Kris Marshall: What Was Behind the Fake Doctor Who Rumours?

Here's how Beyond Paradise star Kris Marshall became the focus of one of Doctor Who’s longest-running ‘fake news’ stories

Kris Marshall Doctor Who
Photo: BBC

Legend has it, if you say ‘New Doctor Who’ in a mirror three times, Kris Marshall appears.

The Death in Paradise star (who is starring in the Devon-set spin-off series Beyond Paradise on BBC One) has for many years been one of – if not the – top names whenever we hear there’s a Doctor Who regeneration on the way. In 2017, the rumours were so solid that the bookies even stopped taking bets on him becoming Peter Capaldi’s successor. 

And yet Kris Marshall himself confirmed last year that he’s never even been approached for the show. Not only that – and readers might want to sit down for this one – he’s never watched a single episode.

Now we’ve got over that bombshell, it’s time to ask: how on earth did the Kris Marshall Doctor Who rumours start? 

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Unfortunate Timey-Wiming With His Death in Paradise Exit

Marshall puts it down to him announcing he was leaving Death in Paradise around the same time as the news broke that Peter Capaldi was leaving Doctor Who, ‘so the tabloids must have put two and two together to make five.’ (Not unlike the Rose Ayling-Ellis new-Companion rumours arising from her leaving EastEnders and teasing a new job she wasn’t allowed to discuss – which turned out to be a one-off BBC documentary.)

Indeed, the Kris Marshall announcements were only two days apart, but this rumour seems to have originated on Twitter rather than the newspapers. Within hours of the news of him leaving Death in Paradise breaking, tweets like these started to appear, speculating on a connection between the two events:

Tweets like this even pre-date the announcement, although this is more a recommendation than a rumour:

Within a month, the rumours got so fierce that Ladbrokes halted new bets (when this happened in March 2017 the odds were 3/1, but by the time the official announcement arrived in July he was tied with Jodie Whittaker at 6/4).

And then this happened…

The Mirror’s ‘He’s Already Joined The Cast’ Scoop

In mid-April 2017, The Mirror ran an ‘exclusive’ story claiming a ‘show insider’ had revealed to them that not only was Kris Marshall the next Doctor, he’d already joined the cast for filming

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Despite the BBC confirming ‘no casting decisions have yet been made on Series 11’, The Mirror took that as clever wordplay, suggesting Capaldi would actually regenerate into Marshall as a shock twist during Series 10 instead.

The rumours were so strong, some Doctor Who fans started reacting almost as if it was a sure thing, with others even suggesting it would be a clever trick by The Master (sound familiar?):

A 2010 Facebook Page?

Perhaps most bizarrely of all, a Facebook Page dedicated to the cause called Kris Marshall for the Next Doctor has been active since 2010. It was originally called ‘Kris Marshall for 12th Doctor’, suggesting their campaign has been going since the Matt Smith era, and they’ve been discussing Marshall’s suitability for the role since October 2011. The last time the page was updated was when Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the next Doctor in May 2022.

Rumours Resurfaced in 2021

Indeed, when Jodie Whittaker announced she was leaving her role as the Thirteenth Doctor, Kris Marshall’s name once more popped up alongside the false Lydia West rumours as a potential replacement before Gatwa’s announcement. Although the rumblings were nowhere near as strong this time around, he did at one point become joint odds-on favourite with Michaela Coel, and his name even trended on Twitter.

But it seems this was mostly Whovians having a strong case of ‘fool me once’, leading to some witty responses to the rumours:

Anyway, you heard it here first, Kris Marshall for the 16th Doctor. Too soon? Sorry.

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Beyond Paradise starts at 8pm tonight on BBC One