinate amount of time and energy pondering such matters. Is such conjecture based on factually accurate data and a knowledgeable insight of the matter in hand? Unfortunately, not. The only requirements necessary to express an opinion are a rudimentary grasp of the English language, access to a web enabled device and a pulse. The latest matter to arise that offers the public an opportunity to indulge in some fevered speculation, is the news that Peter Capaldi will be quitting the role of Doctor Who at the end of the year. Therefore, who exactly would be the thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor.
Now in the past, the pundits and those who work in the industry have favoured rather obvious, existing "stars". This was the case when David Tennant left the show. Such names as James Nesbitt, Catherine Tate, Catherine Zeta Jones and even David Walliams where bandied about. Then the BBC completely wrong footed everyone by casting Mr. Smith. This time round the press are considering a mixture of mainstream contenders as well as a few more obscure and outlandish candidates. So far, the following names seem to come up. Ben Whishaw, Richard Ayoade, David Harewood, Olivia Colman, Maxine Peake, Rory Kinnear, Sacha Dhawan, Emma Watson, Hayley Atwell, Tim Roth, Colin Morgan.
Now many may think that the debate regarding the next Doctor, is nothing more than a discussion about pop culture. It may even be labelled trivial by some. However, I think it also reveals a lot more about society and indicates wider views held by parts of the population. Because some people still find the idea of the Doctor being a woman or non-white unpalatable. It was something that first emerged in 2013 prior to Peter Capaldi getting the role. Similar objections have also surfaced in recent years when speculating about the next James Bond. Because of the current political climate, people are less reticent about expressing such views. Furthermore, such opinions may indicate that not everyone believes in such “shared values” as equality. Perhaps it is time to consider that societal norms are far more fluid.
Now there may well be individuals who object to such things purely for reasons of racism or misogyny. I don’t see the point of dwelling upon the like, because prejudice of this nature is simply irrational and illogical. Call it such and move on. However, I don’t think that all such objections are driven by bigotry. There are other factors in play here. Namely, fan’s misplaced sense of ownership. Fans tend to invest in a franchise, product or concept to the point where they feel that their boundless love gives them a degree of collective involvement or even ownership. This point can be argued philosophically until one is blue in the mouth but the reality of the situation is driven be the law. Fans despite what they may feel, are passive observers and financial donors and nothing more.
Doctor Who, like any other intellectual property, belongs to a specific owner. In this case, it is the BBC. Therefore, it is very much their bat and ball to use an old phrase. They hire specific writers who are then given relative creative freedom to develop the character of the Doctor. The process is not driven by the will of the fan base. The self-appointed label of “fan” doesn’t give you any additional status or rights over than that of a casual viewer. If a show such as Doctor Who pursues a narrative direction that some fans do not like or cast an actor that a percentage object to, then it is simply a matter of differing opinions between creator and consumer. To frame such objections in any other way is spurious. Therefore, if don’t like the next actor to play the Doctor and feel that you’ve suffered a personal slight or grievance as a result, may I refer you to the wise words of Marcus Aurelius. “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears”.
The great thing about Doctor Who is that it's Science fiction. The very nature of the genre affords it a far greater degree of artistic freedom. Effectively, if the show ever paints itself into a corner, they can via the means of some clever pseudo-science, easily produce a get out of jail card and be back on track in no time. Therefore, issues such as race and gender can easily be explained, explored and accommodated by the lore, if there is the political will to do so by the show’s producers. Let us not forget that the biggest issues here are not complex social and philosophical ones but the simple fact that people often struggle with change. Yet it was change that saved Doctor Who to begin with and gave us single episode story-lines, less running up and down corridors and a sexier Doctor himself. The show simply had to evolve to remain relevant.
So, while this matter is being hotly debated, I see no reason why Contains Moderate Peril shouldn't contribute to the speculation and offer some of our own well-conceived suggestions. All our recommended actors have the potential to bring something unique and special to the role. I wonder what odds William Hill are giving?
- Grace Jones. This would see a return to a more eccentric.
- Jason Isaacs. Cool, suave, sexy etc.
- Meera Syal. A fine actress and a funny lady. I’m certain she’d bring something of note to the role.
- Susan Calman. She has already put herself forward on twitter with the caveat that Tom Hardy is her companion.
- Michael Ironside. Because he would just be bat-shit crazy and make the Daleks soil themselves.