It is a debate that hasn't actually run for the entire 900 year span of the Time Lord's life though it can sometimes feel that way who should be the next incarnation of the Doctor and is it time for a woman and or a non white actor
The latest outbreak of speculation was sparked by the announcement that Matt Smith who has held the Tardis keys for the past three years will bow out with what the BBC described as a spectacular exit taking in a November episode marking the show's 50th anniversary followed by a Christmas special.
Almost immediately bookmakers issued odds on who might be the 12th Doctor installing Rupert Grint and Russell Tovey as joint favourites for little other apparent reason than respectively one co starred in the Harry Potter series while the other has been previously and wrongly linked with the role.
Newspapers joined in the game naming Olivia Colman as a possible choice for Steven Moffat the BBC1 show's current mastermind again seemingly for little other reason than that the Broadchurch star is currently very popular.
Another common avenue for conjecture was the notion of a black actor taking over. Names here included Idris Elba and Ashley Walters.
Those in the parallel TV and Doctor Who industries stressed however that such tips are not only guesswork but ill informed guesswork. Before Smith was anointed to replace David Tennant at the start of 2009 about 16 months before his series began pundits were busy tipping the likes of James Nesbitt Catherine Tate Catherine Zeta Jones Paterson Joseph and even David Walliams.
However the precedent is that of the 11 Doctors chosen so far only Peter Davison was already a significant name plus Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston both somewhat different in that they were re launching the programme.
I love all the speculation. It's never any of the names who get touted said Tom Spilsbury editor of Doctor Who magazine. This debate about a woman taking the part has gone on forever. When Tom Baker left he said 'Good luck to the new Doctor whoever he or she may be.' Since then the media hasn't let go of it and that was 32 years ago.
A female doctor would have to be led by the plot rather than tokenism or novelty he argued If you come up with a good storyline that's a good reason to do it. But 'Why not ' isn't really enough in itself. The very important thing with the Doctor is that you are trying to convince the audience that it is literally the same person each time. You want to have someone who's a bit different but not so radically different. I'm not saying it couldn't work but you're making it tougher for the audience.
Those in TV add that the replacement will be most likely closer to Smith's age than say William Hartnell who was 55 when he became the first Doctor in 1963. It is a young show and it has by and large a young audience said Andy Harries formerly head of drama for Granada. I think an older Doctor has less appeal to the kids these days. I think they would have to go young.
One TV agent who asked not to be named said he felt the most likely big change would be a non white lead For it to be an unknown black or Asian actor someone of great flamboyance like Smith is more likely than it being a woman.
But he added very little could be predicted If you look at the history of the things he's done nobody but Moffat would have cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes or Matt Smith as Doctor Who. The only thing you can expect is the unexpected.
Spilsbury however dismissed as ill founded the idea the actor would have to be young pointing to the success of The Sarah Jane Adventures a Doctor Who children's spin off starring Elisabeth Sladen then in her 60s The idea that children won't relate to people who are much older just isn't true.