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

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
June 3, 2013 11:01 AM
43 Comments
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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
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
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
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
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...


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43 Comments

  • Joshuabullock | August 3, 2013 12:20 PMReply

    I could see Andrew Scott palying the doctor maybe

  • Gracia | August 3, 2013 6:35 AMReply

    Good Lord Sheridan Smith never been in Dr Who? She is an absolutely brilliant assistant to Paul McGann's doctor in the Big Finish audios. Anyone who knows enough about Dr Who to know and care whether someone has appeared in a other role previously will know this. Still I would be happy to see her on the screen as the Doctor. Although my first choice by far is Andrew Scott.

  • LK | July 3, 2013 11:32 PMReply

    What about John Oliver?

  • marky mark | June 28, 2013 2:38 PMReply

    What about Mark Heap the Actor from Spaced, Green Wing and Friday Night Dinner ??? Admittedly at 56 he would be the 2nd oldest Actor to debut as Dr Who but who says the Doctor has to run down corridors ??? Maybe it's time the Doctor was more mature for a change. He's used to playing " Oddballs and Outsiders " but that's exactly what the Doctor is :)

  • Roz | June 13, 2013 12:07 PMReply

    As much as I love Sheridan Smith - she is a great actress - she has already been a companion/assistant to Paul McGann's Doctor in the audios! :) It'd be great to see her on screen in that role

  • Ian | June 11, 2013 1:25 PMReply

    Since David Tennant's Doctor asked, "Am I ginger?" That has been a possiblity that the Doctor will be a red head. I think Rupert Grint is too young. If he's available I'd say get Damian Lewis. However I think the next Doctor should be the acerbic and bemused Dylan Moran. So far there have been 2 Scots to play the Doctor, time to give an Irishman a shot at the TARDIS console!

  • L | June 8, 2013 1:32 AMReply

    My picks to be the Doctor:

    1. Benedict Cumberbatch
    2. Robert Downey Jr. (for his role in sherlock holmes)
    3. Daniel Radcliffe

    Anyone agree or disagree?

  • D | June 10, 2013 11:08 AM

    yeah, on tumblr

  • Jamie | June 7, 2013 5:47 PMReply

    Adrian Lester, anyone?

  • Alex | June 7, 2013 8:38 AMReply

    My picks to play The Doctor would be:
    Joe Dempsie: Skins alum currently starring in Game Of Thrones as "Gendry"
    Ben Whishaw: A fairly obvious choice, what with The Doctor seeming to decrease in age with each incarnation. However I would say that I think the character would be too similar to Matt Smith's version
    Joe Gilgun: Actor of Misfits and This Is England, could give us an edgier Doctor to deal with
    Riz Ahmed: I wouldn't even have thought of him without this article, but I think he would in fact be a good Doctor
    Jack O'Connell: Another Skins alum who could also give The Doctor more of an edge. Maybe too aggressive however

    Dream choices (choices I don't think will happen but if they did it would be fantastic)
    Tom Hardy: The guys so talented, he can play many roles and is a very imposing figure
    Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I think JGL would be a fantastic Doctor, the roles basically made for him in my humble opinion
    Michael Fassbender: Has the skills to be a great Doctor
    Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Is a bit busy nowadays but I think he would bring a level of sincerity to The Doctor and I think he would be a fun Doctor

  • golibean | June 6, 2013 7:59 AMReply

    Shortlisted for Bond, surely The Doctor could lure Noah Huntley from LA where hes recovering from That tussle with Charlize Theron in Snow White?

  • KS | June 5, 2013 11:04 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 10:59 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • KS | June 5, 2013 10:59 PMReply

    Edward Bennett. Theatre actor who would be an utterly brilliant Doctor.
    (plus, little known fact, had to take over from David Tennant as Hamlet on PRESS NIGHT and then for much of the RSC season when David hurt his back...to great reviews...)

