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10 Actors Who Could Replace Matt Smith On 'Doctor Who'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 3, 2013 at 11:01AM

For anyone with even a vaguely geeky bone in their body, this weekend brought big news. Yes, Dan Harmon is coming back to "Community," but in perhaps even bigger news, Matt Smith, the eleventh actor to play the seminal time-travelling hero of the BBC's long-running "Doctor Who," which is fifty years old today, will be hanging up his bowtie and tweed jacket, and leaving the series at the end of the year.
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Humphrey Ker
Humphrey Ker
Why He Could Do It: While David Tennant was a vaguely guessable choice before he was cast (he'd just worked with Russell T. Davies on "Casanova"), both Eccleston and Smith were bolts from the blue. The latter in particular was far from a household name; a much-touted actor, for sure, but one who had only a handful of theater and TV credits under his belt at the time. So as such, we shouldn't be surprised (indeed, it's highly likely) if the new pick turns out to be someone who's an unknown even by the standards of this list. One such possibility we like is comic Humphrey Ker. The 30-year-old is a Edinburgh University graduate who came to fame with Victorian-throwback sketch troupe The Penny Dreadfuls, alongside David Reed and Thom Tuck. Two years ago, Ker premiered his first solo show "Humphrey Ker Is... Dymmock Watson: Nazi Smasher!," based on his grandfather's experiences during World War II, and the show won him the Best Newcomer Edinburgh Comedy Award. His more traditional acting credits are relatively few -- most notably NBC pilot "Holding Patterns," which failed to get a pick up for this fall. But he's a commanding and fun presence, and while he's arguably more conventionally attractive than most past Doctors, his 6'7" frame lends a goofiness to him that could work nicely in the role. Plus there's already a Twitter campaign going... 
Why He Might Not: We know Ker can pull off the more comic side of the Doctor, and pulled off the heroics in his solo show nicely, but the more traditionally comic side of things are a bigger question mark at this point -- though his casting in the NBC pilot suggests he can pull it off. Ultimately, Ker's also kind of a shot in the dark at this point, given his relatively unknown status. But if it's not him that gets the part, it might well be someone like him.

Lara Pulver
Lara Pulver
Why She Could Do It: Every time the part becomes available, there's some talk about whether a woman could play the Doctor. And while stick-in-the-mud fans are sure to object, the time feels right for it to happen. If that's the route the show goes, one obvious pick would appear to be Lara Pulver. The 32-year-old Essex-born actress is known for TV roles in "True Blood," "Robin Hood" and "Spooks," among others, but most crucially, she played the key part of Irene Adler in Moffat's other series, "Sherlock." It was an instantly star-making turn, and, we reckon, would gel pretty well with what Moffat's vision of a female Doctor would turn out to be; flirty, commanding, and usually the smartest person in the room. She's not yet big enough that the offer wouldn't be tempting, and she has a certain ageless quality, and plenty of range.
Why She Might Not: Even assuming that the BBC decide to take the risk and go with a female Doctor, there are practical considerations; Pulver's currently on the dire Starz series "Da Vinci's Demons," which has been renewed for a second season. The filming of that might not necessarily clash, but if her characters survives for future seasons, juggling the schedules of the two shows might prove tricky (even if they do both shoot in Wales). Furthermore, while we can see Moffat going with a choice like Pulver (based on his female characters in the past), we're not sure it's necessarily the kind of direction we'd like a female Doctor to go.

Daniel Rigby
Daniel Rigby
Why He Could Do It: Like Ker, Rigby started as a stand-up; the 30-year-old RADA grad collected multiple awards, including the 2007 Laughing Horse New Act Of The Year prize. But Rigby's also won equal acclaim for his dramatic turns too, having featured in, among others, period drama "Lilies" and Charlie Brooker's "Black Mirror." Most notably of all, he beat both Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch to the BAFTA Best Actor trophy for playing legendary comedian Eric Morecambe in the TV film "Eric & Ernie." He's since played the West End and Broadway alongside James Corden in the Tony-winning "One Man, Two Guvnors," and has the kind of offbeat sensibilities and timing that could well make for a memorable Doctor.
Why He Might Not: Honestly, we'd be surprised if Rigby hadn't auditioned or met about playing the doctor; he's an obvious candidate, and a BBC favorite. But we do wonder if, compared to the more extroverted types that have played the part in the past, Rigby has a different, more insular energy. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but not a natural fit for the role (though he's played broader, like with "One Man, Two Guvnors"). He's also perhaps best known in the U.K. for a series of ads for B.T., which might in theory make him a tougher sell. Still, potentially an interesting and viable choice.

