Aaron R. Davis
By now, if you spend a significant amount of time on the Internet, you will have heard that Matt Smith will be vacating the role of The Doctor at the end of this year, the character regenerating into a new actor for the eleventh time.
And, as always, there is a great whirlwind of fan speculation and fan campaigns and even bookmaking about who that new actor will be.
As much as I don’t care for its current, Steven Moffat-led incarnation, it is always refreshing to see a great science fiction legacy like Doctor Who can still create so much fan activity and interest, even making national news in its home country. And it’s always pretty amusing to see fans speculate over, push for and write about their dream casting for the role.
Well, at first. Then it gets kind of irritating because the dream casting becomes predictable and the BBC always picks some thin, wiry, less well-known young guy with floppy hair, because the show seems only interested right now in picking a certain type of whimsical hipster who can have almost-romances with women who are bizarrely trained to fall in love with and serve The Doctor in some way because those are the only women Steven Moffat is interested in telling stories about on Doctor Who. Or did you think it was romantic that Amy Pond fell in love with The Doctor as a child? But I digress …
Anyway, back to the casting.
I’m in that camp of people who would like to see The Doctor played by an older man again, mainly because the last few seasons have come dangerously close to Twilight in its twee fairy story sensibility and its weird, breathless, sexless middle school romances. But the fans that that description appeals to have been driving the fandom engine, so I don’t expect it to happen. Hell, check out collections of tweets and Facebook posts that went live after the season finale: look how many people were horrified that an “old, ugly man” like John Hurt could ever be The Doctor. Don’t expect to see anyone over 32 play The Doctor ever again. He’s going to continue to be a scruffy, sexually non-threatening pretend boyfriend for socially awkward girls. And their fantasy boyfriend is not John Hurt.
It’s also probably not going to be a woman. There’s been quite a debate going on as to whether or not The Doctor could be or should be played by a woman. A lot of that discussion is rather lame. The problem here, to me, is that the role of The Doctor is not an institution that is obligated to be all-inclusive, so mainly the arguments come down to subjective preferences that are weirdly argued as objective ethic, or worse, objective morality, as though The Doctor being played by a woman morally proves something.
I see a lot of people — men and women both, actually — who prefer The Doctor remain a man, but who aren’t sexist about it, but who are being accused of sexism by men and women who really want to see The Doctor change genders. And, of course, there are sexists who firmly denounce the idea. But not everyone who doesn’t want a female Doctor is sexist about it. The problem, as I said, is that people have personal preferences and you can’t really defend them because it doesn’t really run any deeper than that.
I think there’s no reason The Doctor can’t be played by a woman, except that we’ve just never seen a Time Lord or Time Lady change gender in a regeneration. But hell, The Doctor’s hair changes color and his eyes change color, so obviously you can say the genetics are fluid. I’m not bothered by the idea of a woman Doctor (and I can think of some great actresses who would be marvelous fun in the role, and it would be nice to have a strong female lead in genre television again), but I don’t think the BBC will pull it off. Frankly, I don’t think Steven Moffat is capable of pulling it off.
It’s also not going to be a black guy. For much the same reason. It’s going to be someone different but not very much different. Though there is always, always the racist element at play in fandom, not everyone who doesn’t think of it being a person of color (any color) is automatically a racist, so stop saying they are, please. I feel like there’s a group of people out there who, every time the role comes up for new casting, pull out Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name and say that if you don’t think Chiwetel Ejiofor should play The Doctor, you’re a disgusting racist. Personally, I just think Chiwetel Ejiofor is massively overrated. I don’t know why the discussion always centers on him, but it always does. I have no problem with a black Doctor, but can’t it be anyone besides Chiwetel Ejiofor? Is he really that good an actor and I just haven’t seen him in the right roles? Am I still a disgusting racist even though I’d prefer, say, Jimi Mistry instead?
This is the point where the speculation just gets annoying and people start saying Rupert Grint should be The Doctor because apparently no one over 25 is ever going to play the role again, and it’s apparently cute instead of grating watching 22-year-olds pretend they’re eccentric. I’m sure there are people who end up wondering why The Doctor can’t just be a teenager and why not make the companion a werewolf or something since we’re going to turn every genre show into a supernatural teen romance, anyway. And people throwing Rory Kinnear’s name around all of a sudden as if the BBC is ever going to cast someone balding in the role, because he’s got to be sexy in that asexually hipster way.
I don’t know. I’m still annoyed they didn’t case James Nesbitt when he was being heavily speculated on.
Is it so racist and sexist of me that I’d like to see an older man in the role again? Someone every bit as whimsical but a little more grounded in age and experience, like Patrick Stewart? Hell, check Stewart’s Instagram page, he practically is The Doctor already.
But if Matt Smith would like to take Steven Moffat with him so the BBC could hand the show over to Luther creator/writer Neil Cross and then cast Idris Elba in the role, I would be a hundred percent for that happening. Hell, if Matt Smith wants to stay and just Steven Moffat could leave, I have no problem with that, either.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.