There is a (tele) movie called Doctor Who
and it is covered here… but this page
is devoted to all eleven Doctors…
in the first TV series to be included
in the Special Movie Section.
“Hello, I’m the Doctor”
"I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours, the same as anyone's. It's taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last I know where I'm going. Where I've always been going. Home, the long way round."
The 50th anniversary episode - The Day Of The Doctor - won the highest Doc rating, 12.8m BBC One viewers on November 23 2013. Simultaneously, Aunty’s precious cult was seen, also in 2D and 3D, on TV in 94 nations - Australia, Brazil, Botswana, Hong Kong, Mexico Myanmar, Nigeria, and Mexico, the UK and US, etc – and in 1,500 cinemas in Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Kazakhstan, Peru, Russia, Uruguay, and, again, the UK and US, etc. In short, the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama – you’re hardly going to argue with The Guinness World Records, are you?
All twelve Doctors were there – in person or archive images. William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith (the incumbent Who) and the merest glimpse of Doc12 Pete Capaldi. Oh and a 13th for luck, now known as The War Doctor - coming between Docs 8 and 9: John Hurt.
This is their story…
“You might say, I've been doing this all my lives.”
Let us go back to April 1963. When everything was starting to happen in London. The Beatles, James Bond, Carnaby Street, Flower Power. Love. Sex. Drugs. And and rock’n’ roll, baby!
Within the confines of the BBC, and you cannot find anywhere more confined than Aunty’s confines, the head of TV Drama, Sydney Newman, was in charge of a new idea, often referred to, with typical BBCondescension, as science fiction for kids. All about a nine-centuries-old alien, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey - 250 million light years away - who whizzes around time and space, having adventures, usually with one or two young human companions - I call them his travelling rugs - as they battle various lethal adversaries
Newman called in producer Rex Tucker to start the ball rolling until a permanent producer (showrunner intoday’s terms)could be enticed and assigned.
It has to be said that Tucker was hardly enthralled by the idea of putting a Time Lord on TV. But he had little else on his schedule before leaving for a two month vacation. So, yes, why not lend a hand with the initial casting sessions.
Tucker knew his way around - he wrote, adapted, produced, directed both kidstuff and adult drama - Jane Eyre, A Farewell To Arms, Madame Bovary, Maigret , Three Musketeers and another doctor: Dr Finlay's Casebook. In all more than 50 shows with diverse actors, including at least one potential Doctor. Except Rupert Davies, the TV Jules Maigret, didn’t grasp the potential.
Some say Tucker actually named the time-travelling hero. His own choice for the Time Lord, the late Hugh David, refused but was sure that his friend had christened the venerable hero of what became the Beeb’s longest running series. “I remember Rex giving me either the back of an envelope or a serviette, something like that,” Hugh told Doctor Who Magazine, “on which they scribbled down the vague idea behind the serial, and at the bottom they wrote: Doctor... Who?' They left a space to fill in the name, but they just couldn't think of anything suitable, and when they took a casual look at it Rex said: Doctor Who! And that's how it stuck. I actually kept that scrap of paper for many years, before I lost track of it.”
Ever generous. Tucker more graciously insisted the title came from Newman. Or, at least, during various meetings with Newman, they arrived at the name. Decades later, River Song explained his name had two meanings: healer and mighty warrior.
OK, they had their hero.
They had his time-travelling machine, disguised as a very commonplace police call box (commonplace in the UK in the 50s, that is). As Doc8 explained: “It's cloaking device got stuck on a previous misadventure.”
They had its name, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions in Space).
They had his name.
They even had his opening line: “What are you doing here?”
Now all they needed was...
Where to find the Doctor…?
Hugh David was first chosen by his producer pal Rex Tucker as televison’s Time Lord.However, Tuckerwas a caretaker or standby producer. Once his boss, Sydney Newman, promoted his Armchair Theatre production secretary to debutante producer, taking overall control in mid-June 1963, she wasn’t smitten by Tucker (“very old BBC”), nor by his idea of having a young actor in old make-up. “We were on a very tight schedule and it wouldn't have been practical to have a long make-up every day.”
Her name was Verity Lambert and she became a major TV producer (Budgie, GBH, Jonathan Creek, Minder, The Norman Conquests, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Shoulder To Shoulder). She always knew what she wanted. And what she wanted for Doctor Who was a genuine veteran. Old but not necessarily grandfatherly - that came two years later in in the first two cinema versions made (not by Verity’s later company, inevitably called Cinema Verity) and starring Peter Cushing, as “an eccentric inventor,” not a Time Lord, and the grandpop of both his travelling rugs. (Ugh!).
Lambert was free to start looking because Hugh David didn’t want to know. “I”d just played the lead for a year in a soap opera called Knight Errant for Granada, and like anybody who appears on television, I was stopped in shops and asked for my autograph all the time.” Isn’t that what actors crave? Attention! Recogniton! Fame! Well, David preferred directing - and helmed two Doc2 Patrick Troughton stories, #31: The Highlanders, 1966-1967, and (totally lost within Aunty’s confines - or furnaces) #42: Fury From The Deep, 1968
The word went out. Wrinklies wanted…
And in they tottered…
Geoffrery Bayldon turned down his invitation - but was later the oldest actor, at 80, and the first (?) gay to play the Doctor (in two radio plays). He also turned up as Organon in #106: The Creature From The Pit, with Doc4 Tom Baker in 1979.
Whoah! Doc4? We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. We haven’tlocated Doc1 yet…
The distinguished Irish actor (and head of an acting dynasty) Cyril Cusack, 52 ,and the somewhat cadaveric Alan Webb, 56, were also high on Lambert’s wish list. Not old-old, but in those days (and not just in the 1930s), people did look older than they were… Anyway, neither one fancied a long series. (Little did they know that the Dalek-hating BBC contemplated killing this one off after 13 episodes).
Hidden away in brouhaha of the Silver Anniversary adventure - #150: Silver Nemesis, 1988- was The Mathematician. He was played, at 84, by the ever-mild Leslie French… At 58, he had also passed on becoming Doc1. Some 25 years and 149 chapters later, he appeared, in #150, opposite Doc7 Sylvester McCoy. French was among the legion of excellent UK character actors - in Shakespeare and Dickens. I still remember him as the innocent target of Paul Massie’s execution in Anthony Asquith’s WWII drama, Orders To Kill, 1957.
Then, Verity Lambert went to the movies. She chose Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life. Soon enough, her eyes were no longer on RichardHarris as the inarticulate rugby playing anti-hero but on the talent scout “Dad” Johnson. He was played by William Hartnell… in a rare escape from his usual miltary parade of (heroic and/or comic) Army sergeants.
Nothing grandfatherly about Hartnell. Gruff was the word. Even more so when offered “a children’s series!” Yet, gruff was also considered acceptably eccentric - and he was keen on continuing his leave from the military. At 54, he was younger than Cusack or Webb, but looked, sounded, even moved older. He remains, in fact, the oldest TV Doc. He signed on for the usual BBC pittance/ By 1966, he was on £315 per episode - about £4,050 in today’s money (if there is any left). In 2010, Doc11, Matt Smith, was on £200,000 a year.
And so, the saga began… Hartnell started his 137 episodes with #1: An Unearthly Child, 1963.
“Have you ever thought what it's like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you?... To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet, without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day. One day.”
Hartnell came back for the 1972 Special, #65: The Three Doctors, but it was Richard Hurndall subbing as Doc1 in 1983’s #129: Five Doctors - in a Hartnell wig after the actor’s death from several strokes in 1975.
In Aunty’s 50th birthday tribute movie, An Adventure in Space and Time (by many of the Whovian brigade Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, etc), Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, Waris Hussen (director of the first November 23, 1963 episode) were played by Brian Cox, Jessica Raine, Sacha Dhawan. (Apart from Dhawan, they had all guested in the series between 2009-2013). Even if occasionally looking more like Jack Warner (aka Aunty's earliest cop hero: Dixon of of Dock Green), David Bradley recreated Doc1. When he asked if he'd interested, he said that in his eagerness he he almost bit scenarist Mark Gatiss’s hand off. "A wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time." And as a fan, Bradley wanted to do him justice. He did.
