Mere seconds after the announcement that Matt Smith would be stepping down from Doctor Who at the end of the year (during the Christmas special, and after November’s 50th Anniversary special), the Internet exploded not with grief, but with suggestions for a replacement. Some of these suggestions have been completely batsh*t. Some of them are fun, yes, but we Whovians often get a big head about our beloved Doctor and are deluded into believing that the very same people that might be considered for the next James Bond would also be considered for the next Doctor Who. Idris Elba? Are you serious? Benedict Cumberbatch? Uh, he barely has time to film Sherlock, so he’s unlikely to sign on for a huge commitment like Doctor Who. The same goes for Martin Freeman, Tom Hiddleston, Rhys Ifans, and any other British star who is big enough to be well known in America. Daniel Radcliffe or Rupert Grint? Ninja please!
That is just not how Doctor Who works. Yes, it’d be great if they brought in someone of color, or even if the Doctor was a woman. But hiring a known quantity — at least a quantity known to American audiences — is not exactly in line with history. Yes, it’s fun to dreamcast, but keep in mind that Doctor Who — despite a lot of progress since its early beginnings — is still a low-budget sci-fi show, and it’s ratings aren’t exactly The Walking Dead like (in fact, I believe it receives around 7 million viewers in Britain, and 2-3 million viewers on BBC America, which means even the combined international audience is two-thirds of what Big Bang Theory gets in America).
In other words, we can expect someone like we’ve gotten in the past: A familiar face to Brits, but someone that’s not necessarily well known to Americans. Christopher Eccleston is the biggest star the series has ever landed, and I only knew him as a supporting player in 28 Days Later …, and even then, with that stature, he only agreed to one season (and apparently, to wash his hands clean of the series henceforth). So, what we’re likely to see — man, woman, black, or white — is another British actor, unfamiliar to most of us who will likely be familiar to British audiences, but not a superstar.
These are not necessarily the best choice, but the best, most realistic candidates to replace Matt Smith in 2014.
1. Rory Kinnear — Kinnear almost perfectly fits the profile (other than the fact that the series has been moving progressively younger). He’s a familiar face in Britain (his role in Black Mirror will not soon be forgotten, and if you haven’t seen it, do — it will sear a hole in your brain), and he has been in an American film or two (Quantum of Solace). Plus, he kind of has that indescribable Doctor look. He can do peppy and world weary, which is the ideal candidate. If anything, he may be a bit too glum.
2. David Harewood — If they go with a black actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor is the dream choice, but he’s not really Doctor material(at least, not from what I’ve seen), and I love a suggestion I saw over on Pajiba for Richard Ayoade, but he’s too well known from The IT Crowd, especially in Britain. Harewood is the most likely choice among black actors. He’s very well known in Britain for a lengthy television career and somewhat well known in America for his role on Homeland, and I think could inhabit the role, again if they choose to go older this time.
3. Ben Whishaw — I think Wishaw is probably too famous — or at least, will soon be too famous — for the role, but Bond’s new Q would be absolutely perfect. He is the upper edge of what they could potentially get, but I think he’s probably beyond even that, although now that The Hour has been cancelled, he does have a smidge more free time. Honestly, with the exception of number 10 down there, this would be my dream choice.
4. Russel Tovey — Known to some American audiences as former lead character in the British version of Being Human, he’s currently involved with a British sitcom that is set to end this year, which would make the timing perfect. He is another that would fit the profile, although a 2010 appearance on the series may disqualify him (although, previous appearances have not disqualified companions in the past). He’s certainly the right pedigree.
5. Romola Garai — Most of the women choices speculated upon on the Internet have been wildly disproportionate to their likelihood (Kate Winslet?), and though Helen Mirren has expressed slight interest in the role in the past, she’s not a realistic choice either (personally, if we’re reaching, I’d go with Anna Friel from Pushing Daisies). Romala Garai is a great fit, however, known almost exclusively for her British work, especially The Hour. It would be weird, however, to think of the Doctor as a hot blonde.
6. David Walliams — Another familiar actor in Britian, David Walliams has also been on Doctor Who before, but he was unrecognizable in mole make-up. He may be familiar to some from Little Britain and he’s the fan favorite to take the role among Brits. He looks like a tool to me, though (no offense).
7. Harry Lloyd — We know him best as Viserys Targaryen, but he’s not that well known. He would be awesome, and may even bring in some GoT fans. He’ll also be in the BBC mini-series, The Fear, due out in America later this summer. If anything, he might be too Matt Smith-like.
8. Chris O’ Dowd — Here’s another reach, but not as big a reach as Ben Whishaw, if only because O’Dowd has not exactly been burning it up in America since Bridesmaids. He had a small supporting role in Girls, and he’s the lead in HBO’s series, Family Tree, but I think we all know that — as amiable as it is — that series is going nowhere, and O’Dowd is basically an older version of Matt Smith with a wicked sense of humor. O’Dowd is what Doctor Who needs to steer it away from the deep mythology episodes and back toward more fun stand-alone episodes.
9. Dev Patel — He’s British. He’s of color. He is well known for Slumdog Millionaire, but his role now on HBO’s Newsroom is not that substantial, and he’s tall and skinny with a keen ability for bumbling. It’s a long shot, of course, but he’s well suited.
9.5 Laurence Fox — I just wanted to throw this option out there. If the BBC wanted to keep it in the Doctor Who family, they might consider rising British star Laurence Fox, who happens to be married to Billie Piper.
10. David Tennant — It’s not THAT preposterous. He will be back for the 50th Anniversary, after all, and maybe Moffat finds a way to cheat around the limited number of regenerations by using a REVERSION. This is my favorite suggestion because no one will ever top Tennant, so why even bother? Just bring him back. What could be better? NOTHING.