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Who Should Play the Doctor: Vote on Possible Replacements for David Tennant on "Doctor Who"

Who will pilot the TARDIS?

While it's still possibly too early to guess who will take over as our favorite Time Lord on Doctor Who after yesterday's announcement that David Tennant would be leaving the series after the four specials slated to air in 2009, I figure that I should push myself towards the acceptance point of the grieving process by looking at some likely contenders to take over as the Eleventh Doctor.

Below are a few guesses, speculations, and (pipe) dreams about who could be in contention for the role of the Doctor once Tennant hangs up his pin-striped suits and specs at the end of 2009. But I am curious to see (A) if you agree with these selections, (B) if you have your own candidates in mind, and (C) which of these men (and one woman) you feel is best equipped to take over as the Doctor. Vote now!

James Callis (Battlestar Galactica)

He's enticed our imaginations and gone to some very weird places after four seasons as Battlestar Galactica's tortured Gaius Baltar. Callis would bring an expected degree of wackiness to the role (he's also clearly not afraid of acting in front of green screens or fey comedy as evidenced by Bridget Jones' Diary) but also potentially a deeply rooted darkness to the role as the Doctor. I think he would be an ideal candidate to follow Tennant's more whimsical Doctor and bring a different energy to the part; he's just different enough from Tennant to be able to distinguish himself from his predecessor but he might be just similar enough to make the transition as painless as possible.

John Simm (Life on Mars)

If there's one candidate I'd most like to see take over the mantle of the Doctor it's John Simm, who has proven himself to be a talented actor of wide range (to wit: The Lakes, State of Play, Life on Mars) and has quite a following after his star turn on BBC One's Life on Mars. He's brainy but kinetic, explosive yet thoughtful, all of the attributes that go into making the perfect Doctor. Except for one problem: he's already appeared on Doctor Who in an iconic arc that brought the Master, a villainous Time Lord, against the Doctor and Martha Jones in Season Three. And somehow--rather sadly, I should add--I don't think the regeneration process would have him regenerate as someone we've already seen, much less as the former murderous Prime Minister of England. Sigh.

Jack Davenport (Coupling, Swingtown)

If anyone's name is likely to turn up on the list of possible candidates, it's Jack Davenport, most recently seen on the small screen this summer on CBS' Swingtown. Davenport can do wacky quite well (just pick his turn as Steve in any episode of Coupling) and he has a history with Steven Moffat, the co-creator of Coupling. He seems a logical choice to take over as the Doctor, given that history and his comedic background... and Swingtown proved that Davenport can do drama as well. And yet I can't help but think that Davenport won't be a strong enough actor to stand apart from Tennant and lacks that consummate presence that made both Tenannt and Eccleston knock-out leads on such an enduring, iconic series.

Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks, a.k.a. MI-5) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks, a.k.a. MI-5)

No list would be complete without the former leads of Spooks but to me both of these blokes lack the consumate warmth and spark of Tennant and Eccleston and both of their possible spins on the Doctor would be a little more icy than we've grown accustomed to. Still, I was pretty damn impressed with Macfadyen's recent (and almost unrecognizable) guest turn on Ashes to Ashes, in which he so became OCD-affilicted robbery victim Gil Hollis that Macfadyen all but disappeared. Could he carry off another such transformation with the Doctor and show us a lighter side? I'm undecided. The same holds true for Penry-Jones (next to be seen in The 39 Steps) who seems a little too reserved and gruff for our brainy, quirky Doctor.

Colin Salmon (Doctor Who)

Personally, I think a really interesting approach could be to go with Colin Salmon, who memorably appeared on Doctor Who last season as Dr. Moon in Moffat's two-parter ("Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead"). Salmon brings a quiet gravitas with him as well as a feeling that he's seen it all. Salmon's also no stranger to more comedic roles, such as the ones he played on Keen Eddie and his guest star turn on Season One of Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The fact that he worked with Moffat on Who is a distinct plus but that very same fact could work against him as he has already appeared on the series. Meanwhile, MGM is said to be keen to get Salmon to reprise his role as action hero Jonas Moore in a TV version of the web series The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore. Hmm...

Russell Tovey (Gavin & Stacey, History Boys)

Tovey's name has cropped up a few times in conversations with outbound Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies (who, like Tennant, will depart after next year's four specials). Tovey already appeared once on Doctor Who as Midshipman Frame in the "Voyage of the Damned" Christmas special. While I like Tovey quite a lot (his guest starring turn on Ashes to Ashes was absolutely heartbreaking while his recurring appearances on Gavin & Stacey are hysterical), I can't help but feel that he's a little bit too young to take on the role of the Doctor and a little too baby-faced. While Tennant brings a wide-eyed wonder to the role, he also brings a knowledge of the universe and I can't help but wonder if Tovey could pull off that difficult combination.