Andrew Scott
Andrew Scott
Why He Could Do It: Moffat's other show, "Sherlock," has become a pop-culture phenomenon to almost rival the Doctor, but any thinking that one of its two stars could do double duty is mostly wishful; it's been hard enough to find time for both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to shoot more Holmes adventures, especially with the pair toplining blockbusters like "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "The Hobbit." But aside from Lara Pulver, there's one other actor who could be a good pick -- Andrew Scott, who played the villainous Moriarty on the show. The 37-year-old Irish actor has been a familiar face since "Band Of Brothers," but has really become more familiar in the last few years after key stage roles in "Design For Living" and "Emperor and Galilean." He was something of a surprise choice to play Moriarty in the show, and it's gotten him more TV work since, most notably in the miniseries "The Town." He's one of those actors who zigs when you expect him to zag, in terms of his choices in playing a role, making him particularly exciting to watch, and that's always a good sign for an actor in this part. Plus again, he hasn't quite made that Cumberbatch leap to the big screen yet, so might be an easier get, as it were.
Why He Might Not: Most actors will play heroes and villains in their time, but Scott is so closely associated with his Moriarty, having come relatively fresh to the part, that it could take a while for audiences who also watched "Sherlock" to warm to him. He's also a fairly committed theatre actor, and previous occupants have often struggled to make time on stage, given the grueling schedule on the show (Tennant had to take a year off, essentially, in order to play Hamlet).

Sheridan Smith
Sheridan Smith
Why She Could Do It: Though she's been a star in the U.K. since she was a teenager (she starred in the Donmar's "Into The Woods" before she was 18), Smith's only gone from strength to strength over the years. Originally best known for sitcoms "The Royle Family" and "Two Pints of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps," Smith has won increasing plaudits for her dramatic turns; on stage in "Flare Path" (which won her an Olivier award) and on screen in "The Scapegoat" and "Mr. Biggs" (the latter of which won her a BAFTA last month). She's a legitimately beloved star in the U.K., but firmly on the small screen so far (though she's started to make inroads into movies too, most notably in "Quartet"), so playing the Doctor would be a boost, rather than a slight. Somehow, though she'd seem to be a natural fit, she's actually never appeared on the show, which probably helps her case. 'Who' traditionalists might bristle, but we reckon she'd be a fine choice, given the impressive range she's demonstrated over the years.
Why She Might Not: Smith's always been on the young-looking side of things, though she's now in her 30s, and doesn't have the same old-person-in-a-young-body feel that her namesake Matt has made such good use of. She's also in demand as it is, headlining two TV dramas, plus a new series of long-running murder mystery "Jonathan Creek.' Taking on 'Who' would likely mean a pay cut; would the iconic role make up for that?

Honorable Mentions: As we said, you're unlikely to see a big established movie star take on the role, so you can count out people that we discussed in terms of the potential movie franchise, like Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Garfield, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo and Tom Hiddleston. Faces like Chris O'Dowd, Rafe Spall, Toby Kebbell, Damian Lewis and Ben Whishaw are more on the line, but we think that they're still longshots, given that they're so in demand elsewhere. Similarly, Richard Ayoade is a nice idea, but the gig is unlikely to be compatible with his directing career (plus he's somewhat unproven as a dramatic actor).

So who would be viable? Well, names like Olivier-winner Luke Treadaway ("Attack The Block"), Harry Lloyd ("Game Of Thrones"), Robert Sheehan ("Misfits"), Rory Kinnear ("Skyfall"), Darren Boyd ("Spy") and Edward Hogg ("Anonymous" ) all could end up on a shortlist in theory. There are other possibilities, like Rupert Friend, Lennie James, Mark Strong, Iain De Caestecker and Michael Socha, but all have existing TV commitments (to "Homeland," "Low Winter Sun," "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D" and "Once Upon A Time In Wonderland") that would likely rule them out.

As far as less traditional choices go, Olivia Colman and Romola Garai have both been floated, and sound like decent ideas to us, while theater star Cush Jumbo could be a possibility too. Some have mentioned "Harry Potter" star Rupert Grint, but his co-star Harry Melling seems like a better fit to us, given the excellent work he's been doing on stage, and that he's the grandson of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. Ever-rising star Alexandra Roach would also be a good choice, and keep an eye on young actor Mark Weinman; he probably won't be in consideration this time around, but next time there's a vacancy...


This article is related to: Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Features, Riz Ahmed, Domhnall Gleeson, Daniel Kaluuya, Television, TV Features


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