Doctor Who: so just who will replace David Tennant?

Stephen takes an in-depth look at the runners and riders looking to become the 11th Doctor Who...

And so Tennant’s hanging up his TARDIS key. He will be an ex-Timelord. Apart from the 2013 and 2023 reunions with Messrs Baker and McCoy wheeled out in their bath-chairs of course.

It’s most likely that he’ll act his last on either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve 2009. Of course, for those followers of the ‘Laverne As Doctor’ school of (mathematical) thought, they know that he’ll last until 17th April 2010. A ‘last gasp’ five minutes reprise at the start of an episode, or a full blown ‘transition’ episode? It remains to be seen. But right now people seem more interested in just who will be taking over, rather than when.

First, a bit of maths. Because you knew this bit was coming.

The eldest actor to step through the doors of the TARDIS for the first time was William Hartnell back in November ’63. He was 55 years and 10 months old. Second eldest was the 50 years and 6 month old Jon Pertwee. The youngest have been Peter Davison back when he was just 30 years 9 months and, of course, David Tennant at 34 years and 7 months. The average age of a Timelord on his (her?) first voyage has been 42 years and 2 months. This is something that, I think, we should take into account when choosing the next regeneration, especially given Steven Moffat’s (admittedly ten year old!) comments on the subject: “I don’t think young, dashing Doctors are right at all. He should be 40-plus and weird-looking — the kind of wacky grandfather kids know on sight to be secretly one of them.”

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This is admittedly fairly tangible evidence, but it should be noted that the usual pattern on the series is that one Doctor is usually succeeded by his polar opposite. Stern and commanding Bill Hartnell followed by scruffy and whimsical Pat Troughton. Who was followed by the dandy and authoritative Jon Pertwee. Who was followed by the eccentric and otherworldly Tom Baker. Who was followed by a much younger and, well, nicer man. Who was followed by a loud and nasty man. Who was followed by a quiet and nice man. Etc. etc.

So, chances are we should be looking for a mirror-image of Tennant. Someone older, slightly less manic? Thus it would seem likely that Moffat’s ten year old words will probably hold true.

Who are the favourites, then?

David Morrissey is the 44 year old actor who shone in Blackpool and The Deal as well as appearing in The Other Boleyn Girl and also the wonderful State of Play, although my own personal opinion is that he was one of the weaker performers in this. I would qualify this by pointing out that firstly his role was less interesting than some of the others, and also that he was up against John Simm, James McAvoy and the wonderful Bill Nighy.

Morrissey hasn’t given any thoughts as to whether he would take the role or not, but his forthcoming appearance as the enigmatically titled The Next Doctor in this year’s Christmas Special have made him the odds-on favourite at 5/2.

Morrissey is tall, fairly old and somewhat brooding, with a real sense of gravitas, but also a rather engaging grin. He also looks very good when decked out like a big ponced-up Time Lord in the Christmas Special. All of this, for my money, makes him a very good choice indeed.

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Let us not forget, too, that Morrissey is a Scouser, like Tom Baker and Paul McGann before him. The North has also produced two other Doctors – Eccleston (Salford) and Colin Baker (Rochdale, via London) so it’s certainly not a disadvantage to come from there. For the record, both McCoy and Tennant are Scottish, and the first three Doctors and Peter Davison all hail from London areas.

Morrissey is described as the favourite to succeed Tennant by most publications and I see no real reason to disagree with this.

Paterson Joseph is another 44 year old who hails from London. He has made his name in several mainstream television productions as well as in Neil Gaiman’s sci-fi epic Neverwhere and as the inimitable ‘Johnson’ in Peep Show. Oh, and he was in Bad Wolf. He also does ‘proper’ plays. Which is useful as that sort of experience is good for making the Doctor suitably overblown.

Joseph has the requisite gravitas and would also prove to be a fascinating contrast to Tennant. However, whilst he is excellent as the puffed up Johnson in Peep Show, I found him rather less convincing in Neverwhere.

