When I interviewed Doctor Who star Matt Smith at the end of last year, talk inevitably turned to the temporary nature of portraying the show’s semi-titular Time Lord, whose powers of regeneration have enabled an array of people to play the part since the British sci-fi series debuted almost 50 years ago. “One day you will be sat opposite another Doctor,” Smith said wistfully. “You will be cheating on me! Right? You will be. And I will expect you to always speak fondly of me…”
As became clear over the weekend, that is likely to happen sooner rather than later. On Saturday, the BBC announced that, after four years helming the TARDIS, Smith is to leave the show once he has filmed the 2013 Christmas episode (the actor has already shot this fall’s 50th anniversary special). “Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show,” Smith was quoted as saying in the official announcement. “I’m incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realize all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.”
In the two days since the announcement, the Internet has been predictably abuzz with journalists ruminating on candidates who have been mooted as Smith’s replacement. Although as a British writer friend of mine noted on Facebook, in these articles “ ‘mooted’ seems to mean ‘made up by us.’” As a Brit myself, I find it useful at these times to consult the opinion of U.K. bookmakers, who at least have a financial stake in the horse race and the company William Hill has obligingly posted a list of possible future Doctors and the odds it is offering on them getting the job. These range from Being Human actor Russell Tovey and Rupert Grint at 10/1 to David Beckham, Tom Cruise, and Simon Cowell, all of whose odds stand at what seems to me to be an ungenerous-to-gamblers 250/1. “Russell Tovey has already appeared in a couple of episodes and many fans have suggested that he would make a fantastic Doctor,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams in a statement on the company’s website. “We have already seen money for Rupert Grint, who would also be perfect for the role!” As Whovians will be aware, Grint also possesses the advantage of having ginger hair, something which Matt Smith’s Doctor expressed disappointment at not acquiring in the course of his regeneration from the incarnation played by the actor’s predecessor, David Tennant
Meanwhile, William Hill is offering odds of 8/1 that the next Doctor will be a woman and odds of 16/1 that that woman will be former Time Lord companion Billie Piper. Other thespians on the William Hill list include Ben Whishaw (14/1), Tilda Swinton (20/1), Ewan McGregor (25/1), and John Hurt (50/1), who was teasingly “introduced” as “the Doctor” at the end of the show’s recent series finale and will presumably be featuring heavily in the 50th anniversary special. Paterson Joseph, from the terrific British sitcom Peep Show, is the only actor of color on the list of possibilities for a role which, until now, has always been played by a white actor although another bookmaking company, Sky Bet, is offering Chiwetel Ejiofor at 12/1, Idris Elba at 33/1, and British comedian Lenny Henry at 100/1.
So much for the bookies. Who do you think should replace Matt Smith?