Opinion Foxes

Published on June 3rd, 2014 | by Nick Kitchen

Ten People Whose Doctor Who Casting Surprised Us

The big news this past week was that singer/songwriter Foxes (Louisa Rose Allen) has been cast for a one off role in Doctor Who Series 8 and will contribute a track especially for the episode.

(Slightly off topic, this is pretty fantastic. She provided the hook for one of the biggest tracks in the US last year, also picked up a Grammy!) We’ll see if the acting skills are up to snuff later this year, but this is a great time to take stock of some other ladies and gents who have played a role in Doctor Who but aren’t really known as actors.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Lily Cole

Lily Cole

You’ll remember her from the memorable role in The Curse of the Black Spot as the sea siren/computer programmed ship doctor. She never utters an actual word, but she plays the part to perfection. It would be interesting to see a story revisit the race that created the ship she was assigned to.

Cole has, apparently, since decided to focus on acting instead of modelling, so maybe the experience (as well as that on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) impacted on her in a positive way!

Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira

And riding in on her personal mammoth…

Known in the US as a honored newscaster/game show host, Meredith Vieira made a guest appearance (as herself!) in the Series 6 finale, The Wedding of River Song. It’s American airing also coincided with her announcement of her departure from the Today Show, an eventful weekend to be sure!

Kenneth Kendall

Kenneth Kendall

Reaching back all the way to the First Doctor story The War Machines, popular news anchor Kenneth Kendall played himself in a short segment. Kendall also went on to do a similar role in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kendall is of note because of his legacy as the first on air television newscaster on the BBC (that is to say he’s the first that was seen reading the news. There were newscasters that had read the news on the telly but not seen).

Hale and Pace

Hale and Pace

Comedian duo of Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, known for their comedy sketches, guest starred on the final Seventh Doctor story, Survival. They portrayed shop keeps Harvey and Len. After their “show closing performance,” the duo returned to sketch work, and as of last year, are touring Australia with their production company.

Ken Dodd

Delta and the Bannerman

From stand-up to The Tollmaster, comedian Ken Dodd guest starred in the ’87 classic, Delta and the Bannermen. Dodd had only one other film role after his appearance on Doctor Who, but has sold millions of comedy albums worldwide.

Anne Robinson

“You are the Weakest Link, g’bye!”

While Robinson never had a live role on Doctor Who, she provided her voice to the role of “Anne Droid” in the Series 1 two part finale. She finished her stint as the long running host of The Weakest Link in 2012. Now, she can be seen on BBC 1, watching dogs or something.

Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

With the casting of Foxes, it’s prudent to remember another musical guest on the show: Courtney Pine! The renowned Jazz musician played himself in the ’88 episode, Silver Nemesis. This was his only credited acting role, but if you’re doing what you’re famous for, is it really acting?

Alexei Sayle

Revelation of the Daleks 2

Once told a tabloid that he wanted to be the first “Socialist Doctor,” Sayle played the DJ in the Sixth Doctor story, Revelation of the Daleks. The comedian is also noted for a minor role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the Sultan.

Leee John

Leee John

No, that’s not a spelling mistake.

The singer-songwriter played the one-off character of Mansell in the Peter Davison story, Enlightenment. John was a last minute replacement in the episode. He is best known for the soul classic, “Body Talk.”

And finally…

Billie Piper

Billie Piper 1

Okay, okay; I know many of you read that and are confused. Was Piper technically an actress prior to playing Rose Tyler? Yes, but only two roles and was still mainly thought of as a pop star prior to her time with Doctor Who. Of course, she’s proved herself a pretty great actress and was superb as the Moment in The Day of the Doctor.

What do you think, dear reader? Did we miss any one that should have been on the list? Let us know!

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About the Author

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“That’s bacon! Are you trying to poison me?” And from that line on, I’ve been unable to stop watching, reading, musing about the Doctor. As a recent transplant to the Whoniverse, I’ve been trying to soak up as much Who-related knowledge as possible. That journey has taken me from the Tenth Planet to the Fields of Trenzalore and gently set me at the edge of my seat for what’s next. It’s an honor to be here and I plan to bring a unique perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey alongside me.



12 Responses to Ten People Whose Doctor Who Casting Surprised Us


  1. You forgot the most surprising of all: John Cleese’s cameo at the end of City of Death.

  2. avatar Craigo says:

    Catherine Jenkins definitely

  3. avatar vortexter says:

    Billie Piper was a real surprise to me when announced. But the most random for me is the lead singer Mike Skinner from The Streets being in The Time of the Angels. Very random but it worked.

  4. avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

    It’s just an illusion…

  5. avatar Rick says:

    John Hurt is the most surprising, if only for who he was playing.

  6. avatar Ranger says:

    I must admit when I first heard that Billie had been cast I was horrified and angry at what I thought was stunt casting on a massive scale. How wrong can you be? Billie, I apologise to you – you were superb as Rose. Mind you, I could be excused after the experience with Leee John (shudders).

  7. avatar Al says:

    A few others: Kylie Minogue (yes, an actress of long standing, but still better known as a singer. Plus her appearance in Voyage of the Damned marked one of her first jobs after battling breast cancer); George Coulouris, a veteran Hollywood actor who was part of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane cohort, who for some reason was cast in one episode of The Keys of Marinus; Sharon Osbourne’s cameo in I think Army of Ghosts; Michael Sheen as the voice of House. And, oh yes, two-time franchise guest star Peter Capaldi as some guy.

  8. avatar castellanspandrel says:

    I’d say Christopher Eccleston was a huge surprise.

    That may seem a strange thing to say now, as since Who he’s been in tons of fantasy stuff, from Heroes to GI Joe. But before Dr Who he was mostly known for doing ‘serious’ drama.

  9. avatar castellanspandrel says:

    Though to be fair, the article does make it clear it’s referring to performers who weren’t known as actors when cast in the series.

  10. avatar ZeroRoom says:

    Thankfully living in Australia all these people seem to be UK celebrities that we are largely unaware of. This is good because to me they are just who they are in Doctor Who. If I had ever heard of Billie Piper before the 2005 revival I would had a conniption fit much like the one I had when Kylie was announced. Luckily she was as unknown to me as the milkman and all I’ve ever thought of her as is Rose. I find celebrity guest spots distracting as they break the suspension of disbelief being more themselves than the character they’re playing. I’ve never heard of Foxes but the idea of a song and subsequent release fills me with dread. It brings back nightmares of the The Master dancing to ‘Hear Come The Drums’ and the obnoxious attempt to spin the idiotic ‘Tongue Tied’ song from Red Dwarf into a legitimate musical release. It’s cheap and gimmicky. Leave that nonsense out of Doctor Who pleeeeaaase.

  11. avatar Ranger says:

    I quite liked Tongue Tied…

  12. avatar TonyS says:

    I quite liked Voodoo Child and I Can’t Decide

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