Footnote: “Doctor Who went wrong from the moment William Hartnell left: what had been the educational aspect of the Doctor’s historical adventures (French Revolution, Marco Polo) became fused with the science fiction, until the Daleks were revealed as working for Adolf Hitler. Genius was turned into drivel.” - Letter from Peter Edwards to the London Sunday Times, December 15 in the 50th anniversary year of 2013.
“Oh my giddy aunt!”
Long before his 137th episode, it was necessary to start looking for a worthy successor to the aged, ill and memory-lapsing William Hartnell. (He had arteriosclerosis). Verity Lambert had gone, so it was the new boss, Innes Lloyd, who dreamt up the bright idea of the regeneration sequence, transforming an old Doctor into the new. Why not? The Doctor is an alien after all...
As to what else he was, the Production Department told all in an internal memo in May 1966. “Strong, piercing eyes of the explorer or sea captain. His hair is wild and his clothes look rather the worse for wear (this is a legacy from the metaphysical change which took place). Vital and forceful - his actions are controlled by his superior intellect and experience - whereas at times he is a positive man of action, at other times he deals with the situation like a skilled chess player. The sardonic humour of Sherlock Holmes, a love of disguises which will help and sometimes disconcert his friends. He is always suspicious of new places, things or people - he is the eternal fugitive with a horrifying fear of the past horrors he has endured, (these horrors were experienced during the galactic war and account for his flight from his own planet).”
He is also big-hearted. He has two.
The new search began very much in-house… looking at Rupert Davies, Aunty’s Inspector Maigret, and Valentine Dyall, aka The Man In Black, host of the BBC Radio’s horror stories, Appointment With Fear. (He later played the Black Guardian (of course) in #103: The Armageddon Factor, 1979, as well as the #125-6-7 serials known as The Black Guardian Trilogy, 1983. Plus Brian Blessed, aka Porthos in the 1966 Three Musketeers and in just about everything else he ever played, including his breakthrough years as tough [policeman Fancy Smith in Z Cars, 1962-1978. Later known for booming voiced king-sized portrayals, he was King Yrcanos in #143 : Mindwarp, 1986, and only ill-health prevented him being Odin in #256: The Girl Who Died, 2015.
Peter Jeffrey was first to be offered the job. He was not interested in a long term role, thank you very much - maybe a guest spot sometime? Showing there were no hard feelings, the old Harrovian and Cambridge graduate was booked as the Colony Pilot – opposite the eventual Doc2 in #034: The Macra Terror, 1967. Alas, no copy remains of the meeting between the two as the BBC wiped the four parter! Jeffrey returned - eleven years later! - to be Count Grendel in # 101:The Androids of Tara, 1978, with Doc4 Tom Baker on planet Tara – where tomorrow is another day?
It was Hartnell - losing his memory, yes, but not his marbles - who declared that his successor should be Patrick Troughton. They had worked together in the theatre. In fact, Troughton was once Hartnell’s understudy; he was also among the stars of Troughton’s 1947 movie debut, Escape. Everyone agreed about Troughton (except Troughton), and Michael Hordern was First Reserve in cast Troughton passed. He didn’t.
Yet he fretted so much about future typecasting (how many Time Lord roles are there?) that...
Troughton actually considered playing the Doctor
in blackface and a turban!
As he agreed to a three-year-only stint, the sea captain look as obviously dropped and Sydney Newman decided that the new Who was “a cosmic hobo” with a nod and a wink to Chaplin. Troughton said the role gave him a chance to indulge his passion for dressing up and being able to have “some sly fun as well as a bit of clowning.“
In the final episode of the four-parter #29: The Tenth Planet, 1966, Hartnell regenerated into Troughton, who (!) started his 126 episodes as Doc2 in #30: The Power of the Daleks, 1966, continuing until 1969, plus two 80s’ Specials. (His son, David, appeared in four episodes, between 1969-1972, from lowly extra (with his father) to King Peladon with Doc3 Jon Pertwee… into whom Troughton morphed in #51: Spearhead From Space,1970.
Footnote. In 2013, the Beeb found nine missing episodes from the Troughton years and re-mastered them for downloaing from iTunes. Five chapters of The Enemy Of The World, 1957; four from The Web Of Fear, 1968. Meanwhile, the BBC confirmed that 27 other Doctor Who stories remain missing, destroyed or incomplete. Check your grandad’s garden shed...
“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”
Plan A was Doc2 Patrick Troughton regenerating into…Fagin. All together now: “You gotta pick a Dalek or two.”
Except that there was no transformation sequence for Doc3’s arrival. And by now, Ron Moody - born Ronald Moodnick - had been been Oscar-nominated for the film version of his West End and Broadway triumph, Oliver! He was never to win another such memorable role in his next 62 film and TV gigs. No wonder he would regret refusing Doc3. Moody had after all, a good background in children's television: The Animals of Farthing Wood, Discworld, Into Thje Labyrinth, Noah’s Island, Telebugs, etc..
Plan B was inspired…
And for which we have to thank actor Tenniel Evans. He told his BBC Radio Navy Lark comedy co-star to ask about playing Doctor Who. “Who’s that?” Jon Pertwee famously said. He found out on turning into what Doc1 called “the dandy Doctor” - suave, long curly-haired in velvet jackets, frilly shirts, riding books, cloaks and, of course, his form of hovercraft known as the the Whomobile,
But little comedy, his applauded forte on radio, TV and in films like the “hideous” Carry On series. “I wanted to prove that I could be a successful actor… I played it straight. Right down the middle for five years.” Producer Terrance Dicks told him to play the Doc like himself: “play Jon Pertwee.” “Now who in the hell is that?” said Pertwee. Shades of Peter Sellers.
Jon later said he was helped to learn that during his five seasons, 28 adventures, 128 episodes and two Specials, after succeeding Doc3 Patrick Troughton in #51: Spearhead From Space, TV, 197, and, the end of #74: Planet of the Spiders, 1974, being renewed in his turn as…
“You may be a Doctor… I’m the Doctor. The definite article, you might say”
Jon Pertwee’s Doc3 was a hard act to follow. Producer Barry Letts spread his net wide - covering all ages from Jim Dale, 39, the ex-Carry On and Disney favourite (and future audio book reader of all Harry Potter books) to Fulton Mackay at 52. The BBC knew Dale was better than the inevitable headlines would be - Carry On Doctor - and he proved it winning a Tony, plus three other nominations on Broadway, during 1980-1994.
The brusque Scot Mackay had been part of #52: Doctor Who and the Silurians, 1970, with Doc3. Now, he was being asked to succeed Pertwee as Doc4. He would have, too, except a BBComedy pilot called Porridge! (not the cereal but slang for a prison stretch) became a three-year series - still being repeated in 2012. (Well, you know the BBC!)( Well, you do now).
Also invited: David Warner, Morgan that ever was. A wonderful idea! But he was close to moving home, hearth and career to Hollywood. He would, however, portray the good Time Lord in two radio productions: Sympathy for the Devil, 2003, and Masters of War, 2008.
Next? Benard Cribbins was another sensible suggestion. Except it didn’t gel. But he filled in for a suddenly dead actor in #189: Partners in Crime, 2008, and his character of Wilfred Mott (grandfather of Doc10 David Tennant’s travelling rug, Donna Noble (“comic” Catherine Tate) was retained for eight more adventures until 2010. It is surprising that Cribbins, who must have appeared in almost every UK TV series known to man (from Jackanory to Coronation Street) during 96 other screen roles) had never worked with the Time Lord before. The real one, that is. He had appeared opposite Peter Cushing’s second big-screen incarnation, Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, 1966. (Don’t go there!).
Finally, and obviously in sheer desperation, Barry Letts turned to two totally independent talents… Britain’s first real TVstar, the comic Richard Hearne, and Michael Bentine, co-founder of the radio Goon Show (with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe). Good ideas. On paper. Not in reality.
Bentine had quit the Goons and created a TV comedy hit of his own, It’s A Square World. Therefore, and not suprisingly, he wanted too much say-so about Who scripts. Just as Hearne, allegedly dropped due to insurance worries about his health (he was 66 and died in 1977), had treated the offer as a chance to revive his accident-prone comedy creation of Mr Pastry.
