Friday, June 7, 2013

The Fall of the Eleventh: Some Thoughts on Matt Smith's Departure and the Search for the 12th Doctor

Sadly, it seems that my campaign to make Richard Ayoade the next Doctor is in vain, because Wil Wheaton claims to have known who the next Doctor is for weeks.  Perhaps I needed to start my Richard Ayoade campaign a year ago.  That's a shame.  Maybe I can get him in next time.  Unless Wil Wheaton is just the spitting image of his fictional portrayal of himself on The Big Bang Theory--which makes him look like a completely petty douche--then I think he's probably telling the truth.  Unless this falls into Rule 2:  Moffat gets other people to lie for him.  But why Wil Wheaton?  Certainly, Star Trek has always been a sister franchise to Doctor Who, as each started in approximately the same year and each one is about as popular in its own country as the other one is in it's country.  There's a long list of actors that have appeared in both franchises--such as Daphne Ashbrook and John de Lancie--but nobody has been a significantly important part of both franchises.  So why does Wil Wheaton, an American who is mostly known as an ironic, post-modern camp celebrity who has somehow reopened the door to his former popularity with his online presence know who the 12th Doctor is?  Why would he be privvy to this information?

My only guess is that, by coincidence, Wheaton happens to be friends with whoever is cast.  However, I wasn't aware that Wheaton had a lot of friends who are British actors.  When it comes to British actors that Wheaton is close to, there's only one name that pops up as glaringly obvious:  Patrick Stewart.  I put this as an unlikely option, though, but it would be an interesting and bold choice.  Stewart would not play the character with as much whimsy as the last few.  I can't imagine Stewart being whimsical.  Furthermore, he'd have the most epic science-fiction career ever, having played The Doctor, a Star Trek captain, and Professor Xavier.  He'd go down as the greatest science-fiction icon in history.  Still, I don't like this option.  The change from Matt Smith would be too abrupt and I don't think that the fans would follow.

The shirt isn't just a visual joke, it's also a statement about the infinite capacity of Wheaton's ego.
Colin Baker at Comic Con said last week that he really wants the next Doctor to be an older man, or black, or maybe even a woman.  Apparently a "Helen Mirren for Doctor" campaign started in Denver.  However, Moffat recently polled an audience at a comic con and more than half of the audience said that they'd stop watching if there was a female Doctor.  The thing is, we assume these were men who don't want to see a female Doctor, but the last few Doctors have become sex symbols.  Maybe the women don't want a female Doctor, either.  Regardless of my own mixed feelings on the subject, whether or not a female Doctor would be a progressive and positive thing to do is irrelevant:  It's such an unpopular concept that it would likely sink the show.  (Although, I don't doubt for a second that River would carry on her romance with a female Doctor.)

Skybet has started placing odds on who the 12th Doctor will be, allowing people with way too much money to actually bet on it.  If you look at the odds, you'll notice one thing:  they're fucking stupid.  What possible information could there be to predict this?  Sports have Vegas-style odds because you can analyze the strength of the teams and the players and estimate the likeliness of each team winning.  Horses are similar, you can judge them on their past performances.  Even the odds that are put out on the Oscars are based on some inside industry insight.  How can you possibly create odds based on zero clues?  Clues are being kept under very tight raps until the announcement (with the exception being that somehow the news has leaked to Leslie Crusher).  I feel like those that are being given good odds are given those because the odds makers want a certain Doctor to be cast.  It would be like a more underhanded version of my Richard Ayoade campaign.  If I put out that the odds were good that Richard Ayoade would be the Doctor, that might help me get him cast in the role.

Nothing about a website that offers you your first bet for free makes them sound like scam artists or drug dealers.  Nothing at all.
The biggest bullshit about these numbers is this:  Skybet put a fluctuating number on the possibility of David Tennant coming back to take over the role again, floating his odds between 15/1 and 50/1.  50 is a pretty low number in that situation.  If it were me making this list, that first number would have a lot more digits on it.  You could be hit by lightning in a submarine full of gay, black, Jewish rednecks before David Tennant came back to the role of the Doctor.  These people are making these up based on wishful thinking.  If they actually believe that the chance of David Tennant's return to the role is high enough that it might actually happen, then they fail to understand how Doctor Who works.

