Aside from perhaps Sherlock Holmes, there are few other fictional characters in British history with a bigger legacy or impact on pop culture than the Doctor from Doctor Who. Since appearing on our screens in 1963, the Doctor has been captivating audiences and delighting generations of kids as they battle across the galaxy, defeating foes.
So key to Doctor Who is their ability to reinvent themselves. As of present, 13 actors have taken the title role, with many others popping up here and there in rarer incarnations of the Time Lord. Each actor brought a new dimension to the role, whether it was Tom Baker’s iconic 4th Doctor, which first brought the Doctor’s wackier side to the fore, or Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, a man struggling with his mortality and place in the universe – everyone has their favorite, and least favorite, Time Lord.
To quote Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor “We all change” and, as such, it’s soon going to be time to reveal who will next be stepping into that big, blue box. As Jodie Whittaker takes her final bows in Doctor Who: Flux, 2023 will see a new Doctor, as well as returning showrunner Russell T. Davies who will take the reins.
We've already looked at the Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best, but now it's time to look to the future. So, it’s time to take part in the time-honored Whovian tradition of guessing who will next wield the epic sonic screwdriver as we look at five actors who could possibly be the new Doctor.
1. Olly Alexander
Let’s start with an easy one. The bookies favorite and star of Russell T. Davies’ incredible drama, It’s a Sin, many people already have Olly Alexander down as the next Doctor. While he’d be the second youngest Doctor ever, a sprightly 31 years old to Matt Smith’s 26, Olly Alexander has proved time and again that he has the acting chops and the comedic influence to make his Doctor a fan favorite.
Alexander would also be the first LGBTQ+ lead. This is a strong stride forward for a show that, despite being inclusive from a thematic point-of-view for years, took until Jodie Whittaker’s arrival to give the role to someone who wasn’t a man.
Performing under the stage name Years & Years, Alexander is also an accomplished musician and recently played with Elton John at the 2021 BRIT Awards. While the Doctor is always kind, caring, and a hero, he’s very rarely cool, which is something that Alexander could absolutely bring to the role. Plus, Alexander could potentially bring a new audience to a show that has seemed like an establishment for so long.
2. Zawe Ashton
Another long time pick for the Doctor, simply googling Zawe Ashton will return the suggested result “Zawe Ashton Doctor Who.” The actress from Hackney in London made her name in theater, going on to star in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, as well as a host of other shows. U.K. TV fans will recognize her for her hilarious turn as Vod in the anarchic Channel 4 comedy, Fresh Meat. Ashton’s combination of biting sarcasm and genuine care for her friends made her a favorite amongst fans, and shot her to the top of the new Doctor Who candidate list – this may be her time to shine!
Ashton would bring a new dimension to the Doctor, a potential mix of Christopher Eccleston’s serious, war-hardened Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s sarcastic charm. While she’s already appeared in an episode of Doctor Who, playing the character Journey Blue, this has never stopped an actor playing the titular role. Famously, both Karen Gillan and Peter Capaldi appeared in the Doctor Who episode Fires of Pompei, before later appearing in the show in starring roles.
3. Ralph Fiennes
Now, it’s certainly not easy to go from one beloved British institution to another, but of all the great actors that made an appearance in the Harry Potter franchise, we think the Dark Lord himself would make the most interesting Doctor.
Ralph Fiennes’ acting ability is unquestioned, and his ability to riff off younger companions could make for some excellent character moments. Each new actor brings something unique to Doctor Who, but the older actors that have portrayed the role are able to tap into a part of the Doctor’s humanity that younger actors can’t. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor was an incredible example of this, with the strongest episodes in his series being full of deep introspection about the history of the Doctor.
Fiennes would be able to add pathos and depth to these scenes, and also deliver the intensity that the Doctor needs when facing his greatest foes. It may not be the funniest ever series of the show, but it would probably be the most rich with character development.
4. Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya is another actor who has made an appearance in the Doctor Who series, alongside David Tennant in the Planet of the Dead Easter Special. However, since then he’s gone on to have an incredible career, and is quickly becoming one of the most desired actors in Hollywood. For this reason, he may not be able to commit to the shooting schedule that would see him relocate to Cardiff for months, but he would be an incredible pick.
First coming to mainstream attention in the Black Mirror episode Fifteen Million Merits, Kaluuya would shoot to fame in the seminal horror film Get Out. His acting is incredibly subtle and believable, and he’d bring a background in sci-fi horror that works so well with Doctor Who. Kaluuya is currently filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, but once wrapped, we’re hoping to see him step through the doors of the iconic police box and bring something completely new to the table… or TARDIS controls… the bit in the middle with the lights and spinny bits.
5. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Our final pick is an actor who was actually previously offered the role of the Doctor before, according to reports. Chiwetel Ejiofor was seemingly extended the starring part when showrunner Steven Moffat took over the show. While Ejiofor eventually turned the role down after being unable to agree to terms, we’d love to see him come back for another chance.
Making his acting debut at 19 in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, Ejiofor has had a long and prosperous career. His biggest role came in 12 Years a Slave, a role which he was nominated for an Academy Award and won a BAFTA for. Ejiofor also appeared in Marvel’s Doctor Strange and the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as Karl Mondo.
He’s an imposing screen presence and an actor that’s clearly fit for the role, considering he’s already been offered it once. His extensive theatre history would also lend to a deep, considered performance as the Doctor that could set him apart from his predecessors. Jodie Whittaker and Chiwetel Ejiofor are both incredible actors, but for completely different reasons. So, seeing the transition from one to the other, especially in the early episodes of the series when the Doctor is getting used to their new body, would be a real treat.