James Nesbitt (Jekyll)

Another frontrunner for the role of The Doctor would definitely be Irish actor James Nesbitt, who starred in last year's gripping Jekyll, the gripping BBC revisionist take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale that was written by--wait for it--none other than Steven Moffat.
Best known for his work on Cold Feet and Murphy's Law, Nesbitt would bring certainly a different sort of look to the Doctor that is miles apart from the slender and stylish Doctor currently embodied by Tennant. While I think that Nesbitt is an extraordinarily talented actor (and Jekyll proved he could do wacky sci-fi as well as comedy and hard-hitting drama), he doesn't quite fit the bill for the Doctor for me.

Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Jekyll)

Like several of our other candidates, James has worked with Moffat previously (on Jekyll) and has appeared on Doctor Who (as Rodrick in Season One's "Bad Wolf" and "Parting of the Ways"). He's quite a good comedian, as evidenced by his memorable turns on Peep Show, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Hyperdrive, and Green Wing and could definitely pull off that off-kilter humor and wonder that the Doctor does so well. That said, his grating Southern accent in Jekyll made me want to rip off my own ears so I am torn (heh) about him, though many are tipping Joseph as a front-runner for the role and a black Doctor would be not only a different way to take the role but also a powerful sign of social progress and an added relevance with today's multi-ethic and multi-cultural society.

Mackenzie Crook (The Office)

While it's more of a longshot than anything else, I'd absolutely love to see Mackenzie Crook take on the Doctor. Crook, perhaps best known for playing anal retentive/borderline sociopath Gareth Keenan on the original UK version of The Office, would bring a combustive energy and je ne sais quoi to the role as well as offer a vast difference in looks, carriage, and demeanour to Tennant. Crook can do pathos (just watch his scene with David when he learns that David has accepted a job with corporate) as well as comedy (any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films) and, well, how awesome would it be if the Man Who Was Gareth was flying around in the TARDIS?

Gina Bellman (Coupling, Jekyll)

Some might decry it as heresy, but if Steven Moffat really wanted to shake things up, he could do something wildly unexpected and have the Doctor regenerate as a woman. (Which would not only be shocking but really prove the series' anything-can-happen moxie.) And if that were to occur, there's only one woman I'd put forward as the obvious first female Doctor: Gina Bellman. Bellman, next appearing on TNT's Leverage, has worked with Moffat twice (on Coupling as the batty Jane and then as tough-as-nails Claire Jackman on Jekyll) and would bring both a fantastic comedic timing and an unpredictable wackiness as well as a powerful and commanding presence (especially seen in Jekyll) that speaks volumes about the Doctor as a destroyer. It's unlikely to happen but worth a thought, nonetheless.

So who do you think should take over as the Doctor when Tennant leaves? Vote now!


joy said…
ITA with the John Simm, wholeheartedly. I think if SM can come up with a plausible story to get him back (like maybe he was actually in that ring that the red-fingernailed chick picked out of the pyre), then he'd be awesome.

And, I know my sister would love to see Matthew Macfadyen or RPJ on it...but, would agree with you on their wacky enough for kids reservedness.

I do love the idea of Colin Salmon.

I also wouldn't be opposed to an American Eleven, but for the life of me, I can't figure who (rimshot) we could offer up for the role.
It's tough because so many great actors have already appeared on the show. It would be interesting to see John Simm in the role but, as you said, it's unlikely since he was already part of a major Doctor Who arc.

Similarly, I'd love to see Burn Gorman as the Doctor but his role as Owen on Torchwood kind of makes that impossible.

If they did choose a woman, Gina Bellman would be fantastic. She played two incredibly different roles on Coupling and Jekyll and I think she could tackle anything you'd throw at her.

But, right now, I think I'd have to choose James Callis. He's shown a really wide range on BSG and is passionate, charismatic, and unpredictable - all necessary traits for the Doctor.

Or they could just clone Tennant.
Anonymous said…
My vote is for Saxon (aka Simm) but I second the notion that they should just clone Tennant somehow and keep him in the role for a few more years!
Anonymous said…
Casting an American would be just wrong. Doctor Who is an iconic British programme and no Yank should ever play The Doctor, full stop. As for your suggestions, some very intriguing ones in the mix, especially Callis and Paterson. I'd lean more towards Callis as he already has an established sci-fi fan base.
Anonymous said…
My vote would be for Callis! I can't help but think that his incredible comic timing and deadpan delivery would make his incarnation of the Doctor endlessly entertaining.

And now for something completely different... I also offer up Irish actor Aiden Gillen, most recently of THE WIRE fame as Mayor Carcetti, and prior to that, the UK Queer As Folk. While it may seem odd based on his character from THE WIRE, his British work suggests he could give the Doctor a little punk flare. Plus, he'd bring out the 'Dickensian aspect' of the show. (heh, little WIRE humor there ;-)
Anonymous said…
While I am saddened to see Tennant go, I was also saddened when Eccleston left, so I'm curious to see who they'll go with.

