With the new series of Doctor Who almost upon us, I thought I’d look back on some of my favourite guest spots on the show since it has come back on air, as it has become quite the magnet for actors to get on their CV. Have a look at my top 10, well 11, here and let me know who you think should have been on there instead.
Suranne Jones (The Doctor’s Wife)
This is probably my all-time favourite moment out of all of the new Doctor Who episodes. Neil Gaiman’s conceit was brilliantly simple, to bring the TARDIS to life, but Jones’ performance elevates it to something extraordinary, I get goosebumps just thinking about it and this scene, from near the end, is just perfection. As Matt Smith’s lip starts to wobble, we see the Doctor at his most affectingly human.
Derek Jacobi (Utopia)
A close second though is Derek Jacobi’s Professor Yana who delivered the best jaw-dropping cliffhanger the show has managed since it came back – his transformation (before, you know, the real ‘transformation’) is a class act from Jacobi and all the better for the genuine surprise that accompanied it.
Ryan Sampson (The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky)
Much beloved of theatre fans now, Sampson first came to my attention as Luke Rattigan, a superbly brattish child genius going through teenage pains, and with his vivid characterisation – as demonstrated below – is memorably done along with the arc of redemption the young man follows.
Lindsay Duncan (The Waters of Mars)
Cripes! Did anyone see Doctor Who getting quite this dark? As 10 approached the end, the storm clouds gathered and in trying to interfere with the fixed point in time that was Captain Adelaide Brooke’s ultimate fate, he crosses the line. Duncan is chillingly fantastic as Brooke, one of the strongest people ever to stand up to the Doctor and brutally so.
Zoë Wanamaker (The End of the World)
Appearing in the second episode of the reboot, Wanamaker’s Lady Cassandra O’Brien.Δ17 had the unenviable task of having to win over both sceptical new audiences and overexcited old fans but I’d wager, she seduced ’em all. Wonderfully conceived (a critique on plastic surgery as well as a futuristic way of existing) and bitingly comic, it is no wonder she was brought back next series. Now ‘moisturise me’!
Sophia Myles (The Girl in the Fireplace)
A bit of extra-textual fun here as Myles was Tennant’s partner at the time of filming, so the chemistry between her Madame de Pompadour and 10 was assured. But being a programme about time travel, the course of true love never could run smooth and the Time Traveller’s Wife-esque denouement is just heartbreaking.
Jessica Hynes (Human Nature/The Family of Blood)
Another weepy and another partner for the Doctor who falls in love with Hynes’ Joan Redfern when he assumes human form in Series 3. Their relationship is sweetly drawn but it is in the fallout where the emotion comes, as scarcely comprehending exactly who the man she loves really is, she demands of him some simple straightforward truths.
Carey Mulligan (Blink)
Widely acknowledged as one of the best episodes of New Who , there’s something mildly ironic that Blink was actually one of the Doctor-lite episodes. What it did achieve though was creating the first classic villain of the new series and in Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow, a guest character so beautifully realised that one could have imagined her slotting right into the role of companion
David Morrissey (The Next Doctor)
The Christmas special from 2008 isn’t mentioned by many people these days but it is one that has lingered in my mind, mainly due to Morrissey’s sterling turn as a man who thinks he is the Doctor and given that this was the first of Tennant’s farewell specials, there was a real sense of building surprise that something of the future was being glimpsed here. Instead, we got one of the most gut-wrenching finales they’ve put on.
Helen McCrory (The Vampires of Venice)
There’s an element of ZOMGGG every time I see Helen McCrory’s name in the credits for something but her level of reliability is such that it’s almost always warranted. And as Signora Rosanna Calvierri, Venetian patroness/alien fish vampire lady, she hits the mark once again, an intriguing adversary for the Doctor who leaves him in something of a moral quandary.
And a brucie bonus, cos I can.
Noma Dumezweni (Turn Left)
She’s only in it briefly (though she pops up again in Planet of the Dead), Dumezweni’s Captain Mogambo helps to make Turn Left one of my favourite episodes by generally representing UNIT fiercely (as well as serving up a little Winifred Bambera)
And whilst I’m here, I really do love Turn Left, I think the progression of Donna Noble throughout Series 4 was a masterpiece of a character study and Catherine Tate’s performance nothing short of spectacular, from weeping at the song of the Ood to being trapped in the Library to acting as the conscience she believes the Doctor sorely needs. So to give her the finale that she ended up with was one of the cruelest resolutions I think the show has ever seen it – it would have been less tragic had she died.
And something else I want to get off my chest, I watched a fair few clips whilst putting this post together and thought I’d watch Rose’s departure at the end of series 2 again. I wasn’t quite prepared though for how annoyed I’d feel given everything that has happened since, the pure emotion of their farewell completely destroyed by the tinkering with the rules of time that RTD indulged in to keep bringing back this deserved fan favourite. Ah well.