Of the actors that are being tossed around, there are three that usually fall near the top:  Ben Singer from Law and Order:  UKChiwetel Ejiofor who won a Lawrence Olivier award in 2008 for Othello, and Russel Tovey from Being Human.  I know nothing about Singer, but I love Being Human, and Russel Tovey was the main part of that.  The thing is, he's already appeared on Doctor Who twice playing the same role, Alonzo Frame, in "Voyage of the Damned" and "The End of Time (Part 2)."  However, there is precedent in the franchise to suggest that Time Lords do have (at least limited) control over how they're going to look when they regenerate, and some of them, such as Romana or, depending on how you interpret it, the 6th Doctor may have intentionally based his new image on Commander Maxil as that was Colin Baker's role before he became a Doctor.  Even River in "Let's Kill Hitler" said, as she regenerated from Mels into River, that she was "trying to focus on a dress size," but it seems mostly random.  You might even suggest that Time Ladies can do it and Time Lords can't

The problem is, Tovey pretty much always plays excruciatingly shy characters.  I can't imagine Tovey playing such an extroverted character as the Doctor.  A shy Doctor is an oxymoron.  I can't even imagine it.  And I simply can't imagine Tovey as an extrovert.

A real Doctor wouldn't need to hide anything.
I don't know much about Eijofor, other than that he was in Dirty Pretty Things, a movie that I watched for no other reason than the fact that it was Audrey Tautou's first English speaking movie (because I was in Emerson film school, and everyone on campus was all about Amelie that year).  I've been told he was also in Serenity, the film that wrapped up the plot of Joss Whedon's science-fiction franchise, Firefly.  While I've certainly seen Serenity (I am a Buffy nerd, too, after all), it's not a movie that I've watched more than once.  Personally, when it comes to post-Angel Whedon, I lean more towards Dollhouse than Firefly.

Even though I don't know much about him, Eijofor is my first choice of the names being batted around, simply because I think it is long past time for the Doctor to stop being a white man.  Of course I would prefer Ayoade, but I'd be happy to see a black Doctor.  I just hope that the first black Doctor is brilliant.  I don't want it to be a poor performance that can be used as some ridiculous excuse for all the future Doctors to be white.  Of all the dumb excuses I've heard as to why the Doctor shouldn't be a woman, one was someone citing the way a female captain screwed up the Star Trek franchise.  Which is bullshit because Kate Mulgrew should be considered a national treasure.

Yet, there's one important thing to remember:  When David Tennant stepped down, the Internet was filled with people speculating over who the next Doctor would be.  And wouldn't you know it, not only did they pull out an actor nobody had been speculating about, they pulled out someone nobody had ever heard of.  Apart from a supporting role on a show called Party Animals, Smith was primarily a stage actor when he was cast as the Doctor.  Neil Gaiman recently said that he thought the Doctor should be played by an unknown actor because he wanted the Doctor to be the Doctor and didn't want to think of all the famous work that this actor had done instead of thinking of him as the Doctor.  I totally understand that.  Most Doctors started as character actors, really.  It's actually a subset of the acting community that is uniquely suited to play the role of the Doctor.  And the Doctor is pretty much the only role that can give these actors such a high level of notoriety.

So what I'm saying is that, while I love the speculation, we have to acknowledge that all of our guesses are probably wrong.  I wonder how much money Skybet makes if nobody on their list is chosen?  Hmm...sounds suspicious to me.

And, with the introduction of the John Hurt Doctor--which technically makes Matt Smith the 12th Doctor, not the 11th--and the announcement that Matt Smith is leaving at the Christmas special, that means that the Doctor is actually going to have his final regeneration this Christmas.  Of course, there's going to be more regenerations in the future, I just hope there's an explanation why the Doctor gets more regenerations.

But my point is that, if this is his last natural regeneration...where is the Valeyard?


  1. I think one needs to consider the possibility that Wheaton is mistaken, that he might honestly believe he knows, but has information from a source that's been mislead. This was often the case before Matt Smith was cast, when several English actors knew for certain that it was going to be Paterson Joseph.

    For what it's worth, Moffat (who lies) said today that they're in the very beginning of the process of replacing Smith, which I'm not entirely sure I buy, but hey. They haven't filmed the Christmas special yet, so who knows.

    The notoriously wrong Telegraph announced today that the the BBC have offered the role to Rory Kinnear. (Bleeding Cool sagely points out that they didn't run it on the front page.)

    1. Hmm. Perhaps I've given up on my Richard Ayoade campaign too early.