Will Olivia Colman join David Tennant in the Time Lord hall of fame and be cast as Doctor Who?
- Credit: PA
As any Doctor Who fan knows, time is fluid. Events can be shaped or changed. History can be given a nudge in the right direction. But, there are some momentous events which are fixed moments in time, events that cannot be changed.
Such an event is bubbling and brewing at the moment, steadily gaining momentum until it becomes an undeniable, immovable force. What is this history-changing landmark? The casting of a new Doctor Who.
The series is in desperate need of a new lease of life. The last series starring Peter Capaldi as the mercurial Time Lord attracted average ratings of six million, fairly respectable for this multi-channel age, but a world away from the heyday of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant who not only pulled in 10-12 million viewers a week but made the series a genuine talking point.
Sadly, today most of the talk surrounds the over-complexity of the drawn-out multi-strand storylines and the fact that script-editor and showrunner Steven Moffat appears incapable of actually providing an ending to a story but instead provides a series of twists and turns which can then trigger another story-strand entirely.
This is a trait which can be found in his other series Sherlock. So with both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat heading off to pastures new, this is the perfect time for incoming writer-producer Chris Chibnall to not only make the series his own but to provide a clean break with the past and provide Dr Who with a 2018 re-boot.
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This happened in 1975 when Jon Pertwee, famed for being an earth-bound Doctor who hung out with the Brigadier and UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), left along with his production team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.
The eccentric Tom Baker, he of the mad curls and wide grin, took over the role of the resilient Time Lord and his production team of Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes made sure that the Doctor rediscovered his wanderlust and injected a real sense of Gothic horror into the series – so much so that self-appointed TV censor Mary Whitehouse alliteratively described the series as “tea-time terror for tots”.
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Terrifying it may have been but they were cracking stories: The Pyramids of Mars, The Horror of Fang Rock, The Talons of Weng Chiang and the classic Genesis of the Daleks. It’s this ability to tell a self-contained story that needs to re-discovered. Russell T Davies had it during his 2005-2010 tenure coming up with classic tales which re-introduced the Doctor’s evil nemesis in Dalek and the Cybermen in Age of Steel. He also brought in new enemies in cracking stand-alone stories like the were-wolf in Tooth and Claw, the Ood in The Impossible Planet, the clockwork killers in Girl in the Fireplace, the weeping angels in Blink and not forgetting the murderous scarecrows in The Family of Blood.
Chris Chibnall not only needs to re-establish the series storytelling credentials but he needs a charismatic Doctor to bring the series back into the public imagination.
The best way to do that and to establish that the series is till current and relevant is to allow the Doctor to change sex during his latest regeneration. Tom Baker suggested this as a piece of mischievous fun when he left he series in 1980, now is the time to make that not-so-serious tease a firm reality.
TV abounds with strong women, there are dozens of top female detectives, and certainly I could see someone like Gillian Anderson being the Doctor but with her love of stage work and busy schedule I couldn’t see she would have the time to commit to an eight month a year production schedule.
Stage star and former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper has made it clear that she thinks that the time has come for the Doctor to be played by a woman.
She said it would “feel like a snub” if the role didn’t go to a woman. Piper, who played Rose Tyler from 2005 to 2007, before returning in 2010, said: “I’ve always supported the original format but I don’t know where they can go from here.
“I think it would be great [to have a female Doctor] given the spirit of the world at the moment. I think it would be timely.”
Right from the beginning of the series, there have been female Time Lords, the most obvious being the original Doctor’s grand-daughter Susan. Female Time Lords have been seen holding high office on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey and in the last couple of series it has been made clear that Time Lords can indeed change sex upon regeneration because Missy, played with intoxicating relish by Michelle Gomez, has been revealed to be the Doctor’s arch-rival The Master.
So, now that the last obstacle of Dr Who’s canonical law has been removed, there is no reason why the new Doctor couldn’t be played by a woman. In fact I think he should be come a she. Olivia Colman would make a fantastic Doctor and become a brilliant role model for lots of young women. She also has the benefit of having worked with Chris Chibnall on Broadchurch and that working relationship counts for a lot. Both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant had a previous working relationship with Russell T Davies when they were cast and that helps during the often long, fraught production process.
A female Doctor would give the series a new lease of life, a new identity and combined with focussed storytelling would once again make it a must-see programme.