It's a shame that 2009 will only have four lots of one hour specials. But such is life. Word from the man at the top is no permanent assistant for the specials, but instead a new assistant each time
Could Catherine Zeta-Jones be the next Doctor Who?
Russell T Davies' preferences for the first female doctor: Lesley Sharp (left) and Catherine Zeta Jones. Photograph: Linda Nylind/Reuters/Corbis
Departing Doctor Who executive producer and lead writer Russell T Davies said today that he wants Catherine Zeta-Jones or Lesley Sharp to play the series' first female doctor.
Speaking at a London press screening of the BBC1 Doctor Who Christmas special, The Next Doctor, Davies revealed it may take a while to fill the current time lord David Tennant's shoes.
He also revealed that the doctor would be without a permanent assistant next year, with a guest star filling the role instead in each of the four Doctor Who specials planned in place of a full 13-part series.
Tennant is due to leave the show, along with Davies after shooting next year's special episodes.
Davies will co-write the first two 2009 shows and the final spectacular – when Tennant bows out – alone, saying: "The big climax is mine, all mine."
When asked to give hints about next year's episodes, Davies said: "We'll be filming abroad. It's going to be exotic."
Davis was also questioned as to whether he would like to see a woman or a black doctor take over from Tennant at the end of next year. "I think the more it's talked about, the more likely it is to happen," Davies replied.
When asked about women he would like to see in the role he said: "Lesley Sharp or Catherine Zeta-Jones."
"It's a big deal to set up. Whoever becomes the doctor has got to take on a whole life. It's a lot of soul-searching to do," Davies added.
"The doctor will not have a constant companion next year, with a different star in each episode. We have got a great guest star lineup."
Sharp has already worked with Davies in ITV shows Bob and Rose and The Second Coming, as well as featuring in an episode of this year's fourth series of Doctor Who – Midnight.
Zeta-Jones's link to Doctor Who is a little more tenuous - she's Welsh, like Davies.
The job of choosing the next doctor, however, will fall to new executive producer and lead writer, Steven Moffat, rather than Davies. Moffat takes over from Davies for the 2010 series, which will begin filming late next year.
This year's Christmas Day Doctor Who special is due to air at 6pm on BBC1. Like previous episodes, The Next Doctor follows several plot twists and sees Tennant star without an assistant, alongside David Morrissey, who appears as another doctor.
The pair battle against the cybermen who are led by a character played by Dervla Kirwan.