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Posted in Television | Tagged 10th doctor, 9th doctor, chris eccleston, David Tennant, Doctor Who, ninth doctor, plimsolls, regeneration, rose tyler, russell t. davies, stephen moffat, tenth doctor, The Doctor |
[…] posted up my thoughts on David Tennant leaving Doctor Who as […]
Over the past couple of days since the news came out, I’ve also done a little head-scratching and playing of the casting game. If the choice were mine, I think I’d go a bit out in left field on this one. For the 11th Doctor, I would cast either Robbie Coltrane or Lenny Henry. Coltrane’s got solid experience as both a dramatic and comedic actor and could bring a lovely dose of cynicism to the role that’s probably overdue – he could maintain the charm, humour and rapid-fire banter and energy necessary, but give us a clearer view than we’ve yet seen into the weariness the Doctor must carry around. In many ways, it’s time for an older, more thoughtful Doctor. Henry, on the other hand, could bring the age level up a bit without losing the energy. Henry, I think, based on his success in “Chef!” could bring an element of unpredictable explosiveness that Tennant has certainly touched on, but never taken to the true sense of danger that a being like the Doctor might entertain in darker moments – Eccleston came close, but backed away. I think Henry could show us more.
And yet, ultimately, I agree with you, harrysaxon, that the producers have made excellent choices so far and are certainly worthy of our trust.
In many ways, the imminent loss of Tennant illustrates how, through the show and the bond that forms between audience and actor, we, the fans, are companions, doomed to watch as sooner or later the Doctor leaves us. If we’re lucky enough and determined enough, we’re still around to meet him in his new form.
I can’t picture Robbie Coltrane in the slightest. He’s too famous and well established; it would feel too much like “Robbie Coltrane AS The Doctor”! Plus, out-of-universe, I think they’ll need and want to maintain some of the sex appeal of David Tennant to hold their current audience, and whlie Coltrane is a terrific actor, few would accuse him of oozing sex appeal.
Lenny Henry is a much more interesting pick; but the same thing regarding sex appeal still applies, as I haven’t seen him in a lot of years. Picturing him as he was in Chef! feels right, but the last Chef! episode must be more than a decade old. Still, that idea has potential.
Even beyond the sex appeal factor, I disagree with the older Doctor concept. The grandfatherly Hartnell or dapper Pertwee’s days are in the past. The new series is too action-oriented, for one; the Doctor needs to be plausibly athletic these days. There’s also a certain idea, as expressed by the Tenth in the 2007 Children in Need special, that being old and serious is for the young Time Lord trying to prove themselves, while being young and humourous is appropriate for the old, wise Time Lord, who has found it a useful way to throw their enemies off-guard. I’d hate them to break that image, especially as it’s probably my favourite Tenth Doctor monologue.
Frankly, I suspect the best pick, as is often the case with such prominent roles, is someone we really haven’t heard of, someone who won’t bring their own career’s baggage along with them.
I won’t comment on how the degree of weight you put on the sex appeal factor of the Doctors reflects on you, old buddy, but I will say that I disagree that sex appeal needs to be a factor in the Doctor’s casting. I don’t think you can look at the Doctors and say they’ve got serious sex appeal in any physical sense – if it’s there, it’s all personality. Tennant looks like a mischevious kid, and Eccleston appeared to be a goofy-looking thug. Let’s not even get into their predecessors.
As for age, that’s not much of a factor either. One of the appealling characteristics of the Doctor is that he can change significantly from one incarnation to the next – old, young, doesn’t matter as long as he and his Companions get into interesting circumstances.
In terms of action, I think action-oriented is a bit of a stretch. They flee quite a bit, I’ll give you that, and there’s certainly quite a lot of camera swinging, but they’re not skydiving or bungee jumping every episode, and you certainly don’t see the Doctor getting into any slugfests with his opponents. To simply run away? I don’t think you need a particularly young or fit actor to do that at all. In fact, it would probably add interesting potential to the show if the Doctor regenerated into a body that wasn’t as young as Tennant’s, or in terribly good shape. Hell, he might resemble more of his audience, and as any good storyteller will let you know, audience self-identification isn’t a bad thing, even in an openly escapist yarn like this.
Bottom line is that action, youth and sexiness are not where the appeal of the Doctor lies. His draw is in how his character behaves in the situations he finds himself in and what he has to say to those he meets along the way. The cheap sets of the past, the cool CG of today, even the bodies of the Doctor are all just window-dressing, the show’s about the mind behind them. To that end, Coltrane and Henry would be perfect.
As for Coltrane’s fame – meh. The resume doesn’t matter past the first 5 minutes if the actor does a good job in the role and pulls you into the story (like Olmos in BSG).
As we’ve both said before though, I’ll trust the team at the production company to find the right 11th Doctor.
I’m talking about current success, not what is “required” out of a Doctor. While he hasn’t garnered much attention here, Tennant – largely because of the exuberance and likability of his performance, but also his looks – currently has a sex-appeal factor in the UK not dissimilar to a Brad Pitt in the US. It’s contributed enormously to the ratings of the show, and the BBC is not going to want to lose those viewers if they can possibly help it. That’s where the age comes in, too. Don’t get me wrong, they can go older than Tennant, but we won’t be seeing a Doctor in their 60s anytime soon if the BBC has anything to say about it, as their enormous chunk of female viewers 18-50 will take a hit.
There was always a lot of running in the old series, but the new series has greatly stepped up the athleticism of the Doctor. I’m not saying the actor has to be a great stuntman, but they need to be believable in the action sequences. Can you imagine Tom Baker diving from car to car in a giant traffic jam? Or Jon Pertwee winning a swordfight against the Sycorax? Sylvester McCoy on a white horse, charging through a French palace to the rescue?
Identify with the viewers? Hell no, I don’t want to identify with him. The Doctor has to be way above that. I shouldn’t be able to identify with a seven hundred year old alien who feels the rotation of the universe and has committed mass genocide on countless occasions. I don’t want to identify with him; part of the point, since the very beginning, is his enigmatic nature. I just want to hang out with him – and that’s the key, it’s the companions the audience is supposed to empathise with, not the Doctor. We should be in awe of him, maybe even a little afraid of him.
Really, invoking Adama for that comparison? Come on, man, the Doctor is a legend, played by a dozen actors, over 45 years. Olmos stepped in and re-interpreted a role from a one-season 70s show, originally played by an actor who died a quarter-century ago, and was largely recognized only by people who watched TV westerns in the 1960s. Playing the Doctor is like playing Superman or James Bond.
That all said – yes, I agree, it’s largely window dressing for the writers who are the guts of the show. But ratings and popularity matter, and certain factors have to be taken into account that have contributed to its current success if the BBC is going to keep spending this kind of money on it.
Actually, you know who would kick ass? Kevin McKidd. Established, but not a hugely recognized star, like Eccleston. If there’s a tone shift I think the Doctor is ready for, it’s to a somewhat more serious Doctor, a little less comical, and he’d be perfect. I’m making a Vorenus for Eleventh T-shirt.
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