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Why DOCTOR WHO Won’t Shake Anything Up with the Next Doctor

Why DOCTOR WHO Won’t Shake Anything Up with the Next Doctor

On Monday, news broke that Peter Capaldi will be stepping down as lead of Doctor Who, with the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration into the Thirteenth coming in the 2017 Christmas special. Almost immediately–as expected–speculation began about who would fill the shoes and sonic sunglasses as they pilot the TARDIS for Series 11 and beyond. Names have already been thrown about, including–according to a report by Entertainment Weekly–that of Ben Whishaw, who is currently getting 6/1 odds by U.K. bookmakers as getting tapped for the next Doctor. While I adore Whishaw as an actor, the choice seems remarkably safe and samey. However, I think that’s exactly what the BBC is looking for.

Whishaw-Doctor-who

After what will be close to 55 years and 13 (14 including the late Sir John Hurt) white British men playing the role, many fans–myself much included–are hoping that a more progressive choice be made for the next Doctor, meaning someone of color or and/or not a male. Hell, the most diverse thing about the casting thus far is that a few of them have been Scottish and not English. Names like Hayley Atwell, Daniel Kaluuya, Eva Green, David Oyelowo and others have been thrown about (some by me specifically) as great choices for the new incarnation of our favorite Time Lord, and the BBC should absolutely consider them…but I don’t think they will.

doctor-pearl-series-10

Last year, a rumor surfaced that at the time I dismissed as regressive and boring; it stated that sources are saying the BBC were interested in cleaning house, dropping both Capaldi and new-and-still-not-debuted companion Pearl Mackie, and casting a very traditional set-up of young, dashing leading man and younger girl, something close to the David Tennant make-up, the source said. The underlying thought here was that the BBC wanted whitey whiteness in a cup of patriarchal normative coffee. Now, following Capaldi’s announcement, and the bookmakers’ odds about Whishaw, I feel like these rumors could be absolutely true.

Tennant-Tate-Audio-Doctor-Who-102615

And the more I think about it, the “safe” option makes the most sense for the BBC; let’s think about it from their perspective: the show hasn’t been as outwardly popular since Smith left, and the Tennant and Smith years had the greatest worldwide acclaim in the whole 11+ years since Doctor Who was rebooted. There was also talk that the Capaldi years haven’t resulted in nearly the merchandise sales of the previous years, many blaming Capaldi’s age and crustiness for that decline. And the more romance-heavy, swashbuckling adventures of the Tenth Doctor under showrunner Russell T. Davies brought in a variety of fan-bases the show had never had to that point. It makes good, logical, cold marketing sense.

“Doctor Who has lost

quite a bit of steam”

This, however, doesn’t take into account any of the X-factors, such as Smith’s tenure culminating in the 50th anniversary, where Doctor Who had the largest permeation it has ever enjoyed, resulting in merchandise sales out the figurative yin-yang. And all of the ridiculous and rampant shifting of schedules during Capaldi’s two series, not to mention an entire year taken completely off, thus killing all momentum following Series 9 (the best since Smith’s inaugural year). All of these add up to Doctor Who having noticeably lost quite a bit of steam in the public sphere, certainly taking a huge dive following the 50th.

Agent Carter

Maybe with the casting of Whishaw, the BBC is trying to have it both ways. The actor, who made a name for himself with great performances in The Hour, Cloud Atlas, and as Q in the two most recent Daniel Craig James Bond films, is an out gay man who can and has played both gay and straight in his career. Since the Doctor’s perceived sexuality is always as chaste as can possibly be done in modern television, perhaps the BBC is banking on appeasing people wanting more representation on the show while still maintaining the status quo they think works the best.

It should be noted that there are odds for fellow Bond co-star Rory Kinnear (8/1), and Harry Potter grad Rupert Grint (8/1), as well as 8/1 odds for Richard Ayoade, who would certainly be wonderful and a break from tradition. The bookie is also apparently “allowing” for people to place bets that new showrunner Chris Chibnall will cast a woman; 6/1 odds are laid that the new Doctor will be female and 20/1 odds that it will be either Olivia Colman or Billie Piper, who’d be the first companion ever to return but play the Doctor.

“The BBC is going to go

with a safe choice”

That would be great. Ayoade, Colman, or Piper would all be amazing as the Doctor, but I have a worry. The talk is that Chibnall will likely shift from single-writer stories to more of a writers room, the way American shows do it. That change, coupled with Chibnall being a brand new creative force on the show, might not sit well with people right out of the gate. I would hate for a female or non-white Doctor to get the brunt of blame if a showrunner’s style isn’t working. As much as I think it’s definitely time for Steven Moffat to step down, part of me thinks that if an established showrunner was the one to make the progressive casting choice, it wouldn’t have as big a chance for perceived failure.

In my gut, I feel like the BBC is going to go with a safe choice, as much as it will make me angry. Obviously, none of the names above are bad choice, safe or not, but one would hope after 55 years, we’d get something different.

But let me know what you think; who do you think will be the Thirteenth Doctor? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: BBC/Sony/Marvel


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!

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