Three Reasons Jenny Agutter Should Be The Next Dr. Who

I'll make no bones about it, I didn't care for Matt Smith and once Karen Gillan was no longer around upping the pretty factor, the last season of Dr. Who got old fast. I was already getting tired of River Song by the end of the fifth season and the decision to focus so heavily on her in the sixth and seventh seasons bored me to tears. The fact of the matter is that the Doctor has historically been largely asexual. While the chemistry between David Tennant and Billie Piper was undeniable and made for an interesting change as The Doctor and Rose played through their love story, in the course of Doctor Who Mythology it only really works as an aberration rather than the new normal. Frankly I would like to see a return to a Doctor who remembers that he is an alien and is as emotionally detached as a 900 year old time traveling super genius who is a misfit in his own society should be. Something modeled more on Tom Baker on Jon Pertwee's doctors than the soap opera leading men we've been getting instead.

To that end I think it's high time for a shake up in the casting. The next doctor needs to be older, less lonely, less angsty, more patrician, more eccentric, scarier, and female. In short I think the actor to take on the role next is Jenny Agutter.

1. Jenny Agutter has a solid history of solid performances with real complexity and gravitas in both television and film.

Agutter is probably best known for some of her lighter work like The Eagle Has Landed, but that shouldn't distract from the fact that she's also done some serious and impressive work with real depth. From the deep character study in the problems of colonialism in Walkabout to a very good performance as Desdemona in a BBC production of Othello opposite William Marshall and another as Rosaline in Love's Labors Lost, Jenny Agutter has proven that she has depth and skill at varied portrayals of complex characters. So Agutter's got the chops to bring some real weight to the part which would be a pleasant change from the David Tennant Matt Smith foppish court jester portrayals of the last Time Lord. But not only that, she also proved with her fearless portrayal of a vicious, conniving double agent in the first season of MI-5/Spooks that she is convincing in the villain role. That could be harnessed to bring back some of the Doctor's arrogance from the early days of the third doctor when he was exiled on Earth as a form of punishment rather than in love with human beings. That would be a nice change too.

2. Jenny Agutter has excellent SF credentials

Agutter's best known work is probably Logan's Run. That by itself is enough to earn her a position permanently lodged in the psyche of every fanboy in the world who hit puberty after 1978. But more to the point, not only was she the female lead in Logan's Run but Logan's Run is one of those few pre-Star Wars science fiction pictures, like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tarkovsky's Solaris, that are major crossovers with mainstream success and staying power. That's important because SF is a conservative and whiny community, and if there is going to be a female lead it has to get some buy in from the fanboys or the idea will tank and the suits will take it all away from the show runner and the next thing you know some asshole pretty boy like Richard Armitage or Robert Pattinson as the 13th Doctor will be in there opposite some playboy bunny making dewy eyes at him and that will be just horrible. So no, if there's going to be a female doctor it has to be someone with the SF street cred to make the sexism of the fanboys stay relatively dormant. There are only two ways to do that.

The first would be to cast someone in the role that takes away from Karen Gillan the title of "prettiest person ever to appear in a Doctor Who episode." That, however, would defeat the whole purpose of casting a female Doctor, which is to shake up the characterization and back away from the over reliance on sex appeal that the show has been relying on ever since the relaunch with Christopher Eccleston in the lead and Billie Piper making shop girl fluttery eyes at him. Not that the next doctor should necessarily be asexual. Since the reboot, its been clear that the doctor has a libido and that shouldn't go away. But it would be nice to see something interesting done with that rather than it just feeding the romance novel set pieces as the show has lazily chosen to do previously. And that is part and parcel of the third reason Jenny Agutter is perfect for the part, but we'll get back to that in a moment.

The second way you can avoid a fanboy revolt is to cast someone who is a luminary of SF with credentials stretching across her whole career. Agutter is uniquely qualified in that regard. Not only because of Logan's Run, but also for appearances on the Six Million Dollar Man, a couple of episodes of the 80s Twilight Zone revival, and of all things a guest spot on Red Dwarf as the roboticist who designed the android character Kryten. Most importantly, it's clear that she's willing to take herself and her reputation seriously. Her character on Spooks/MI-5 was a woman in late middle ages and Agutter, playing against type as a mousy office spinster, was stunning both as an atypical seductress and as a strangely compelling anti-hero in the role of double agent who, out of all the characters in the regular series, was the only one to walk away successfully from the agency without being broken, exiled or killed. So she's sophisticated enough a performer to make strange the character of the Doctor again while at the same time being firmly lodged in the brains of all the fanboys who would complain about any other woman in the part.

Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Jenny Agutter can be the first female Doctor.

3. Jenny Agutter has a sophisticated sex appeal that she carries off well while still looking and acting her age.

Agutter is 61 as of this writing, and she's still a knockout. Granted she probably isn't the fanboy masturbation fantasy that she was when she was doing regular full frontal nudity in her twenties, a tendency that led the show Coupling to describe the ultimate in screen nudity as "going the full Walkabout." But that's a good thing. Agutter is a mature woman who is still smoldering and sexy, but not in a centerfold, objectified spank mag sense. Rather, Agutter is sexy because she knows she's sexy and knows that the way a person is sexy at sixty-one is different from the way a person is sexy at 21, a lesson all of our media could stand to see more commonly demonstrated. But also because there's less expectation for a woman in late middle age to be sexual, there would be something shocking and refreshing to see an actor like Agutter to explore the libido of this lonely alien being that has lately been little more than a cartoon character.

And there would be a lot of questions to be explored there. What exactly is the gender and sexuality of a being that can change genders? We saw hints in David Tennant's occasional flirtation with John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness that at least the 10th Doctor wasn't strictly heterosexual. The Doctor has to be pretty liberal minded in any case since the only real romantic involvements that we've seen him display were with members of another species. But there's a real problem about the power dynamic of the doctor as a sexual being involved with humans. The doctor is 900 some years old and has a vast and sweeping knowledge of the nature of the universe and has mental capabilities that far outstrip what humans are capable of. Looked at objectively, its kind of disturbing to see him getting romantically entangled with less advanced species and much less experienced and intelligent women. This power dynamic could be interestingly highlighted and explored by taking away the Doctors inherent, assumed power that he has by virtue of his masculinity. Do that, but keep the libido, and you have a very complex situation with numerous questions about gender and sexuality to be answered, and it would take a truly fearless actor to confront them. Agutter is such a fearless actor and there are few that would match her in that realm.

There are other reasons that Agutter would be good for the role, but I think these three are enough. Give us Jenny Agutter as the 12th Doctor. It will revitalize a show that's in danger of going off the rails because you can't sustain tension in an ongoing narrative with a romance subplot when all the players are destined to leave the show for other roles. It will give the show an opportunity to return to some of the other, deeper character issues that made Tom Baker or Sylvester McCoy's Doctors compelling in a way that the rebooted Doctors just haven't been.

Comments

Jenny Agutter

Jenny would be marvellous as the new Doctor. By the way, the lovely lady is 60!

(1) Peter Capaldi=awesome.

(1) Peter Capaldi=awesome. And he's an older gentleman so this blends into...
(2) Maybe after Jenny's done with Call the Midwife. That series isn't going anywhere anytime soon; the ratings are too good. In the meantime, having Capaldi as Twelfth Doctor will help people adjust to an older Doctor. Keep it to one shock at a time, eh?