With the announcement that Matt Smith is departing Doctor Who as of the conclusion of this year’s Christmas special began the speculation about who the 12th Doctor might be. Naturally, the immediate speculation concerned someone famous a la Idris Elba or Benedict Cumberbatch, but the chances of that are relatively nil, and it appears that Neil Gaiman agrees with me.
In a Tumblr post, Gaiman outlined his rationale, and given that he’s actually penned a couple of episodes of Doctor Who I guess we can take his opinion as wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:
“I think that if you’d asked me who should be the 11th Doctor 5 years ago I wouldn’t have listed Matt Smith, because I didn’t know who he was or what he was capable of, and if you’d asked me who should play Sherlock Holmes in a modern day revival around the same time I wouldn’t have said Benedict Cumberbatch, because I didn’t know who he was either.
I actually like it when The Doctor is a relatively unknown actor, or one without one huge role that made them famous. A star, like Sir Ian, brings all the other roles they’ve ever played to the table when they act. Seeing John Hurt as the (Spoiler) at the end of the Name of the Doctor, meant that this was a certain type of part with a certain amount of gravitas, and you understood that John Hurt was bringing everything with it (including being John Hurt), just as Derek Jacobi did as the Master.
But I like to see The Doctor as The Doctor, and an actor who doesn’t bring baggage is a grand sort of thing. A star waiting to happen. So I don’t want to see Helen Mirren or Sir Ian McKellen or Chiwetel Ejiofor, or any of the famous names people are suggesting.
I want to see The Doctor. I want to be taken by surprise. I want to squint at a photo of the person online and go ‘but how can that be The Doctor?’. Then I want to be amazingly, delightedly, completely proven wrong, and, six episodes in, I want to wonder how I could have been so blind. Because this is the Doctor. Of course it is.”
I think it’s hard to dispute anything Gaiman’s saying here, it’s pretty much the same logic they use when casting a new Superman. The Doctor is The Doctor, and that’s the way it is, which is why the new Doctor isn’t going to be an Oscar-winner, a BAFTA-winner or the star of previous hit series. I guess we’ll find out soon.