Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch did consider taking over from David Tennant in the long-running television series, Doctor Who.
The actor, who is currently playing Sherlock Holmes in an updated version of the Arthur Conan Doyle series, which is set in modern times, first set tongues wagging after he inferred in an interview that he would only appear in Doctor Who if it was for more than one episode.
Last week, it was claimed that Matt Smith, who plays the eleventh Doctor, would quit the role for Hollywood after following completion of series 6 of the BBC’s revamped science-fiction drama, which is currently in production.
However, one of Doctor Who’s producers, Steven Moffat – who also works on Sherlock – attempted to dampen speculation, telling BBC News: "There is no vacancy. Matt Smith is the Doctor and he's been an astonishing success and – who knows – maybe he'll never regenerate again."
Today, the Sun reports that Cumberbatch did in fact consider taking over the part from Tennant, who played the tenth Doctor from 2005–2010:
David and I talked about it but I thought it would have to be radically different.
And [referring to the vast amount of Doctor Who tie-in merchandise] anyway I didn't really like the whole package – being on school lunchboxes.
The first episode of Sherlock premiered in the UK on Sunday to critical acclaim, with Cumberbatch receiving rave reviews from viewers and press alike. Overnight viewing figures show that it was watched by 7.5 million people, and, according to the Sun, the BBC are very pleased. "To say the top brass are made up by the Holmes ratings is an understatement. They really want to do more so the question is not really if, but how and when can we do them," they quote a BBC spokesperson as saying.
Both shows are produced by BBC Wales in Cardiff, and Moffat and Gatiss have already hinted that they’d like to make more episodes.
One of the favourite pastimes of Who fans is to speculate who’ll be the next Doctor. No sooner has an actor been named as the new Doctor, than bulletin boards and discussion groups are awash with suggestions.
Tennant often joked in interviews that practically the first thing he was asked when he took on the part was when was he going to leave!
As soon as Matt Smith was named as the eleventh Doctor – a whole year before we actually got to see him on screen – Internet users were asking, “Who should play the twelfth Doctor?”
There has been a long association between Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock’s co-creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, are both heavily associated with Doctor Who. Moffat recently took over from Russell T Davies (Torchwood) as Who’s head writer and executive producer, while Gatiss writes for, and has appeared in, the show. Gatiss also plays Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft Holmes, in Sherlock.
Furthermore, in a strange coincidence worthy of the Victorian sleuth himself, perhaps, Smith actually auditioned for Sherlock before auditioning for Doctor Who. Earlier this year, Moffat revealed to Doctor Who Magazine that Smith read for the part of Holmes's sidekick, Dr Watson: "I first saw Matt [...] a few days before his Doctor Who audition. He was auditioning – bizarrely enough, if you can picture this – for the role of Dr Watson in Sherlock."
However, the producers thought he wasn't right, that he'd be a perfect candidate to play Sherlock Holmes himself. Unfortunately for Smith, the part had already been won by Cumberbatch. A week later, Smith turned up at the auditions for the eleventh Doctor, and the rest is history.
But the connections don’t end there.
Doctor Who and the Hound of the Baskervilles
Tom Baker’s first TV appearance after relinquishing the role of the fourth Doctor in 1981 – a part he’d played for seven years – was as Sherlock Holmes in a BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Before that, in 1977, Baker had donned Holmesian attire for the Victorian-set adventure, The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
Peter Cushing, who appeared as the Doctor in two 1960s feature films, played Sherlock Holmes on a number of occasions, and holds the accolade of being the first actor to appear as Holmes in colour in the cinema – in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) – and in the 1968 BBC TV series.
Finally, Sherlock Holmes himself has appeared as a recurring character in a number of Doctor Who stories.