Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who, but before his body is even cold (or warm? are regenerations warm?) everyone seems to have an opinion about who should take over the role of the Doctor. Idris Elba! Helen Mirren! John Hurt! There has been a lot of focus on the identity of the actor involved. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be very, very excited to see a non-white actor or a woman assume the role. But, more than anything, I want the show to be good. And “good” on Doctor Who is a moving target.
These last few years with Smith have felt like an ongoing dark fairy tale: His Doctor was the man who breezed into town and caused trouble even as he’s trying to prevent it. Smith is a trickster, and like most tricksters, he’s smarter than he looks. He’s like the Cat in the Hat, but with a TARDIS. His portrayal of the Doctor has changed the show, and led to some interesting twists and turns. So where will the next Doctor take us?
Older and wiser
After the 50th-anniversary special, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Doctor reverted back to an older, wiser character. After all, Smith was initially criticized as too young for the role (at 27 years old, he was the youngest actor ever cast). The key would be to keep the youthful spirit of the Doctor, even in the shell of an older person. There’s been a lot of talk about John Hurt or Helen Mirren, but a more reasonable pick would be Jared Harris (whom most of us know from Mad Men and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). He’s weathered, but not worn out, and time and again on Mad Men his character’s quiet, misunderstood sense of humor added an extra twinkle to the show.
I hope that showrunner Steven Moffat continues to keep Doctor Who mostly about running rather than turning around and fighting. But, if the series gets amped up in terms of action sequences, that’s where a guy like Idris Elba (also put forward for the role of James Bond) would come in. Laura Pulver is in this category as well. Physicality is certainly part of the role, but it’s hard to imagine a traditionally sexy person playing the Doctor. However ….
There have been a lot of romantic storylines kicking around during the Matt Smith era. Rory and Amy, the Doctor and River, ever so briefly we had the Doctor and Amy. If we continue with these romantic storylines, it might make sense to hire an actor like Joseph Fiennes, who just came off of a run on American Horror Story: Asylum, and has been quietly transforming himself into odd roles since his glory days as William Shakespeare.
More of the same
I’ve loved the Matt Smith era. I love the mysteries surrounding his companions. I love the strange, wild places we’ve visited. I love the dark fairy tales and the supernatural horrors. There is one person I’d like to see continue those themes: Kelly MacDonald. She most recently voiced Merida in Brave, but she’s been on my radar since she played Peter Pan in Finding Neverland. Certainly, a female Doctor would be a big change. But MacDonald could project the same kind of wonder at the universe that Smith has brought to the role. Also, in a post-Karen Gillan world, we need more Scottish accents on this show.
Matt Smith will remain in the role of the Eleventh Doctor until after this year’s Christmas special. Until then, we can only wait and wonder.