  • Darryl Stewart | June 5, 2013 12:41 AMReply

    I'd LOVE to see Andrew Scott as The Doctor and I also think Laurence Fox (DS James Hathaway in Inspector Lewis) would be a fine choice as well.

  • JD | June 4, 2013 3:16 PMReply

    Thanks for completely ignoring Christopher Eccleston's acting background and what he brought to the launch by becoming the 9th Doctor. Also, thanks for repeatedly misspelling his name. Good job of doing all that research on potential doctors, but none on past doctors.

  • Jon | June 4, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    JAMIE HARRIS.

  • Jon | June 4, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    JAMIE HARRIS.

  • Jon | June 4, 2013 1:40 PMReply

    JAMIE HARRIS.

  • Kim | June 4, 2013 10:30 AMReply

    I really like the idea of Domhnall Gleeson. I hadn't even thought of that, but he's great. He's ginger, but he's a good actor and not super young like Grint.

  • MBrane | June 4, 2013 7:32 AMReply

    Would second the call for an older actor. Would love if John Hurt actually took the role. Fear that casting a woman or black actor would be feel like tokenism. That said, Helen Mirren would be interesting

  • wayfarer | June 4, 2013 6:29 AMReply

    What about Simon Pegg.

  • obi-talk | June 4, 2013 4:49 AMReply

    Nice write up, I actually like the variety of actors and actresses discussed.

  • B STATS | June 4, 2013 12:16 AMReply

    The new Doctor MUST be British, MUST be male and SHOULD be Ginger. That is all. There is no more Doctor Who after Smith if these rules are not followed.

  • B STATS | June 4, 2013 12:19 AM

    EDITED FOR BEING A TERRIBLE RACIST

  • B STATS | June 4, 2013 12:17 AM

    Oh and MUST be white.

  • Carlitos | June 3, 2013 8:40 PMReply

    Two words: Tilda motherfucking Swinton. Well, yeah, that's three.

  • nadir ahmed | June 3, 2013 5:11 PMReply

    i think Damien Molony aka Hal from Being Human would be a fantastic choice

  • L | June 3, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    What about Matthew Lewis?

  • Alex | June 7, 2013 8:41 AM

    Oh my god hadn't even thought about him but he would actually be a fantastic Doctor.

    This is who I want to play The Doctor

  • Andre | June 3, 2013 4:21 PMReply

    The best suggestions here were Domhnall Gleeson and Robert Sheehan.

  • Sean | June 3, 2013 3:44 PMReply

    If we're going with a female my pick is Alice Lowe.

  • THOR | June 3, 2013 3:47 PM

    Yeah she is great.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | June 3, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    My vote? Chiwetel Ejiofor.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | June 3, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    My vote? Chiwetel Ejiofor.

  • slice | June 5, 2013 12:37 AM

    Definitely---although I forgot to mention, if you go anywhere on the net, you got Doctor Who fans throwing a damn fit and going into boiling rages at the thought of their Doctor being anything but a white male---if you don't believe me, search on the Net for yourself. They wouldn't even consider my choices or yours due to that---and their excuse is that since he's been a white male since day one, he should stay a white male---regardless of the fact that Doctor Who is merely a fictional character and can be changed to anybody. This is the 21st century---why he should have to stay a white male is ridiculous, and the reasons given are lame,not very convincing and out of date anyway.

  • slice | June 5, 2013 12:28 AM

    Chiwetel Ejiofor----hell,yeah---that's what I've been thinking for a awhile now----he has enough of the presence and the dashing charisma, he's be fun as hell to watch, and I'd love to see those beautiful expressive eyes of his every week! If he won't do it, get either Jimi Mistry or Idris Elba, and Riz Ahmed (who was funny in Four Lions) would also be an interesting choice.

  • THOR | June 3, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    I would like to see an older Doctor, someone like, say, Alan Cumming. I think he is perfect for the part, although he is a Hollywood actor.

  • slice | June 5, 2013 12:31 AM

    Yeah, him----I love his Scottish accent, and he's also played weird characters before, and he's still handsome and charming after all these years!

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