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Eleven different actors have portrayed the character of the Doctor over the past forty-nine years on the BBC’s Doctor Who. I haven’t read anything to suggest that Matt Smith, who currently plays the eleventh Doctor, plans on leaving the show anytime soon, but last night’s episode got me thinking about other people who might play the role.
For those not familiar with Doctor Who, the show has a brilliant way of explaining how multiple people can play the same character in succession over time, which is this: the Doctor’s species, the Time Lords, are effectively immortal, although they can sustain fatal injuries. In the event of a mortal wound, however, they have the power to “regenerate,” meaning they re-form themselves in a changed body. Since the show rebooted in 2005, three actors have played the role: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and now Matt Smith. Each version of the Doctor tends to get his own story lines, but it is still the same character.
Last night’s episode had a considerable amount of build-up, as it was the last episode to include the Doctor’s companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Without giving any spoilers, let me just say it was heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as I feared it would be. The new companion, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, has already appeared in one episode of the show, and will be returning around Christmas (possibly as a different character), when the show starts up again. Sources are saying that, once she joins the show full-time, the Doctor will be a “different man.” Considering the way Amy and Rory exited the show (again, no spoilers!), that would not be surprising.
Sooner or later, Matt Smith will leave the show. The longest-serving actor in the role was Tom Baker, who played the part from 1974 to 1981. Matt Smith has only been on the show for two full seasons, so far. Two things that all eleven actors have had in common is that they have all been, first of all, actors, and second, white British guys. I cannot fathom a Doctor who wasn’t British (seriously, America, if you try to re-make Doctor Who here, I will do something rash), but what if the Doctor regenerated as someone other than a white dude? After all, one of Matt Smith’s first lines as the newly-regenerated Doctor was to lament that he still wasn’t a ginger. Based on the past three actors, the Doctor needs a frenetic, occasionally goofy manner that belies a deep intelligence and an even deeper malaise, clearly born of more than 1,200 years of traveling both space and time. Here are a few ideas I just pulled out of somewhere, and you have to admit, any of these people would probably rock. Continue reading