Joseph has been quoted as saying that he would be interested in the role, but unfortunately I can’t find a specific quote. Oh, such poor journalism skills! His agent did, however, deny to us that he had been linked with the role here, saying “If Paterson had the part, it would have come through us, so I think that’s a no…”

I do quite like Paterson, but I think I’d prefer David Morrissey in the long-run.

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James Nesbitt is another actor in his early 40s who has soared to fame in series such as Cold Feet as well as appearing in TV dramas such as Jekyll and The Passion. Nesbitt is from Northern Ireland which would contrast nicely with Tennant’s chirpy Cockney barrow boy accent. Nesbitt was the favourite to succeed Tennant back in the Summer after the events of The Stolen Earth, but had already said, earlier in the year, when asked if he was to be Tennant’s replacement, “Definitely not. No. I couldn’t follow Chris or David. I thought they were both brilliant. But also it’s not really something that was my…I didn’t really grow up with it… I couldn’t follow David Tennant. He’s too good. That would be career suicide, following David Tennant in anything. He’s so good.”

We’ll take that as a ‘No’, then.

Still, times change, and Mr. Nesbitt’s views may change with them. He’s the 2nd or 3rd favourite for the role depending on which betting shop you go to, but I’m really not convinced by him as the Doctor at all. There’s something innately unlikeable about him and, dare I say it, a little too brooding. He’d be like Colin Baker but without the nice bits. Murdering companions left, right and centre. No, a bit too scary for me, I think. Also, his many affairs with co-stars and beauty contest winners would surely count against him being any sort of acceptable children’s role model. And that, too, is something to be considered.

Speaking of ‘scary’, the 47 year old Robert Carlyle is also one of the favourites. Another Glaswegian, Carlyle jumps effortlessly from terrifying psychopath (‘Begbie’ in Trainspotting) to, well, lovely (‘Hamish Macbeth’ in, erm, Hamish Macbeth). Good range of styles, then. Very Tennant/Tom Baker in that regard, then. He’s also quite the method actor, which would make things very interesting indeed, I think.

Back in March, Carlyle said that the role of the Doctor was “David’s part and nothing to do with me, so I can’t really think about it at the moment. But would I do it? Possibly.”

He’d be a return to the the gruffer, edgier alien of earlier Who, taking in not just Tom Baker’s eccentricities, but also Colin Baker’s and, I think, Bill Hartnell’s cantankerousness and attitude that would say “No. Seriously. Do not f*** me around.”

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And that provide an interesting contrast to Tennant. One to think about, I feel.

James McAvoy, a wee slip of a lad at 29 is also one of the front-runners. He’s not issued any quote regarding this wave of attention but I think he can be discounted for two reasons. Firstly, he seems reluctant to commit to long-running series (such as when he quit Shameless during its second series, plus he’s got Wanted 2 to film) and, secondly, he’s rather too close to Tennant in several ways – Scottishness, youth, good looks, likeability – that he would most likely be seen as just a younger version of the older man. Still, bloody good actor, though!

John Simm has ten years on James McAvoy and is currently at 10-1 in the bookmakers. Again he’s a good actor but, in comparison to James McAvoy, he does have a much more obvious ‘dark side’ (as seen in his earlier turn as The Master) that goes well with the likeability he has shown in things such as Human Traffic and State of Play. Again, Simm’s made no comment on the role, but I feel that the only things handicapping him would be that he’s already played a major part in the series, and that he’s rather too similar to Tennant in age. Another one to keep an eye on, though.

Russell Tovey is supposed to be Russell T. Davies’ choice as Tennant’s successor, and the 27 year old Tovey is keen to play up to this by responding to the question of succession with, “Of course! It’s awesome.” My own opinion would be that Tovey is far too young and also far too bland for the role. I’ve also not been struck by any particular skills he has as an actor. He also strikes me as very ‘stagey’ and not particularly natural.

