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10 Misused Actors in Doctor Who

Guest contributor Ed Goundrey-Smith picks out ten actors who deserved better.

Over the years there have been many actors who have played supporting cast members and had cameos in the show. Many of these actors and actresses have done a great job at keeping the story flowing well and are interesting to watch alongside our main cast members, whoever they may be playing. However despite this, there have been several fantastic actors and actresses who have come on the show to play a guest character, haven’t been used properly, used to their full potential or have appeared in episodes that weren’t amazing, to put it nicely. So here is my grand and bountiful list of ten supporting actors who haven’t been used properly or were only used only for cameos, and ways that they could be reused in.

Note: before we begin, the majority of these actors have appeared in New Who, purely because I haven’t seen a lot of classic episodes, I don’t know the actors very well and many are either retired or have sadly passed away. In no particular order…

Sir Ian McKellen

gandalf-ian-mckellenAh, our old friend, Sir Ian McKellen, who we probably all know best from playing the iconic character Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In Doctor Who he was the voice of the Great Intelligence in The Snowmen. I thought that his deep, commanding voice suited the Great Intelligence perfectly, but I feel that an actor as talented Sir McKellen shouldn’t have been used just to voice a character, and instead have been used at some point as a character like a renegade Time Lord. As I said, he has a rather commanding manner that could be utilised by such a character.

Mark Benton

mark-benton-doctor-who-roseOkay, before I go any further, I would just like to point out that I have realised that Benton has played a couple of characters in Big Finish before. Anyway, I must admit, it was only on my most recent watch of Rose that I discovered that Mark Benton played Clive, the conspiracy theorist obsessed with the Doctor. I think that Benton is often related to playing more comedic roles, and I fear that may be linked slightly to his size, but I think that he could be used to play a villain. I imagine him as the ‘evil businessman’ kind of villain, like the Editor from The Long Game.

Olivia Colman

Doctor-Who-The-Eleventh-Hour (19)Ah, Olivia Coleman, who played ‘Mother/Prisoner Zero’ in Doctor Who. Colman is one of my favourite actresses, simply because of her diversity. She could play at being villain, heroine, companion, comic foil or anything. She did a cracking job at playing the slippery Prisoner Zero, (Well, playing the mother disguised as Prisoner Zero) giving what I thought was quite an eerie performance, but I would like to see her in a bigger role. I think she could play a villain, a big part of Capaldi’s era. If we were given a story arc for his first series, I would love to see her playing the ‘big bad’. Maybe not even a villain, I can see her in a ‘base under siege’ story, as a captain or commander of the base under attack. As an actress she clearly has the power to play an authoritative and ruthless leader.

John Cleese

john-cleese-city-of-deathJohn Cleese played the very minor role of ‘Art Gallery Visitor’ in 1979’s City of Death. He is usually known for his comedic roles, because of classics such as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. He also played Q in several of the James Bond films. His humorous style of acting would be interesting to see in an episode where he has a bigger role. I want to see him as a supporting companion character, like Canton from The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon. I feel with the correct style of writing he would bounce off Capaldi very well, with Cleese’s character taking a much more relaxed and funny attitude to the problem they are trying to solve, while Capaldi is being this ‘roaring monster’ of a man we’re apparently going to be getting, it would be an ‘opposites attract’ kind of chemistry.

Annette Crosbie

Annette-Crosbie-the-eleventh-hour-angeloCrosbie played Mrs Angelo in The Eleventh Hour, the old lady who was having trouble with her TV when the Atraxi was communicating through it. I grin whenever I watch her scenes in that episode, she pulls it off perfectly. I would love to see her return and I can picture her in a historical. We haven’t seen much of the Georgian era in Doctor Who, and I can imagine her dressed in the finery only an upper class member of society from that time would wear. She would fit like a glove in to a story set in the early 1900s I think, pre-World War I, again, playing an upper class aristocrat character.

Emma Campbell-Jones

Emma-Campbell-Jones-cass-The-Night-of-the-DoctorEmma Campbell-Jones played Cass in the minisode, The Night of the Doctor, and also Doctor Kent in The Wedding of River Song. She has proved that she certainly deserves another appearance, especially in The Night of the Doctor, in which she was fantastic for her all too brief time onscreen. I think she could actually become the next companion, she’s got the ability to act out all the different aspects and qualities of a companion, the feistiness, the compassion and the ability to be that vulnerable young woman who needs saving, she’s basically got the full package.

