Recasting the early Doctors

Tim Treloar is to employ his uncanny impression of Jon Pertwee in playing the Third Doctor in Big Finish’s upcoming Third Doctor Adventures range. Hear him above.

Some are hesitant about recasting the early Doctors, anxious that it would be unconvincing or would be an insult to the legacies of the original actors. I have no such qualms. I’m all for recasting the First, Second and Third Doctors on audio, and, when the time comes, all the current Big Finish Doctors when they are no longer available. I think Tim Treloar has shown (or will show) that recasting the Doctors can be an almost seamless fit, if the right person can be found. Jon Culshaw’s Tom Baker impression also springs to mind as an almost perfect voice double, as well as Frazer Hines’ Patrick Troughton impression. Impressionists will never be able to replicate precisely the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the original actors, who understand their characters better than an impressionist ever could, but we can’t really ask for much more, given we no longer have the original actors with us.

As for the concern that recasting the established Doctors would be an insult to the original actors’ legacies, I think it is a fair concern, but not one I share. As I see it, the various incarnations of the Doctor were characters in themselves who were played by their respective actors. The confusion comes from conflating the actors with the characters. Patrick Troughton played the Second Doctor, but he, personally, was not the Second Doctor: he was Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor is a fictional character who looks and sounds like Patrick Troughton, but they are not one and the same. To be sure, it is fair to intimately identify the original Doctors with their respective actors, as those actors shaped and defined their Doctors — thus the desire, in recasting established Doctors, to find impressionists who can imitate as closely as possible the original actors, and not people who sound completely different to how the Doctors sounded on television. But I see no more issues in recasting the early Doctors than I do in periodically recasting James Bond (who does not regenerate, as the Doctor does, but is supposedly always the same person). If it lets us hear the First, Second and Third Doctors again, why not go for it?

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