With the announcement of the Twelfth Doctor yesterday, there seemed to be a bit of confusion. “Well, it can’t be him”, people cried, “he’s been in it before!”. Turns out that this sort of thing is actually a pretty common trope in the world of Doctor Who. Let’s take a trip back in Time and… reused faces!
Long before he made his first appearance as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in 1970’s Spearhead from Space (in fact, the character had actually been introduced as a Colonel in the Troughton serial The Web of Fear 2 years earlier), the dearly missed Nicholas Courtney played the no-nonsense Space Security Agent Bret Vyon in the 12-episode epic The Daleks’ Master Plan, broadcast in 1965. Battling the Daleks alongside The Doctor and his companions, Bret would eventually meet his end at the hands of his sister, Sara, convinced by the villainous Mavic Chen that he was a traitor. Those two names might just pop up in this list later…
Jacqueline Hill, of course, is best known as one of Doctor Who’s original companions, Barbara Wright – who travelled with the first Doctor from An Unearthly Child (1963) to The Chase (1965) alongside fellow Coal Hill school teacher Ian Chesterton – but fans would have to wait 15 years to see her again in Doctor Who, this time as Lexa, the religious leader of the Deons in Meglos, marking the first (but not last) time a companion would reappear in the show as another character.
Not just content with writing for Doctor Who, Mark Gatiss also wanted to play a part in it – which he went on to do twice! First, as the tragic genetic scientist Professor Lazarus in 2007’s The Lazarus Experiment, where he appeared both in and out of makeup in order to show Lazarus’ sudden de-ageing, but also in a cameo role as the space chess player Gantok in the Series 6 finalé The Wedding of River Song – for which he was credited as ‘Rondo Haxton’.
Gatiss also appeared uncredited as ‘Danny Boy’, one of the Spitfire Fighter pilots who battled the Dalek saucer in his Series 5 story Victory of the Daleks – making him the first Doctor Who actor to star in an episode they also wrote.
Continuing the trend of actors making appearances under heavy makeup and then without, Adjoa Andoh first came to Doctor Who as the wonderfully droll Cat-Nurse Sister Jatt, in 2006’s New Earth – but a year later, she would reappear (thankfully less feline) as Martha’s mum Francine, de facto head of the dysfunctional Jones family, popping up then and again across Series 3. She made a brief return as Francine in 2008’s guest-star-crazy series 4 finalé The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.
Best known amongst sci-fi fans as the sinister, AT-AT piloting General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back, Julian Glover is no stranger to Doctor Who either. 15 years before his movie moment on Hoth, Glover appeared in the Doctor Who historical The Crusade, as none other than the famous King of England Richard the Lionheart. Glover would then reappear in arguably one of the greatest stories in Doctor Who, 1979’s City of Death, playing the triple-role of Captain Tancredi, Count Scarlioni and Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth.
Speaking of City of Death…
Lalla Ward first appeared in Doctor Who as Princess Astra in The Armageddon Factor, who turned out to be part of the Key to Time that The Doctor and Romana were hunting for in the series-long story arc of the show’s 16th season. Lalla would appear again just 7 months later in the following serial, Destiny of The Daleks, as Romana’s second incarnation. For the first time the show would actually acknowledge this reuse of an actor – apparently, much to The Doctor’s disapproval, Romana took a liking to Princess Astra’s appearance, so she decided to emulate it when she grew tired of her original form.
In only the third episode since Doctor Who returned in 2005, The Unquiet Dead, the lovely Eve Myles played Gwyneth, a tragic Victorian maid who eventually sacrificed herself to stop the Gelth from invading Earth through a rift in time and space. A year later it would be announced that companion Captain Jack Harkness would star in his own Who spinoff, Torchwood, with Myles joining him as the audience-surrogate-turned-Welsh-badass Gwen Cooper. Myles would return to Doctor Who alongside her fellow Torchwood cast members – and once again the show would lampshade her reuse by having the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler remark on how Cardiff’s space-time rift passed on genetic traits via the wonderfully technobabbly term ‘spacial genetic multiplicity’.
The first triple-role actor (technically Julian Glover would be but Scaroth/Scarlioni/Tancredi are, like Oswin/Clara/Clara Oswald, merely shards of the same character, rather than actual different characters) on this list, Geoffrey Palmer was also one of the first actors to play a role in both ‘Classic’ era Doctor Who and its 2005 counterpart. First having played the civil servant Edward Masters in 1970’s Doctor Who and the Silurians (perhaps most iconic in the utterly terrifying scene where an infected Masters begins to spread the fatal Silurian Virus across London), Palmer would then appear as the Administrator in The Mutants two years later. It would be another 35 years for the actor to return to Doctor Who – this time playing Captain Hardaker, the ill-fated pilot of the Starship Titanic in Voyage of the Damned.