Rhys Ifans was an early front-runner (at 8-1) who seems to have dropped down the field somewhat since his fans have stopped putting large amounts of money on him to succeed Tennant. Ifans is 40 years old but really hasn’t been in a great deal else of note other than Notting Hill. He has the eccentricity certainly, but I’m not sure that he has much else. A rather colourful lovelife and one time membership of Welsh stoner band ‘Super Furry Animals’ may also sully him as a children’s role model. A Welsh Doctor would certainly be interesting, but I don’t think that Ifans is your man.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has done the reverse of Ifans, in that he has come from nowhere to be seen as one of the front-runners for the role. He’s a 34 year old classical actor who’s also appeared in a fair few films such as Love Actually. He’s certainly a good actor and has the awards to prove it, but I’ve never noticed anything particularly Doctor-like about him. Still, he certainly has room to prove himself.

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Anthony Head seems too obvious for the role in my opinion. A successful sci-fi icon already, I’m sure he’d be a perfectly adequate Doctor, but I don’t think he’d make a particularly edgy or interesting one. A ‘safe pair of hands’ as it were. I’d still take him over Ifans or Tovey, though.

David Walliams. Oh dear. At 14/1, apparently. I’d rather not think about that one, really. The campest, squealiest bits of Tennant mixed with the campest, squealiest bits of, erm, who? Bonnie Langford. No. Please. No.

Alan Davies. Personally, I find Alan Davies innately annoying and he provides a big reason for not watching QI. I wouldn’t want to be similarly put off from Doctor Who. He’d be a parody of a Doctor, I feel – seriously lacking in any real depth.

Jason Statham is also, inexplicably, at 14/1. He’s a good actor, but a bit of a stereotypical ‘hard man’. He’d certainly provide a good contrast to Tennant, but would the novelty wear off too quickly?

Richard E. Grant. See ‘Anthony Head’. Woefully predictable and, let’s face it, has he really done anything worthwhile since Withnail and I?

Nigel Harman. Another, like Grant, at 16/1. Ex soap-star who’s trying to get into ‘serious’ things. Good luck to him. I don’t think he’s Timelord material, though.

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Bill Nighy. Allegedly the original first choice of RTD to be Doctor Number Nine. I think that to have him in charge at the series’ 2005 relaunch might have been slightly foolhardy, but I do think that he would have made an excellent successor to Eccleston. Quirky, odd looking and genuinely a brilliant actor, Nighy would have my vote for Doctor Eleven. At the start of this year he declared that, “It’s a timeless role. At one time I was rumoured to be up against Judi Dench for the role but I was never asked. It would be a very interesting part to do.” I think that Nighy would be truly iconic in the role. And, of course, the age thing (Nighy is 58) would make a good contrast with Tennant. Although he’s still quite gangly and eccentric with it. Hmm. Maybe David Morrissey does provide more contrast, after all?

Richard Coyle is at 18/1. He played ‘Jeff’ in Moffat’s excellent Coupling series. Coyle has proved he has the eccentricity required for the role, as well as some superb comic timing, but it would probably take the serious edge away from the part. Also, Coyle and Moffat are believed to not be on speaking terms since Coyle’s hurried departure from Coupling back in 2003.

Aidan Gillen is a 40 year old Irishman who has been in Queer as Folk and The Wire. Interesting choice, but pales into insignificance compared with some of the above.

Sean Pertwee is also trading at 18/1. Pertwee seems to have quite a propensity for taking on bad roles in bad films and should really only be considered as a big treat for fans of his Dad.

Harry Lloyd is at 20/1. He’s also 24 years old. He plays ‘Will Scarlett’ in Robin Hood. He is a child. Where’s the gravitas in that?

Marc Warren, aka Elton Pope from Love and Monsters is also trading at 20/1. Interesting character and pretty good actor, but again I’m not sure he’d bring anything truly exciting to the part.

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The final person at 20/1 is Jack Davenport. Another Coupling actor, by way of This Life and the Pirates of the Carribean films. Davenport’s a very good actor with a lot of range and can do ‘serious’ and ‘comedy’ very well, but again he doesn’t seem to be suitable Doctor Who material. I wish that I could define it better than that, but it’s a hard trait to put one’s finger on!

