Published on May 26th, 2014 | by Nick Kitchen
KasterViewPoints: The American Doctor
Welcome to a new, ongoing feature series that will present some thought provoking arguments for ideas or topics that may be on the fringe or occasionally flirt with Whovian blasphemy. This first installment may fall into the latter category.
When it was announced that Matt Smith was leaving the TARDIS last summer, it seems that nearly every actor in the business was rumored to be taking his place. From the bizarre (Paris Jackson) to the children of former Doctors (Sean Pertwee), there was a new name rumored to be taking the key to the TARDIS practically every day. In the end, we got the best possible actor in the person of the fabulous Peter Capaldi and the debate was settled. It seems that the most controversial conversation that took place at the time was the idea that a woman may play the role of the famous Time Lord. Today, I want to suggest that perhaps there was an even more controversial debate to be had; that perhaps there is great case to made in the favor of an American actor taking the role of the Doctor. We’ll explore four reasons the casting makes sense and then four of the best American choices for the role.
I realize that many of you may have groaned at the sight of the title of this entry, but stay with us for a bit. You might find yourself surprised by the end. An American Doctor makes sense for many reasons, but here are the four best reasons why…
1) A New Audience
BBC America and Matt Smith have certainly brought a new awareness to American pop culture. From subtle mentions in popular television shows like NCIS and Big Bang Theory to permanent DVD slots at mega retailer, Walmart, Doctor Who has certainly carved a niche out for itself. While American Whovians (this writer included) are vocal and rowdy (see the mass numbers that showed up for The Day of the Doctor screenings), we are still relatively small. An established American actor brings with him/her all of the fans of his/her previous work. That has been the case for the established actors that have played the Doctor as well, but the numbers game (depending upon the candidate) would definitely bolster the American fandom.
2) A Chance for Redemption
The last time BBC and a US network tried played with the Doctor, we ended up with a failed relaunch pilot/TV movie (here’s looking at you, Fox!). Since then, the main networks have shown that they can handle quality intellectual properties, including those steeped in a British base. While not every American has access to BBC America, they do have free access over the air to NBC/CBS/Fox. With a popular American actor in the lead role of Doctor Who, the interest of the main networks will be ignited and perhaps the opportunity to either take over broadcasting from BBC America or simulcasting the BBC feed. Both options will help to increase the audience tuning in every week.
3) More Diverse Writers, Directors and Actors
This one is really self explanatory; with the addition of an American actor as the Doctor, more of American talent will be attracted to the show. How about an episode or arc written and directed by Joss Whedon? The world and internet would implode from just the suggestion (in which case, you may be struggling to read this!). Without naming names, a-list talent is also known to do small cameos and roles for their friends. All of these things are a boon for Doctor Who.
4) A New Wallet
We’ve all heard and read about the BBC budget woes over the years: Doctor Who being affected multiple times; most recently there wasn’t enough funds left in The Day of the Doctor budget to obtain rights to the Peter Cushing Dalek movie posters. While the show hasn’t technically suffered much for the lack of money (at least in recent years), special FX and CGI costs are only going to rise as technology evolves. The best way to bolster the coffers is sweet, sweet, American Ad sales. Companies will pay big bucks to be part of event television. Just look at the Super Bowl or big shows like Lost or The Walking Dead. A big name in the lead role will cause buzz in the US and can quickly lead to event level status, and in turn lots of ad sales.
The Doctor doesn’t have to lose all of his British-ness because an American plays him either. It would be a whole new avenue for him to play off of: new accents, new signature phrases, new shooting locales. After 50 years, sometimes a little strange is a good thing.
Who Could Play The Doctor?
Now, as promised, here are four very worthy candidates for the role. You may not have connected these actors to the Doctor before, but I genuinely think it could work. Without any further ado and in no particular order, allons-y:
Mostly known for playing the intelligent and stubborn Dr. Sheldon Cooper on CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, you might wonder if Parsons has the drama piece of the Doctor down, as he does have the eccentric and mad man part on lock. Wonder no more, dear reader! If you want to gauge Parson as a serious actor, you’ll have the opportunity this summer as he plays the character of Tommy Boatwright in the HBO movie, The Normal Heart. Based solely on looks and mannerisms, Parsons would probably be more Tom Baker than Matt Smith. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I’ve either excited you or angered you with this suggestion, but of any non-British actor in the business, is there anyone that isn’t more the Doctor than Depp? Look at the roles he’s played: serious, mad (literally… Mad Hatter, anyone?), adventurer, pirate. With the right direction and writing, Depp could not only be a fantastic Doctor but perhaps even the best Doctor to date.
Probably caught you off guard with this one.
Bakula, having mastered time travel via his time with Quantum Leap, has only increased his stock with age. An older choice, and probably more of a Peter Davison type, Bakula brings subtle humor and charisma to the role. Plus, we can always hope for Dean Stockwell cameo!
Joss Whedon association, check. Major geek credibility, undeniably yes. Perfect fit for the Doctor? Maybe. Fillion already has a cult following from his work on Firefly/Serenity and Castle, plus there is always room for some Whedon contributions.