Rabid fans, and probably some non-fans too, are betting that Scotsman Peter Capaldi will be the next actor to play the title role on Doctor Who, the long-running British cult sci-fi show whose main character occasionally dies and regenerates into new bodies. According to the Radio Times, bookies are reporting 2/1 odds that Capaldi, best known for his role as a government PR person on the British comedy The Thick Of It, will replace Matt Smith when he leaves Doctor Who later this year.
The show, which celebrates its 50 year anniversary this year, has had 11 Doctors, or Time Lords, over the years. When the Doctor dies he regenerates into a new form, with an entirely different personality. The switch to a new Doctor is a big deal — Whovians are as possessive of their Doctors as Potter fans are about which Hogwarts house they'd be sorted into. So it makes sense, in a sad sort of way, that gamblers are willing to spend actual money betting on who will get the part. Over the last few days, there's been a massive uptick in the number of bets on Capaldi, which, according to Joe Crilly, a spokesperson for gambling site William Hill, means he's a frontrunner. He told The Independent:
Peter Capaldi was not even in our list a few days ago but he has been the subject of a lot of betting interest recently and this gamble would suggest that if he does not have the part already, he is almost certainly on the shortlist.
Be warned, though, that these odds should be taken with a massive grain of salt. When David Tennant announced he was stepping down from the role in 2008, bookies favored 44-year-old Paterson Joseph, a comedic actor who would have been the series' first black Doctor. Instead they went with a then unknown Matt Smith, the series' youngest Doctor. In fact, if 55-year-old Capaldi became the 12th Doctor, he'd break a general trend towards younger Doctors. While the first Doctor, William Hartnell, was also 55 when his first episode aired, the average age of the new Doctor has been 40 years old, and the last three Doctors were 41, 34 and 27 when their first episodes aired.
Perhaps complicating matters is that, like seemingly every British actor, Capaldi has already been on an episode of Doctor Who. Here he is talking about his role in "The Fires of Pompeii," an episode from 2008. Also there's the problematic fact that if Capaldi got the role, he'd be joining a long line of white, male Doctors. Since Smith first announced his plans to leave the show, there have been calls for some Doctor diversity. Why does a thousands-of-years-old, time-traveling alien only have to be a white guy? John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness both on Doctor Who and a spin-off series, wants a female Doctor Who. Helen Mirren doesn't want the role for herself, but would like a black, lesbian Doctor. Laura Helmuth also makes a great case for a female Doctor on Slate.
So far, though, other than a few rumors here and there, the only woman on bookies' shortlist is Billie Piper, who played the 10th Doctor's main love interest. Meanwhile, the two black actors rumored for the part — Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor — will probably have better things to do. If Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and 12 Years a Slave garner enough Oscar buzz for Elba and Ejiofor, respectively, then starring on a slightly campy television show won't be high on either actor's list of priorities.
While Doctor Who is primarily a British show, there are a few names being tossed around that would appeal to an American audiences. Ben Whishaw, who recently appeared as young Q in Skyfall, has 10/1 odds, and Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint are on William Hill's top 20 list. Cumberbitches will be happy to know that Benedict Cumberbatch, who also plays the title character in Moffat's Sherlock, has 20/1 odds, though that may just be the result of millions of Tumblr fangirls (and boys) wanting him to star in everything.
(Photo credit: Associated Press)