In both instances, Letts would rather have Daleks in his eyes.
For a while, he flirted with the notion of Graham Crowden, unavailable now but a future BBC star of such sitcoms as A Very Peculiar Practice and Waiting For God. He never became Doc4, simply menaced him as Soldeed, the villain of #108: The Horns of Nimon, 1979-80.
Letts then copied Verity Lambert and took himself and script editor Terrance Dicks off to the movies. And there he found his man - not as everyone presumed (never presume) when he was playing Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra, 1971, but as Koura, the evil practitioner, in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 1973. Enter: Tom Baker for thus far, the longest reign of any Doctor: seven seasons, 1974-1981… despite breaking his collar-bone during his third outing, #77: The Sontaran Experiment, 1975.
“Tom wasn’t always the easiest man in the world to work with,” declared one of his travelling rugs, Louise Jameson. “But... a very exciting and dedicated actor. When I see him at conventions now we get on terribly well. He's brilliant with the fans, so witty and unpatronising.”
Regeneration from Doc3 Jon Pertwee happened in #74: Planet of the Spiders, 1974, and Baker started his 173 episodes with #75: Robot, continuing until #115: Logopolis, when he was made over into…
“I'm the Doctor... Or I will be if this regeneration works out”
Taking a leaf out of the Monty Python hymn book, Aunty knew what was required: And now someone completely different. Yet at the same time, someone well known/loved by the Great British public
The new boss was John Nathan-Taylor (he had been the unit producton manager for 34 episodes, 1978-1980) and he had the answer. Because they’d worked so long together on another BBC hit, All Creatures Great and Small, 1978-1990, Peter Davison always topped the producer’s list of possible successors to Tom Baker’s long-running (indeed, longest running) Doc.
“I realised that it was a lot more than just an acting job,” said Davison. “You somehow take on the mantle of Doctor Who and that kind of instant charisma goes with the job…. I’d like him to be heroic and resourceful. I feel that, over the years, Doctor Who has become less vital, no longer struggling for survival, depending on instant, miraculous solutions to problems.”
The producer also penciled in two reserves…The giant Scot Iain Cuthbertson, following his impact (opposite Baker) as the conman Garron in #98: The Ribos Operation, 1978. Not to mention, his memorable Charlie Endell opposite Adam Faith in and as Budgie (produced, incidentally, by the Doctor’s ex-boss, Verity Lambert in 1971-1972). One year into Davison’s reign, a stroke left Cuthbertson with everyactor’s worst nightmare - speech and memory defects. He made a successful comeback 18 months later.
The other suggestion was Richard Griffiths, Yorkshire’s Shakesperian star and the future Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter franchise. He would be called o nagain… as late as 1990 when a Doc8 was required to try and reboot the franchise. With the help (!) of Hollywood.
Peter Davison arrived as the Fifth (and youngest) Doctor, at age 29. “I was cast to be different from Tom Baker. So I was my own Doctor, no doubt about that…. in a kind of Victorian cricketing outfit to accentuate my youth.”. Regeneration from Tom Baker happened at the climax of #115: Logopolis, leading to Peter’s first official adventure, #116: Castrovalva, 1982. Some 69 episodes later, in #135: The Caves of Androzani, he passed the torch - having heeded Doc2 Patrick Troughton’s advice to limit his stay to three years. In March 1987, a few weeks before Troughton's death, Davison gave the same advice to Doc7 Sylvester McCoy.
Footnote : On Decemberr 30, 2011, Davison became the father-in-law of Doc10 David Tennant when he married actress-producer Georgia Moffett. (Moffett is Davison’s real surname).
“Reverse the linearity of the proton flow”
With his costume - plus an orange rinse - in Toys, in 1990, Robin Williams declared: “I feel like the Sixth Doctor i n Doctor Who.”
Nothing as funny happened to Colin Baker during his (extremely) short tenure as the Time Lord from Gallifrey. He scored three firsts. One only was commendable.
1. He is the sole Doctor to have been seen as another character in the franchise - Commander Maxi in the Season 20 opener, #123: Arc of Infinity, 1983. It was this performance, plus his “entertaining form” at the wedding reception of the show’s Assistant Floor Manager Lynn Richards that helped win him the role
2. He is the only Doctor to be fired - and from on high, by the big boss, BBC One Controller Michael Grade.
3. And he is the only Doctor refusing to take part in the regeneration sequence.
Baker (no kin to Tom) (but a one-timeroomate and best man at the wedding of Doc2 Patrick Troughton’s son David) is also known as the least popular of all the Doctors. Not everyone appreciated his superiority characterisation. He gave mood swings a bad name - going from manic and bombastic to portentous and petulant in his technicolour costuming: green shoes, orange spats, yellow-black-striped trousers, multi-patterned jacket and all!
Then again, his name led to good ticket sales for the theatre version, when he succeeded Jon Pertwee in The Ultimate Adventure on-stage. Baker had fans a plenty. Just so happened that Michael Grade, who had brought the series back on-air following a ten-month retooling process, was not one of them.
Baker was seriously pissed that Grade never explained, personally, why he had to go. The story was dwindling audiences; hardly his fault (he didn’t write or direct the shows) and besides, the lowest ever Doctor Who score - 3.1m viewers - happened during the opening chapter, #152: Battlefield, of the following Doc7 Sylvester McCoy, on September 6, 1989.
Regeneration from Doc6 Peter Davison took place in #135: The Caves of Androzani. And after a mere 34 other episodes, he was dropped. And refused an invitation from Jonathan Powell, Head of BBC Drama, no less, to join the traditional renewal-cum-handover ceremony. That little matter was solved at the start of#144: Time and the Rani, 1987, by the new man, Sylvester McCoy, simply playing both the morphing Doc6 and Doc7.
With a handy blonde wig.
“Time and tide melt the snowman”
Bit of a stench in the air as yet another Doctor hunt began after the hierarchical deep-sixing of Colin Baker. Producer John Nathan-Turner obviously felt Michael Grade breathing (fire and brimstone?) down his neck yetstuck to his job and nailed his colours to the wall.
Three of them…
Ken Campbell was the most off-the-wall notion. Writer, actor, comic, director and Britishexperimental theatre icon - he once staged a play lasting 22 hours. He was praised highly (mainly in obituaries), yet for me there was always something unbearable, even objectionable, about the very manner of his work. No surprise, therefore, that Nathan-Taylor found Campbell’s take on the good Time Lord… too dark. (And then some).
Next up, Chris Jury - soon making a name for himself as Eric Catchpole (how British can you get?), the frequently puzzled sidekick of Ian McShane’s dubious antiques dealer, Lovejoy, on and off between 1986-1994. Jury’s other acting roles included Deadbeat with Doc7 in #151: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, 1988.He joined EastEnders for a spell and writer-directed (wait for it…) To Baldly Go and Puke Fiction.
Dermot Crowley also auditioned - after the Irishman played Crix Madine in Return of the Jedi, 1983. This son of Cork is among the very few actors to make Bond, Luther, MI-5, Pink Panther and Star Wars chapters. He was also the the MI6 spy chief in Hunted for BBC/Cinemax, 2012.
Throughout this process, Nathan-Taylor’s favourite was always a former street busker and comic performer for BBC Children’s Television. Ironically, the Scottish Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith was a discovery of The Ken Campbell Roadshow in the 70s, and renowned for his stuntman character, Sylveste McCoy - shoving forks and nails up his nose and ferrets down his trousers. Oh, and setting his head on fire. (Don’t do this at home, kiddies). He simply added an “r” to that name and became, professionally, Sylvester McCoy…
Having lost Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, director (and Whovian) Peter Jackson gave him the (specially expanded) role of wizard Radagast, in The Hobbit in 2011, alongside Sir Ian McKellen reprising Gandalf... They had toured the world in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Lear, McCoy being The Fool.Of course.(Nine years later, McKellen was in the mix for Doc8).
