The legacy of Doctor Who dates back decades upon decades, as the most storied sci-fi series in television history. The character is a British icon, as traditional as tea, the queen, and double-decker buses. In turn, the actor who portrays the Doctor takes on a huge responsibility: A poor representation is more than a small disappointment. Rather, it’s a national catastrophe. The show’s growing global audience has served only to raise the stakes even higher, making the selection process for each Doctor a rigorous, carefully constructed affair.
Traditionally, the last of the Time Lords has always been a male. While companions have been a diverse collection of genders and ethnicity, the Doctor’s gender has remained constant throughout the show’s half-century run. Statements from author and comedian A.L. Kennedy though have led us to wonder: What if the Doctor was a woman?
Kennedy herself doesn’t entertain the question, citing the Doctor’s lack of “girl-type eccentricity.” We’re of the mind though that with the right actor, it could work beautifully, and departing showrunner Steven Moffat at one point shared our curiosity, stating that the next Doctor “might be female” in an interview with SFX.
And, as reported by the Mirror, the BBC has announced that Peter Capaldi will be leaving his role as the 12th Doctor after the 2017 season, leaving the door open for a female Time Lord. Here are 10 actresses who we think should be on the BBC’s shortlist.
1. Hayley Atwell
This whole discussion first gained steam on the back of Agent Carter star Hayley Atwell taking questions on Twitter. One fan asked her if she’d like to appear on Doctor Who in some capacity. Her response pretty much says it all.
@ohmyjlc I’d like to BE Doctor Who
— Hayley Atwell (@HayleyAtwell) August 14, 2015
We see no reason why Atwell shouldn’t be, already showing the world her creative range; she’s already appeared in everything from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe to the cerebral Black Mirror on BBC. This range makes her eminently qualified to play a character that requires a unique touch for each iteration.
2. Helen Mirren
It’s only in recent years that we’ve seen the Doctor getting younger and younger, with Peter Capaldi acting as a return to a more stately age. With that, Helen Mirren is a national treasure in and of herself, and would be a wonderful captain of the TARDIS. Her career speaks for itself, with an Oscar to her name for her 2007 role in The Queen, and a resume that dates all the way back to 1966.
3. Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench is an actor whose body of work is legendary within Hollywood. Both on stage and in film, she’s proven that she belongs among the greatest in film history, and a role as Doctor Who would be the cherry on top of a spectacular run. It would be fairly difficult getting her to commit to the show for more than a year, given the fact that even now, she has multiple projects in the works.
4. Emily Blunt
Blunt would function more on the younger end of the spectrum, but that certainly shouldn’t disqualify her from a potential run at the Doctor. She’s shown a propensity for both comedies, drama, and sci-fi, with her resume including The Five Year Engagement, The Adjustment Bureau, Edge of Tomorrow, and tons more. Her diverse background and considerable range make her an ideal fit.
5. Tilda Swinton
There’s something about the Doctor that requires a sort of alien feel, something that Tilda Swinton has specialized in throughout her career. She’s assumed a fair number of delightfully odd roles that make her an ideal fit to assume the role of a nigh immortal alien that oftentimes doesn’t quite understand what it is to be human. You can bet any portrayal of hers would be decidedly on the weirder side.
6. Emma Thompson
If we’re going to have a discussion about universally beloved British actresses, we’d be remiss in not throwing Emma Thompson’s name into the hat. Thompson’s storied career has taken her everywhere from Shakespeare to Harry Potter, making her uniquely suited to the role of the quirky, yet charming Doctor.
7. Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter has built her career on crazy and weird characters. She’d certainly bring an intriguing maniacal edge to the Doctor, especially if her role as the cackling Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter is any indication. Beyond that, her talent and qualifications are beyond reproach, and we’d be lucky to have her for as long as she might decide to hang around.
8. Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton is no newcomer, but it’s only recently that we got to see her talents on a large scale. Her starring role in Westworld as the self-aware android, Maeve, was one of the highlights of the entire series. On the smash hit series, Newton demonstrated a level of depth and subtly that would work perfectly for the Doctor, while casting her would break the tradition of white males filling the role.
9. Natalie Dormer
Natalie Dormer holds an impressive body of work in terms of iconic television. She recently just wrapped up her run as Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, and played a gender-swapped Moriarty on CBS’s Sherlock Holmes series, Elementary. Bringing her on as the Doctor would only be a natural transition, solidifying her legacy as one of Britain’s most accomplished young actresses.
10. Rose Leslie
In past seasons, the Doctor has made frequent references to his will to regenerate as a ginger. Rose Leslie would afford the character just that, as well as casting another Scottish actor to follow Peter Capaldi. We first became acquainted with Leslie’s considerable acting chops as Ygritte on Game of Thrones, and since then, she’s continued to make a home in British television on Downton Abbey and Luther.
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