At 7pm tonight one of the most anticipated reveals since June 1st will be announced. A decision has been made, an actor has been chosen and now The Doctor shall be named. Previously, there has generally been no announcement of who is replacing who, but rather it is built up and there is much shock and awe when the episode actually airs and we see our new Doctor for the first time. Instead, this time the BBC has chosen to unveil the new casting in a half hour special. Likely, this is an attempt to tap into the Doctor Who fandom between Series 7 and the 50th Anniversary episode, set to air on the 23rd of November.
You would be forgiven for not getting the memo that the special was airing tonight because it was only announced two days prior. Evidently, the BBC heard that a decision had been made on casting the twelfth Doctor and they jumped at the opportunity to steal some extra viewers from ITV and Channel 4 on a sleepy Sunday evening. For reference, it will be up against Tipping Point: Lucky Stars on ITV and Princess Diana’s Dresses: The Auction over on Channel 4; not exactly stiff competition. Perhaps the BBC are afraid of the casting being leaked but actually, in comparison to most shows, the fans of Doctor Who seem to be quite respectful of spoilers. Remember that the series 7 finale was let slip to America before it even aired and fans were more than capable of keeping tight lipped about that. Even saving the show for next week might have allowed them to build a bit more hype and draw in a lot more viewers.
Though, if there is one thing that the BBC doesn’t understand it is hype. Otherwise they wouldn’t reveal the casting at all and would allow the speculation to continue to simmer. Don’t forget that, although Matt Smith returns in November for the 50th Anniversary, the old guard won’t change until the Christmas episode. That is over five months away. Imagine the fever pitch that the anticipation will have reached by then as salivating fans grow ever more desperate for any little morsel of information they can possibly find. That is the kind of atmosphere that you want to generate. Of course, there will still be the excitement of finding out the new Doctor’s personality and dress sense and how he interacts with our favourite characters.
Many fans, as eager as they are to find out who will be playing the new Doctor, feel that the BBC shouldn’t announce the decision. Presumably, the thought process is that the announcement will generate more excitement because people will be chomping at the bit to see so and so in their new role. Unfortunately, along with that excitement, you also alienate half the audience who were hoping for someone different. At the moment, so many fans and celebrities have been vocal about the Doctor being female that if they actor is revealed to be male, the BBC will already have disappointed a large portion of the DW fandom.
For the record, I am against the new Doctor being female. The main reason that most fans give for the Doctor being female is that there is no good cause not to. The same argument is used by fans who want a dark skinned Doctor, such as Idris Elba. Idris Elba is a choice that I wouldn’t mind, although I can’t see him taking on the role when he is already involved with Luthor and appears to be moving into Hollywood films. But he would be a good option because he is a great actor; it has nothing to do with his skin or sex. Likewise, fans want a female Doctor because it would be seen as an affirmative and representing sexual equality, but the Doctor shouldn’t be cast based on social and political points. However, I am not saying never to the idea of a female Doctor. If it were me behind the steering wheel of Doctor Who, I would wait until people least expected it and then I would cast a brilliant, unknown female actress but I would also cast a new companion, a male companion, just to throw everyone off.
The fact that the BBC is making such a big deal out of this selection unlike previous years does worry me. If Steven Moffatt has cast a woman as the Twelfth Doctor then it is easy to imagine the BBC wanting to make that known as soon as possible. Olivia Coleman has been the big name in terms of female Doctor casting both now and back when the Matt Smith era was ushered in. Even if Moffatt did pick an actress over an actor, I think he will have gone in the lesser known direction. The popular options are always big names like Helen Mirren and Tilda Swinton, or comedy actresses such as Miranda Hart and Sue Perkins. However, if Moffatt were to go in that direction, I think he would go for someone young, white and relatively unknown.
Outside of the female question, there have been a few men whose names have constantly cropped up. Rory Kinnear’s name has come up repeatedly, with conflicting sources saying he had been offered the part and others reporting that he hadn’t received a single call. Fellow James Bond star, Ben Whishaw would be preferable but he has already ruled himself out. Conversely, Dominic Cooper, who plays Howard Stark in Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger and the upcoming sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has said that the part would be hard to ignore. Damien Molony of Being Human fame has been a hot option also, but the most recent flavour of the month is Peter Capaldi. At 55, he will suit fans who are upset by the progressively younger casting (although none of the previously mentioned actors are younger than Matt Smith was when he was cast at 26) and he has a long a storied filmography. Unforunately, that list includes one off roles in an episode of Doctor Who and Torchwood. That might bother a few people but it wouldn’t bother me. Interestingly, both Karen Gillian and he had roles in the episode The Fires of Pompeii. Could that be foreshadowing his own repeat casting?
Whatever direction Moffatt has chosen, the BBC will reveal all tonight at 7pm. It is disappointing that they couldn’t have more patience and allow fan’s imaginations to run wild. Inevitably, it would have been announced at some point but the anxious build up is part of the fun. And the BBC has chosen to deny the fandom that fun for the sake of viewing figures.