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Series 10 of Doctor Who has come to end, and with it, Pearl Mackie’s single season as Bill Potts. Following the Christmas Special, Chris Chibnall will replace Steven Moffat as the Doctor Who showrunner, and Peter Capaldi will be leaving the role of the iconic Time Lord. It is clear that a new season is going to be a clean break with a new cast – so it’s unlikely that Mackie will return in any capacity.
The role of the Doctor’s Companion is a sought after role for any young actress based in the British Isles – often being a way to propel the lucky actress into stardom. Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan, and Jenna Coleman have each earned major roles after playing the companion.
There is a wide range in the type of actress who could play the role and it can be written to cater to the actress’ strengths – so let’s look at 10 actresses who should be considered.
Born in Japan and raised in Hong Kong and the UK, Kae Alexander is an actress from Japanese and Chinese heritage. During her career she has normally played Japanese and Chinese characters in British films and TV shows.
Alexander’s biggest role to date was in the BBC Three sitcom Bad Education, playing Jing, a British-Chinese student who has to suffer at the hands of her teacher’s casual racism and she scolds him in Cantonese, which he misinterprets. Alexander’s character was much smarter than her teacher and her character evolved from being an outright nerd to being a more arty individual, wearing more fashionable glasses, and suffering from bouts of ennui.
Since appearing in Bad Education, Alexander has had roles in shows like Fleabag and One of Us, whilst international audiences may recognize her as one of the Children of the Forest in Game of Thrones. She is also set to appear in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One.
Alexander’s heritage can bring something new to Doctor Who- a hard working determined young woman who has the wits to spar with The Doctor and would have a personal dynamic, being in the center of a culture clash, torn between her British surroundings and Chinese family.
Born and raised in Yorkshire, Jessica Barden has become an ever present presence in the indie British cinema scene, appearing in movies like Tamara Drewe, Hanna, and The Lobster. She has also had a recurring role in Penny Dreadful and is set to appear in the E4 comedy The End of the F***ing World. Barden has been acting since 1999 and one of her first major roles was in the popular British soap Coronation Street, similar to Jenna Coleman who appeared on rival soap Emmerdale.
Although Barden is only 24 (25 later this month), she has won a lot of praise for her performance on the stage and screen, and she has shown a terrific range between dramatic and comedic roles. Barden was the highlight in Tamara Drewe, playing one-half of a duo of teenage misfits who cause havoc in a small English village, outshining performers like Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, and Luke Evans. Even in movies where the reviews are mixed or poor, like In the Dark Half, Barden continues to be lauded by critics.
Barden has a youthful appearance, short stature, and a unique look. Her version of the Companion could be a seemingly ordinary young woman who ends up going on adventures with The Doctor and turns out to be more important than she realizes, like Amy Pond and Clara Oswald.
At 24 years of age, Liverpudlian actress Jodie Comer is on the rise and set to become a star. Comer has been acting since 2008 and during her career she has already appeared in major British shows like the comedy-drama My Mad Fat Diary, the first season of the BBC’s Doctor Foster, and led Starz’ historical drama The White Princess.
The role that truly showed Comer’s talents was as Ivy Moxam in the BBC Three miniseries Thirteen, playing a young woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and held captive for thirteen years. Comer was the best aspect of the series playing an obviously traumatized woman who was constantly nervous, twitching and irritable, yet also have moments of warmth when Ivy was with her old school boyfriend and her younger sister.
Comer clearly has the acting chops to play The Doctor’s companion, especially for the dramatic and emotional moments. It is only a matter of time before the young actress gets a leading role in a major film or TV show, so Chibnall should pick her up quickly.
Rosie Day is another actress on the rise in the UK. At 22-year-old, Day has been working as an actress since 1999, appearing in numerous TV shows and on the stage. Day first prominent role was in the horror-thriller The Seasoning House – playing a deaf-mute girl who’s made to work as a maid in a brothel in a war-torn Eastern European nation. It was a role that earned Day a lot of praise and her career continues to grow.
International audiences will know Day best for her role as Mary Hawkins in Golden Globe-nominated show Outlander, and throughout her career she has shown her range. Outside of playing a traumatized teenager trying to escape from sex traffickers, Day has been in comedies like Siblings – playing a goody-two-shoes student who ends up suffering from a lead character’s manipulations and a slutty teenager in the horror film Howl.
Day looks younger than she really is and stands at 5’2”. If Chibnall wants to mix up the formula, Day could play a street-wise teen on the mean streets of Georgian or Victorian England – a girl who has to lie, cheat, and steal to survive, and The Doctor gives her an opportunity to escape the horrors of her life and put her pickpocketing skills to good use. This is my favorite idea because it breaks from the Doctor Who norm.
Day is also a fan of the show and would jump at the chance to play The Doctor’s Companion.
26-year-old actress Mandeep Dhillon has become more recognizable on British television screen and she is the type of actress who would be considered a potential Companion for The Doctor. Dhillon first came to prominence when she played one of the four leads in the BBC Three sitcom Some Girls – a show that focused on four school friends who live on a South London estate (the British version of the projects). In Some Girls, Dhillon played a smart, if self-conscious, teenager who has bouts of psychotic rage, making her the most memorable character. Dhillon also portrayed another character with a fiery temper in another BBC Three sitcom, Fried. Dhillon would be able to play a feisty companion who is willing to tell off aliens, humans, and even The Doctor, when required.
Since those shows, Dhillon has appeared in the faux-documentary sitcom Hospital People, playing the production assistant to the resident DJ, a character with a lot more intelligence and common sense than the man she serves. American audiences will recognize Dhillon for her role as Chell in 24: Live Another Day.