McCoy’s reign had no clear steering. Being a comedy actor ,he leaned towards clowning (pratfalling, playing the spoons), which did not please the Wholigan legions. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel soon changed that and Doc7 became darker (never as much as Campbell tilted it) and even went in for Maggie Thatcher bashing. “Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered,” said McCoy. “Those who wanted to see the messages saw them; others, including one producer, didn’t.”
The result was the same - and obviously so. Both actor and character disappeared up their own ennui.
Regeneration took place in his first episode (with McCoy playing both Doc6 and Doc7 whenColin Baker refused to return for the renewal ritual in #144: Time and the Rani). After a further 41 episodes (only six more than Colin Baker), McCoy changed into nobody at the end of the ironically title d#155: Survival - because after 26 seasons, the BBC did that which the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen, Sea Devils, Silurians, Sontarans, Zygons,Omega,The Master et al, never achieved.
Aunty killed Doctor Who.
“The world’s about to end, and here I am, stuck in traffic”
Chosen from 63 candidates for Doc8 - Paul McGann
Hollywood goes Who. Why? For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it collapsed after 26 seasons in 1989.
The original plan was simple. The best laid plans usually are but… Burly Richard Griffiths - beaten to Doc6 by Peter Davison - was all set, signed, sealed and delivered to succeed Doc7 Sylvester McCoy as Doc8 in the 1990 Season 27.
The series had ran out of pep, puff, passion - and lay dormant for six years. Forgotten? Not… quite. For once, it was not the good Doc requiring urgent transmogrification but his writers and Hollywood (of all places) thought (as usual) it knew it best. And could save the show.
Not even the mighty Steven Spielberg
could pull that off. And he tried.
His Amblin Television was involved in the early stages at Universal. (This explains the names of Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks - and Richard Dreyfuss for The Master - being bandied about). He withdrew when the main script was just a tad like Raiders of the Lost Ark (the Doctor v Nazis hunting a lost artifact). Nobody told Aunty that the maestro had quit - until well after shooting was underway. On a quite different tale.
Once the Spielbergers departed, Universal and Fox TV insisted on a star name for Doc8. Jim Carrey! Poor Jim had never heard of the show and felt only a fan could play the hero. Hanks was such a fan yet understood an American would be wrong. Whether he came from the planet Gallifrey or not, The Time Lord had to be as essentially British as Sherlock and Bond.
And Ford? Well he just didn’t wanna work for TV. Not… yet.
The co-producing BBC looked at a staggering total of 60 other actors…from the oldest, Peter O’Toole, 64, to the young New Yorker Scott Weiner, 21. Winning the Doc race would have been an enormous career boost for Weiner who, when last heard of, was stuck with voicing cartoons and video-games.
OK, that leaves 58 others but you don’t want a lengthy, alphabetical scroll of 58 international actors, do you? No, of course not. I’ll break ’em down….
Two singers: Adam Ant, Chris Isaak. Two brothers: Mark and Paul McGann. Two future Game of Thrones titans: Sean Bean and (the hot favourite for some time) Liam Cunningham. (He co-starred with Doc9 Christopher Eccleston in the 1996 Jude film - when Doc10 David Tennant was almost an extra - and turned up as The Captain in #234, Cold War, with Doc11 Matt Smith in 2013.
Two guys from 24: Julian Sands and South African Arnold Vosloo… Two Dr. Frank-N-Furters from The Rocky Horror Show: Tim Curry, Anthony Head.
Two Caligulas: John Hurt, Malcolm McDowell... And two Bonds: Timothy Dalton and his successor, Pierce Brosnan… Not to mention a nearly-007, Alexis Denisof - sole American up for Casino Royale in 2005. Plus a Bond baddy, Jonathan Pryce - although knowing Hollywood, that was probably because he’d once been in a 1985 movie called… The Doctor and the Devils. (So had Dalton),. Similar type-casting (or plain lazy) thoughts led to Christopher Lloyd - because he was Back to the Future’s Doc Brown.
And two of the five Doctors from the 1999 Comic Relief Special: The Curse of Fatal Death: Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant. Plus a return of Doc4 Tom Baker and, a nearly earlier arrival than planned, for the future Doc9 Christopher Eccleston.
There were three Oscar-winners: Jim Broadbent, Ben Kingsley, Peter Ustinov… Three Harry Potter mainstays: Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, and, of course, Richard Griffiths... Three Sherlock Holmes: Rupert Everett, Matt Frewer. And, of course, Jeremy Brett... (During time off from Doc4, Tom Baker played Sherlock in the BBC’s 1982 Hound of the Baskervilles).
Three second generationers: Jason Connery; Martin Clunes, son of stage star Alec Clunes, and, incidentally, a cousin of the also listed Jeremy Brett; and Peter Woodward, son of the great Edward (numerous future Whovian actors appeared in his gritty Callan series, 1967-1972).
Four Shakespereans: Simon Callow, Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Nathaniel Parker,
Five comics: Billy Connolly, John Sessions, Tony Slattery… And for the first time, Eric Idle and fellow Monty Pythonite Michael Palin were considered for the same role. (Happened again when director Tim Burton was casting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005).
Biggest grouping inevitably, comprised BBC stars. Eight (!) of them: Chris Barrie (Red Dwarf), Michael Crawford (Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em), Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek), Trevor Eve (Shoestring), Robert Hardy (All Creatures Great And Small - when Doc6 Peter Davison played his young brother), Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius), Robert Lindsay (Citizen Smith), Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) and Rik Mayall, an alternative (aka over-the-top unfunny) comedian from, if you’ll pardon the expression, Aunty’s Bottom.
As for nationalties… Australian Russell Crowe, Dutch Rutger Hauer, New Zealander Sam Neill and - dare one say it - Americans…Jeff Goldblum, Rob Lowe (oh, an adult show!), Kyle MacLachan, Aidan Quinn, Gary Sinise, Peter Weller.
Hollywood producer Philip David Segal even thought of of going black with Eddie Murphy or Wesley Snipes - but he never dared suggest a woman. It took Comic Relief to do that in 1999… with Joanna Lumley!
Apparently, there were rumours about Steve Martin, a huge Whovian. However, the nearest The Re-Hasher ever got to playing The Doctor was being Tom Baker (!) in a re-make (obviously) of Cheaper By The Dozen in 2003.
All in all, bigger than any James Bond hunt!
They all lost but…Trevor Eve would head another BBC hit, Waking The Dead, TV, 2000-2011. Anthony Head went straight into Buffy The Vampire Slayer for seven years and the uproarious Little Britain (narrated by Doc4 Tom Baker). Always a Who fan, Murray Head’s brother was also the villain #170: School Reunion, with Doc10 David Tennant in 2006.
Robert Lindsay, who acts a la Pacino - quietly than VERY LOUD - won 118 episodes as head of Aunty’s My Family, 2000-2011. Tim McInnerny went to Planet Who as Klinemann Halpen in#191: Planet of the Ood, 2008, with Doc10 David Tennant. Nathaniel Parker became globally revered for the aristocratic Inspector Lynley Mysteries, 2001-2007 - John Sessions co-starred in one of them in 2002.
While playing Cardinal Richelieu in the latest Three Musketeers, 1993, Tim Curry was offered Doc8. He was keen except… “I don’t know how to play him.” He asked the guy playing Giraerd/Jussac how he’d go about it. Curry then passed. And the actor he’d quizzed grabbed it. Paul McGann. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.
Doc7 Sylvester McCoy kindly turned up for the regeneration ritual seven years after his last appearance - and even though the American viewers (the pilot was supposedly supposed to conquer them) had little idea who he was and what was going on. Or, why. Regenerwhosis?
They didn’t know why he found a long scarf and handed out jelly baby sweets (candy), either. These were references to Docs 2 and 3, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee - because producer Segal, the American who grew up in the UK where he found and adored the series, wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the Doctor’s canon, even if adapting it for his US home crowd. For example, he refused the BBC request that Doc4 Tom Baker be the regenerating Time Lord when, chronologically, it had to be Doc7. Good for him. Even if Baker was better known in the role over yonder.
