doctor who ben daniels rory kinnear david harewood 'Doctor Who': Could Matt Smith's replacement be Ben Daniels, David Harewood or Rory Kinnear?With Matt Smith officially on his way out after three seasons as “Doctor Who,” speculation is running rampant as to who will land the coveted role of the Twelfth Doctor.

Theories range from the wacky (former companion Billie Piper!?) to the preposterous (Benedict Cumberbatch, who is a little busy making a ton of movies, not to mention “Sherlock”), but the frontrunners have narrowed down to a credible bunch.

Topping the list is “Law & Order UK” star Ben Daniels (pictured above, left), who at 48 years old would be a notable departure from recent younger Doctors including the youngest ever, Smith. Best known for his work in British TV (including “Cutting It,” “The State Within” and “Merlin”) and theater, Daniels also recently co-starred as Adam Galloway on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Daniels currently leads the odds by a large margin on UK betting site and his name has quickly circulated through the British press as a likely successor. But given the scramble to find out any information at all in the wake of Smith’s announcement, any rumors should be taken with a grain of salt.

Other frequently mentioned candidates include Rory Kinnear (who played M’s chief of staff in “Skyfall” and pictured in the center above) and David Harewood (recently CIA director David Estes on “Homeland” and pictured above, right).

Harewood previously appeared in the two-part “who” episode “The End of Time,” which marked the transition from the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) to the Eleventh (Smith). While it would be highly unusual for an actor who previously appeared on “Who” to suddenly become the Doctor, it’s not unprecedented. Colin Baker played the Sixth Doctor from 1984-86 after previously playing the character Commander Maxil in 1983’s “Who” story “Arc of Infinity.”

Two former “Being Human” stars have also been mentioned as contenders: Russell Tovey, who is also a former “Who” guest star, and Damien Molony, who at the age of 29 would be a more age-appropriate love interest for the Doctor’s current companion Clara. That’s assuming the show continues to keep playing up their romantic sparks and Jenna-Louise Coleman continues with the show after Smith leaves.

More recognizable names like Chiwetel Ejiofor (“American Gangster”), Ben Wishaw (Q in “Skyfall”) and Rupert Grint (“Harry Potter”) seem like serious long-shots, given the franchise’s preference for casting lesser known actors in the role. Plus, there’s the production and promotion commitments the show requires, which surely played a part in Smith’s decision to leave in light of his blossoming film career, and may not be particularly appealing to a more established actor.

Then there’s always the controversial possibility that the Doctor could regenerate into a… woman. In which case, Olivia Colman — who played Margaret Thatcher’s daughter in “The Iron Lady” and currently stars in the acclaimed series “Broadchurch” opposite Tennant — has emerged as the “favorite.”

What direction do you think the show should take with the next Doctor? Vote in our poll below and let us know your personal pick in the comments.

Posted by:gberkshire