I, too, really, really like the idea of Simm. I think the fact that he appeared as an incarnation of the Master could work. Think, how the Doctor would feel if every time he saw himself, he was reminded of the Master?

I would love to see Colin Salmon as the Doctor. The ideas of Crook and Bellman are fascinating to consider.

All that aside, aren't they running out of regenerations? I thought the doctor only got a limited number. (Twelve if I remember correctly.)
Anonymous said…
I LOVE the idea of Aiden Gillen!!! Other than him, I would go for Simm. I am sure Moffat can come up with a rationale for using Simm/the Master that makes sense.
Jace Lacob said…
I have to say that the best alternative suggestion to emerge so far is Aiden Gillen, which didn't even cross my mind. Well done, Anonymous!
Anonymous said…
My #1 choice is Callis. I love Simm, but I really don't see him signing on for this. #2 is Macfadyen and #3 is Salmon. You're sending all these comments to BBC and Moffatt, right?
Anonymous said…
Great post! My vote is for Simm. He'd be perfect as The Doctor even though he was all ready on the show. (I think that Steven Moffat could easily come up with an explanation about the how and why). Tovey is too young and I like Matthew Macfadyen but he seems wrong for the part (like you said) and Colin Salmon just feels a little old.
Anonymous said…
My vote goes to Mackenzie. I think he'd be good.
Kevin Gustafson said…
Everyone knows it is gonna be James Nesbitt, he has the obvious choice ever since Moffat was tapped to take over the show.
Anonymous said…
Nesbitt is too obvious and I don't think he'd make a particularly good Doctor, not after Tennant anyway. He seems too old and a little too baldy-waldy/unattractive.
Anonymous said…
I always thought Anthony Stewart Head would have been good as the doctor. Although, I'm sure the powers that be are looking for a younger lead.
TC said…
Oo... I love that Gina Bellman choice. Personally I don't think the doctor should be able to skip genders but if they do it "anyway" (who listens to me! :) then Gina Bellman would be an awesome choice.
Anonymous said…
I am really on board with the Gina Bellman option which was inspired! If they don't want to go that route then I think that John Simm or James Callis would be great at the next Doctor. I don't like the idea of James Nesbitt AT ALL. But Anthony Head would be awesome if they wanted older.
Joe B. said…
I've been making my British friends crazy by suggesting, wait for it, Neil Patrick Harris.

Seriously, doesn Barney have many women in NYC left to date? No. So, he might be available.

They consider it heresy.
Anonymous said…
Sean Pertwee would be excellent. He would have a lot of flexibility to reference his Dad or play it edgy.

Another I'd like to see would be Sam Troughton.
Cheryl said…
Wow -- I love the idea of Gina Bellman as the Doctor! I think she'd be amazing in the role.
Captain Average said…
Personally, I'd like to see another former collaborator of Moffat's take over the role, Jekyll, himself, James Nesbitt.

He can do drama and comedy with the best of them and can be as broad or nuanced as you want.

Plus, he's physically dissimilar enough from Tennant to create a wholly different atmosphere for the series.
Unknown said…
Kevin McKidd (Journeyman) would be great.
qooza said…
I agree that Davenport doesn't have the presence, and really, I think John Simm is a cut above the rest. I'm not a James Nesbitt fan, so hopefully it won't be him. Moffat knows what he's doing though!
Terri Savage said…
How 'bout the actor who played the cute Vampire in Moonlight?
Anonymous said…
I'll go for one of the 2 Spooks or Mackenzie Crook. I've watched almost everything Jack Davenport's been in (that's aired in the US) and I'm 95% sure he'd surprise us and be great at it but that 5% is going to need more convincing.

I really don't think they should ever use an actor who already appeared on the show - they barely got away with that for Romana.
As for supporters of the excellent Gina Bellman - there's already a radio/audio adventure of a female Doctor. Though if they made her (Ms. Bellman) another hidden Time Lord (Rani? future Ms. Doctor?) or a repeating character, I might actually continue to watch Doctor Who.
Anonymous said…
Anthony Head (even if he has appeared as a guest ) if we can't get John Simm. NOT a female - I'm all for Romana or the Rani coming back though.
Anonymous said…
Sean Pertwee would be a good choice I think. Maybe it's in his blood after his father Jon played the role for a good 3 - 4 years.
Anonymous said…
Too bad he is doing so well on "House" in the States because I think Hugh Laurie would make an excellent Doctor. It would be great to see him put what he has learned playing Gregory House into action at The Doctor.
Anonymous said…
Its far more likely Bellman will be the Rani when/if the Moff has her return.
Anonymous said…
I am very pleased to see my top 2 choices, James Callis and Matthew McFadyen. Either one would make this gal very, very happy.

Another person that I could see as the next Doctor is Lennie James. He already has a loyal sci-fi following after his turn on Jericho.
Anonymous said…
I vote for James Callis if they weren't going to use someone who had been on the show before. Otherwise John Simm.

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