She may be on a career break, she may be a new mother, but already people are talking about Billie Piper as a contender to succeed David Tennant in Doctor Who, writes Liz Thomas. The news has drawn scoffs from some stalwarts, with one veteran drama producer sniffing at the idea. “They are Time Lords not Time Ladies,” he told me rather witheringly.
Personally, I don’t see any reason why a woman can’t play the character, considering all the other wonderful and weird things the hit drama features. It’s almost laughable that there is even a debate — seemingly women can do pretty much every other job as well as, if not better then men.
But when it comes to a fictional dramatic hero, it is still something that provokes discussion.
Current incumbent David Tennant has been forthright about who is successor should be. Asked if Piper could step into the role, Tennant said a female Doctor was a distinct possibility. “Why not? It’s one of those parts that any actor could bring something valid to, because it can be anything and it’s a sort of blank canvas every time,” he told BBC Breakfast. “The fact is that the difference is a virtue with each Doctor. It’s not like you’re casting Tarzan, where you’ve got to have somebody who looks good in a loin cloth. It can be anything.”
Piper, 26, has taken a career break following the birth of her first child last month. Frankly, I think she is overrated, but I do feel the only reason she shouldn’t be considered for the role is that she is hugely annoying, with a limited acting range.
The fifth series will film late next year and early in 2010, which would give Piper time to spend with her young child. Other contenders include former EastEnders star Tom Ellis, Paterson Joseph, who has appeared in previous episodes of the show and would be the first black Doctor, David Morrissey (who appears in the Christmas special, entitled The Next Doctor) and James Nesbitt, star of Cold Feet.
Tennant ended months of speculation over his future in the role by announcing his departure live at last week’s National Television Awards. He will now complete four special episodes of Doctor Who, which will air in 2009 in place of the traditional spring series.
The 2010 series will mark a new direction for the show because Russell T Davies, the man credited with reviving the classic series for modern audiences, will be stepping down as executive producer. Bafta-winning writer Steven Moffat, who created popular comedy drama Coupling, will succeed Davies as lead writer and executive producer of the fifth series. I hear he has already got cracking with storylines.
• The BBC has a good dose of drama coming up, with Kenneth Branagh as Swedish detective Wallander. Produced by Andy Harries, the ITV man behind a host of popular dramas including Cold Feet, this is a must see in the schedule.
For those with a strong constitution, Martin Shaw in religious drama Apparitions is also worth a look. The production follows the story of a Catholic priest battling demons hellbent on destroying his life and the lives of those around him.
At its core, this is story about good and evil - and it is really nice to see a priest in a drama that isn’t an alcoholic or a womaniser, but just a man committed to the church. The series tips its hat to The Exorcist, with scenes of demonic possession, but the real test for viewers will be the scene where a man is skinned alive. Not one to watch while you are having your dinner.
- Liz Thomas writes a regular column on television for the print edition of The Stage. This column also appears in this week’s issue, dated November 6. For more on what you can read this week, see our In The Paper blog.