5for5: Famous Actors Who Almost Became The Doctor


As the Whonivers buzzes with theories and opinions about who should be cast as the next Time Lord to man the TARDIS, we thought it a good time to look back on some of the most famous names who were (almost) Doctor Who!

The allure of what might have been. At it’s core, this concept is the driving force of the drama in any series about Time Travel. What would have happened if we bought a boat instead of a condo? Caught the 8:45 train instead of the 9:05? If the Doctor saved Adric?


Probably murdered by Tegan after correcting her grammar for the 18th time.


Last week we had some fun examining a “what if’ notion with a list of  5 Unproduced Episodes of Doctor Who that, had they made it to air would have drastically changed many aspects of the show. And for a series as long and storied as Doctor Who, there are many other alternate “timelines” that could have emerged had different decisions been made by the producers. Especially when it came to casting of the titular character. What impact might some of these well known actors made on Who History had they come to be?


5) HUGH GRANT – The rascal of Notting Hill was at the top of Russell T. Davie’s list when the series was revived, and although he was tempted by the offer Grant passed on the role of the 9th Doctor, fearing the show might be a dud. He’s said in the years since that he regrets the decision, but 2005 also marked the beginning of Grant’s disappearing act from Hollywood, so the rigours of a TV series probably didn’t appeal to him as much as sitting in his mansion drinking whiskey.

Correction: Very Expensive Whiskey

Correction: Very Expensive Whiskey


What Did We Miss? Grant is a gifted comedic actor with undeniable charm, but it has been decades since he stretched his drama chops. It’s tough to envision him pulling off the survivor guilt wracked wanderer with as much conviction as Christopher Eccleston did.


4) RICHARD GRIFFITHS – Harry Potter’s horrible Uncle was already an accomplished stage and screen thespian in England when he was offered the keys to the TARDIS not once, but twice. First as a successor to Tom Baker and again for the never produced Series 27 (Sylvester McCoy was meant to have handed over the role in the last serial of the aborted season)




What Did We Miss? The late Mr. Griffiths was a tremendous talent with an outstanding body of work in TV comedy and drama, so it’s a bit of shame we did not have the chance to see what he might have accomplished with the role. He certainly had the pedigree to have been a great Time Lord.


3) ERIC IDLE – The BBC’s attempt to re-lauch Who for a U.S. audience didn’t succeed, but it was no fault of the man who ultimately assumed the role of the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann. Yet he was far from the only actor considered…big names like Tom Hanks, Jim Carey and Harrison Ford were all approached to star in the 1996 TV Movie (airing on FOX) while the Beeb auditioned a boat load of locals. Among them was Monty Python alumni Eric Idle, who emerged as one of the favourites of the British side of the production. Idle’s age and Python recognition scared off the American producers, so the search continued.

No, I wasn't the Python who starred in Fawlty Towers, you bastard.

No, for the last time… I wasn’t the Python who starred in Fawlty Towers, you bastard.

What Did We Miss? While it’s maybe difficult to imagine he would have shaken off the Parrot Sketch baggage to have been taken seriously, Idle is a national treasure, and a brilliant man. His intelligence and timing might have made for a charming Doctor.


2) BILL NIGHY – When Hugh Grant declined the Doctor, RTD immediately went to his Plan B; Bill Nighy. This genre giant (Underworld, Shaun of the Dead, Harry Potter) also turned down the TARDIS, but in contrast to Grant Nighy’s concern was the show would be too good and the ensuing success might deprive him of privacy and film roles. Nighy did eventually appear in NuWho though, taking a delightful turn as a museum curator in Season Five’s Vincent And The Doctor

Bowties ARE cool, humans

Bowties ARE cool, humans

What Did We Miss? The jury is still out on whether Nighy is actually from another planet, so his casting as the Time Lord would have been a match made in geek heaven.


1) ANTHONY STEWART HEAD – Buffy’s Mentor was making a name for himself on American TV with his tour de force role in The Vampire Slayer TV series in the mid nineties, just at the time that FOX and the Beeb were looking for a Doctor. Head was apparently a finalist for the 1996 role (along with Tim Cury and the aforementioned Eric Idle) before the producers ordered another round of casting, and finally selected Paul McGann. But Head eventually materialized in the Whoniverse; first as a baddie in the 2001 webcast Death Comes To Time and then as the gleefully creepy Head Master Finch/Brother Lassar in School Reunion.

Would you think it weird for me to say David Tennant is as pretty as Buffy?

Would you think it weird for me to say David Tennant is as pretty as Buffy?

What Did We Miss? Head has all the acting tools to have made a compelling Doctor; intelligence, wit, charm and a dark quality that would have fit in perfectly in the revived series.







BERNARD CRIBBINS – Everyone’s favourite “Gramps” was on the shortlist to replace Jon Pertwee when he left the show in ’74, but lost out to Tom Baker’s hair.

MICHAEL JACKSON?? – This was should be taken with a small grain of sodium since it’s never been confirmed, but according to a 2013 book the King of Pop was approached by Paramount Pictures to appear in a big screen version of Who in the late 80s. Jackson was purported to have been a fan of the show and having recently released his own Sci Fi film (Moonwalker) was reportedly keen to sign on. Even more bizzarre was the studio’s second choice if Jackson had turned them down….Bill Cosby.

Just curious...does this sonic screwdriver thing have a sleep setting?

Just curious…does this sonic screwdriver thing have a sleep setting?


What do you think of our list? Did we miss any famous “almost” Doctor Whos? Let us know in the comments section!


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