The life­long Doc­tor Who fan on why it’s es­sen­tial the next Time Lord is a Time Lady

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - YOUR TV WEEK - JON CULSHAW

Doc­tor Who’s been a pas­sion of mine ever since I first saw Jon Per­twee bat­tling the Daleks and the Sea Devils in the early 70s. Back then it wasn’t re­ally in peo­ple’s think­ing that there could be a female Doc­tor one day. But times change, and fol­low­ing the news that Peter Ca­paldi will leave as the Doc­tor at the end of the year the mo­ment has now come.

We’ve had 12 su­perb male Doc­tors, but af­ter more than 50 years, per­haps now is the time for a woman, as Harriet Har­man ob­served af­ter Peter’s an­nounce­ment. We’ve had two female prime ministers in that time – Mar­garet Thatcher and now Theresa May – so why not a female Doc­tor? It’d be an in­trigu­ing turn for the show to take, es­pe­cially now the Doc­tor’s en­emy the Master is also a woman, Missy, played by Michelle Gomez.

There’s a lot of spec­u­la­tion that Broad­church star Olivia Col­man should suc­ceed Peter, she’s been fan­tas­tic in ev­ery­thing she’s done. But there are many fine ac­tresses who could play the part such as Tilda Swin­ton, as any­one who saw her in last year’s hit film Doc­tor Strange will know, or Gemma Bovery star Gemma Arter­ton.

But who­ever is cast as the Doc­tor, be they male or female, needs to be very dif­fer­ent from Peter Ca­paldi – a for­mi­da­ble Time Lord but also one with great warmth – if they’re to make the role their own. Con­trast is the key to suc­cess with Doc­tor Who. For in­stance, the imp­ish, clown-like Pa­trick Troughton was fol­lowed by Jon Per­twee’s el­e­gant ac­tion hero, and he in turn by the wideeyed Tom Baker with his flow­ing scarf. Then we had thought­ful Peter Dav­i­son, with his air of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and more re­cently Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston with his leather jacket and hard, un­pre­dictable edge. Olivia or Tilda would need to play the Doc­tor very dif­fer­ently to these – I can imag­ine them float­ing around in el­e­gant Tu­dor robes.

Part of me is al­ways sad­dened when an ac­tor quits the role, but we shouldn’t be sur­prised by Peter’s de­ci­sion. Most of those who’ve played the part – be it the first Doc­tor Wil­liam Hart­nell in 1963 or Matt Smith, who made way for Peter Ca­paldi – have moved on af­ter three or four years, long enough to make their mark but short enough not to be type­cast. And it’s the chang­ing per­son­al­ity of the Doc­tor that keeps the show fresh.

And to those tra­di­tion­al­ists who be­lieve the role must be played by a man for ever, I’d just quote the good Doc­tor him­self: ‘The vari­a­tions of sen­tient life forms in the uni­verse are in­fi­nite.’ Hav­ing said that, if the pow­ers that be re­ally want to cast a male ac­tor in the role, I’m avail­able... Doc­tor Who will re­turn on 15 April on BBC1. Fol­low Jon on Twit­ter @jon­cul­shaw.

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