Hugh Bonneville

curse introductionThe reason why Bonneville is on this list is because the episode he was in wasn’t good, and I think that an actor of Bonneville’s capabilities deserves better. We’ve seen him in a historical as Captain Avery, where he was the highlight of the story. He’s often seen in commanding roles, as he was in Doctor Who. It could be interesting seeing him in a role where he isn’t in charge, and he perhaps takes a role similar to that of David Warner (Professor Grisenko in Cold War). Either that or we could see him in his forte, doing what he does best, and commanding, being in charge.

Karen-Gledhill-remembrance-of-the-daleksKaren Gledhill

Karen Gledhill played Alison in the 1988 story, Remembrance of the Daleks. Yes, I know that she reprised her character for many Big Finish appearances, but I think that the actress had more potential. Like Emma Campbell-Jones, when I watch her the first thing I think is ‘companion’ however, that was back in 1988. I think now she would be much more suited to a role similar to Kate Stewart, a ‘female in command’ type of figure.

Andrew Garfield

andrew-garfield-doctor-whoBack in 2007, Garfield, aka the current Spider-Man, played Frank in Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, which in my opinion are two brilliant and underrated episodes, but in the wider community they are often viewed as terrible, in a word. Regardless, Frank was a brilliantly written character and a pleasure to watch. I think Garfield is a decent actor, and should return in another role similar to Frank, as a ‘guest companion’. I would even be interested in him returning to play a permanent companion. Various male companions in the show before have played the Doctor’s best friend, and I think Garfield could do the same thing, especially as Garfield is currently 30, and Peter Capaldi is 55. I think the age difference (in real life and in the show) means that the two would bounce off each other, having different opinions on everything, providing several humorous moments. A situation could crop up where the Doctor is faced with the dilemma of having to, say, stop a certain species of alien from doing something, and the only way is to kill them all. What would the Twelfth Doctor do, and how would it compare to what Garfield’s character would do?

Marc Warren

elton-pope-love-&-monstersThis one doesn’t quite fit under the category of supporting actor – he was the star in his episode. Like Hugh Bonneville, the reason Marc Warren is on this list is because the episode he was in wasn’t very good. It certainly wasn’t the worst episode of Doctor Who (I think the episode that follows it is awarded that title), but it wasn’t good either. The two greatest things about the episode are Marc Warren as Elton and Camille Coduri as Jackie. Warren plays the character so accurately, he creates a perfect, single, and normal middle aged bloke. Marc can take the character he plays and run with it, often creating a very real representation of what they would be like in real life. I only have one problem with him, and that is finding a character he could return as. Love and Monsters left such a mark on everyone’s mind, an episode in which he played main character, so it would be hard for us, as viewers, to let Zygons be Zygons (that was good) and move on, pretending that he was a completely different character. He could return as the same character, but I doubt that having Mr Pope return again would be beneficial for an episode. However, he is a great actor and has great potential.

So, there was my ‘grand and bountiful’ list of 10, thanks for reading, and if you agree, disagree or want to list your own, mention it in the comments.

Step back in time...

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123 comments
The 11th Doctor
The 11th Doctor

The Curse of the Black Spot was NOT a horrible episode. 

I don't see why people hate it. 

It was fun, sweet, and sad.


It was an original story, and if you think otherwise, look at most of the First Doctor era.



Please, just stop hating on Curse.


craig33
craig33

Bill Bailey, Arrabella weir and Alexandre Armstrong. All in the same episode. For shame

WhoKnowWhatIKnow
WhoKnowWhatIKnow

Emma Campbell-Jones, she's got to be given more parts / totally agree she'd make a great companion! She oozes class

Maiden_Ty_One
Maiden_Ty_One

What about Bill Bailey? I cannot BELIEVE they wasted him on such a trivial and pointless role the way they did. I mean, for god's sake, he was just some security guy in a space suit. It's BILL BAILEY! He could've been some weird alien-wizard from another dimension, anything, but they gave him one of the least memorable and least funny roles the show has ever had!


Also, Tamzin Grieg as a RECEPTIONIST in season 1. Criminal wastage.

Liam Thomas
Liam Thomas

After watching Broadchurch (starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman), I KNEW I had seen her before on Doctor Who, and after looking her up I could not have been more disappointed in the shoddy role she'd been cast in. She is a brilliant actress, capable of playing a role even as powerful as another incarnation of the Doctor. Now, I can't say I've watched classic Who but I can say that I agree with a lot of the new Who actors listed, especially Marc Warren. His acting in Hustle is to die for, he has brilliant comedic timing and his character's chemistry with Jackie Tyler on Doctor Who was brilliant. As a sidenote, I'd like to say that I didn't even notice Sir. Ian McKellen's voice as the Great Intelligence, and that during his role on DW, Andrew Garfield wasn't the actor he is today. Great choices though xx




CassaraRadio
CassaraRadio

I wouldn't say any of these players were misused, considering they took the job. Don't really care what the viewers think!

