There is always speculation as to who is going to be the next Doctor Who – even when the incumbent Time Lord has no plans of leaving! And whilst there are always rumours about who the next actor will be, many people have come scarily close to taking the TARDIS keys, only to disappear at the last minute. Who were they?
1) Robbie Williams
Let him entertain you! This British pop singer was (at one time) very close to becoming the next Doctor Who. It’s unclear as to how his name was first thrown into the ring, but he was a hot contender during the development of ‘Scream of the Shalka‘ – an animated adventure that introduced a brand new Ninth Doctor. Rumour has it that the singer, himself, put himself forward for Time Lord duties, although this has never been confirmed.
Speaking on the ‘Scream of the Shalka’ DVD, producer Muirinn Lane Kelly says: “We got word that Robbie Williams was interested in playing the Doctor. We all sat around wondering, ‘Is this a good idea? Is this a crazy idea?’” She then adds: “When it all shook down, it turned out he wasn’t available, and it wasn’t that possible.”
So it seems he was a serious contender for a time, which begs the question: Would he have grown old before he regenerated, or would he be loving (weeping) angels instead? We will never know.
2) Richard E. Grant
When ‘Scream of the Shalka’ was finally released in 2003, the next Doctor Who was revealed to be Richard E. Grant, who voiced the character in all six episodes. Originally, the plan had been for this animation to be the first of many – a brand new series of canonical Doctor Who in cartoon form.
Alas, the 2005 rebirth of the series nudged Grant’s Doctor to the side lines. Today, he’s not really considered to be the next Doctor Who after Paul McGann (which had been the original intention.) He’s more of a parallel universe version – a bit like Peter Cushing in the Dalek films.
That being said, Grant has a long and enduring connection with the show. In 2012, he returned as the Doctor’s old enemy The Great Intelligence, who was first seen in the 1967 story ‘The Abominable Snowmen.’ In addition, he played the Doctor in a 1999 Comic Relief special, which was written by future producer Steven Moffat.
But will he ever truly be the next Doctor Who, perhaps taking over after Jodie Whittaker? We’ll have to wait and see.
3) Michael Crawford
When Philip Segal was casting for the TV movie, he seriously considered Michael Crawford as the next Doctor Who, even going so far as to offer him the part outright.
And whilst it may be difficult to imagine Michael Crawford battling Daleks on the plains of Trenzalore, he is arguably one of the UK’s most versatile actors, having played the boyish, accident-prone Frank Spencer as well as the eponymous Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Despite this, Michael Crawford couldn’t see himself as the next Doctor Who, and declined Segal’s offer. A real whoopsie, Betty? He would certainly have brought some gravitas to the role.
4) Bill Nighy
There are some actors who are always named as the next Doctor Who, and Bill Nighy’s is a name that crops up frequently when people are speculating as to who should be the new Time Lord. Indeed, Nighy has many of the eccentric, Doctor-ish qualities that would make him perfect to the role.
So much so, in fact, that one of the production teams seriously considered Nighy for the part. According to Syfy Wire, Nighy said: “I was offered the role once, I won’t tell you when because the rule is that you’re not allowed to say you turned that job down because it’s disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached. But I didn’t want to be the Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage.”
But Bill Nighy did go on to play a doctor, of sorts, in the 2010 episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor,’ where he played a tour guide at a Van Gogh exhibit. And during 2020’s Twitter watchalong, the Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith wondered whether Nighy’s character could indeed be one of the Doctor’s future incarnations. It’s certainly possible.
As for when Nighy was actually offered the part, we can only speculate. Leave your thoughts below.
Of course, this is just a handful of people who have come within a hair’s breadth of being the next Doctor Who. Let’s not forget Paterson Joseph, whose name was being bandied around after David Tennant’s departure.
And then there’s Mark Gatiss, who always expressed an interest in playing the Doctor. And whilst he did briefly take to the TARDIS in a brief comedy sketch for the BBC’s Doctor Who Night in 1999, he has since gone on to appear twice in the show, write many episodes, and even play an alternate version of the Master for Big Finish.
Can you think of any other actors who came close to being the next Doctor Who? And who would you most like to see in the role? Let me know in the comments below.
And to find out about those actors who did become the Doctor, check out our other piece: Doctor Who actors’ greatest roles.
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