Few shows out there in TV land are like Doctor Who. There are of course the wibbly wobbly obvious wobvious reasons, such as its long legacy and zany plotlines, but I’m talking more about its lead character’s regeneration, allowing a multitude of different actors to take on the role over the years. Sure, sitcoms and dramas have swapped out leads in the past, but the real-life drama behind those changes usually overshadows the non-organic way in which they’re taken out of the plotlines. Who fans always know a change is lurking just around the corner.
Still, it was quite a surprise when the eleventh Doctor Matt Smith announced his departure a week ago. And the Internet has been ablaze with talk about possible replacements ever since. The trades recently reported that there is a good chance a female could be in line to control the TARDIS, and that Oscar winner Helen Mirren’s past interest in the role makes her a candidate. Of course, they also speculate that Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) and Russell Tovey (Being Human) are also favorites for the part.
But if you ask the near-legendary author and past Who scribe Neil Gaiman what he thinks – as “torchyvalentine” did on Gaiman’s Tumblr site – he champions unknown actors for the role. “I like to see The Doctor as The Doctor, and an actor who doesn’t bring baggage is a grand sort of thing,” he says. “So I don’t want to see Helen Mirren or Sir Ian McKellen or Chiwetel Ejiofor, or any of the famous names people are suggesting.” He says he obviously wouldn’t have picked Smith for the 11th incarnation, nor would he have chosen Benedict Cumberbatch to play Sherlock, because he didn’t know who they were. And look how all that turned out. Regardless of who does get picked, Gaiman’s words below are universal in their meaning and promote blind acceptance over rabid predictions.
“I want to see The Doctor. I want to be taken by surprise. I want to squint at a photo of the person online and go “but how can that be The Doctor?” Then I want to be amazingly, delightedly, completely proven wrong, and, six episodes in, I want to wonder how I could have been so blind. Because this is the Doctor. Of course it is.
Well said. You can check out the still-not-quite-out of there Matt Smith will be back for the Christmas special as well as the 50th Anniversary of the show, both of which will air closer to the end of the year.