The tides turn, the Earth spins, nations rise and fall – and another actor is suddenly swept into the heated world of Doctor Who rumour, linked with the series’ central role and harassed about it in interviews for the rest of their careers. Truly, the passage of time continues afresh.


The latest victim of the Whomour mill? Years & Years singer and It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander, who various newspapers are now reporting is the dead-on certainty to succeed Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor after her (not-yet-confirmed) departure from Doctor Who.

“Olly is on the verge of being announced as the new Doctor. Negotiations are at an advanced stage,” a source told the Sun, adding that this was “definitely happening”.

But is it? Sometimes, the tone of certainty in these kind of reports can have them taken as gospel, and already some fans do seem to have taken on the idea of Alexander’s casting as something that’s officially happening. But at the moment, Whittaker’s exit hasn’t even been confirmed (though it does seem likely), let alone the hunt for a successor. Could these papers have really stumbled on the truth so far ahead of time?

On the face of it, obviously that’s possible – it’s what newspapers do. But it’s worth noting that the BBC has successfully kept the identity of upcoming Doctors secret over the last couple of years, with the real actors only starting to dribble out a day or two before the official unveiling (and sometimes later – I remember a colleague who went to Peter Capaldi’s announcement show absolutely convinced Ben Daniels was going to walk onstage).

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Of course, the fact that they haven’t managed to discover the truth before doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have this time. No matter how many levels of secrecy you have, it only takes one person of mention it offhand to a friend, who then mentions it to another, and the whole thing’s blown.

But I’m also old enough to remember four years ago when many of the same papers were swearing blind that Death in Paradise’s Kris Marshall was the official successor to Peter Capaldi, which obviously didn’t quite turn out how they hoped.

"Kris Marshall has already joined the cast and will regenerate at the end of this series, not in the Christmas special," a source reportedly told the Mirror at the time.

"They won't risk a woman Doctor. They want a David Tennant type."

Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman in Death in Paradise.

As it turned out, these reports were somewhat inaccurate (to say the least) and a “woman Doctor” was announced about three months later. And after the Jodie Whittaker dust settled, it seemed clear that Marshall was just the “type” of actor people were expecting to be the Doctor, and the rumours sprung up around that. Or, as former columnist Scott Bryan has put it today…

Generally speaking, the recent modern Doctors have been unexpected and different from the incarnation before, whether through their gender (Whittaker) their comparative age (Peter Capaldi) or just their lack of name recognition (at the time, Matt Smith).

Of course, Alexander would be very different to Jodie Whittaker, and a groundbreaking appointment in his own right as the first gay actor to play the Doctor. But he is also a very buzzy young actor fresh off acclaimed Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin, which featured a scene where his character faced off with the Daleks (on set, as a 1980s Who actor). In other words, he’s the sort of person people think would star as the Doctor – even if he never does.

If this story had come out of the blue, its sheer randomness might be convincing. When bets started to rise on Pearl Mackie being Peter Capaldi’s new companion, it was easier to believe because it really had come from nowhere, Mackie’s relative lack of screen credits making it unlikely to have been made up.

But these Olly Alexander rumours didn’t come from nowhere – he’s been noted as a potential candidate for months, ever since his It’s a Sin writer (and former Doctor Who showrunner) Russell T Davies was cornered into imagining him in the role in January.

Olly Alexander in It's A Sin
Olly Alexander in It's A Sin Channel 4

"Olly would make a marvellous Doctor Who," Davies told SFX Magazine, while for his part, Alexander did also seem keen.

"I think it would be amazing," he told Heart Breakfast earlier this year. "It's an amazing role, and an amazing show.

"I mean, if I was [doing it] do you think I'd be able to tell you?" he added. "It's true I am very indiscreet but my lips are sealed."

Since then, various “what-if” lists have included him, former series actors have been asked their opinion of his theoretical casting and he’s had his odds slashed on bookies’ lists of potential next Doctors (alongside the likes of Michaela Coel, Richard Ayoade and, once again, Kris Marshall). He’s been one of the favourites for a long time – and conversely, that makes me feel like it’s less likely to be him. It just feels a bit…obvious.

Of course, if Alexander was cast in the role I'm sure he’d do a brilliant job, and I’d be interested in seeing what he brought to the Whoniverse. Assuming he was up for giving up his singing career (another factor worth considering) he’d be a genuine breath of fresh air as the Doctor, who could bring in a new generation of fans.

And so in a few months, if he is officially confirmed I’ll be happy to have been proven wrong. But for now? I think the search for a new Time Lord continues – assuming that it’s even started at all.


Doctor Who returns to BBC One later this year. Check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide for more.