Friday, August 02, 2013

Lies, damned lies and casting rumours

There are two types of news story I automatically disbelieve unless they have some verifiable authority attached. One is football transfer rumours. Over the years I have come to conclude that most of these are concocted by sports journalists with column inches that must be filled, or agents eager to raise the profile of their clients.

The other, as you might guess from the title of this blog post, is Doctor Who rumours. I have seen so many rubbish rumours about the show over the years that I refuse to believe anything not officially announced by the BBC. Sometimes, that does mean I am dismissive of something that turns out to be true - I gave no credence at first to the casting of Billie Piper. But on the whole, I think I have a good hit-rate on this, and failed to be caught out by, for instance, the idea that the new Doctor would be announced at the Doctor Who prom.

So, we are in the midst of a flurry of rumours. The twelfth Doctor will be announced on Sunday. Who will it be?

The important point is - nobody knows. Aside from a small group of people sworn to secrecy on pain of losing their BBC Cardiff canteen privileges, nobody knows who has been cast. The journalists writing articles don't know. The punters placing bets don't know. The bookies don't know. So when someone says that Peter Capaldi is the bookies' favourite, this means nothing more than that some people have placed bets on Capaldi, because they like him or because they think he'd be good in the role, and other people have seen Capaldi going up in the rankings, thought 'oh, yes, I like him', and placed their own bets. It doesn't mean that Capaldi is any more likely to be cast than Peter O'Toole or Sooty. If he is cast, and I don't think he will be, it will be a mere coincidence that the bookies got it right.

What's a bit depressing about this is how little imagination gets displayed. Journalists and punters think of people they remember, people of whom the public are aware. So we get suggestions like Idris Elba. Now, I have no problem with a black Doctor - indeed, I think it's something that's overdue (though I'm not sure the people casting the role agree). And Elba is a fine actor. But I think the star of Luther and Pacific Rim has better things to do with his career than be the Doctor. And this is the thing with a lot of the people whose names have come up - they are generally in places in their careers where they don't need to be the Doctor. Most of these suggestions pay little attention to the sort of person who has been cast in the past. (Except the wish-fulfillment suggestions that an old Doctor will return to the role. I've been hearing these since a suggestion in the 1980s that Troughton was coming back. It wasn't true then, and it's blazingly unlikely now.)

Only twice, I'd argue, has an actor been cast as the Doctor who was bigger than the brand - when William Hartnell was cast for the show's launch in 1963, and when Eccleston was cast for the relaunch in 2005. Apart from that, Doctor Who has not been the next move for an actor who has already starred in a successful series. You could make an argument for McGann, but I'd argue his career had slipped somewhat from the heights of Withnail and I. And you could make a better argument for Tennant, but he didn't then have the public profile that Capaldi and Elba have now. [Edit: It has entirely correctly been pointed out to me that Davison was also pretty well known when cast.]

Virtually nobody had heard of Matt Smith when he was cast. His most prominent work before being cast as the Doctor was a supporting role in Ruby in the Smoke, and being part of an ensemble cast in Party Animals, a series that no-one watched and which no-one would now remember were it not for the presence in the cast of before-they-were-famous Smith, Andrea Riseborough and Andrew Buchan. So why not place a bet on James Bradshaw? Who? Exactly. James Bradshaw has been playing one-off character roles in film and television for fifteen years, and has shown recently that he has exactly the sort of eccentric intelligence the role requires in his performances as Max DeBryn in Endeavour. I'm not saying that he is going to be cast. But he'd be no more of a waste of money than Idris Elba.

Who do I think will be cast? I have no idea. I'd love it if John Hurt turned out to really be the next Doctor, especially if that meant we'd get a Doctor who was in control of the situation, rather than constantly improvising in the face of the next unanticipated development. But I don't think it will be. What I want is what I wanted last time - a middle-aged character actor who is not bigger than the show, but can make the role their own. But I suspect I will be surprised on Sunday night.

1 comment:

Tony Keen said...

And here's a name that hasn't come up yet, but is as likely as many of the bookies' favourites - Anton Lesser.