Ice witch, vampire, and Ancient One actor, Tilda Swinton, is anticipated to be regenerating aboard the TARDIS very soon. As Doctor Who is looking to replace Peter Capaldi in the role of the titular Time Lord, the Academy Award-winning Swinton keeps popping up in conversations. But how realistic is it, really, to place all bets on Swinton taking the TARDIS controls?
According to Daily Mail, “TV insiders” are certain Swinton (Doctor Strange, Only Lovers Left Alive) will be the next Time Lord. No word on who these supposed “TV insiders” are, but the betting odds certainly are in Swinton’s favor. Popular online betting group Ladbrokes currently has Swinton at a 7/2 chance of being the 13th Doctor, putting her solidly ahead of most other top picks, including Kris Marshall (Death at a Funeral, Love Actually), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, The Iron Lady), Maxine Peake (The Theory of Everything), and ever-present fan-favorite Ben Whishaw (The Lobster, Skyfall).
The casting of a new Doctor — which always marks a new era for the show, even when its direction doesn’t switch hands — inevitably riles the internet into a frenzy, revamping public interest. Calls for Capaldi’s 12th Doctor to regenerate into a female Time Lord have resounded far and wide, the loudest voices belonging to former Who actor (and 8th Doctor) Paul McGann, author Neil Gaiman, Rose Tyler actor Billie Piper, and even Steven Moffat himself.
Swinton certainly fits the modern stereotype of the Doctor, most firmly defined by Who favorites David Tennant and Matt Smith: tall, wispy, and impossibly quirky — maybe even a little manic. Smith’s departure from the role and Capaldi’s casting marked a change not only in the show’s style but in its audience as well — ratings declined, presumably because of a loss of interest due to the Doctor’s sudden cosmetic changes: He was no longer young and conventionally attractive. Swinton, at 56 years old, is no spring chicken, but she definitely has the star power and lacks the convention of being male.
Known for taking on both blockbuster and indie projects, it’s not unrealistic to think Swinton might have some sort of interest in Who. She’s proven herself unopposed to science fiction and fantasy films (look at Only Lovers Left Alive, Doctor Strange, Snowpiercer, The Chronicles of Narnia, and 2005’s Constantine). She was born in London, giving her the proper English accent the very-Scottish Tennant was expected to replicate when he had the role. She’s got high cheekbones and the vague, undefinable “alien” look all other modern Doctors have had.
But after the guessing games, the reasoning, and the dreaming of an ethereal vampire-witch taking on the good Time Lord name, reality sets in pretty fast.
“We’ll cast the role in the traditional way,” Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who’s upcoming showrunner, said when asked about casting the next Doctor. “Write the script, then go and find the best person for that part in that script. You couldn’t go out and cast an abstract idea… The creative possibilities are endless. But I have a very clear sense of what we’re going to do, without even knowing who’s going to play the part.”
Chibnall and the rest of the Who team are going to pick the best person for the part. That still doesn’t put Swinton out of the running. She would be, as many have pointed out, an excellent Doctor — all silent, cold fury, and piercing eyes. Just because she’d be good for the role, though, doesn’t mean BBC can afford her.
Smith was supposedly paid £200,000 per year (about $250,000), a major cut from Tennant’s rumored £1 million per year, which was said to be so much more due to Tennant’s more established name at the time of his casting. But Smith’s pay cut could also have been due to budgetary issues. The BBC is a public service broadcaster and gets the majority of its annual budget from a television licensing fee, which charges all British households, companies, and organizations using its services. In other words, the people would pay (heavily) for an actor of Swinton’s caliber: an Academy Award winner with a net worth of $10 million.
So, even if the bookies are betting in Swinton’s favor, don’t hold your breath for her version of the Doctor.