During the recent couple of months where people were speculating on Peter Capaldi’s replacement as Dr Who in the BBC’s long-running Saturday teatime drama, one particular name became heavily rumoured. And a lot of people weren’t very happy, because that name wasn’t seen as a particularly ‘radical’ choice.
It’s an interesting point (unlike most other discussion of the show on the internet). How ‘radical’ were the previous choices to take over the part? Using the patented Regenerationometer, I set about finding out…
Well, in this case they were replacing the lead actor by introducing the concept that the character could change himself into a completely new form. Frankly, they could have cast the 1966 equivalent of Kris Marshall then and it’d still have been pretty radical.
This was only the second time the Doctor had changed, so a lot of the above still applies, even if on the face of it Pertwee – a comedy actor already associated with children’s television – wasn’t that radical a choice. Although I think it would’ve been better if they’d delayed the announcement by a week, so when episode 10 of The War Games ended with Dr Who falling into oblivion, his face obscured, viewers still didn’t know who was next…
Unlike his predecessors (but like several of his successors), Baker was largely unknown at the time of his casting, and was infamously working on a building site at the time. At 40, Baker was the youngest actor to take on the role.
Mr Baker’s record only lasted until the next time Dr Who regenerated; Peter Davison was not yet 30 when he was officially named. Davison was already a rising star, with roles in sitcoms Sink or Swim and Holding the Fort.
Hired after producer John Nathan-Turner found him entertaining at a friend’s wedding, the other Baker holds the distinction of being the first Dr Who to have already appeared in the show in another role; 1983’s Arc of Infinity, in which his character shoots the Doctor. Hilariously, at least one reference source got really badly confused as a result of this and thought that Baker’s character took over the role by killing the previous Doctor. Anyway, Baker had already been a regular face on British TV for the better part of two decades by this point, and was best known for The Brothers; unlike his two predecessors, Dr Who couldn’t really be said to be his big break.
Brought in after Baker was unexpectedly fired from the role, McCoy was once again a choice strongly associated with comedy and children’s TV. I’m not sure how well-known Sylv would have been to a TV audience in 1987, but Dr Who was certainly his biggest role yet.
Already well-known for roles including Withnail & I, McGann was the first and only Doctor to be first introduced to an American market, for the 1996 TV movie; he’d only previously had small roles in films like Alien 3. The first new Dr Who in nearly a decade, so the fact he existed at all is arguably a bit radical.
The first new Dr Who in a decade again, and the first one to star in an ongoing series in some 18 years. Already a big name in British TV, showrunner Russell T Davies cast him after seeing tabloid storylines linking Paul Daniels and Ainsley Harriott to the role, and knew whoever he did cast had to be a big statement of intent. Which he was.
Unexpectedly announced after Eccleston confirmed he was only doing one series days after the transmission of his first episode, Tennant had been active in film and TV since the early 90s, but was still considered a rising star waiting for his big break, setting him apart from the more established Eccleston. The first regenerated Dr Who of the revived series, introducing a new generation to the concept, or something.
A whole 3 years younger than Peter Davison was when he was announced, Matt Smith was just 26 when he was confirmed as the next Dr Who in January 2009; this was the first time the announcement received a special television programme (an episode of Doctor Who Confidential), and more or less a total unknown; his first television credit had been just two years previously.
Aged 55 at the time of his announcement, Capaldi was the oldest Dr Who since William Hartnell, who was the same age in 1963; Capaldi was best-known for his role in the cult sitcom The Thick of It, and whilst Doctor Who arguably wasn’t really a ‘big break’ (he had already been acting for over 30 years), it did bring him to a new audience. His announcement one-upped Smith’s by being made completely live on national television in a secret broadcast that was only announced at the last minute.REGENERATIONOMETER: 4.5/5
I'm not terribly sure I need to expand on anything here...