• 6th June 2013 • Feature by Seb Patrick •
Normal service, if we have such a thing, will resume presently.
Well, the Internet and news media alike are all a-flutter after the news that the most popular Doctor of all time is set to quit the role. At the end of the upcoming eighteenth season, Tom Baker will depart once and for all, following an unprecedented seven-year stint in which, for many people, he defined the character irrevocably.
But just who could replace him? I’ve gone through the various names being flung around, attempted to filter out some of the wilder suggestions, and come up with a list of ten possibilities for the Fifth Doctor that span all manner of ages, nationalities and even genders, should the producers think to go that way. One thing’s for sure, incoming producer John Nathan-Turner will have a heck of a job trying to get this one right…
Surely the standout candidate at present, with sci-fi experience at the BBC already under his belt courtesy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. At 30, he might be seen by some as a bit too young for the role (not to mention a bit too “conventionally” good-looking?), but would present an interesting contrast to Baker, which perhaps is necessary. Having already worked with last season’s script editor Douglas Adams can’t hurt his chances, either – although might there be a scheduling conflict with the upcoming Hitchhiker’s TV adaptation?
There’s been a surprising amount of activity on Betfair over this relatively unknown thirtysomething actor – could he be in the frame? He has background in Shakespearean theatre and radio, but less in the way of TV work. He’s currently slated to appear in upcoming BBC drama Bird of Prey, and seems to have the necessary unusually quirky, yet compelling, demeanour to play the role. Potentially a very smart bet.
Hugely popular in the UK for a time following the success of sitcom The Likely Lads, but has been a bit quiet since the movie version in 1976. Seems largely to be suggested for his floppy-haired qualities, and is a favourite of the press – but are they right to plump for someone largely known for comedy? The similar – albeit younger – tabloid suggestions of Citizen Smith‘s Robert Lindsay and Man About The House star Richard O’Sullivan could be filed in the same “unlikely” drawer.
Well, with the show’s increasing popularity in the USA, why not? An American Doctor would break the mould somewhat, but there’s no inherent reason why the character’s accent couldn’t cross the Atlantic – lots of planets have a West, after all. And although Nimoy is already known for playing one sci-fi icon, that shouldn’t be an obstacle to his playing another if he became available.
And speaking of Americans… Ford’s name was trending on Twitter within half an hour of Baker announcing his departure, suggesting that there’s already a groundswell of support for this – admittedly quite outlandish – idea. Surely he’s just that bit too famous for the job now? Perhaps if his upcoming Indiana Jones project with Spielberg and Lucas tanks, though, he might be available when the role of the Sixth Doctor comes up…?
Quite hot property at the moment thanks to his role in All Creatures Great and Small, but it would be a bold step for the BBC to go for someone so young purely on the basis of a recently-popular drama series. This one just feels like the press jumping on a popular face and conjuring up spurious rumours – don’t expect it to go anywhere.
Already has a connection to Who courtesy of his sort-of-companion role in the Daleks: Invasion Earth movie. While it would be unusual for him to make a return to the franchise in this way, it’s not as if the movies are part of the same continuity or anything; and the suggestion has picked up steam ever since it was first mooted by an anonymous poster on the Gallifrey Base forums. No smoke without fire?
Well, why couldn’t the Doctor be female? There’s certainly nothing in the show’s history that suggests that Time Lords remain one gender, and following the introduction of Romana a few years back, it’s clear they can be women. So how about Lumley? It’d be especially ironic if, after being picked to star in ITV’s recent attempt to ape the success of Who, Sapphire and Steel, she jumped ship to get onboard the real mccoy…
Speaking of Romana, the Time Lady also established last year that Gallifreyans are able to regenerate into the form of people they’ve already met. So what about giving Marter – who never really got as long a run in the TARDIS as he might have deserved – another crack of the whip by having the Fifth Doctor choose to look like his prior incarnation’s old pal Harry?
Even more outlandish, is this one. There’s a corner of Tumblr fandom – particularly the Three/Jo “shippers” – who’ve never quite got over the departure of Pertwee, and an increasingly vocal minority have been suggesting that the Doctor could “regressively” regenerate into his former body. Stranger things have happened, although much would depend on whether his new job on Worzel Gummidge is renewed for another series, and indeed on whether a 61-year-old is right for the job in this day and age…
Whatever happens, it’s going to be a tight call. I’ve got a sneaking feeling about one of either Griffiths or Cribbins, but it could just as easily be Jones or even the Davidson bloke. Hopefully we’ll find out soon before the speculation causes the internet to melt down entirely!