The British science fiction show Doctor Who first aired in 1963, telling the story of a time-traveling humanoid alien Time Lord who goes on adventures in his TARDIS (a sentient ship that can travel through space and time) with various companions by his side. While it originally went off the air in 1989, it was brought back in 2005 by Russell T. Davies and found itself becoming a national treasure with Christopher Eccleston — and soon after David Tennant — giving the Doctor a new life.
The neat thing about the show is that even though it has spanned 50 years, the show has never been technically "re-made" — the Doctor we see now is the same Doctor our parents saw in the 60's because the main character is able to regenerate when he's injured to the point of death. This little trick enables a new actor to come forth and play the lead without interrupting the story and to this day we've seen 11 different faces of the Doctor.
With Matt Smith, the current 11th Doctor announcing his retirement from the show earlier this month, rumors have been spreading wildly as to who the 12th Doctor will be. Though we still have the 50th Anniversary Christmas Special left (which will feature John Hurt as an incarnation of the Doctor and bring back David Tennant and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, the 10th Doctor's first companion), people just can't wait to see who Matt Smith will regenerate into and I'm certainly one of them. With some rumors absolutely ridiculous (like Tennant coming back full time to play Twelve, which would be a degeneration), others have some merit. While I doubt a big name will be cast (that's not how it's been done in the past and no one wants a name bigger than the role), that's not stopping fans from dreaming, so here's some of my dream picks and some popular choices among fans — in no particular order.
Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the leading choices among Doctor Who fans but the chances of him playing the Doctor are pretty slim. While he is a fantastic actor, he's just too famous at this point (Star Trek made sure of that). With more than six films still in post-production, when would he ever find the time to play the iconic role of the Doctor? Granted, casting him would finally make the Doctor a ginger (which is a running joke through the past incarnations), I would much rather see a new season of Sherlock instead.
The nice thing about the character of the Doctor is that physical appearance means nothing and anyone can be cast, including a black actor (some fans are also calling for a female Doctor). Chiwetel Ejiofor (pronounced Chew-i-tel Ej-i-oh-for) has already said he'd say "yes" if the producers asked him to play the role and combined with his stellar career, he has better odds than some others on this list. The BAFTA winner is highly respected but hasn't yet had a role that launched him into superstardom, which would make him a well-known choice but not one that would overpower the role.
There's a possibility he's already been cast if Wil Wheaton's Tumblr post is anything to go by. The former Star Trek: The Next Generation actor, in response to a quote citing Ejiofor's odds as 7/1, wrote, "Am I the only person who knows who has been cast as the next Doctor, and who has known this was coming for several weeks? I figured that if it filtered down to me, it must be common knowledge among people who matter." One could read that as his rebuking Ejiofor as the winner or confirming it — I like to think it's the latter.
Damien Molony definitely fits the newcomer requirement — fans of Being Human will certainly recognize him as the vampire Hal but that's about it. Able to combine charm, arrogance, danger, and eccentricity within Hal, I can see Molony as Twelve pretty easily. Similar to Matt Smith, audiences won't have any preconceived notions as to who Molony is based on past roles, making it easier to accept him as the age-old Time Lord.
John Boyega's name has been popping up as a contender and I completely agree. The young actor fits the unknown category better than anyone else mentioned, with only a few acting credits to his name — though if you have yet to see Attack the Block, remedy that as soon as possible. A fan of the show already (his favorite Doctor is David Tennant), Boyega would be a surprising choice but a very welcome one.
Have you ever loved someone's performance in a movie, only to love the same person in a television show years later without realizing it was the same actor? Joe Gilgun was one of those charismatic actors for me. With the ability to become the character he's playing, it took me an embarrassingly long time to connect the man who played the friendly skinhead Woody in This Is England (for which he was nominated for a British Independent Film Award) to the man who plays the energetic Rudy in Misfits. If Misfits shows anything, it shows that Gilgun can easily handle a character with multiple facets (since Rudy has a literal split personality) and he's definitely got the manic energy the Doctor needs.
Richard Coyle is often thrown into the ring as a Doctor contender (his name even popped up back in 2008 when Tennant stepped down) and while he's been in a number of shows and films (including The Libertine with Johnny Depp), he's not too famous for the role — not yet anyway. With all different types of characters in his repertoire, from criminals to the quirky funny-man, Coyle could definitely bring the right amount of edge to the role.
Known best for gritty dramas, Riz Ahmed probably won't be a popular choice among fans looking for a big name but that's why he'd be amazing. The actor, who also releases hip-hop records on the side, would be a bold and exciting Doctor. Though young, he's played an array of serious roles, including that of a suicide bomber in Four Lions, and would definitely bring something new and unseen to Doctor Who.
Many think that Rory Kinnear has the best chances of being Twelve because while he's highly respected in the industry, he hasn't had any real high profile jobs. Plus, he appeared in the 2009 Doctor Who Christmas special, which ups his odds because the show is known for testing actors out in small parts before bringing them into bigger ones. It would be nice seeing a Doctor who isn't a "pretty boy" and has loads of Shakespearean theater acting under his belt.
Hailed as one of the best actors of his generation and known for playing young geniuses, Ben Whishaw would be a great Doctor. Recently seen as Q in Skyfall (alongside Rory Kinnear), Whishaw has a natural quirky youthfulness and has proven he can play darker characters (as seen in Perfume), as well as iconic figures (like in I'm Not There in which he played a version of Bob Dylan).
Writer, comedian, and actor Stephen Fry would be a dream. Though there are some who would prefer his Fry and Laurie other half Hugh Laurie to be Twelve (which I'm certainly not against), Fry would be the less obvious choice between the two. Plus, Laurie recently turned down a lead role in NBC's Crossbones to apparently focus on music, and he probably wouldn't want to play another Doctor anyway. Not only is Fry an excellent actor, comedian, and all-round human being, he's incredibly intelligent and highly esteemed, which would enable him to easily balance the Doctor's razor sharp wit with his damaged reliability. I don't know if this would ever happen, but it would be nice to see an older Doctor again, one who already has gravitas in full.
Many are vying for Rupert Grint to get the role, but I feel pretty confident in saying it's not going to happen. He's way too well known for playing Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and instead of watching the Doctor go on adventures, audiences would really be watching Ron as the Doctor going on adventures and that alone just doesn't work. If anyone from the Potter franchise is going to be the final pick, it should be Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (known as the oldest Weasley brother). Plus, as the son of Brendan Gleeson, he's already royalty in my opinion.
On the off chance that the producers are actually ready and willing for the Doctor to switch genders (which is technically possible, though bizarre), I'm adding Tilda Swinton to this list. It's pretty implausible but it would be amazing nonetheless — who better than her to play a strange immortal time traveler? Plus, for fans who want to keep the Doctor a man, Swinton is androgynous enough where the switchover wouldn't be as hard for them to swallow. Even better, David Bowie could be her stand-in if a film interfered with scheduling.