The Doctor will regenerate. In the narrative of Doctor Who, it’s happened before and will happen again: The lead actor who plays the Time Lord will change. Technically, the character is the same person, but their entire body is rebooted, often alongside their personality. With incumbent Doctor Jodie Whittaker on her way out in 2022, a new Doctor is coming. But one rumor suggests this transition will be bigger than usual.
Will Hugh Grant be the next Doctor Who?
According to rumors published in Metro, rom-com stalwart Hugh Grant is “in talks to be new Doctor Who,” and the show itself will get a “Marvel-style makeover.”
For now, this is just hearsay. There’s a very good chance that Hugh Grant will not be the new incarnation of the Doctor, and that incoming showrunner Russell T. Davies is thinking about someone else entirely. It’s also possible that Hugh Grant could be in the next version of Doctor Who as another character.
Since 1963, the role of the Doctor was played by a white man 13 times, a streak that changed in 2017 when Jodie Whittaker became the first onscreen female Doctor. Then, in 2020, Jo Martin appeared as the Fugitive Doctor and became the first Black woman to play the role. So if Hugh Grant — a 61-year-old white guy — becomes the Doctor, that would feel like a step back for representation. Unless we’re dealing with multiple new Doctor Who shows.
Russell T. Davies’ first crossover
In 2023, the new tenure of Doctor Who will once again be helmed by Russell T. Davies, the creator of Queer as Folk and the showrunner for Doctor Who during its 2005 relaunch through the final David Tennant specials in 2010. Without Davies’ original vision, the landscape of so-called “geek” entertainment in the early 21st century wouldn’t have existed.
The relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005 redefined the mainstream acceptance of complex and kooky science fiction in a way that no other series did. Post-2005 Doctor Who also brought an old UK sci-fi franchise to America in a way that no version of the series had ever managed before. It turned David Tennant, Matt Smith, Karen Gillian, and Jenna Coleman, into stars. You don’t have Nebula (Gillian) in the MCU without Doctor Who, to say nothing of Matt Smith’s upcoming turn in Morbius.
And during the first tenure of Russell T. Davies there was a shared universe of Doctor Who properties. In the 2008 Season 4 finale, “Journey’s End,” Davies created a crossover between three distinct TV series running simultaneously: Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures. This was an Avengers moment for Doctor Who, and if you’re not sure if that inspiration was intentional consider that Davies named Torchwood leader Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) after Agatha Harkness from the the Marvel comics.
Multiple Doctor Whos?
The return of Davies and the rumor of a big-name actor playing the Doctor all seems to lead to one big conclusion: Doctor Who is getting rebranded to the point that what we see might scan as a reboot.
Let’s say Hugh Grant does become the Doctor in a relaunched version of Doctor Who. A few sources have noted that it seems Davies wanted Hugh Grant to play the Doctor back in 2005, so it’s possible. And if we do get a big Hollywood star as the Doctor, it’s also possible that it’s not the only version of the Doctor we’ll be seeing. Davies has made it clear he wants to do something like what Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek currently do on TV; create multiple shows featuring different Doctors.
As reported by the RadioTimes, here’s what Davies said back in January 2021:
“There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.”
The recent Metro rumors about Hugh Grant have echoed this sentiment. If Davies is serious about bringing back “the Tenth [David Tennant] and Eleventh Doctors [Matt Smith] together” fans would lose their minds. But what this hypothetical suggestion hints at is much bigger.
If all of these rumors and speculative pitches shake out, the end of the era of the 13th Doctor (Whittaker) could lead to an explosion of several new Doctor Who incarnations. And, because the Doctor is all about time travel, we could see a lot of old Doctors again soon too.
The final Jodie Whittaker Doctor Who specials air during 2022, with her “regeneration” episode expected for Fall 2022. Season 14 is expected in 2023.