It’s official. Matt Smith, the actor currently playing the 11th incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor who is leaving. And if you don’t know what Doctor Who is, please learn more here and here. What’s important to understand is that, aside from the USA, most of the English-speaking world has been in love with Doctor Who for 50 years. It’s kinda a big deal.
And please forgive me for taking advantage of my position as a blogger to talk about this show and the changes coming. Thank you for your patience while I ramble a bit.
The trick that has kept Doctor Who fresh for so long has to do with the main character, the Doctor. He is an alien, a Time Lord, who is able to regenerate into a healthy new body any time his old one is damaged beyond repair. He retains the same mind and memories, but his personality always undergoes a shift. It’s happened 10 times since the show aired in November 1963, and this winter of 2013 it will happen again. Matt Smith has been playing the doctor now for three full seasons – which is a pretty normal run for an actor in the part – and he is stepping down to let a new actor reinvent the role.
So who should be the 12th doctor? Whovians like me are all a-flutter thinking about the nearly limitless possibilities. Almost anyone could be cast, and that’s what makes it so fun. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.
1) The next actor should remain a man. Some people have been advocating for the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, and I sympathize. But I don’t think it should happen for several reasons. The most simple is this: There is no precedent for it. Never in the show has a Time Lord regenerated in this way, and there’s no good reason to do so now. In a few isolated situations the show has indicated this could happen, such as in The Doctor’s Wife, but it has never happened for this character, and for good reasons. In nature there are rare examples of creatures that can change gender, but nothing so complex as a thinking biped. It’s things like frogs that have that ability, and it’s rare anyway.
Also, although it may increase viewership of the show for a short time, I think it’s going to alienate more people than it draws in. Truth be told, there are fans out there who would be turned off by this often masculine hero suddenly swapping gender. I might not be one of them, but I can see where they stand from where I currently sit.
And finally, having the Doctor regenerate as a female would generate some new laughs and a few interesting story lines, but it sure wouldn’t last three years. The jokes would become old, the gender-bender story lines would wear thin, and in the end not much would be gained. Certainly not much will be added to the character him/herself. It’s just not the right move to make.
2) The next actor could easily have darker skin. I think this would be a good thing, but not if it’s made a focus of the story. It can be mentioned, discussed briefly, then left alone. If the Doctor regenerates in a body that fits our loose definitions of “asian”, “black”, “hispanic” or some other term, we must remember the Doctor isn’t from around here. His planet may have had people with darker pigmentation and varying bone structures, but it just isn’t a “thing”. And I think making a change like this would be great by simply making the change, not playing it up. Look, the Doctor’s black. Now let’s go stop the Cybermen. Period.
3) The Doctor should be older. I know, I know; youth sells. But at least four of the actors to play the doctor have been older when then had the role, and by older I mean over 40. The first three actors to play the part were ALL over 40 at the time, and the first doctor was almost elderly. Now I know times have changed, but this is a part of Doctor Who. Since the revival of the series in 2005 the Doctor has been getting younger and younger, culminating in Matt Smith who is the youngest actor to ever play the part. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the revived series and I don’t want to harm its chances to stay on the air. But I think the Doctor could benefit by having an older-appearing actor. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, or perhaps it’s because I’m 44 myself, but an older face commands some respect, and it would open up some story lines that haven’t been explored in the present show.
So that’s it. Let the InterWebs know my preferences! Now assuming these three points are listened to by the BBC as they go into casting the role, I’d like to humbly suggest a few actors I think would be fantastic as #12.
#1 Adrian Lester
#2 Maynard Eziashi
#3 Terence Stamp
#4 Paul Barber
#5 Lenny Henry