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Who's back!

September 29, 2003

Ah yes, it's really happening: Doctor Who is returning to UK TV! HalleluJah! Praise "BOB"! This is the best TV news I've had in years, and something which could revive my faith in the medium after the vacuous flood of reality TV shows and "docu-soaps" that have defiled our screens for the past few years. Oh, happy day!


As you may be aware, I am a bit of a Doctor Who fanboy, having grown up with the sonic screwdriver wielding time-traveller. As a result, I have a great deal of interest in who will play the Doctor this time round. The other day, someone posted this list of bookie's odds on just that question to (void):

8-1 Alan Davies
14-1 Richard E Grant
16-1 Sean Pertwee, Patrick Stewart
20-1 James Nesbitt, Jonathon Price
25-1 Hugh Grant, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Ross Kemp, Alan Rickman,
Sean Bean, Ray Winston, Stephen Fry, Mark Strong, Timothy Spall
33-1 Tim Roth, Linus Roche, Leslie Grantham, Art Malik, Lenny Henry,
Andrew Lincoln
40-1 Jimmy Nail
50-1 Ian McKellen
66-1 Michael Caine
100-1 Don Cheadle

Let's take a look at some of these chaps one at a time.

Alan Davies
I can see why Alan Davies is the favourite: he's got the shambolic demeanour, to some extent the Doctor "look" and he's already best known for a role which involves sharp lateral thinking, a trait Jonathan Creek shares with the Doctor. However, I feel that he's just not right for the role. The Doctor has a unique blend of gravitas and mischievous humour as demonstrated by the greatest Doctor of them all, Tom Baker. This is why Colin Baker was a crap Doctor. Davies certainly has the humour, what with being a standup comic once upon a time, but I just don't feel he can bring the authority and intellectual weight that is needed to the role (he wasn't that convincing a genius in Jonathan Creek, either).

Richard E. Grant
At first glance, Richard E. Grant would be a good choice for the Doctor: he's shown he can display the personal qualities of the Doctor which have made us love him so. A toned-down Withnail played as less of a wreckhead would be a very entertaining riff on the character. Casting Grant would also be a nice counterpoint to that execrable 1996 TV movie with Paul McGann. However, I reject Richard E. Grant as a potential Doctor because I don't want the Doctor played by anyone who'd choke down Argos' corporate cock in as craven a way as Grant does. It's just pathetic.

Sean Pertwee
I can see no reason to cast Sean Pertwee outside the fact that his dad once played the Doctor, and that, frankly, is just not good enough. What is this, Last Of The Summer fucking Wine?

Patrick Stewart
Now, this is a bit more like it. Patrick Stewart has the potential to make a bloody good Doctor Who. He's definitely got the presence and authority and he's used to the science fiction genre (the movie Dune and that TV program about going baldly etc). However, I'm concerned that he may not be able to bring the light-hearted, sometimes flippant side of the Doctor's character to life, and that perhaps it'll be difficult for viewers to see past the character of Jean-Luc Picard. Still, the front runner so far, by miles.

James Nesbitt
Ummmm ... not sure really. One the one hand he'd bring a bit of cheek to the role, but on the other hand he's Irish, and in my mind, the Doctor is quitessentially English, despite being from Gallifrey. Just look at the cricket paraphenalia sported by Peter Davidson's Doctor and the accents and foibles of all the Doctors so far. On top of that, Nesbitt is one of those actors who always plays the same character, whether it's an undercover cop or some thirtysomething prat in Cold Feet and the Doctor has to be more than another role for a limited actor. Besides, as I say, Nesbitt was in turgid drivelfest Cold Feet.

Hugh Grant
Too pretty, no authority, annoying affected stutter. Nah, Hugh Grant can fuck right off for playing the Doctor (plus I bet he'd cost too much).

Nicholas Lyndhurst
TV Plonker Rodney as Doctor Who? They're taking the piss.

Ross Kemp
No, sorry, I take that back. NOW they're taking the piss.

Alan Rickman
Interesting. Setting aside the probabiltity that he'd be too expensive (that's the Beeb's problem, not mine), Rickman certainly has the range to play the Doctor. However, I'd much rather see Rickman in the role of the Master, a role to which I imagine he'd bring the same hammy relish that he did to Gruber in "Die Hard", Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films and his performance as the Metatron in Kevin Smith's "Dogma". Yeah, Alan Rickman for the Master not the Doctor. Probably be affordable for the Beeb that way 'n'all.

Leslie Grantham
Not unless in the new series the Doctor will be battling a ruthless race of taxi drivers bent on galactic domination.

Sean Bean
I like Sean Bean, I think he's a good actor, but I don't reckon he's right for the Doctor. Bean is mostly known as an on-screen hardman, best suited to action roles and I think that with him in the central role the temptation might be to write plots that play on those qualities. Doctor Who is not an action star; it is very rare that the Doctor uses violence to solve the problems that he encounters, preferring quick wits, technical know-how and cunning diplomcay instead. Sort of McGuyver meets Jean-Luc Picard. Sean Bean is too macho to play the Doctor.

Ray Winstone
Yeah. Doctor Who as a cockney hardman. Right. See Ross Kemp.

