Monday, 3 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1028: Who Should Be Who?

Matt Smith is leaving the role of the Doctor in the venerable science fiction institution Doctor Who. He is booked for the November 50th anniversary special, but is set to regenerate at the end of the 2013 Christmas special.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, shame on you, I'll do a little explaining.

Doctor Who premiered on the BBC in November 1963 and it's about The Doctor. The Doctor, whose real name has never been revealed, is a 1,200+ year old alien from the planet Gallifrey.  He's what is called a Time Lord, and he has a machine called the TARDIS that is capable of going anywhere and any time in the Universe. By the way, while massive on the inside, from the outside it looks like a blue police phone box.

Former Companion Karen Gillan
Now the Doctor doesn't travel alone, he usually has a companion, who is usually a young attractive Earth female. That's because the Doctor is an alien, he's not an idiot.

The Doctor and his companion then scoot around all of time and space having all sorts of adventures battling nasty aliens like the Daleks or the Cybermen (who were Borg before Trek had Borg) and meeting figures from history and the far future. 

Also for a character who never carries a weapon he's also killed infinitely more people than Captain Kirk and Darth Vader combined having wiped out most of his arch enemies the Daleks and all of his own people the Time Lords.

Now the first Doctor was played by an actor named William Hartnell, and he was plagued with health problems by the third season and couldn't go on. Instead of cancelling the show they revealed that when a Time Lord is on the brink of death they can "regenerate" but the regeneration process changes their appearance and personality, thus paving the way for another actor to take over the part.

The original series ran from 1963-1989 when the BBC cancelled it, but the series was revived in 2005, and Matt Smith is the show's 11th (or maybe 12th Doctor), and his successor will be the 12th or 13th depending on what's revealed in the 50th anniversary special.

Now everyone is speculating who will replace Smith and some are placing odds on who will be next, and I have one thing to say: Most of the speculation about who will be the next Doctor will be wrong.

How do I know that?


All but two of the past Doctors, were relatively unknown or little known character actors when they took the part. Legend has it that 4th Doctor Tom Baker, who played the part the longest still worked his construction job during hiatus for his first few seasons because he thought he'd get fired and be nearly unemployable again at any minute.

The chief reason for casting non-"star" actors is that the role of the Doctor is a great part, but it's also a weird one. Whoever plays the Doctor has to play someone who may look human, but is most definitely not. He thinks differently than normal people, he acts differently, and while his personality may be smiles and quick quips, he possesses a dark-side that is awe-inspiring in its cold cruel power.

An actor can't really come into the part with a lot of baggage. You don't want the audience looking at the Doctor and seeing a bad-ass cop on the edge from another show, or have the character mangled to fit a big star's pre-existing heroic or romantic image. The writers need a relatively blank slate to work their magic on, or it's not the Doctor, just that actor dressed up as the Doctor.

There's also a pattern when it comes to casting actors who play the Doctor. When they're first announced the general reaction is "There's no way he could be as good as the last guy!" and then when he leaves gets a lot of "No one will be as good as he was!"

Now some are saying that the next Doctor must be black or a woman, or both and they say that it must be done in the name of fairness, and if you don't agree with them you must be racist, sexist, or both.

Ironically, those kinds of demands actually hurt the chances of a non-white or female actor being either cast in the part or might hurt their success if they do get the part.


If the people making the casting decisions are being pressured to make a choice based on race or gender then they and the audience will question that final decision. Was that actor chosen because they were right for the part? Were they picked as a token gesture picked either to silence critics who questioned their political correctness or for cheap publicity because some loud-mouths, a handful being real racists and sexists, will bark about it?

That's more baggage for what should be a blank slate.

I have a suggestion.

Let's not make any demands that whoever gets the part must be this or that because they are this or that, just that the powers that be at the BBC pick the best person for the part solely because they're the best person for the part.

1 comment:

  1. The best Doctor was Rowan Atkinson aka Black Adder aka Bean. Of course he was a comedy Dr. for only one episode but frankly that's the way the program should be played IMO.

    Yes, I know quite a few people are gaga for Dr. Who, but even with the new special special effects it still reminds me os someone working in their garage or a comedy sitcom writen by people with no sense of humor whatsoever - which is why the Atkinson version works for me.