As last night proved, playing a part in Doctor Who doesn’t necessarily rule you out of playing The Doctor later on – but it wasn’t the first time it happened. In 1983’s Arc of Infinity, Colin Baker played the zealous Commander Maxil (or perhaps specifically, the Time Lord attached to Commander Maxil’s fabulous helmet), part of Gallifrey’s Chancellery Guard – and then a year later, he would bring a similar standoffishness to his portrayal of the Sixth incarnation of The Doctor.
Ah, yet another companion popping up as another character! Although not the first in the show’s history, Freema Agyeman was the first instance of this level of reuse occuring in Doctor Who’s 2005 revival. Agyeman played Adeola Oshodi in Army of Ghosts, the first part of Series 2’s finalé – a Torchwood One administrator killed and controlled by the Cybermen, before having her Cyber-implants gruesomely yanked out of her ear by Yvonne Hartman. Freema would return the following series as the new companion, Martha Jones – and would acknowledge her past role in the show in her first episode, 2007’s Smith and Jones, by telling the Doctor that Adeola was her cousin.
Another triple role – and this time it’s an actress who spanned the whole of Classic Doctor Who. Jean Marsh first appeared in The Crusade alongside fellow listee Julian Glover as Joanna of England, Richard the Lionheart’s Sister, in 1965 – and later that year she would return as the short-lived companion Sara Kingdom (another sister character, as she was related to Nick Courtney’s Bret Vyon) in The Daleks’ Master Plan. Marsh would then return to Doctor Who one last time in its final year – this time as a villain, rather than an ally, appearing as Morgaine in 1989’s Battlefield (once again starring alongside Nick Courtney!).
Another triple-role, and another actor appearing both in and out of makeup – although in one of Stoney’s roles, that’s perhaps a little more discomforting to our modern sensibilities. Stoney first appeared in The Daleks’ Master Plan (which turns out to be quite the serial for reusing actors from!) as Mavic Chen, clad in makeup in an attempt to make the white actor look more stereotypically Asian. Stoney would appear again 3 years later, this time with no makeup, as the villainous Tobias Vaughn, head of International Electromatics and ally to the Cybermen in The Invasion. He then appeared one last time, again heavily costumed and made up, as Tyrum, Councillor of the Vogans in 1975’s Revenge of the Cybermen.
From one Beetle-based appearance, to another – just without the makeup! Chipo Chung first appeared as the bashful alien assistant to Professor Yana, Chantho, in 2007’s Utopia, before being cruelly killed off as Yana rediscovered his identity as The Master. She would return a year later in a slightly-less friendly role as the Fortune Teller on Shan Shen in Turn Left, who attempted to enthral Donna Noble under the control of the Time Beetle and the Trickster’s Brigade.
If The Daleks’ Master Plan is Classic Who’s haven for Actor reuse, then 2008’s The Fires of Pompeii might just become NuWho’s. Its first major reuse comes via Karen Gillan, who played a Soothsayer of the Sibylline Sisterhood that spied on The Doctor and Donna when they arrived in Pompeii. Of course, Gillan would then go on to play Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor, from 2010 to 2012. But speaking of Pompeii…
The man behind the idea for this very list, at last! Yes, last night it was revealed that Peter Capaldi will play the Twelfth Doctor, but it won’t be the first time the Glaswegian has shown up in the Whoniverse. A life long fan (Check out a Fanzine piece on Doctor Who’s opening titles young Peter wrote back in 1976, courtesy of Doctor Who News correspondent Matthew Kilburn!), Capaldi first appeared on his childhood show as Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, a marble seller from Pompeii, in 2008. A year later he appeared in spin-off series Torchwood’s breakout third series, Children of Earth, as John Frobisher, the civil servant tasked as humanity’s ambassador to the sinister alien group, the 456.
What will he bring to The Doctor though? We’ll catch a small glimpse of just that at Christmas…
Bonus Round: Bernard Cribbins!
Okay, so technically Bernard Cribbins hasn’t been reused in Doctor Who the TV show before, but are you really going to deny the bundle of wonderfulness that is the Cribbs-meister?
Didn’t think so.
Bernard Cribbins first appeared in Doctor Who (or perhaps more specifically ‘Dr. Who’) as Police Officer Tom Campbell in the second Peter Cushing Who film, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D, replacing the character of Ian from the first film. 41 years later, Cribbins would enter the show proper, first appearing as Wilfred Mott in 2007’s Christmas Special Voyage of the Damned, before returning as a series regular in Series 4 the year after, with the loveable Wilf being written in as Donna Noble’s grandfather. In that year Cribbins would go eye-to-eyestalk with a Dalek once more, in The Stolen Earth, making him the only actor to ever face the Daleks on both TV and Film.
Funnily enough, he could’ve almost had a third role in the show – when Jon Pertwee left in 1974, Cribbins approached Barry Letts in the hopes of getting the part of the Fourth Doctor.