Following the news that Jinkx Monsoon will be appearing in the next series of Doctor Who, we take a look at some of the biggest (and most memorable) Doctor Who casting announcements of all time.
At the time, Bonnie Langford was perhaps one of the most high-profile Doctor Who castings – at least, for the role of the companion. In 1986, she was best known for her role of Violet in the TV series Just William, but had also found fame as a dancer and singer.
Famously, the producer John Nathan-Turner cited that one of the reasons he thought of Bonnie Langford was because he wanted a red-haired companion, and the script editor Eric Saward ruffled a few feathers by asking whether she could act(!) Subsequently, he wrote an intentionally complex audition scene for her to perform with Colin Baker, which she was given blind. It went well and she was subsequently offered the role of Mel Bush.
And whilst it wasn’t the smoothest of Doctor Who casting announcements (with some Doctor Who fans citing it as an example of the producer’s penchant for ‘stunt casting’) Langford’s portrayal of Mel Bush is fondly remembered among fans, and the character even made a return in the BBC’s centenary special ‘The Power of the Doctor’ in 2022.
It is true that a number of John Nathan-Turner’s Doctor Who casting decisions were made in order to garner publicity for the show – and indeed, one could argue that this should be the concern of every TV producer.
Certainly, this was something that John Nathan-Turner had a talent for, even if his Doctor Who casting choices were occasionally met with controversy. This was partly down to the fact that the artists selected by Nathan-Turner were often best known for non-science fiction roles, or light entertainment, and some Doctor Who fans had difficulty picturing the likes of Alexei Sayle or even Ken Dodd in their favourite science fiction series.
The same was also true for Joan Sims, star of the classic Carry On films, who made a guest appearance in the first segment of 1986’s ‘The Trial of a Time Lord.’ But like all good Doctor Who guest stars, Joan Sims gave it her all as the loud-mouthed and eccentric Queen Katryca, and actually died quite a bloody and horrible death at the hands of the obsessed Drathro. Carry On Matron this was not.
Stand-up comedian Peter Kay is perhaps one of the most memorable Doctor Who castings of the modern era. Every Doctor Who fan who has seen Series Two has an opinion on the episode ‘Love & Monsters,’ and they all have equally strong views (good or bad) on the monster he played – the infamous Abzorbaloff.
And whilst John Nathan-Turner’s Doctor Who casting decisions often subverted audience expectations, Peter Kay’s Doctor Who debut indubitably met them, insofar as he was a comedy performer giving a comedy performance, such were the requirements of the script. He even gave the Abzorbaloff a distinctive Northern accent because, as we all know, every planet has one.
And whilst these creative choices were met with a mixed reception, there is no denying that Peter Kay’s Abzorbaloff is one of the most memorable monsters of the Russell T Davies era.
It is also worth noting that ‘Love & Monsters’ has an important place in Doctor Who history, as it was the very first of the Doctor-lite endeavours, and it also featured a monster design by a Blue Peter competition winner William Grantham.
We were so lucky, lucky, lucky when actor and pop singer Kylie Minogue was cast as the guest companion in the Doctor Who Christmas special ‘Voyage of the Damned.’ Indeed, this may be one of the biggest Doctor Who castings of all time, such is Minogue’s fame. Moreover, this movie-length episode achieved the highest Doctor Who ratings of the modern era with an as-yet unbeaten 13.31 million viewers, and ‘Voyage of the Damned’ was also launched the BBC’s iPlayer service in 2007.
Interestingly, the episode is largely set on an intergalactic cruise ship, which would have given the producers the perfect excuse to capitalise on Minogue’s singing talents had they so desired (and indeed ‘Voyage of the Damned’ does feature its own specially-written Christmas song ‘The Stowaway.’) But despite the lack of musical numbers for Minogue, the Australian actor gave her all as the affectionate yet hard-done-by waitress working aboard the Starship Titanic.
And, teasingly, Russell T Davies dropped hints throughout the episode that Minogue’s character Astrid Peth could become a full-time Doctor Who companion, and in fact the Time Lord offers her place on board his famous vessel. But, alas, things don’t work out quite as planned…
David Morrissey’s Doctor Who casting certainly generated a large amount of discussion and interest – perhaps more so than any Doctor Who casting to date. This is because David Tennant had recently announced that he was leaving the TARDIS, and the press and fans alike were chomping at the bit to find out who his successor would be.
And David Morrissey’s Doctor Who casting certainly played into this when it was revealed that his episode would be called ‘The Next Doctor,’ with speculation being further fuelled by a special preview which was shown as part of the BBC’s Children in Need telethon. In the clip, Morrissey’s character burst onto the screen with a sonic screwdriver, declaring himself to be a Time Lord and ordering his counterpart (the hapless Tenth Doctor) to “get back to the TARDIS” as he battled a Cybershade.
Of course, ‘next Doctor’ announcements always garner the most attention and generate the largest amount of discussion, which is why we haven’t mentioned them on this list. But what’s interesting about this particular piece of Doctor Who casting is that David Morrissey turned out to be a different character altogether, even though his role generated more interest than a typical guest announcement would have done. Indeed, the final viewing figures for ‘The Next Doctor’ came in at an impressive 13.1 million.
So there you are. These are just some of the biggest Doctor Who castings of all time, but there are many more that we could add to this list.
Which Doctor Who casting announcement do you think is the biggest or most memorable, aside from the Doctors themselves? Let us know in the comments below.
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