The Master . Ten of the Doc list were also pencilled in for the Doctor’s foe: Curry, Dalton, Frewer, Goldblum, Hauer, Isaak, Kingsley, McDowell, McKellen and Pryce. (Dalton would eventually enter the franchise as Lord President Rassilon in Doc10 David Tennant’s The End of the World, 2009-2010). Six more singers were on the 56-strong list, four Brits, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger, Sting; two Americans: Chris Isaak, Tom Waits. And just about everyone else from James Bond and Caligula (again) to Dracula, Fonzie, Magnum, Spock, Gandhi, indeed from Matt Dillon to Matt Frewer… Namely: F Murray Abraham, Richard Dean Anderson, Armand Assante, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, James Belushi, Tom Berenger, Steve Buscemi, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Tim Curry, Michael Dorn, Robert Duvall, Robert Englund, Jonathan Frakes, Jeff Goldblum, Rutger Hauer, Gregory Hines, Dennis Hopper, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, John Lithgow, Ray Liotta, Malcolm McDowell, Kyle MacLachlan, John Malkovich, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Oliver Platt, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Judge Reinhold, Tom Selleck, Martin Sheen, Kevin Spacey, Brent Spiner, Jon Voight, Damon Wayans, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Peter Weller, Henry Winkler, James Woods, Michael York.
And Bruce, aka The Master, went to… Eric Roberts. But we must not forget that Brian Cox had also been in the loop… The burly Scot went on to voice of Elder Od in David Tennant’s twin-episode Doc10 farewell in #202: The End of Time, 2009-2010. Next, in the 50th anniversary special, An Adventure in Space and Time, Cox played the great BBC Who producer Sydney Newman, himself.
Dr Grace Holloway . She was 100% American. So… Kristian Alfonso (Joshua Tree), Maria Bello, Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid), Erika Eleniak, Stacy Haiduk, Marcia Gay Harden, Helen Hunt, Kelly Lynch, Carrie-Ann Moss, Paige O’Hara (Beauty and the Beast), Nia Peeples (General Hospital), Mia Sara, Helen Slater, Ally Walker. (Californian Daphne Ashbrook gained the doctorate, becoming the sole actress winning leads in the Who and Star Trek franchises).
(The list was even higher and mightier for the subsequently discarded personage of Borusa: Richard Attenborough, Peter Cushing, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, John Gielgud, Richard Griffiths, Alec Guinness, Richard Harris,Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Christopher Lee, Jack Lemmon, Ian McKellen, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck, Donald Pleasence, Max von Sydow and David Warner!!)
Following all the casting turmoil and shooting in Vancouver (doubling for San Francisco; hence, it was the s hospital set from The X Files) was much ado about nothing! The pilot (aka Doctor Who: The Film) did not fly in America.It did much better with the home fans… with a dedication to Doc3 Jon Pertwee, who died a week before the screening.
And yet, it would take a further nine years for the BBC to take another chance on regenerating a new series - and in Wales, not Hollywood!
Paul McGann came back...
a mere 17 years later!
Because the future Whovian #1, scenarist Steven Moffat, proved a great fan of McGann’s work. “He gives a wonderful performance - perhaps the first of the sexy, romantic Doctors. I don’t mean he’s the first sexy Doctor - he’s not. But he’s the first one who kisses a lady, for example. He’s obviously dashing, terribly handsome and quite romantic. It’s a terrifically exuberant performance and it anticipates the later performances, particularly of Matt and David. He’s a dashing, romantic, very funny and very affecting Doctor! Of course, Paul is not only known for the telemovie but for all his wonderful audio adventures.”
And so, Moffat surprised and delighted everyone by calling Paul back to Time Lord duty. “I found it hard to imagine him fighting in the Time War. I’d always imagined the Time War Doctor would be more grizzled, somehow, you know?” And so he became exactly that when John Hurt played him in the 50th anniversary Special in 2013, The Day of the Doctor - after being regenerated from McGann in an earlier webisode, The Night of the Doctor.
But long before that, Aunty gave us…
Doc9, well Doc8.5.1: 2003
“I think, therefore, I win”
A considerable number of Whovians - Wholigans, too - call the South African-born Richard E Grant Doc 9.
He had, in fact, already been Doc10, opposite Rowan Atkinson as Doc9 (and Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley as Docs 11, 12 and 13… during a regenerative anolamy) in Aunty’s four-part 1999 Red Nose Day children’s charity special, The Curse of Fatal Death, by future showrunner Steven Moffat.
Grant, Richard E, that is, not Hugh - was called back to Time Lord duty for another Moffat script, Scream of the Shalka, made by Cosgrove Hall Films as an animation six-parter - very much based on Grant’s looks and demeanour-posted on the BBC website to celebrate the Doctor’s 40th anniversary.
And to keep the fans in what one mightcall suspended animation.
The toon was another Beeb test (less expensive than full-scale filming, with or without Hollywood) to see ifthe Doc still had a public. It was, therefore, a pilot for the future of the Time Lord, himself: animation, live-action or… nothing at all. Doc or crock!
There was no disputing that what we had here was Doc 9. Grant was referred to just that in a BBC media release. And the script had him recalling how Andy Warhol wanted to paint "all nine" of him. Plus a comment about a dead cat having used up its nine lives, like he had.
"The BBC said it was the ninth Doctor, so that's great,” declared the exec producer unfortunately named Martin Trickey. “Is it part of the canon? I don't know…. I just hope people enjoy it. That's the main thing. Whether people choose to see it as the official Ninth Doctor or not is really up to them.”
So there you have it. Doc9!
Then, two months before posting him on its website, the Beeb decided to forego on any reaction to the toon series, and announced a new, full and live-action series with a new, full and live-action Doctor… who would be Doc9. No longer officially canonical or numerical (before even being seen), Grant was aliased as The Shalka Doctor. Hah!
Grant came back yet again in yet another Moffat script for the eighth Christmas Special, #231: The Snowmen, in 2012. As a doctor, not The Doctor (as Doc4 Tom Baker once said) but the villain, in fact, Doctor Simeon, opposite Doc11 Matt Smith. (The show was narrated by Ian McKellen, part - like Grant - of the Doc8 hunt).
Doc9, well Doc8.5.2: 2003
“What were you expecting? A body? Bodies are boring. I’ve had loads of them.”
The final shot of episode #239, The Name of the Doctor, on May 18, 2013 was of a new - old? – extra! - version of the Doctor in a cliffhanger teaser for the 50th anniversary. In big birthday mode all the previous Doc were seen running by The Doctor and his current travelling rug, Clara, as they safe each other's life. Then, over yonder in the shadows - who is that? - oh, just another incarnation of me, says Doc11 . Huh ? "I never said he was the Doctor… The name I chose is the Doctor. The name you choose it's like, it's like a promise you make. He's the one who broke the promise."
The Doctor makes ready to carry Clara away as the stranger intones: "What I did, I did without choice... in the name of peace and sanity." "But," spits Doc11, "not in the name of The Doctor." The stranger turns to camera… and a sudden credit line reads
There was another flash of this Doctor in the last of three minisodes trail-blazing the upcoming anniversary special. In the final Strax Field Report, the Sontaran blob known as Strax (aka Dan Starkey) told us: “It appears the Doctor has kept one of his many faces from view…” Up popped a still of bearded John Hurt. With, added Strax “the look of a battle hardened warrior.”
Come on in, Steven Moffat…
“Well, we had our new hidden mystery Doctor and I was thinking, what else can we do for our anniversary year… I thought… why don’t we get Paul McGann in and regenerate him into John Hurt? I’d like to see that! I’d love to see that! We got in touch with Paul who was dead keen and I’m delighted to say he was so happy to join in with the idea of keeping it secret. He was childishly excited about it!”
[Hurt, of course, had figured among McGann’s numerous rivals for Doc 8 in the 1996 movie).
And so, The Night of the Doctor was born…
“Paul came along and shot it,” Moffat continued. “It was the last two days of the shoot for the 50th [anniversary special, in which he also appeared]. He did a wonderful job… I’m sure some people are a bit cross that we were so secretive but the fact is, there is only one way to ensure you keep a secret - and that’s to keep it! So, we kept it very tight and… it all came as great surprise to everyone.”