Stephen Fry
Now, Stephen Fry'd make a great Doctor Who, in my humble opinion. He's quirky enough and has the intellectual weight to be believable as an intergalactic genius. Plus, he has that seemingly-establishment-English-but-not-quite air that is so difficult to explain to non-Doctor Who fans. Let's just hope that the Doctor doesn't come up against a race of evil theatre critics bent on the destruction of the earth. Imagine how hard it'd be to find him if he had the entire spacetime continuum to hide in after a couple of bad reviews.

Jimmy Nail
Spender meets Doctor Who! Could The Doctor be played by a dour geordie with a face like a slate-layer's nailbag? The Doctor could develop a new catchphrase under Nail's stewardship: the writers would have to try and work in the phrase "she's lyin'" into every episode. On balance, that's a silly idea. Sorry Jim, but no.

Michael Caine
Even though the idea of Michael Caine as Doctor Who is patently ridiculous, it does hold a peverse appeal to me. It would be the meeting of two enormous British institutions and while likely to result in a horrendous miscegenation, it could possibly create something beautiful. Just imagine:

"Stop firing. Those bloody lasers. At me!"
"You're only supposed to blow the Tardis doors off!"
"You're a big cyberman but you're out of shape."

Ah, but sadly it will never be.

Posted by Jonah at September 29, 2003 1:00 PM


Ahh - that was perfectly timed, just when I needed the lift.

I would love to see Patrick Stewart as the Doctor, but my money would be on Alan Davies or Richard E Grant.

Posted by: Robbie at October 1, 2003 3:37 PM

re: james nesbitt
"... the doctor is quintessentially English..."

definitely, I think we all remember what happened last time they forgot that!

Posted by: Will at October 1, 2003 9:05 PM

Tom Baker was on television this evening (BBC LDN) and he 'accidentally' let slip that they were considering Eddie Izzard.

Posted by: Tom Coates at October 1, 2003 10:55 PM

I think Dylan Moran or Richard Coyle. Both have the requisite Baker madness.

Posted by: rjp at October 2, 2003 1:52 AM

Patrick Stewart as Who? Hmm... Can just see him having his Tom Baker-style long scarf being shot up by a Dalek/Cyberperson, giving it to the latest assistant, pointing he/she at the sewing machine and saying 'Make it...'


Bill Bailey - he'd make a good Who.

Posted by: david at October 5, 2003 10:47 PM

Eddie Izzard? Please no. I fear he'd be too much himself, and not enough the Doctor.

Anyway, I'm just poking Matt to get him to comment on the rumours...

Posted by: paul mison at October 7, 2003 10:51 AM

Been indisposed the last week what with moving house and other mundane banal stuff.

Cheers to Tom for the early heads-up on the Izzard rumour for those of us who can't get BBC LDN. A lot of people I know have been getting rather excited about Eddie Izzard as the Doctor and my initial reaction was pretty positive, but on balance I think that's only because I have a soft spot for our lovable cross-dressing ersatz Python.

I'm not sure I agree with Paul's remarks that Izzard's a one-trick pony and incapable of acting a non-Izzard role. I thought he was pretty good and definitely not "Eddie Izzard the rock promoter" in Velvet Goldmine, for example.

However, the Doctor ain't just any role and should be played half for laughs in any case regardless of actor. This is why it's not necessarily a good idea to employ a comedian to play him: the comic's accustomed stage personality may start to peep through (actually, maybe that's what Paul meant). This is why I'd reject Bill Bailey and Alan Davies as well as Eddie Izzard.

Alan Davies might make a good assistant, if a little reminiscent of Adric. Bill Bailey would make a good cameo like Alexei Sayle playing that DJ in (click ... whirr) "Revelation of the Daleks".

If it must be a comedian then how about Jerry Sadowitz? Yes, yes, I know, he's Scottish and I was on about the Doctor being English, but just think about it for a second. A grumpy, bitter Doctor, reflecting the change in the Collective Geek Personality since he was last on our screens. A dotcom-scarred Doctor twisted and full of enough bile and vitriol to hold his own on 2lmc, even. Wearing a top hat!

Erm, might not end up being such a family show though. Damn. Back to the drawing board ...

Posted by: Jonah at October 7, 2003 11:47 AM

The Hugh Grant wet blanket school is probably founded on Peter Davison's reign. Don Cheadle? He's American, isn't he? Were they thinking of Vas Blackwood? My money's on Rickman for The Master, deffo...oh and someone clone Tom Baker and then artificially accelerate his growth. But who really cares about all this sad palaver. They're bringing back Blake's Seven!!!!

Posted by: Jan at October 7, 2003 2:40 PM

Paul McGann, in the 1996 telemovie, had definite potential, if you're able to disregard the god-awful American influences that FOX foisted on the character (trappings like the Doctor being "half-human" smelt too much like Star Trek for me). McGann's voice, delivery, mannerisms and appearance (especially the hair!) were perfect for the role - smatterings of William Hartnell and Tom Baker in there - and if they were teamed with some decent, pre-John-Nathan Turner Doctor Who material they could go far.
If McGann wouldn't be in it, Alan Davies of Jonathan Creek fame would be acceptable - as long as he takes care to keep his characterisation of the Doctor fairly seperate from the similarly long curly haired Tom Baker.
As for Jonathan Pryce (you might remember him as Elliot Carver in Tommorow Never Dies) - who better for the role of the Master?

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