The Daily Mirror reports that ex-EastEnders actor, Tom Ellis, is under consideration. Ellis played Tom Milligan in The Last Of The Time Lords. According to the rag, a BBC source says, “Tom is the frontrunner for the job and is very interested.” Interesting choice, but a little too clean cut and lacking edginess.

Adrian Lester stated earlier this year that “there’s no reason why they couldn’t have a black doctor…though I want to play him first.” Adrian has a good film career behind him, but might well be overshadowed by Paterson Joseph in his aim.

Alexander Armstrong is a good bloke and a top comedian, but would probably come across as just an older Tennant. (25/1)

Daniel Radcliffe is a child. (25/1)

Also at 25/1 we have Catherine Tate. Interesting, but extremely divisive! I imagine that Moffat is quite keen to move away from RTD in a lot of ways, thus taking one of his companions would probably not be the right way to go. Anyway, we know that if we’re going for a female, then Lauren Laverne’s your lady!

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Burn Gorman, aka Owen Harper in Torchwood has a similar vibe to Marc Warren, and is probably about as suitable for the role as he.

Julian Rhind-Tutt is annoying and dandified. (33/1)

Rupert Penry-Jones is in Spooks. He is at 33/1. Again, he seems to lack the ‘Doctor’ vibe. Stephen Fry, however, is also at 33/1. His appointment would be pretty popular with a certain part of the fanbase I think, but it would also feel rather like novelty casting. If we want a bumbling eccentric in the role, then I think Nighy would handle it better than Mr. Fry.

John Barrowman is also running at 33/1. As much as I love Captain Jack, again I don’t think that this would be a wise decision. Just too young and, well, American for the role. Plus, can we really have a Doctor who’s so obviously led by his genitals?

Ben Miles is another Coupling actor (playing ‘Patrick’). Again, I feel that like a lot of the above, he’s a bit too clean-cut for the role of the Doctor. I think he’s probably just been included on these lists to cover all of the Moffat bases.

David Suchet. What? Poirot? Hmm, quite a leftfield choice this one. I think he’d have quite a Sylvester McCoy vibe to him, actually. Not sure how popular that would be with the massed ranks of the public, though.

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Hugh Laurie. 50/1. See ‘Stephen Fry’.

Billie Piper. 50/1. And what would happen if the Doctor met Rose again? You might fulfil the fantasies of the viewers of Belle du Jour, but I don’t think it would make suitable prime time TV. Next!

At 66/1 we have Gary Oldman (Good actor, but I’d much rather take Alan Rickman if we were going for this sort of vibe), Matt Smith (another youngster), Paul Bettany (a former Class-A drug user. Naughty, naughty! The ‘Daily Mail’ will be outraged!), Joel Beckett (‘Lee’ from The Office. Again, another Gorman/Warren type), and, bizarrely, Christopher Eccleston. About whom we shall not comment!

80/1 has Alex Kingston (have they ever seen the series?), Benedict Cumberbatch (Very good in Hawking, but perhaps a little too young), Dean Lennox Kelly (‘Shakespeare’ from that Shakespeare episode) and Christopher Villiers. My favourite of these by a country mile has to be Lennox Kelly. He’s the right age, the right amount of contrast to Tennant and could, I think, conceivably pull it off.

100/1. Ricky Gervais. No. And not bloody Eddie Izzard, either.

150/1 Hugh Grant. He stated “ The danger with those things is that it’s only when you see it on screen that you think, ‘Damn, that was good, why did I say no?’ But then, knowing me, I’d probably make a mess of it,” which is quite sweet, but again, seems a little too obviously a charicature of the role in the same way that Anthony Head would. Also at 150/1 we have Russell Brand and Vinnie Jones. Again, about whom I shall not comment.

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200/1. Robbie Williams. Shush now.

And in conclusion? Personally I’d be ecstatic with either David Morrissey or Bill Nighy. Let’s just hope that the final choice isn’t too bland, too young, or too Tennanty.

Leave your own thoughts on the next Doctor in the comments!



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