Because, in fact, it was released on BBC iPlayer and You Tube earlier than planned - on 14 November 2013, which, as happenstance would have it, was McGann’s 54th birthday. “What’s actually slightly disappointing is when you realise you can’t keep a secret now,” Paul commented. “I mean, a couple of mates knew, and I’m pretty good at keeping a secret, but of course so many people work on something - technicians and everybody else. I’m not pointing the finger, except I’m saying, somewhere along the line, someone couldn’t resist pressing Send…”
And so… when dying on the planet Karn, Doc11 acknowledged there is not much need for a doctor any more and asked The Sisterhood for a potion to turn him into a warrior. His last words were “Physician heal thyself” as he quaffed the brew to regenerate into a totally new – the extra - Doctor… In a reflection of some archival footage of a much younger John Hurt, who declares: “Doctor no more”- claiming, said journalist Stephen Kelly, the universe has more need for a warrior than a Doctor.
For when the 50th anniversary special arrived, The Day of the Doctor should have been plural. All 13 Docs, from Hartnell to Capaldi, were seen in one form or another. Plus extra time with a grizzled John Hurt, here and forever more to be known as The War Doctor. Well, it saves having to renumber everyone in the wake of McGann’s Doc8.
Incidentally, Hurt did not audition for the part, simply said yes with, apparently, remarkable speed. He and his clothes looked rough/tough, and as Hurt requested, he was allowed to keep his wiskers that made him the first bearded Doctor. We live in hope, Mr Moffat, of seeing more of him in another Time War flashback tale.
“If the Doctor’s making house calls... then God help you”
Hugh Grant refused Aunty’s offer - he played a spoof version of the Doc12 in the 1999 Comic Relief Special TheCurse of Fatal Death. He later expressed regrets when seeing how well the BBC Wales reboot worked out.
Thee were others in the race… Alan Davies and Anthony Head, who had been among the 63 possibilities for Hollywood’s Doc8. And, of course, the other Grant, Richard E, nearly always a shadow of Hugh in tests, auditions, interviews in the late 90s.
Then there were The Rumours: Bill Nighy for one (a great idea), cross-dressing comic Eddie Izzard for another - Doc4 Tom Baker became his #1 supporter.
Enter: Colin Eccleston - a wild card, as he admitted. He felt his casting was a risk because he was not known for charm or comedy… For the Beeb, in the person of Jane Tanter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, the casting underlined “our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st Century, as well as retaining its core traditional values - to be surprising, edgy and eccentric.”
Well, Eccleston proved all of that - and almost as big an error as Colin Baker.
The Docor was welcomed back by 10.81 million viewers or, if you prefer, a 44.84% audience share. That was on March 26 (my birthday). By June 18…
Eccleston turned his back on it all and split.
After one season… a paltry 13 episodes.
The next statements were conflicting. He said Aunty knew he was staying for one season only. Aunty’s Suits said they had banked on him being around for two more, at least.
Whatever the truth. He was gone. Like a re-run of his final script. “You can't just go swanning off! “ said Rose Tyler. “Yes I can,” said the Doc. “Look. Here I am. This is me swanning off. Seeya!”
Because, he told the Yorkshire Evening Post as late as 2010, he was unhappy with the environment and the culture that the cast and crew had to work in. “I wasn't comfortable. I thought: If I stay in this job, I’m going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong. And I think it's more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left. But the most important thing is that I did it, not that I left. I really feel that, because it kind of broke the mould and it helped to reinvent it. I'm very proud of it.”
Critics praised him for relaying the foundations of the Doctor - "too camp, knowing, lovable or twee," said The Spectator, since Doc4 Tom Baker left. Except it was writer Russell T Davies rebooting the foundations for the actor to follow. Eccleston, himself, had always stated that it was the quality of the scripts that hadchasing after the role.
His was the first Doc with a North Country accent, for all the right reasons (scientists didn’t only speak with received pronunciation, said ther Lancashire born Eccleston) except the Doc didn’t come from Salford, or Britain come to that, but from the planet Gallifrey. Then again, as the Doc said: “Lots of planets have a North!”
However, many Whovians adored him. “Brusque, sarky and virile," felt The Spectator’s James Delingpole. Brutal at times, confrontational, inflexible, sometimes creating carnage, agreed Eccleston. Consequently, fans voted him as the finest Doc. Closer to the truth of the matter, other polls put him fourth behind Docs 10, 11 and 4: David Tennant, Matt Smith, Tom Baker.
For the first time since Doc3 Jon Pertwee touched down in 1970, there was no on-screen regeneration for Doc9’s arrival. However, at the end of #166: The Parting of the Ways, in 2005, and no matter how much he complained about the Doc’s environment and culture, Eccelston played the game and converted into…
“No second chances. I’m that sort of a man”
Having lost Doc9, Bill Nighy was this close to assuming Doc10 after Christopher Eccleston completed a surprisingly solitary season only of the world’s longest-running science fiction series. Nighy finally passed saying the role “had too much baggage.” Besides, it was allDavid Tennant’s fault. For beingbetter-looking.
Nighy, the only other candidate for Doc10, later appeared uncredited as Dr Black, the Musée d'Orsay's expert on Van Gogh, in #210: Vincent and the Doctor, with Doc11 Matt Smith in 2010. Obviously. Because the script was by Richard Curtis, who was almost Nighy’s official scrivener r- certainly for his films: Love Actually, The Girl inthe Café, The Boat That Rocked, About Time.
Tennant had first met his predecessor, Eccleston, when shooting the movie Jude in 1995. Eccleston was Jude and Tennant had a bit part as a drunk student who taunted him.
His Doc10 first turned up not in a full episode, but a seven-minute film for the Children In Need charity. Known as Born Again, it followed immediately after the end of #166: The Parting of the Ways, 2005, with the renewed Doc heading the TARDIS for planet Barcelona (circa 5006) and checking out his new body... Hmm, slimmer (the slimmest!), new teeth, great hair (and Elvis sideburns), a slight weakness in the dorsal tubercle and… a mole between his shoulder blades.
The other changes were dramatic…
The casting reunited Tennant and Russell T Davies, who had also been the highly impressed writer-producer of the actor’s previous BBC gig, Casanova. Tennant remained wary of the Time Lord. With reason. “Chris was so good init.It left me thinking. There’s an awful lot to live up to here.”
He managed that task with consumate ease… Well, he’d been Dr Briscoe in the 2005 Quatermass Experiment and Dr Krill in Spine Chillers, 2003.
Tennant’s version was, as Wikipedia phrased it, “prone to making comments that… seem obtuse or rude… but repeatedly demonstrates a vengeful and unforgiving streak.” Indeed, at times, the Doc9 leather-jacketed bovver boyhad morphed into a cosmic Dirty Harry - judge, jury, executioner - although he managed to bring down Prime Minister Harriet Jones with words. Just six. “Don't you think she looks tired?”
Yes, he is less merciful than before
- now it’s one strike and out.
Tennant did all that was expected of him. And more. He really put the Doc back on the (global) map. Eccleston was a mere aperitivius, Tennant was the main course with lots of great trimmings - “a light-hearted, talkative, easy-going, witty and cheeky manner,” continued Wikepedia’s appraisal, “a tendency to babble, mixing apparent nonsense with vital information, sometimes acting erratically to put his enemies off-guard.”
Above all else, the ex-David John McDonald was… fun! He described non-linear temporal physics as “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.”
And the guy that annoyed me so much in the BBC’s Blackpool, in 2004, was now such a good actor, his next work - opposite a nearly-Doc8 Patrick Stewart as his father - was the Scot’s take on Hamlet, greatly influenced by the mood swings of Doc10, between manic and nonchalant.
Regeneration had taken place at the climax of #166: The Parting of the Ways, 2005. In good time for his first full adventure, #168: The New Earth, in 2006. In his turn, after 48 episodes, he transmigrated into Doc11 Matt Smith in #202: The End of Time, 2010. Not easily… OK,the universe would sing him to sleep and “this song is ending, but the story never ends,” but… “I don’t want to go!” He put up such a fight, his violent energy smashed the TARDIS windows and has the the console room ablaze….
Tenant felt much the same.
“I love this part, and I love this show so much… it's been bewildering, life changing, very exciting… I don't ever want it to feel like a job… If I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you'll be wheeling me out of the TARDIS in my bath chair... It’s better to go when there’s a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome.”
