Helen Mirren says she wants to play Doctor.
Not a “sidekick” but a proper Doctor, what with a screwdriver and everything. Everyone thinks this is a great idea. So what’s the harm at letting such an accomplished actress spend a regeneration zipping across time and space as the first Timelady in this venerable franchise?
Well, the following for starters:
• It’s a gimmick An aged science fiction franchise will never be the permanent home for Helen. Although a one season run as the last child of Gallifrey isn’t the worst thing in the world, the greatest heights reached by the current incarnation of the series has come on the backs of two actors for whom the Doctor was the biggest stage they’ve reached. Both Matt Smith and David Tennant saw the massive opportunity of a beloved character became the Doctor.
This will simply be the next in a line of great roles for Mirren.
• It’s an unnecessary complication for an already too complicated premise There is already so much baked into the concept of DW. Each episode deals with time loops and collapsing realities and the rules of a ever shifting timeline that either can or cannot be changed depending on the whims of the writer’s room. So we really need to add a massive gender identity complication for our central character who doubles and the expert in every situation no matter how muddled?
• It’s a young role Can Helen, who turns 67 in 2012, shout “run!”, clasp the hand of a companion and hightail it out of danger whilst Dalek laser fire peppers the wall behind her? Yes. Would it be as visually dynamic as an actor a third of her age? No. DW as we know it today is an action series relying on a spry hero.
Hollywood folks like to classify young actors by asking if they “can hold the gun.” Meaning, if they were cast in a action movie would they be believable as the good cop who’s in too deep and has to shoot 14 drug dealers to escape an abandoned marina?
Although Hellen has played an action role as recently as last year’s Red, I simply don’t think it would hold up over the length of a season.
Let me wrap this up by saying that Mirren’s quote was an off handed comment and likely nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. However, with Matt Smith creeping up on Tennant’s episode number whispers about a new Doctor are only going to increase and we are going to find ourselves thinking about who “can hold the sonic screwdriver” more and more.