Dhillon has already appeared in Doctor Who, playing Bill’s housemate in the episode “Knock Knock,” but appearing in the show didn’t stop Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan, and even Peter Capaldi returning to the show in different roles.
Aisling Loftus is the first of two actresses from Nottingham to make this list. Loftus has been acting since she was 10 and appeared in the usual array of TV shows that many British actors start their careers on (i.e. The Bill, Doctors, and Causality). She came to prominence in 2010, scoring roles in the BBC dramas Dive and Five Daughters, and the police procedural show Thorne: Sleepyhead. She has since gone on to appear in three seasons of Mr. Selfridge, the BBC six-part adaptation of War and Peace, and most recently the BBC miniseries Broken with Sean Bean.
Loftus first came to my attention with Dive, playing a teenage diving protégé who ends up falling for a bad boy played by Jack O’Connell and ends up getting pregnant. Whilst many of her roles have been on the serious side, Loftus showed her lighter side in the BBC’s version of The Borrowers and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as giving her experience with special effects filming. She is also set to appear in the action-comedy Salty with Antonio Banderas and Olga Kurylenko.
Loftus would be a solid all-rounder actress to play the Companion.
Best known for playing Gilly in Game of Thrones, Hannah Murray is an actress who has appeared in Skins (the show that Nicolas Hoult, Dev Patel, and Kaya Scodelario started their careers in), numerous indie films, and on the stage in London.
As Gilly, Murray plays a wildling who escapes with Samwell Tarly to save her son from being sacrificed to the White Walkers. Despite all the horrors she has seen,including fathering a child that’s the product of incest, witnessing the slaughter of Mole’s Town, and being on the receiving end of Randyll Tarly’s prejudicial opinions – Gilly is surprisingly well adjusted.
Murray has played seemingly upbeat, happy-go-lucky characters in her previous roles, characters that present a positive outlook, but in reality harbor some sort of personal problem, self-doubt, or a deep dark secret, like an eating disorder or suicidal thoughts. Murray could easily transfer these traits into a Companion – a girl who, on the surface, seems happy, but in reality longs for more – which The Doctor can provide.
Another Coronation Street alumni to make it onto this list is Sacha Parkinson – another actress who’s becoming more prominent in the UK. Even before she earned a role on ‘Corrie,’ Parkinson had a steady career appearing in shows in like The Bill, Shameless, Waterloo Road, and Doctors.
In Coronation Street, Parkinson played Sian Powers, a popular teenage girl who ends up falling for her best friend and enters into a same-sex relationship. Parkinson was on the soap for two years and, after leaving, she earned leading roles in The Mill, The Driver, and Mr. Selfridge.
Parkinson has the acting ability for the dramatic and emotional moments in Doctor Who, and her experience in historical dramas means she would be ready to dress up for the Doctor’s adventures.
The role of The Doctor’s Companion is not always restricted to well-known actors in British films and TV shows. Karen Gillan and Freema Agyeman were unknown actors appearing in episodes of British shows like Rebus and The Bill before graduating to a role on flagship BBC show. Pearl Mackie was a theater actor whose only TV appearance was one episode of Doctors before becoming Bill Potts. Even Matt Smith was an unknown before he became The Doctor.
There are few restrictions on the type of actresses who can play The Doctor’s Companion and the past showrunners have surprised audiences with their casting choices. With this in mind, my pick for a lesser known actress to play the companion is Katie Redford.
Redford is an actress from Nottingham in her 20s and has been carving out a path for herself on British TV: she has appeared in the comedy-soap Mount Pleasure, the medical soap Doctors, and the BBC one-off episode Young Hyacinth. Redford has mainly played ditzy characters on TV, but this hides the fact she is a smart young woman – she has been trained by the BBC Writers’ Room and the Soho Theatre Lab, and was placed on the BBC New Talent Hotlist of 2017 as a writer. She currently has a role as the competitive and intelligent teenager Lily Pargetter on the long-running radio drama The Archers.
Redford has also led 2 Girls 1 Flat, an amusing web-series where Redford’s character has to react to her flatmate’s idiotic antics with bemusement and eye-rolling and these are the reactions a Companion could have after The Doctor speaks a load of technobabble. It would be the role to push Redford to the next level.
Another Scouser to make it onto this list is Emma Rigby, an actress who has been acting since she was 13. Rigby’s first main role was in the teen soap Hollyoaks, playing the role of Hannah Ashworth for five years. Although Hollyoaks has a notorious reputation for its poor acting and ludicrous storylines, Rigby excelled in the show and won the Best Actress Award at the 2008 Soap Awards. Rigby’s biggest storyline was when her character suffered from anorexia, which earned her a lot of deserved praise.
Since leaving the soap, Rigby went on to star as the Red Queen in ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and on the BBC show Prisoners’ Wives, but both shows only lasted for one series. She also had appearances in shows like Ripper Street, Death in Paradise, and Inspector George Gently, as well as playing the female lead in heist film Plastic – she was the only likable character in that movie. In America, Rigby has mostly appeared in straight-to-DVD and TV Movies of dubious quality, but she can always find work in the UK.
Rigby is considered a sex symbol in the UK – she placed 98th on FHM 100 Sexiest of 2015, yet she has generally played down-to-Earth roles. And Companions tend to be ordinary people who are flung into extraordinary situations.
Rigby is also skilled with accents – besides from her native Scouse accent she can do a faultless Southern English accent.