“I’m saving the world - I need a decent shirt”
Regeneration was set for the end of of the Christmas and New Year’s Specials, #202: The End of Time. A highly suitable title as not only were Docs being transfigurated but the showrunners, too. The job was passing from the safe hands of Russell T Davies, who had single-safe-handedly rescued, restored and radically improved the entire franchise -to the equally safe mitts of the BAFTA-award winning writer Steven Moffat, a match for Davies in verve, talent and BBC success
He actually decided to work in TV because he was such a fan of the Doc, “absolutely fascinated and thrilled” by the series. He “tumbled” into children’s television with the express intention of being the Who boss. That was in 1989. So his plan lasted all of 48 seconds, After 26 seasons, the entire franchise was suddenly axed.“I missed out by an afternoon.”
Now, thanks to Davies for reviving the series, and then asking Moffat (by email) to take over, it was another day… Davies and Tennant had put the Doctor back on top, higher in fact than he hadever been.
The media, therefore, was falling over itself,
nominating Doc11. But never a woman!
The unlikeliest notion was Jason Statham, "It will be Doctor Who meets gangland,” said The People newspaper. “Doctor Who is still seen as a bit geeky but Jason will add sex appeal and give the character a more dangerous edge." Except director Guy Ritchie’s discovery for Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, 1997, was never contacted by Aunty because he was far too busy in movies, and moving up himself from co-starring with Dexter Fletcher (who?) to Robert De Niro.
Then, well, why not a woman? Catherine Tate!! She was said to be a comic and was still co-starring with Tennant. But how could even the magical Moffat persuade Whovians to believe that thewoman who had been Doc10’s travelling rug for four years was, in fact, a TimeLord - or Lady - waiting regenerate out of her closet.
They’d never buy it.
Next from the rumour mill came David Morrissey, Tennant’s Blackpool co-star in 2004. The burly Liverpudlian had made up for spoiling his CV with the execrable Basic Instinct 2 by joining Doc10’s 2008 (actually, circa 1851) Christmas Special. He had the titular role. And that #199 title was… The Next Doctor. He claimed to be a Time Lord, suffering memory defects andf said, at one time: “I am The Doctor, simply The Doctor. The one, the only, and the best.”Not yet, matey!
After the young Tennant, Moffat’s original plan was to go older with an actor in his 40s. Such as Paterson Joseph, 46, from Peep Show, Neverwhere. He had been Roderick in Doc9 Christopher Eccleston’s final chapters, #166: Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways. Better still, it was his villain, Benjamin, in Moffat’s Jekyll revamp that put Joseph in the frame. Literally. He was the bookmakers' favourite to be the first black Doc. (Odds were longer on the actual Jekyll star, Irishman James Nesbitt, who was a handy 45).
Doc7 Sylvester McCoy then revealed that his fellow Scot, Robert Carlyle, 49,was talking to Aunty. (He had twice replaced the future Doc9 Christopher Eccelston in three Danny Boyle films: Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later), Gamblers also fancied the Trainspotting find, and he was rapidly winning 85% of bets placed on who’d be Doc11. No way. Carlyle was soon a flying Scot - off to LA for the latest spin-off of the Stargate franchise, Stargate Universe.
Which is when McCoy switched his vote… to an unknown Dutch-Australian called David Knijnenburg, 43. This was probably the first time the Beeb realised that the writer of the stage hit, Hitchcock & Hermann, was also an actor
Other candidates for the TARDIS included another Scot James McAvoy, 31 and too busy in movies, Atonement, etc…. Sean Pertwee, 46-year-old son of Doc3 Jon Pertwee... and David Walliams, 39, comedy star of Little Britain - narrated by Doc4 Tom Baker and also featuring one of the Doc8 mix, Anthony Head.
Although he was leaving such duties, Russell T Davies made it known he was impressed by the Harry Lloyd, 29 -part of the burgeoning batch of Etonian actors - opposite Doc10 David Tennant in #185: The Family of Blood. Davies called him suitable Doctor material. Lloyd was Charles Dickens’great-great-great-grandson (and played Young Steerforth in the BBC’s 1999 David Copperfield). Then, Davies remembered also being so well pleased with Russell Tovey, 27, as Midshipman Frame alongside Doc10 in the 2007 Christmas Special, #188: Voyage of the Damned, that Davies brought the jug-eared Tovey back three years later for #202: The End of Time. But he was tied to extra episodes about his werewolf, George, sharing a Bristol flat with a vampire and a ghost in Being Human, 2008-2010.
Steven Moffat also changed tack and suddenly signed up Matt Smith - the youngest Doc at age 26, three years junior to Doc5 Peter Davison. And indeed, the first to be born after the 1975 death of Doc1 William Hartnell.
“The whole issue of me being the youngest Doctor has worked in my favour,“ said Matt. “I think there's an interesting contradiction of having a young face and an old soul. As a character, the Doctor is excited and fascinated by the tiniest of things. By everything. By every single thing. That's what's wonderful about him as a character. It's why children like him, I think. Because he doesn't dismiss anything. He's not cynical. He's open to every single facet of the universe. “
Ironically, Smith had been discovered by a London agent called Wendy Padbury… Yes, the same Wendy who had been Doc3 Patrick Troughton’s travelling rug, Zoe, during 49 episodes way, way back in 1968-1983. Previously on her books had been Doc6 Colin Baker and ‘Brigadier’ Nicholas Courtney!
Moffat knew Smith from the mammoth casting session to find his Sherlock show’s cohort, Doctor (aha!) Watson. Smith was considered too young and his audition was “barmy”! Hence, Martin Freeman went to Baker Street. Matt went on into Aunty’s Party Animals and Moses Jones… until his audition blew everyone away, including Davies.
No reason to look elsewhere.
Indeed, no reason to have tested him at all. Smith had long since provided his Whovian worthiness in two of the Sally Lockhart Mysteries as far back as 2006, by the way he lurked on the sidelines, loomed in the background, made sharp quips, showed concern on his young and oh-so-innocent features. And then to cap it all, in The Shadow of the North, 2007, he rescued Sally from the fireball finish, And she was Billie Piper, who went on to be Doc10’s (possibly the all-time) best travelling companion.
“Shadow was the perfect audition piece,” said Moffat, “and for me, Smith passed with flying colours. The Doctor is a very special part. It takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man.”
The eleventh Doctor’s debut - April 3, 2010 - was in an episode (#203) called… The Eleventh Hour!
Smith, who set out to be a soccer star in the youth squads of Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City, said winning Doc11 was “like joining Man United.”
In a bow tie.
“I'll miss playing a character that can bounce from A to Z like that and that is the cleverest in the room but also the silliest in the room. What a character. There are no parts like this. Of course there’s always a part of you that goes: I never want to go. Tom Baker did it for seven years… I couldn’t do this for seven years. I’d be run into the ground. It’s a good time for me to move on and we’ve got the 50th anniversary. It’s the biggest year in the show’s history and I’m playing the part and I pass it on with a smile to the next guy and say "Good luck, buddy. You're going to have to work hard.
The fans around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I've never seen before.. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys!”
“So who's in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”
So, not a black girl, then…
“He sounds old,” says Matt Smith’s Doc11 in a time-warping phone call to Carla, standing close to Doc12. “Please tell I me I didn’t get old. Anything but old.”
But he did. The new Who was thirty years older than the departing Smith. And that was wrong… After nine years of young (and youngish) blades who didn’t look old enough to have finished med school, we get an old spin doctor, Mr “Fuckity-bye!” himself, from the Aunty’s political satire series, The Thick of It. (A foul-mouthed performance at odds with his resemblance to ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy).
In fact, as many papers and blogs pointed out when he was officially announced on August 4, 2013 in a simulacast in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, Peter Capaldi was only theree monhs and six days younger than William Hartnell when he set sail as Doc1 in 1963 at age 55.
Old enough to have written a letter to the Radio Times when a 1973 teen, praising the magazine’s coverage of the on the show’s 10th anniversary.
Old enough to have been an “and the Oscar goes to” winner in 1994 - for his writer-directing debut with the best live short of the year, Franz Kafka's It’s a Wonderful Life. (Web critic Robert Reynolds praised it as: Monty Python meets Orson Welles over the body of Kafka).
