Doctor Who: We’ve had 50 years of the same thing - isn't it time for a black actor to step into the tardis?

It’s time for a change, and the sad truth is that we seem to be decades behind our American counterparts when it comes to television casting

Share
Related Topics

The Doctor Who rumour mill went into overdrive on Saturday, following the announcement of Matt Smith’s departure come Christmas.

While thousands of Whovians went into mourning, many more started to speculate who would be Smith’s replacement as the Time Lord.

The same old questions were thrown up yet again. Will the Doctor be female? Will the Doctor be black? Both? Will it confuse the younger members of the audience, sending them reeling through the time space vortex?

The answer to the last question is no. If children can get their heads around complex story arcs that leave some adults bemused, then seeing the Doctor regenerate into a woman or someone of a different race is nothing special. The suggestion that an actor has to be white and male to play the Doctor is as absurd as suggesting that only a Caucasian male is allowed to be Prime Minister.

The whole argument smacks of racism and misogyny, giving the impression that there are many fans out there with a myopic view and limited imagination. The truth is that it’s time for a change - whether it is race or gender. We’ve had 50 years of the same thing. Even the creator of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry had more vision with his series, which featured black, Asian and female characters – heck, there was even a Russian crew member on the Enterprise, and this was at the height of the Cold War. Talk about radical thinking.

Considering that Star Trek aired in 1966, three years after Doctor Who, the show excelled in its diverse casting from the start. It even featured a controversial interracial kiss, a biggie considering America’s shameful history of segregation and racial tensions. Even though Britain does not have the same poor record on race relations, it was an American who managed to produce a television programme that saw beyond race and gender lines. If Star Trek can feature a black captain and a female character, then why is Doctor Who still stuck in the past?

Last week the show was accused of being racist by a group of academics, who said that the lack of ethnic minority characters showed the limited scope of Doctor Who’s creators. While we finally saw black companions in the form of Mickey Smith played by Noel Clarke and Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones, we are still waiting for a black Time Lord.

Unfortunately, this argument goes beyond Doctor Who, and in my opinion it is something inherent within the British television industry. Just flick through the channels, how many black or ethnic minority characters do you see in lead roles? The sad truth is that we seem to be decades behind our American counterparts when it comes to television casting. Only last year Homeland star David Harewood lambasted the UK television industry for its lack of roles for black and ethnic minority actors. He even said that Idris Elba went to America because of the greater opportunities there. After his turn as drug dealer Stringer Bell, Elba came back to the UK a huge star and ended up as the lead in Luther. British television is still has a long way to go.

While some die-hard fans may see a female Doctor as a step too far, a black Time Lord may be more palatable for them. Chiwetel Ejiofor is emerging as the frontrunner, with a 7/1 chance of becoming incarnation number 12, according to bookmakers. He would certainly make a fine Time Lord. While he can exude warmth there is a dark side to him, as seen in The Shadow Line and Serenity. It would also be a departure from the slapstick eccentricity of Smith’s portrayal of the character. Each Doctor needs to be different enough from their predecessor to create a distinction between the incarnations in order to revitalise the series for a new generation. 

If the show is truly colour blind when it comes to characters, then the role should go to a either a black or a female actor because Doctor Who is always about change. Lead writer Steven Moffat said that in the 50th year of Doctor Who, we should be looking ahead, not back. He’s right - it is about moving forward and keeping the show fresh. Whatever the outcome over the coming weeks and months, I’m hoping for something new.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick