Almost ‘Doctor Who’: 12 stars who nearly played the Doctor

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We take a look at an alternate Doctor Who history with the Doctors that never were.

With Doctor Who changing hands after Season 10, the internet is abuzz with speculation. Some of it is entirely plausible like the suggestion that EastEnders actress Rakhee Thakrar will be the next companion, while some of it less believable such as the Irish Examiner claiming that Harry Potter star Emma Watson is lined up to succeed Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.

Although the BBC apparently want Capaldi to stay on for Season 11, he has yet to announce a decision and there is a still a lot of speculation about possible Thirteenth Doctors.

Doctor Who The Zygon Inversion Peter Capaldi Twelfth

Season 9 guest star Maisie Williams has suggested Idris Elba for the role, and bookies have released odds on everyone from Rory Kinnear to Helen Mirren. Ben Whishaw is currently the favourite at 5/1 if anyone fancies an incredibly premature flutter.

> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on Blu-ray on Amazon.

So since the internet is already obsessed with choosing Peter Capaldi’s replacement, we’ve done the opposite and looked back across Doctor Who history at twelve Doctors who could have been…


Hugh David as The First Doctor

An Adventure In Space And Time - Hugh David Headshot

When Doctor Who was in its infancy and just before producer Verity Lambert arrived on the scene, a number of actors were under consideration to play the Doctor including Leslie French and Geoffrey Bayldon. But while temporary producer Rex Tucker’s top choice was Welsh actor-director Hugh David, Lambert disagreed.

In a moment later dramatised in the 50th Anniversary docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time, Lambert thought that David was too young at the age of thirty-eight and ruled him out as a possible Doctor. Also, as well as his casting being vetoed by Verity Lambert, it has been said that David declined the role as he disliked the high profile he had gained by starring in ITV’s Knight Errant and didn’t want to repeat that with Doctor Who

But David’s association with Doctor Who didn’t end there, and he went on to direct the Second Doctor stories ‘The Highlanders’ and ‘Fury From The Deep’. While Geoffrey Bayldon would eventually get the chance to play the Doctor in 2003, being cast as an alternate First Doctor in Big Finish’s Doctor Who Unbound audio plays.


Brian Blessed as The Second Doctor

Stars Reunited (Z Cars Episode) - Fancy Smith Brian Blessed

In 1966, after William Hartnell decided to step down as the Doctor, Brian Blessed was approached by the BBC who wanted a younger Doctor and thought that Blessed could be “quite normal and then also very, very eccentric”. Which is hard to disagree with.

Blessed’s take on the role would have been either “with a lot of intensity and humour” or “with some very fine makeup and a great voice coach, to make him like [Chinese-American detective] Charlie Chan”. But fresh out of his star-making role in gritty police drama Z Cars, Blessed turned the role down because of other commitments and it would be twenty years before he crossed paths with Doctor Who again, playing King Yrcanos in the Sixth Doctor story ‘Mindwarp’.

Blessed was also scheduled to play Odin in Season 9’s ‘The Girl Who Died’ before pulling out because of health concerns. While more recently, he has said that he would like to take on the role of the Doctor full-time.


Boris Karloff as The Radio Doctor

Thriller - Boris Karloff

Moving away from the official Doctors, back in 1965 the BBC put the wheels in motion for a Doctor Who radio serial, recording a pilot titled ‘Journey Into Time’ set largely during the American Revolution. So the question of the hour was who could be the Doctor.

A UK resident for much of his retirement; horror movie legend and many people’s definitive Frankenstein’s Monster Boris Karloff was approached by the BBC but declined the role, which was eventually filled by Peter Cushing. Had Karloff accepted the part; he would have remained the oldest Doctor to this day, being seventy-eight years old when the pilot was recorded.

No full radio series starring Peter Cushing was ever made and, like so much of 1960s Doctor Who, the recordings of the pilot are lost in time. The jury’s out on whether or not the Doctor threw the episode into a supernova because he disagreed with it.


Ron Moody as The Third Doctor

Oliver! - Fagin Ron Moody

After his hugely successful turn as Fagin in both the stage and film versions of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, Ron Moody was among the Doctor Who production team’s top choices to lead the programme into the 1970s.

Despite the BBC wanting him for the part, Moody turned it down. Quite possibly because, as said later in his life; “I turned down quite a few offers afterwards because I thought the people didn’t come close to those I’d worked with on Oliver! – which in retrospect was a mistake.” After Moody had decided against taking on Doctor Who, the BBC offered the job to Jon Pertwee.

Moody spoke a number of times about his regret at turning down the role, calling it one of the biggest professional regrets of his life. But despite this; he went on to have a strong career, acting until a few years before his death in 2015 and reprising the role of Fagin on several occasions.


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