Graham Norton Doctor Who appearances have been occurring since 2005 – all of them unplanned. But how did one of the BBC’s most popular presenters keep appearing in its flagship SF show?
The first of the Graham Norton Doctor Who appearances can be traced back to the very first ‘revival’ episode in 2005. ‘Rose’ saw the Time Lord’s return to TV after a nine year absence, and (spoiler alert) there is a pivotal scene where his future companion is about to be bludgeoned by an Auton, in the creepy basement of a department store.
In the original edit (and indeed, all subsequent home media releases!) Rose winces just as the living plastic dummy looms over her – only for the Ninth Doctor to swoop in and save her. This was a television moment that people had been waiting almost a decade to see – the first appearance of the Doctor since the TV movie, and the debut scene for the new actor Christopher Eccleston. Not the best moment for a Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance.
And yet this is exactly what happened. Graham Norton’s voice suddenly boomed into the Henrik’s basement, caused by the accidental mixing of the sound from BBC Three’s Strictly Dance Fever, which Norton was hosting. Arguably, it couldn’t have come at a worse time, and quite why it happened is a mystery to this day. Still, the unplanned Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance didn’t mar the episode’s ratings, which scored an impressive 10.5 million – enough to trigger the commissioning of two more seasons and a Christmas special.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, by the time 2010 came around, the unexpected Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance had passed into legend and had become nothing more than a slightly amusing anecdote, albeit one that might have given the show’s producers sweaty palms! And yet, remarkably, another Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance was on the horizon – one that would, once again, cut across the programme at a critical moment.
However, this one was planned – to a degree. In the closing moments of ‘The Time of Angels,’ the Doctor points a gun into the air and issues a stern and passionate warning to his enemies. Audiences were on the edges of their seats, but it’s possible that their immersion was broken by the sudden appearance of a dancing Graham Norton cartoon, reminding viewers that his show Over the Rainbow was coming up next(!)
And this Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance caused something of a Twitter storm, with even the likes of Charlie Brooker and Simon Pegg weighing in. Moreover, the BBC received over 5,000 complaints about the use of the banner and its timing, and one of the BBC’s writers Matthew Graham (who co-created Life on Mars) wrote to a “few interested parties” to express his feelings on the matter.
And whilst it’s hard to imagine that the writer of ‘The Time of Angels’ (Steven Moffat) had planned for a Graham Norton Doctor Who appearance during the episode’s cliffhanger, this was apparently another error on the BBC’s part. Whilst the corporation had intended to run a banner for Over the Rainbow, it was played 20 seconds too early, meaning that, presumably, it was intended to run over the episode’s credits.
Moreover, in the fall-out of The Banner Incident, the BBC issued an apology in which it acknowledged that the trail “should not have been played out on Saturday,” and that it was “taking steps to ensure that this mistake will not happen again.”
Graham Norton took it in good humour though. He allowed his own show to be interrupted by the offending banner – only for the cartoon Graham to be exterminated by a Dalek!
Do you remember the many Graham Norton Doctor Who appearances? And which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
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