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8 actors who nearly played Doctor Who

Thursday 25th October 2018

Cue that iconic music because Doctor Who is back on our screens. With Peter Capaldi out, there’s a new Doctor and a whole new era as a woman takes over as the time-travelling troublemaker.

Broadchurch’s Jodie Whittaker is currently flying that big blue box to greatness, but what about the other famous faces who could’ve played the shapeshifting Time Lord? Here are 8 actors who nearly played the Doctor over the years.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

One of the most unusual casting rumours to circle the TARDIS was the idea that Catherine Zeta-Jones would play a female regeneration of the Doctor. David Tennant was coming to the end of his contract and the usual flurry of big names reached fever pitch.

Russell T. Davis wanted to cast a fellow Welsh actor, and in 2005, told The Telegraph that Zeta-Jones was his top tip. Ultimately, the reins were handed over to Steven Moffat and fans will know that the slightly gawky Matt Smith took over next.

Jeff Goldblum

A Goldblumin’ marvellous idea would’ve seen Jeff Goldblum swap T-Rexes for aliens with Doctor Who’s '90s relaunch. These days, Goldblum is still a gem of Hollywood thanks to a career resurgence in the likes of Thor: Ragnarok and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The casting of the Independence Day star never went further than a wishlist, although Goldblum was later offered a part as the Master in the TV movie -- it eventually went to Eric Roberts.

Joanna Lumley

There was once rife speculation that Ab Fab's Jennifer Saunder would portray the first female Doctor, but long before that, co-star Joanna Lumley was also on the cards.

According to The Telegraph, Sydney Newman (who helped create the show) thought that the only way to save Doctor Who from its ratings slump was to see the main character regenerate into a woman.

The idea was promptly shut down by the BBC, but Whovians will know that Lumley went on to play a female version of the Doctor in 1999’s Comic Relief sketch. Although not in official canon, Lumley played the Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death.

Bill Nighy

Before he was ruling the Seven Seas as Davy Jones, Bill Nighy could’ve hopped in the blue box and been the Doctor. Always a gentleman, Nighy won’t reveal which era of the Doctor he was supposed to play out of respect to the man who got the role.

Nighy told The Express that he rejected Doctor Who because he didn’t want the baggage that came with it. Although he has had starring roles in plenty of TV shows and movies, Nighy claimed that the fame of playing the Doctor would’ve been too much.

Brian Blessed

With his booming voice and larger than life persona, it’s easy to see why Brian Blessed was once linked to play the Doctor. The 82-year-old has frequently spoken about being offered the role as the Second Doctor, however, he famously dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.

Although Blessed didn’t get to put his own spin on the character, he later appeared as King Yrcanos in Colin Baker’s Trial of the Time Lord serial.

Alan Cumming

GoldenEye star Alan Cumming is poised to play James I in the current run of Doctor Who, but did you know he was once tipped to play the titular Doctor? In fact, Cumming was offered the job on two occasions.

Cumming told Listowel Writers’ Week that he turned down Doctor Who because he didn’t want to relocate to Cardiff. He’s since risen to even loftier heights thanks to his role on The Good Wife, and who knows, maybe Cumming could play a future incarnation of the Doctor.

Billy Connolly

Peter Capaldi isn’t the only gruff Scotsman linked to playing the Doctor. When the BBC was looking at the Paul McGann-led TV movie from 1996, the crass comedian was shortlisted to step inside the TARDIS.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Connolly revealed he would’ve given a much angrier portrayal of the Doctor. He admits that he was only told after McGann had been hired, but confessed, “I would have loved it. I'd have taken it."

Michael Jackson

Just when you think you’ve heard them all, what about Michael Jackson moonwalking his way to Gallifrey? In the late ‘80s, The Times reports that Paramount Pictures wanted a feature-length movie based on Doctor Who and eyed the King of Pop for a substantial role.

Although it has never been officially confirmed that the studio wanted Jacko to play the Doctor, enough speculation and hunting over the years has led fandom to this conclusion.

Jackson was at the height of his acting fame after Moonwalker, but if he’d passed on the part, Paramount was reportedly going to turn to Bill Cosby next -- and you thought hovering Daleks were weird.

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