From Riz Ahmed to Michaela Coel: who should be the next Doctor Who?

With most modern Doctor Who actors doing three series of the show at most, and rumours of Jodie Whittaker’s departure swirling around, here’s our pick of the people we’d love to see at the controls of the Tardis next – some more likely than others …

1. Michaela Coel

With I May Destroy You being one of the most acclaimed shows of 2020, Coel has been heavily tipped as Whittaker’s replacement for months. Her appearances on Black Mirror show she has got dystopian sci-fi in the bag, and she would bring huge charisma to the role. The big question mark might be on her willingness to compromise and work with a showrunner – she was in creative control of I May Destroy You from start to finish. Would she be willing to swap that for being told exactly how to look horrified as a Dalek tries to exterminate her for six months of the year?

2. Olly Alexander

Casting Alexander would be a huge moment for a show that has maintained a cult LGBTQ+ following since the 80s. It’s a Sin reminded everyone that he was far from just the Years & Years singer, and he has a great acting back catalogue. Having dueted with Elton John at this year’s Brit awards, he’d have to put the singing on hold to sign up for the Doctor Who production schedule. Mind you, Jon Pertwee still found time to release a single while he was Doctor Who in the 70s, so who knows?

3. Rose Matafeo

Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor once explained his accent by saying that “lots of planets have a north”. What if lots of planets have a New Zealand? A creative force in comedy and writing her own shows, she’s already faced down one Doctor Who villain – King Hydroflax was played by Greg Davies – as a standout contributor to series nine of Taskmaster. You can easily imagine her bursting out of the Tardis doors for a spot of adventure.

4. Richard Ayoade

As host of the Crystal Maze, we already know he’s got the gift of the gab as a mysterious guide to a curious world. He also has impeccable comic timing, and sci-fi experience with his voiceover work in the Mandalorian. But does he have the chops to play the serious, authoritative Doctor? And would we accept the show’s technobabble explanations from someone we all-too-readily recognise as the IT Crowd’s Maurice Moss? A solid choice, but maybe a bit obvious. Unlike …

5. Lydia West

Most likely to be known to Doctor Who fans for working with Russell T Davies on Years and Years and the rightly acclaimed It’s a Sin, West would be one of the youngest casting choices ever and doesn’t have a huge amount of TV experience behind her. But then, neither did a young Tom Baker. It should be noted that T’Nia Miller, who worked with West on Years and Years, has hinted that she already knows who the 14th Doctor is. Could it be?

6. Heledd Gwynn

Gwynn has worked with Who alumnus Pete McTighe on The Pact this year, and is based in Wales where Doctor Who is made. Indeed, she would be a bit of an unknown quantity outside Wales, mainly starring in Welsh drama such as Gwaith/Cartref or 35 Diwrnod. But that’s no bad thing going into a life-changing role like that of the Time Lord. She has got a strikingly Doctor-ish look about her, and would be an intriguing wildcard.

7. Tobias Menzies

It’s been established with Colin Baker and Peter Capaldi that featuring as a guest in an episode doesn’t stop you later taking the role as the Doctor, so appearing as Lieutenant Stepashin in 2013 story Cold War should be no hindrance. Menzies can bring a detached aloofness to any role, and would be a bit of a throwback to the establishment gentlemen Doctor of yore. But his role in The Terror showed how well he can do foolish bravado, genuine bravery, compassion, guilt and self-sacrifice – all solid Doctorly traits.

8. Paterson Joseph

Joseph also has a Doctor Who role in his past, dating back to 2005, and his name has been in the frame before. We know from Peep Show that he can do intense and intensely weird, and his Shakespearean background will give him the gravitas. But has his moment passed?

9. Jo Martin

She’s already appeared in the show as a version of the Doctor, becoming a swift fan favourite after it was revealed she was an unknown incarnation hiding out on Earth as a human, with her Tardis buried underground for safe-keeping. It was implied she was a Doctor from a time before the show started in 1963 with William Hartnell’s first Doctor. Some fans have desperately tried to shoehorn her into the timeline elsewhere. But what if show runner Chris Chibnall has already shown his hand and she will be revealed as Whittaker’s permanent replacement? It would be fantastic to see more of her.

10. Riz Ahmed

Ahmed has an impressive CV, extensive range and a sackful of award nominations behind him. But is he too political for the role for the BBC, though? Casting someone with a history of activism for Syrian and Rohingya children would certainly not silence the critics who say the show has “gone woke”. But what is the point of science-fiction if it isn’t reflecting the issues we face in the real world – something Doctor Who has done since its inception?

11. Paul McGann

It is but a fans’ pipe-dream, but on television McGann was only the Doctor once in a muddled 1996 TV movie and again in a surprise special minisode filmed for the 2013 50th anniversary. In between, he has recorded countless audio dramas as the Doctor for Big Finish, and has a legion of fans and his own appreciation society on Facebook as the Eighth Doctor. Some kind of timey-wimey solution to follow his adventures on TV for a while would be extremely unlikely, but welcomed by many Whovians.

12. Tilda Swinton

While we are on unlikely scenarios – how amazing would this be?

British actor Tilda Swinton would make an absolutely perfect Doctor.
British actor Tilda Swinton would make an absolutely perfect Doctor. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

13. Mark Lewis Jones

It’s been a running joke in the show for a while that the Doctor is always disappointed when their new body turns out not to be ginger. Mark Lewis Jones could put that right. Again, it would be a throwback to a grumpy older Doctor, but if Chibnall did decide to go down the ginger route, he would be a more popular choice than Kris Marshall who has been frequently touted as a possible Doctor. Lewis Jones has got sci-fi – and sci-fi fan – experience with the Star Wars franchise, and would be a safe pair of hands to guide the show through to its 60th anniversary in 2023.

14. The moment has been prepared for …

Perhaps the show needs to do something more radical than have a woman as the Doctor? What if the regeneration went wrong and the Doctor was left unstable, so we got a different guest star every couple of episodes with a regular cast around them? What if the Doctor went missing? Or regenerated as a cartoon? Or got split into good and evil twin versions who had to fight each other around the galaxy?

Who do you want to see as the 14th Doctor? Let us know in the comments below …