Now this is a surprise.
Rumours are abounding that Doctor Who’s next companion has been revealed, with Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker apparently set to be joined by none other than comic-turned-actor Bradley Walsh, star of Coronation Street, Law & Order: UK and ITV game shows like The Chase and Cash Trapped.
According to the Daily Mirror, the 57-year-old Walsh is set to be one of the series’ only companions older than the Doctor (Whittaker is 35), with a source telling them that he’s “super excited to be joining the cast of Doctor Who in such a key role,” even though it does mean he could exit some of the ITV game shows he hosts.
But just how much is there to this story? When contacted by RadioTimes.com, the BBC declined to comment, which could suggest there are some elements of reality to the claims – but then again their response could also serve to deflect attention from what’s really going on, letting the press and public consider the merits of Walsh (as many did when Kris Marshall was rumoured to be the Thirteenth Doctor and subsequently the companion) while another actor waits in the wings.
Still, perhaps that’s too much of a conspiracy theory mentality. Despite the unusual step of casting an older male companion (in recent years the role has been almost exclusively played by younger actresses), in other ways Walsh seems a very plausible candidate for the role.
Like Whittaker he’s worked extensively with new showrunner Chris Chibnall (he was the lead in Chibnall’s UK version of the Law & Order franchise) and he even has some history in the Whoniverse, having played an evil clown/Pied Piper figure in kid-friendly spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures back in 2009. And if Chibnall really is trying to appeal to a wider audience, Walsh could certainly pull in different viewers thanks to fans of his wide-ranging ITV work.
Plus, with the Doctor’s new gender change it would make a great deal of sense for the Time Lord to have a male companion this time around – so why not break another convention by making him older?
Despite all this, it’s always worth taking such casting stories with a pinch of salt – remember, numerous other names were bandied about with some degree of authority in the run up to Whittaker’s casting.
But for now, we’d say it’s worth keeping an open mind – because for the very first time the Doctor could be getting a companion who’s old enough to be her father.
Well, give or take 2,000 years, but you get the point.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this Christmas