With all the fuss and noise over the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who, it got me thinking about how it would have been if The Doctor had always been a Time Lady. So, for my 700th Blog Post I thought it would be fun to fan cast the history of Doctor Who using contemporary actresses of the time. Where possible, I’ve tried to go for an actress who had the same kind of background or personality as their real-world counterparts and selected performers who would have been willing or were doing television at the time, so no big-name movie stars (at least at the time they were The Doctor).
I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with the list and – more than anything else – this is definitely a show I’d have watched and kind of want to watch now. So, without further ado, fasten your scarves and set your coordinates as we take our TARDISes through a CVE and into a parallel universe where The Doctor has always been a she.
1st Doctor – Joyce Grenfell (1963-1966)
Veteran of the St Trinian’s Movies and famed one-woman shows and monologues, she brought the perfect mix of sternness and twinkly-eyed wisdom to the role of The Doctor, a wanderer in space and time accidentally stranded on Earth with her grandson Simon.
2nd Doctor – Maggie Smith (1966-1969)
When the time came for Grenfell to leave the programme, the wonderful conceit of regeneration saw Maggie Smith (British Institution in waiting) take on the role of the Doctor. A classically trained theatre actress, she brought a low cunning to the role as well as a keen sense of comic timing, lulling her enemies into a false sense of security with an affected ditziness.
3rd Doctor – Joan Sims (1970-1974)
Known primarily as a comedic actress, I can imagine Joan really relishing a more swashbuckling take with her Doctor. Earth-bound for much of her time, thanks to plentiful alien invasions and the arrival of her arch-nemesis The Mistress (Maureen Lipman), there was plenty of adventure for her to carry on with.
4th Doctor – Miriam Margoyles (1974-1981)
Wild-eyed, eccentric, outspoken and a force of nature who would one day have a memorable guest role on “Blackadder II”, who else could take on the legend of Tom Baker’s Doctor other than the equally legendary Miriam Margoyles? Brooding and bonkers by turn, Margoyles’ Doctor would be one of the most indelible of the entire series.
5th Doctor – Joanna Lumley (1981-1984)
After such a long serving Doctor, it was time for a fresh face, and producer Verity Lambert (because why wouldn’t she still be showrunner?) decided to go for a quintessentially English Doctor, calmer and more relaxed than her predecessor. Who else, then, but Joanna Lumley, bringing a bright, vivacious energy to the role as well as some of that ethereal otherness from her time on “Sapphire & Steel”. A high point was the celebration of the show’s 20th Anniversary which saw Lumley’s Doctor team up with all her predecessors.
6th Doctor – Judi Dench (1984-1986)
Striking out in a bold direction, the new Doctor was more aristocratic and aloof than her predecessors. Dench’s more prickly and stern Time Lord was a stark change from Lumley’s Edwardian elegance. Off-screen problems were the order of the day though and a prolonged hiatus after Dench refused to continue wearing the ridiculous costume didn’t help and the BBC was forced to make a change.
7th Doctor – Sandi Toksvig (1987-1989)
Fans were surprised and a little bit dubious when children’s TV presenter Sandi Toksvig was cast as the 7th Doctor but after a tonally uneven first series, Toksvig settled into the role and brought unexpected and welcome complexity and mystery to the gadabout Gallifreyan. Alas, it wasn’t enough to stave off cancellation and all was looking bleak Time’s Champion.
8th Doctor – Emma Thompson (1996)
In came American money and a slicker production, with Emma Thompson providing the necessary Britishness for this transatlantic production. Her Doctor turned out to be the best thing about an otherwise muddled and generic one-off outing, quickly making her a fan favourite even if she didn’t get a full series.
9th Doctor – Ruth Jones (2005)
For years, it looked like the Doctor and her travels would be consigned to the purgatory of reruns on UK Gold but, much like in “Star Trek IV”, Wales saved the day. Revived as a new, prestigious family viewing event series, Welsh actress Ruth Jones popped up in the TARDIS to save Ross Tyler (James Corden) from death at the hands of shop dummies and the rest is reboot history. Unfortunately, Jones had writing ambitions of her own and so stayed only for one series, leaving to work on other projects.
10th Doctor – Keeley Hawes (2005-2010)
With the show back on top, suddenly it was must-see TV and a jewel in the BBC crown. A cool and charismatic new Doctor was needed and Keeley Hawes stepped forward. Capable of balancing light and dark and still tortured by the Time War, the Doctor and the programme itself went from strength to strength, culminating in a celebratory run of TV specials and an epic two-part Christmas and New Year farewell extravaganza.
11th Doctor – Carey Mulligan (2010-2013)
Having appeared on the show previously, viewers were a little surprised when Carey Mulligan landed the role of The 11th Doctor but the coincidence was eventually explained in a throwaway piece of dialogue about reminding herself not to blink or some such. Mulligan embraced a zanier, more fun take on the Doctor, while conveying the pathos of a very old soul in a young body. Presiding over Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary celebrations allowed her to stage the perfect send-off.
War Doctor – Diana Rigg (2013)
When Ruth Jones was too busy to return to film the 50th Anniversary show “The Day Of The Doctor”, fans were astonished to learn of a long hidden regeneration, between the 8th and 9th Doctors. Who better to portray this battle-hardened warrior physician than the phenomenal Diana Rigg. Appearing with both Keeley Hawes and Carey Mulligan, Diana Rigg’s weary soldier undid the damage of the Time War and helped restore Gallifrey.
12th Doctor – Helen Mirren (2013-2017)
Having stayed young and trendy for some time, Helen Mirren’s 12th Doctor shook things up a bit by returning to the shows roots, bringing an edge of gravitas, grumpiness and not a little sass albeit with an undercurrent of bravery and kindness. People were surprised that such a well known and established actress would take the role but it turned out Mirren had been a fan when she was younger. Compassionate and regal, Mirren’s Doctor became known for stirring and emotive monologues as well as a cheeky pre-regeneration appearance in the 50th Anniversary special.
Which brings us up to date and the surprising announcement that the 13th Doctor will be played by a man for the first time. Kris Marshall, lately of “Death In Paradise” was revealed in a brief woodland walk video on Saturday after the Wimbledon Ladies Final – beating out Jodie Whittaker whom everyone had assume was a ‘lock’ for the role and so far, fan reaction has been pretty good apart from the usual vocal tiny minority who feel threatened by the change. But nobody ever said the Doctor has to be a woman, did they?
So there you go, that’s my fan casting of an all-female history of “Doctor Who”. What do you think? Who would you have cast? Did I miss a better 2nd Doctor? Was it fair for Dench to undergo “The Trial Of A Time Lord”? Let me know who you’d have cast instead in the comments below.