Chromatic Casting: Doctor Who

By Arturo R. García

The debate regarding Doctor Who and race and gender reopened in a major way on Saturday when Matt Smith announced he will leave the show after this year’s Christmas special, meaning the search is on for the Twelth Doctor — an especially crucial role, according to series canon, since this would be the Doctor’s final regeneration.

Naturally, it’s not just showrunner Steven Moffat looking for a new Doctor, but fans and bookmakers.

I’ve long been on-record as supporting Chiwetel Ejiofor getting the nod, and some oddsmakers have him with a 7-1 shot at getting it. The Mary Sue reported that actor Wil Wheaton responded to rumors surrounding Ejiofor by saying he’s known “for several weeks” who it’s going to be.

But, according to IO9, Ejiofor isn’t even on the list with two other bookies, William Hill and Ladbrokes. But there is a POC near the top of the list: Homeland’s David Harewood, who has also shown a progressive activist streak, as seen in this 2012 commentary against Prime Minister David Cameron’s social policies:

However, a poll conducted by the Guardian revealed an apparent new contender: Zawe Ashton, best known in the UK for her role as Violet “Vod” Nordstrom on Fresh Meat, topped the vote with 25 percent. Here’s a clip of Vod describing herself (NSFW, language):

Ashton has not only dealt with the seemingly requisite sexism on the part of some alleged fans of the show:

But she’s expressed her gratitude for the popular nomination online:

It’s worth noting that we’ve been here before; in 2008, Patterson Joseph was listed as a 3-1 favorite to take over for David Tennant. And we saw how that turned out. But for now, I also asked around the Racialicious clubhouse for their picks.

Geek maven Kendra James put in a word for former Deep Space Nine star Alexander Siddig:

Alexander Siddig (R) and “Being Human” star Kate Bracken, as conceived by fandomnista.wordpress.com

Despite evidence to the contrary (my “Doctor Who” toy and gadget collection almost outweighs my Batgirl collection. Almost.) I’m not really a fan of “Doctor Who,” I haven’t really enjoyed the show since the ‘something blue’ speech at the Pond Wedding, and I’ve never made it to a Christmas Special. That said, I do like to give every new series a chance at the start, and casting Alexander Siddig as Twelve would go a long was towards keeping me around.At 57 Siddig isn’t going to fit into the sort of ‘hipster doctor’ theme modeled since Eccleston’s departure –I can’t see him running around in Chucks or a bowtie– but I take pleasure in imagining a slightly more serious doctor with some gravitas under his interpretation. Remove Stephen Moffat while you’re making changes too, and maybe we can find a writer who’d be willing to get back to more time travel based episodes (rather than strictly aliens…) and actually deal with what that might mean for a Doctor of non-white descent when it comes to traveling into the past. We can only hope that it wouldn’t come down t his perky white female companion getting most of the spotlight.

And if Siddig didn’t work out? Well, someone on tumblr suggested the following and I just can’t bring myself to say no:

The Rock is consistently the best part of every project he’s in, including this summer’s “Pain and Gain.” I’ll pretend he’s British if you will.

(h/t for the image of Siddig and Kate Bracken from “Being Human” to Fandomnista.)

Meanwhile, Arts & Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour went with somebody who’s been making some more headway with American audiences:

Richard Ayodade would be a great Doctor. American audiences may (or may not, judging by box office) have seen him in “The Watch” – but, I mean, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, AND Vince Vaughn is too much doucheiness for any one actor to counteract his first time on American soil. But that’s okay! Because Ayodade will forever be beloved to me as Moss on British series “The IT Crowd.” Richard has that perfect blend of Who-able attributes: devastatingly cute, undeniably dorky, and great comedic timing necessary for the 12th Doctor to be as awesome as his 11 predecessors.

  • Fifty Shades Of Erin Gray

    God, no, not The Rock. Don’t even joke about it. I like him, but not for this.

    Ayoade is my fave.

  • Medusa

    I’d never even heard of Vod Nordstrom til this post, but that video was hilarious. Still, I was discussing Doctor Who with some friends a few months back- okay, let’s be real, we discuss it on a weekly basis, but we were having a particular conversation about the regenerating doctors, and for some reason we all agreed that it didn’t seem far-fetched for the Doctor to generate into a different race, but for some reason changing his sex seemed less believable. I don’t know if that’s because the gender binary is so engrained in us (even for people who pretty much have the mentality “gender is a bullshit social construct meant to control us”), but something about a female Doctor seems to require even more suspension of disbelief than everything else on the show. Not that I think there couldn’t be female Time Lords. That said, every time the Doctor regenerates it’s kind of a shock to the system, and then you get used to it, so it would probably be the same adjustment.

    I wonder they ever would cast a female Doctor. If they didn’t, Vod would still be a kick-ass companion, but given the type of vitriol that Freema Agyeman got, I wonder if they would cast another black female companion. Also, I’d be interested in seeing an Asian companion, or an Arab companion too. (I know Freema Agyeman is part Iranian, but as far as I can tell the character was supposed to be read as black.)

    • aboynamedart

      You’ll note that we were told that the Corsair regenerated into a woman during “The Doctor’s Wife,” and that Eleven asked, “Am I a girl?” just after regenerating. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility in this canon.

  • Shahryar Rizvi

    Janelle Monae comes to mind as a great female doctor for a US adaptation.

    • SuperHyugaYoshichan

      That…that is an amazing casting choice!

    • aboynamedart

      I think you mean she’d make a great Inspector.

      • Fifty Shades Of Erin Gray

        Good call. Never shoukd there be an American Doctor.

  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    I love Richard Ayoade SO much (ever since IT Crowd), and if he became the next Doctor. I don’t even know. I think my brain might explode. But I’m 100% on board for him, Chiwetel Ejiofor, or Amara Karan (the awesome girl from “The God Complex” episode).

  • http://www.theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com/ The Literary Omnivore

    Hasn’t Ejiofor said on record that if asked, he will say yes? tumblr tells me things. They might not be true.

    I haven’t seen Fresh Meat, but I like Zawe Ashton’s vibe, based off that one clip; I love the idea of a Doctor who’s a little cocky, and she wears suspenders just as well as Smith does. Still, as I’ve seen people say on tumblr, I’d love to see a female Doctor, but not while Moffat is calling the shots on the show.

    • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

      Can we find someone else besides Moffat to lead this show? Please?! This last season was so uneven and weird…

  • http://vulvs.tumblr.com/ oofstar

    my hopes were on Ejiofor but honestly now i’d love to see zawe ashton and richard ayoade as the doctor and the companion. i actually think either of them would be a great doctor or companion, so i don’t care which plays which.

  • http://wikeslongtrail.blogspot.com/ latenac

    I wish they’d cast Colin Salman. If he can’t be James Bond he should be the Doctor.

    • http://www.theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com/ The Literary Omnivore

      Oh, I just saw him in Tomorrow Never Dies! He’d be lovely.

    • Tosufai

      I instantly thought of Colin Salmon too, he’s fantastic. He would make a terrifically classy Doctor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.herring.3 Allen Herring

    I really like the idea of Alexander Siddig being the next Doctor. Whomever they select, I think he has to be older. Alex Kingston isn’t getting any younger and I think they need work on resolving their relationship at some point soon.