Op-Ed: Could Eric Lampaert be a ‘wild card’ candidate for Doctor Who?

Posted Jun 15, 2013 by Mathew Wace Peck
Since the BBC confirmed Matt Smith would be leaving Doctor Who, a long list of names of potential replacements has surfaced, most are well known. But will the successful candidate turn out to be the “wild card”? If so, what about Eric Lampaert?
Eric Lampaert wears Captain America
Eric Lampaert wears Captain America
Eric Lampaert
Lampaert (pronounced, “Lamb Pear,” according to his own website) is a relatively unknown young actor and comedian, whose TV career to date has included parts in Cardinal Burns and The Midnight Beast and a variety of programmes for BBC 3, Channel 4, Channel 5, E4 and ITV2, as well as last year’s Life’s Too Short, the BBC 2/HBO drama vehicle for Warwick Davis, written by Ricky Gervais.
In recent years, he’s been at the Edinburgh Festival and has appeared in a number of short films, leading to a nomination in the 2011 Raindance Short Film category. He’s also had small parts in the films Rise of the Foot Soldier (2007) and Burke and Hare (2010).
As for playing the Doctor, I'm not the only one who thinks Lampaert would be worth looking at, it seems, as this tweet from G&LH suggests: "What about casting #EricLampaert (aka @TheGumShow) as the #TwelfthDoctor in #DoctorWho ?"
Taking Doctor Who’s current showrunner Steven Moffat at his word – he was quoted last week by BBC producer Ed Stradling as saying that they had only just started looking for an actor to play the Twelfth Doctor – the field would appear to still be wide open.
Despite the claim last weekend, first made by the Sunday Telegraph, that Rory Kinnear had definitely been offered the part, we must assume that the new Doctor has not been chosen. Therefore, in theory at least, any reasonable actor could be the One – or, rather, the Twelfth!
What's in a name?
Since 2003, when the search was on for the Ninth Doctor, whenever the TARDIS occupancy becomes vacant, household names abound, both in the press and with the bookies. This time is no exception and – although the BBC is keeping tight-lipped as to who “Who” will be – over the past fortnight, many well-known actors have emerged as potential candidates.
Those names include, but are in no way limited to, Helen Mirren (The Queen), David Harewood (Homeland), Chris Addison (The Thick of It), Miranda Hart (Call the Midwife), Idris Elba (Luther), Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Z for Zachariah). Not to mention, Harry Potter actors Rupert Grint and Domnhall Gleeson, Merlin actors Ben Daniels and Alexander Vlahos, and Doctor Who actors Harry Lloyd and Russell Tovey.
However, the fantasy writer and occasional Doctor Who scriptwriter Neil Gaiman – who revealed to DWM recently that he was once keen to be showrunner of the long-running science-fiction drama series himself – has insisted that, as Smith was when he was announced as the Eleventh Doctor in 2009, the Twelfth Doctor should be someone virtually unknown.
Via his official Tumblr account, Gaiman wrote, “I actually like it when The Doctor is a relatively unknown actor, or one without one huge role that made them famous. I like to see The Doctor as The Doctor, and an actor who doesn't bring baggage is a grand sort of thing. A star waiting to happen. So I don't want to see […] any of the famous names people are suggesting. I want to see The Doctor. I want to be taken by surprise. I want to squint at a photo of the person online and go, ‘But how can that be The Doctor?’ Then I want to be amazingly, delightedly, completely proven wrong, and, six episodes in, I want to wonder how I could have been so blind. Because this is the Doctor. Of course it is.”
Does Eric Lampaert fit the Gaiman Test?
As far as exposure to the wider television-viewing public is concerned, Lampaert fits Gaiman’s criteria. But can he act? From what I’ve seen, the answer is yes. Is he Doctor material? Well, obviously, Moffat et al are much better placed to answer that one. But, for what it’s worth, I think so.
The first time I consciously saw Lampaert was earlier this year when he appeared, as himself, on BBC 3’s How to Win Eurovision, talking about the competition ahead of this year’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest. At the time, for some reason, he screamed the Doctor to me. What’s great about Lampaert (and this isn’t an insult) is that he’s very odd-looking: you can actually believe he’s an alien from outer space.
A quick look online made me realise I’d been watching him for some weeks on that Bruce Willis Sky Broadband ad – you know, the one where the Die Hard actor walks into the call-centre office in his pyjamas, demanding that he wants “bigger”. Lampaert is the gawky lad who tries to deal with him before Willis leaves with the girl.
