By Alasdair Wilkins
It’s official: BBC presenter Zoe Ball will announce the identity of “Doctor Who’s” 12th Doctor this Sunday, with the help of showrunner Steven Moffat and incumbent Doctor Matt Smith. And just who will be announced this weekend? Based on Matt Smith’s own casting, it will most likely be somebody we have never heard of. But a few names have been repeatedly rumored by the British press and bookmakers for the role, and while some – including perennial favorite Idris Elba, James Bond supporting actors Rory Kinnear and Ben Winshaw, and even Helen Mirren – have taken themselves out of the running, there’s still a handful who might really be in the running for the part. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of five likely contenders.
Who he is: Capaldi is best known for his iconic work as the terrifyingly profane government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker on “The Thick Of It” and “In The Loop,” though he’s also appeared in acclaimed British shows like “The Hour,” “Skins,” “Neverwhere,” T”he Vicar Of Dibley,” “Midnight Man,” and, yes, “Doctor Who” and T”orchwood: Children Of Earth.”
Why he’s the Doctor: As Malcolm, Capaldi is a magnetic, charismatic presence, consistently ten steps of ahead of everyone else and able to take control of a scene with little more than a stare before launching into a complicated monologue. He also looks hilarious when running, which is a plus.
Why he might not be: Beyond concerns already raised, Capaldi is so closely identified with Tucker that it could be difficult to accept him as the Doctor. Peter Davison was a similarly big TV star when he took on the role, but at least his Doctor’s personality was comparable of his work on “All Creatures Great And Small.” A better comparison might be Jon Pertwee, who was known for radio comedy and light entertainment before playing his Doctor as a dashing man of action. Then again, Pertwee’s comedy work tended to involve way less violent sexual imagery than Capaldi’s.
Who he is: A veteran British television actor, Daniels is best known for his work in the early seasons of “Law & Order: UK” as Senior Crown Prosecutor James Steel – the Sam Waterston role, basically.
Why he’s the Doctor: A “Law & Order” prosecutor is much like the Doctor, as both roles require an actor to project an unshakeable commitment to doing what’s right, no matter the cost. The trick is to avoid making such moralistic characters tedious or annoying, and Daniels has that down.
Why he might not be: A busy stage actor, it’s unclear whether Daniels would really want the absurd time commitment that playing the Doctor entails. He’s also done precious little comedy, which makes it harder to judge how he would handle the lighter side of the Doctor’s personality (but then, the same could have been said of Christopher Eccleston, and he worked out all right).
Who he is: Harewood is best known as David Estes, the director of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center on “Homeland,” in which his fake American accent was slightly better than Damian Lewis’.
Why he’s the Doctor: I was going to include a clip from “Homeland,” but this clip in which he recites a bedtime story to children seems like the perfect audition piece for his Doctor credentials.
Why he might not be: Like Ben Daniels, Harewood might just be a bit too serious for the role, and at 47 he runs into some of the same age questions as Capaldi and Daniels, given “Doctor Who’s” demanding schedule. Also, American television pays way better than the BBC can, so he may want to stay where he’s already found success with “Homeland.”
Who he is: A onetime writer and actor on “Skins,” Kaluuya has appeared in “Psychoville,” “Johnny English Reborn,” and BBC3’s recent supernatural drama, “The Fades.”
Why he’s the Doctor: The video above, in which he explains some of the complex mythology of “The Fades,” is a good indication. He takes a superficially ridiculous monologue and makes it sound natural, throwing in some goofily off-kilter acting choices for good measure. That’s a Doctor-ish performance if ever I saw one.
Why he might not be: At just 24, he’s even younger than Matt Smith was when he took on the role, and 24 might just be a bit too young for an actor to pull off the Doctor’s ancient side.
Who he is: Rigby’s major claim to fame is playing legendary comedian Eric Morecambe in the BBC movie “Eric & Ernie,” for which he won a Best Actor BAFTA.
Why he’s the Doctor: He beat out both Matt Smith and “Sherlock’s” Benedict Cumberbatch for that BAFTA, so he’s got some acting chops. Besides, he’s already shown that he can portray a British icon and make the role his own, even if Eric Morecambe and The Doctor aren’t exactly the same thing.
Why he might not be: He’s the same age as Matt Smith, he’s not too associated with any one particular role, and he has a background in standup comedy to go along with his award-winning dramatic work. Honestly, if the new Doctor is going to be any of the rumored names – and, again, it will probably be someone we haven’t even heard mentioned yet – then Rigby really does seem like the most plausible choice.