Arts blog: The great Doctor Who debate

Who'll replace Matt Smith in Doctor Who? Could it be Jeremy Paxman? Picture: Colin Hattersley
Who'll replace Matt Smith in Doctor Who? Could it be Jeremy Paxman? Picture: Colin Hattersley
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Who’s going to be the next Doctor Who? Who, who? A young man, an old man, a woman, a black man, a movie star, a comedian, a foreigner, an unknown?

Well, I don’t know and neither does anyone else – except Steven Moffat and a couple of producers – but that hasn’t stopped the now inevitable flood of speculation that accompanies the programme’s regular casting change, even though it’s never correct. And I mean never: if people were able to guess who was going to be the next Doctor, then Bill Nighy, Paterson Joseph and Alan Davies would all have “former Time Lord” on their CVs.

No speculation is too far-fetched for the Who’s Who industry. Billie Piper, even though she played Rose? Ashley Walters, even though he’s just been in an episode as someone else? Colin Morgan, even though the nation’s kids think of him as Merlin? That hologram of Les Dawson who appeared on ITV last weekend? Hey, why not?

Name any halfway-familiar British actor and someone, somewhere, is writing an article or a blog wondering if they’re in the running. Some have apparently just been recycled from 2009 with only Matt Smith’s name substituted for David Tennant’s as the man to replace.

It’s obvious why such a universally recognised series sparks all this theorising: it swells to fill (broadcast) time and (page) space, promotes the show and is a pleasant, safe topic for light chat. The only other long-running franchise that comes under the same scrutiny is the similarly regenerating James Bond – whose every cast change prompts the dusting-off of articles asking “Could Bond be a woman/black/American?”

The speculation about taking The Doctor in a new direction is the hottest debate of all and usually says more about the people discussing it than the show. There’s surely scope for one of those psychological quizzes you get in magazines to help people pick a runner:

If you said MOSTLY As: you dislike change and want the programme to remain exactly as it was in the glory years (that is, whenever you started watching it). Your Ideal Doctor is Anthony Head.

MOSTLY Bs: you’re sick of the all-knowing alien man/sassy younger human female and want some role-reversal in the Tardis. Your Ideal Doctor is Meera Syal.

MOSTLY Cs: you don’t think the show has nearly enough deaths and actually you’d rather be watching Game Of Thrones. Your Ideal Doctor is Peter Dinklage.

MOSTLY Ds: you think it’s pathetic that anyone cares about a kids TV show – you only watch documentaries. Ideal Doctor: Jeremy Paxman.

If fans enjoy the guessing game, fair enough. But it’s pointless: no-one suspected Matt Smith and the available budget and demanding filming schedule will rule out the starriest names being thrown around. So most likely the next Doctor will again be greeted with cries of “Who?”