capaldi3699
capaldi3699

I think they could've use Ian McKellen as a villain because from the movies he's been in he's never usually evil.

calliarcale
calliarcale

By the way, about Bill Nighy -- some folks feel he was underused.  Would you feel better knowing he's been offered the ultimate role on the show and turned it down?  That's right: he was offered the Doctor at least once.  But the Doctor is a gigantic commitment; you have to pretty much put your career on hold.  Sure, RTD and Moffatt have allowed the series to shift around a bit to allow their leading men to maintain their careers a bit, but the fans screamed holy hell over that.  I can entirely understand a famous actor's decision to accept a role which we might feel is not up to their stature.  Cameos are no slight to an actor's professionalism -- quite the contrary, in fact.

calliarcale
calliarcale

I think we run a very real danger if we start attempting to match actors up with roles "of their caliber", as it were.  For one thing, a lot of actors would consider that a slight on their professionalism.  For another, what are you saying?  That their *fame* is what's important?  That other very fine actors on the series were okay taking their roles because they weren't famous so any insult isn't important?  (Never mind that at least one of these on your list only got famous *after* Doctor Who.)  But more importantly, if your story is all about embiggening a famous star, then it's going to stink.  You want to keep famous actors out of crappy stories?  Then stop worrying about making sure they're in really good stories.  The best stories are ones that concentrate on telling a good story.  If you get hung up in giving your talent enough to chew on, you run a very real risk of that breaking down.


All of the actors you list did an excellent job in the roles they played.  I wouldn't undermine that by saying they deserved better.


Especially John Cleese.  Seriously.  He wasn't even cast in the serial; he just happened to be around the studio, along with Eleanor Bron, and the production team thought it'd be funny since they had a little spare time to throw in a quick scene.  Which begs another question -- why did you leave out Eleanor Bron?  Because she later appeared in "Revelation of the Daleks", perhaps, and presumably you liked that one?  Or did you just not know who she is?


And what is your threshhold for fame?  By now, the majority of Doctor Who actors are noted thespians.  They're generally very happy to "do a turn" on Doctor Who.  Let's try not to mistake "I'm a fan of so-and-so and I want to see more of him" for "so-and-so was cheated".

RobertBooth
RobertBooth

Missing two major, minor contributors.

Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen. Great actors!

needcomicmoney
needcomicmoney

Agree that Sir Ian was underused, perhaps his fee was considerably lower for voice only. Don't really care much about the others, a familiar face in a brief appearance has a wonderful affect regardless.  

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

One thing I think we can all agree on is that Matthew Earley was used perfectly as Man with Chips.  Let's hope he gets to reprise the role in future adventures!

mckelwood
mckelwood

I am continually saying the same thing about Sir Ian, and I agree with you on pretty much this whole list

skook3
skook3

I personally LOVED love and Monsters. How could you not with ELO's upbeat Mr Blue Sky?

RichardTyler
RichardTyler

I would also like to see Capaldi run into Catherine Tate. Not only will she not remember the doctor she won't know this one at all. It would be awkward for him and hilarious for her to point it out.

Master Michael Moon
Master Michael Moon

The one I agree about most is the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen. I had the privilege to actually meet him and he's a true gent. His acting was hugely underused in The Snowmen and I would hope for him to appear at some point in the future as a major character; I agree he could play a renegade Time Lord similar to the likes of Rassilon. 

DW_girl
DW_girl

I agree that Sir Ian should return to the show as a central villian, ie, your suggestion of him playing a renegade timelord. That would give him some better material to work with, which he, and the fanbase, deserve, and it would link to Gallifrey's return. Mark Benton was good in the small role he had in 'Rose'-playing a man who knows about the Doctor, and is consequently killed by the Autons, symbolising his deduction that death is the Doctor's companion. Sadly ironic. Of course, he is best suited for comedic roles, but also he's great as 'Chalky' in Waterloo Rd. Olivia Coleman is a great actress, and it was a shame that she didn't get much of a role in 'The Eleventh Hour'. Maybe she could return as a major villain? I don't really have much opinion on John Cleese. He's a great actor, but as I haven't seen his character in Doctor Who, I can't comment much on that front. Annette Crosbie's role as the little old woman in 'The Eleventh Hour' was funny, providing some light-hearted comedy. I'm not fussed about a return though. Hugh Bonneville 'saved' The Curse of the Black Spot with his acting and character, and he is definitely worthy of a return in the Capaldi era as a recurring ally to the Doctor. Maybe if he and the Paternoster gang joined forces? Again, having not seen the episode of which Karen Gledhill is in, and actually never seeing any of her work, I can't comment here either. Andrew Garfield played a well-rounded relatable and realistic character in the 'average quality' Dalek two-parter (it is by no means a bad story). However, I don't see him returning, especially not as a major companion. I think his presence in his episodes in series 3 was too prominent and noticeable for him to be reintroduced, but knowing Doctor Who's brill writers, they could probably get around that easily. And finally, Marc Warren. I love him as an actor and as his character Elton in 'Love and Monsters', an episode which I like, and certainly don't rate in the top worst of all episodes. (I also don't rate Fear Her in this category either- I love that episode and will always defend it... people can't resist having a little dig at it). I'd love Elton to come back- it would bring some very interesting ideas to explore and it could maybe link back to the death of his mother and the reasonings behind that (you never know, could be interesting!)