Old enough to have been around the the Whoniverse before. As Lucius Caecilius, opposite Doc10 in then Ancient Rome tale shot in Cinecitta: episode #190, The Fires of Pompeii, 2008. Not to mention Mr Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth, 2009. ADD
Old enough to be introduced on his CBS talk show in America in 2009 by fellow Scot Craig Ferguson saying: “I’ve actually taken acid with my next guest.”
Indeed, old enough to have been offered the job before - when it was Doc8 in 1996.
This time the omens were good. In his last film before dreaming up his David Bowie-inspired duds - Brad Pitt’s World War Z - Capaldi had been a World Health Organisation medic. Think about it… a WHO Doctor.
Capaldi was something of a shock. Mainly because in June 20132, the august and never sensation-seeking Daily Telegraph had insisted that the the new Doctor would be Rory Kinnear. All sealed, if not yet segned. (Kinnear, son of Roy, did not agree.. “I think I’m being used as a decoy on that front. It’s the first I’ve heard.”).
Media and fan speculation had favoured a black Doc (Idris Elba, Aunty’’s Luther; David Harewood, doing well in Homeland, or Adrian Lester, headling the Beeb’s Hustle) or a woman, with fans voting for Helen Miren and everyone’s favourite cop, Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman.
She wasn’t offering, but Dame Helen thought it “well over-time to have a female Doctor Who.” The new showrunner Steven Moffat said it was apart of Time Lord lore and could happen. “The more often it is talked about, the more likely it is to happen.”
In a Daily Mirror TV poll, 71% of readers did not wish for any first woman, first black or first anything else, thank you very much. However, 21% voted for a black, 18% a woman, 10% a gay (hardly the first). A further 11% agreed with Mirren: “A gay, black female Doctor Who would be the best of all.”
One of the Whovian writers, fantasy author Neil Gaiman, said: “Not yet. Not quite… I’d make the 13th Doctor a woman. And lord, if and when they ever do that, I want them to keep it the biggest secret in the world until we see it happen on our screens during the regeneration.”
Reportedly the BBC was against the idea, for fear it would create discomfort among parents having to explain why (indeed, how!) Who was suddenly a woman. Kids would handle it better than their fathers, suggested the retiring Russell T Davies. “They imagine they will have to describe sex changes to their children.” Yeah, like they explain regeneration,
Gaiman also declared, hand metaphorically on heart, that one black actor had already rejected our favoruite alien. He gave no name or background clues. Everything pointed to Idris Elba, who was also refusing suggestions about tackling James Bond after Daniel Craig. Gaiman would vote for Paterson Joseph, from Peep Show on Channel 4. Joseph was the Marquis de Carabas in the writer’s Neverwhere (which also featured Capaldi) “because he aced the auditions, and beat all the other actors, mostly white. I'd want that kind of performance at the audition for the Doctor. And there are certainly actors good enough out there that it feels like a missed opportunity. I was rather disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn't get it last time.”
Fascinating to witness the rise of the other potentials from back then… Andrew Buchan became the bereaved father in Broadchurch. James Corden is a triumphant talk show host in America. Ben Daniels continues from series to series, The Paradise, House of Cards, Jamaica Inn, Flesh and Bone, The Hollow Crown. Jamie Dornan (the youngest tip at 31) moved from The Fall at BBC Northern Ireland to Fifty Shades of Gray in Hollywood. Rory Kinnear, 007’s MI6 officer Bill Tanner, moonlighted as The Creature in Penny Dreadful. Ben Whishaw was 007’s Q, Paddington’s voice and headed the London Spy hit.
Back at Aunty’s HQ, nobody was impressed by these suggestions. The deal was done… Just as in Matt Smith’s case, Capaldi was the only actor asked to audition - and did so at Steven Moffat’s kitchen table.
Matt Smith said if he had to pick his successor, it would be Capaldi. “He's great. And weirdly enough, after The Eleventh Hour, he came up to me in the street and said ‘Ah, mate, well done, I watched your episode last night, it was brilliant, I think you're really good.’ And I really needed that. I needed a sort of boost and I never forgot it.”
“The decision was made at phenomenal speed,” admitted the new showrunner. “I sort of realised we couldn’t just got for another Matt Smith type. We couldn’t just go for another quirky young man with interesting hair. People would start to notice that that’s what we were doing. People would start styling their hair in improbable ways in the hope of getting cast.”
For Moffat, the Doctor is the perfect TV character. “You can do anything -
high adventure, a love story, a comedy. When you get bored of one Doctor,
a new one pops up.”
A Bafta TV award winner (and three time nominee) for his Malcolm Tucker, In The Thick of It in 10 Downing Street, the acerbic, smart Capaldi started out as the lead singer in a punk band with Craig Ferguson on drums. (Capaldi played the guitar often in his reign, including the Who theme for #255: Before The Flood, 2015). He has a rich movie career from Local Hero in 1983 with Burt Lancaster to Paddington’s Mr Curry. He also writer-directed the 2001 gangster film, Strictly Sinatra. His TV work included Minder, Prime Suspect, Skins and Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers.
Not everyone was delighted. “There are few actors around who are as good as doing what Peter Capaldi does as Peter Capaldi,” said the Sunday Times TV critic AA Gill. “And now, for the next two or three years, he’s lost to this dismal, over-produced, dumb juvenilia, this arch science fairy tale.”
Gill compared Capaldi’s brusque and pragmatic Doc to the Kenya-born UK scientist Richard Dawkins - “madly science-fictive and theophobic, with selective amnesia and vague formless feelings of charity… It wasn’t an audition for a new part, rather a postmortem for a venerable career.”
Peter Capaldi was first seen - glimpsed! - during the 50th birthday special The Day of the Doctor, in 2013., which complicated his numerology when John Hurt played what was, numerically, Doc12, since dubbed The War Doctor.
Regeneration took place (inside the Tardis) during that year’s Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor… and we were off anew and again. With Capaldi discovering he has new kidneys and eyebrows (“Attack eyebrows. You could take bottle tops off with these!”), that he’s more than 2,000 years old (“old enough to be your Messiah”)., having wed Susan’s greandmother, Queen Elizabeth, Marilyn Monroe and River Song (who the Doctor said was once married to Stephen Fry!) and had become very excited at meeting Shirley Bssey.
He likes to put the record straight. "That was a lie put about by the Sheboglans…I didn't steal the moon, I lost it." Ah !
He has a motto: "Assume you're going to survive… Imagine you've already survived." He has memories : “See, all those years ago, when I began, I was just running. I called myself the Doctor but it was just a name.’ He asks questions : Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something, sounds great."
He makes jokes: “You don't invade planets without having a plan, that's why they're called planets; to remind you to plan-it. He-hey, that's good! Puntastic! Doctor Puntastic!“…
And never forget, of course, that (like Capaldi) he’s a Scot. “It's good I'm Scottish… I can complain about things, I can really complain about things now!”
This page covers 51 years of casting the Doctor. No one else.
The casting of other roles can be found in the actors’ pages…
And you will discover many surprises among more than 200 actors
who nearly made a Who adventure.
Such as: Dan Aykroyd, Maria Bello, James Belushi, Honor Blackman, David Bowie,
Steve Buscemi, Michael Caine, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Phil Collins,
Peter Cushing, Timothy Dalton, Matt Dillon, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Duvall,
Robert Englund, Rutger Hauer, Dennis Hopper, Helen Hunt, William, Hurt,
Glenda Jackson, Mick Jagger, Ben Kingsley, Eartha Kitt, Christopher Lee,
Ian McKellen, John Malkovich, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie Ann Moss,
Donald Pleasence, Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Michelle Ryan, Mia Sara,
Tom Selleck, Martin Sheen, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Stewart, Sting,
Donald Sutherland, Sylvia Syms, Emma Thompson, Jon Voight,
Damon Wayans, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Henry Winkler, Kate Winslett,
James Woods, Edward Woodward…
Footnote: The Doctor's page would have been impossible without the rich
collection of archive material to be located at Wikipedia. Thanks, Wiki!