Since then, I’ve been watching various videos of him on the Internet. He’s hilarious. I know that being hilarious isn’t the only attribute needed to play the Doctor; after all, humour in Doctor Who – and there’s loads of it – only works when its delivered by those – in front of and behind the camera – who are taking the show seriously. Watching Lampaert’s spoof acting showreel reminds me of Les Dawson – pretending not to be able to play the piano when, actually, he's obviously an accomplished pianist – and tells me he’d do just that.
In some ways, he comes over a bit like a young Tom Baker – “tall, gawky limbs, all teeth and hair”, as Who’s Laughing Now put it after seeing him at a recent Edinburgh preview session in Coventry – which did him no harm at all.
OK, at 26, Lampaert is young. But that’s the age that Smith was when, in 2009, he was announced as the actor chosen to play the Eleventh Doctor – and he’s turned out to be excellent. In my opinion, one of the best.
Doctor Who casting: a brief summary
Over the decades, some of the actors cast as the Doctor have been well known, others, as with Smith, less so. Many older, but one or two, again as with Smith, relatively young.
The first three – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee – were all well established by the time they entered the famous blue police box.
Hartnell, cast against type, had made a career playing austere army types. Pertwee, having already had a successful career as a comedian and comedy actor, went against expectations and played the Third Doctor dead straight, which is probably just as well, given that his immediate predecessor, the established film actor, Troughton, had adopted a whimsical persona for the Second Doctor, which in itself had been in contrast to Hartnell’s more no-nonsense original.
Tom Baker, as the Fourth Doctor, was at that time far less well known than his three predecessors. Although he had appeared in a number of films, including having played Rasputin in the 1971 movie Nicholas and Alexander, Baker was a newcomer to TV audiences. In fact, at the time of his casting, the then 40-year-old (back then – 1974 –the youngest actor to play the part) was “in between acting jobs”, working as a builder’s labourer!
However, and despite his seven-year stint in Doctor Who having ended more than 30 years ago, his Doctor – toothy grin, floppy hat and 14-foot multicoloured scarf – is the one that is still the most widely identified with the series. Indeed, Addison addressed the rumours of his being connected with the search for a new Doctor by appearing on Thursday night’s Mock the Week, dressed in just that way.
The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, booked the trend – both in terms of already being a current and very well known television actor and, at 29, much younger than any of the previous actors to have taken on the role.
Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann – the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, respectively – were far less well-known household names when they each acquired the key to the TARDIS; although Baker had been so in the 1970s, as Paul Merroney in the ongoing popular British drama series, The Brothers, and McGann had made a name for himself in the film cult classic Withnail and I.
In 2005, Cracker alumni actor, Christopher Eccleston, gave the show some gravitas when he donned the Ninth Doctor’s leather jacket. That same year, though it’s perhaps a little hard to fathom now, Eccleston’s successor, David Tennant, was much less known at the time.
Of course, John Hurt is probably the best-known actor to be cast as the Doctor, but we’ll have to wait till Doctor Who returns on Saturday, 23 November 2013, for its 50th anniversary special . to see how his “Doctor” is explained away.
Who is the Doctor?
Three other main arguments have emerged this past couple of weeks as to who should or should not be the next Doctor: should it be (a) a woman? (b) a non-white person? (c) an older actor?
Two of the female actors – Mirren and Hart – who have been suggested as possible candidates to play the first female Doctor seem to have ruled themselves out. Mirren , whose odds earlier this week on being the first female Doctor Who were 25/1, responded, “Oh, please – I would put much longer odds on it than that.”
However, she went on to say that it certainly was time for a woman to be cast. “I’m so sick of that man with his girl sidekick [and] could name at least ten wonderful British actresses who would absolutely kill in that role.” Meanwhile, Hart quipped, “Really? Who, me? Are you serious? That’s hilarious!”
Elsewhere, in a YouGuv poll taken to see who should play the next Doctor, it emerged that among those people taking part who identified themselves as UKIP voters, 61 per cent said he should be male, 50 per cent that the Doctor should remain white-skinned, and 36 per cent believed the actor playing the Doctor should not be gay.
Oddly, 36 per cent believed the actor playing the Doctor should not be gay. Odd because, unlike a woman or, say, a black actor – who would look female or black! – an openly gay actor would still look male (or female), black or white!
Who’s Who?
Personally, whoever is chosen – man or woman, young(er) or old(er), gay or straight, black or white (or none or combination of the above) – as long as they want the part, take it seriously and, obviously, can act, I’ll be happy.
To paraphrase the late Nicholas Courtney, a.k.a the Doctor’s friend, the Brigadier: whoever it will be, the Doctor’s a splendid chap … all of them; past, present and future.
That said, I’d be happy to see Eric Lampaert at the TARDIS console, waving his sonic screwdriver, staring wide-eyed into time and space.