Every time the star of “Doctor Who” has announced they’re stepping down, speculation regenerates about his possible replacement. Ah, but what if this time, instead of a white male Doctor, the BBC finally listened to fans who’ve been seeking some diversity for the role?
According to a Nerdist, a source close to production insists that Michaela Coel will replace Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor, which would make her the first female and first black actor to play the role. This source is not an official BBC spokesperson though, and the statement the BBC released to Nerdist didn’t confirm anything: “No casting decisions have been made yet for ‘Doctor Who’ Season 11.”
Although Coel was not one of the people that IndieWire had suggested for casting, she would make a fantastic Thirteen. The actress is a force to be reckoned with on Netflix’s acclaimed series “Chewing Gum,” which she created, wrote and stars in. Awkward, absurd, horrifying and heartfelt, the series is also just flat-out funny. Coel clearly has the acting chops for the range of emotions and quirks required in a Time Lord… or would that be Time lady?
If true, the casting would be a long time in coming and logical. After all, why should an alien race of Gallifreyans care about sticking to one gender or ethnicity when those are human limitations? The Who-niverse has already been laying the groundwork for this type of casting. Before we got to know the Alex Kingston version of Melody Pond, she was in the form of Mels, a young black woman. Also, The Master regenerated as The Mistress, aka Missy (Michelle Gomez) a couple seasons ago, and in one episode, we see that a white male Time Lord regenerated as a black woman. It’s been done before!
One “Who” alum would be thrilled if Coel were cast: In a recent interview with Screenrant, Karen Gillan (who had played companion Amy Pond) weighed in on the possible casting of a female or non-white actor.
“Both. Let’s go with both,” she said. “We need some diversity in the TARDIS. That would be great, and also a female could absolutely play the Doctor. You know, some people question it, and I’m like, ‘You’re crazy.’ Of course a female can play that role. There are so many actresses that could do that, and I’d love to see that.”
Another changing of the guard could support Coel’s casting as well. Steven Moffat will be stepping down as “Doctor Who’s” showrunner at the end of the season, just when Capaldi is exiting the TARDIS for good. When Chris Chibnall takes up the mantle, this could be his opportunity to shake things up.
At this time, however, it’s still too early to tell if this rumor holds any weight. There are still plenty of other names floating around for the role of Thirteen, including Richard Ayoade, Anthony Stewart Head, Kris Marshall, Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw, among others. But the new season has already made headway with more diversity by casting Pearl Mackie as Bill, the first openly gay companion for the Doctor.
“Doctor Who” airs on Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America.