Sorry for the long paragraph! But it was a very interesting article, so well done author!

NewWho2012
NewWho2012

Would love to see John Cleese again as I've seen that scene from The City of Death and he acts so much like Basil Fawlty it's hilarious, always thought it was sort of like an outtake to slip him in there. Would be nice to see Annette Crosbie again as well as it was a surprise to see her in The Eleventh Hour as she starred in one of my favourite sitcoms 'One Foot in the Grave.'

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

Ian McKellan as the Master would be interesting. I could imagine him suiting a role like that.

tardiselliot
tardiselliot

I would love to see Bill Nighy in a most substantial part

JoehWh0
JoehWh0

I'd like to see Andrew Garfield as the doctor, after he's finished spider-man, of course.

Seekles
Seekles

You have to bear in mind that many of these big actors accept small roles because it fits in their schedule fine and it adds a big show like Doctor Who to the CV as well as appealing to any young relatives they may have. Chances are it's having them for smaller roles or not having them at all.

Strontium
Strontium

I was just thinking about this exact thing the other day. There are so so so many great actors who I am desperate to see appear. But I reckon Sir Ian McKellen would make a good Time Lord if Gallifrey were to return!

conallmc2013
conallmc2013

"Fear her" was awful, there is no doubt about that but the worst episode HAS to be "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was just the lowest point of the franchise. The most stupid and childish of concepts- a 5 year old would probably find this idea ridiculous and that's where David Bradley comes in. Good actor, poor episode... just don't get me started on some of the others that are similar in fault ("A town called mercy" for example). Also if you are criticizing "love and monsters" (fair enough) then you should perhaps be angry about Peter Kay's role and even Shirley Henderson. I thought the monster concept was good just not the episode 


emby2
emby2

As a Life On Mars fan, I was really excited to hear that Liz White had been cast in The Snowmen. In the end, her part was so small I nearly didn't recognise her. And being a comedy screamer wasn't exactly a good use of her talents either.

VortexDan
VortexDan

I'd stick Miss Jenna Coleman in the #1 spot if it were me

ericbfg
ericbfg

Good list. But surely the one who we all want back who has been underused so far is Paul McGann?

Jimmio78
Jimmio78

i think andrew garfield would make a brilliant doctor, personally


craig33
craig33

Mark Warren was excellent in Love and Monsters. I found his character as a simple, honest(ish), everyman who was charming, non-complicated, bloke down the pub feel and wonderfully different from the usual Dr Who character. The scene near the end when he realises what happened to his mam, shot with the young Elton waving goodbye to her still chokes me to watch even now. Even just thinking about it makes me emotional, and I'm a big gruff 41 year old. It's a testament to Mark Warrens acting skill. He's very underrated and its a very unpopular story. However, I like it. Its portrayal of Dr who fans meeting up in a basement every week/month I think is affectionate and funny. As in the mid nineties myself and a few other mismatched and lonely people used to meet in a spare room of the town library and talk about the Doctor. This story will always be close to my heart because of it. (None of us ended up on Peter Kayes arse cheek though. Thankfully). Maybe some people hate the story because of that. In fact I'm going to watch it again right now.

Oncoming_Badger
Oncoming_Badger

Ian McKellan and John Cleese deserved much better roles, but I was so happy about Andrew Garfield being in Doctor Who before he got big.

skook3
skook3

I was always hoping for another appearance of Sally Sparrow (Carrie Mulligan) from "Blink"

mckelwood
mckelwood

@RobertBooth You feel they were misused? I thought Nighy, in particular, was in the PERFECT role

Doctor What
Doctor What

@DW_girlActors like Ian McKellen play in another league, you can always dream, of course, but don't use words like "we/he deserves a better part", etc. Actors WORK on the show, they're not having fun... of course they can have fun while playing a role, but don't think they have the same feelings and expectations that the audience has.

I don't want actors of his category if hiring them it's going to cost the budget of an entire episode.

BTW, go watch City of Death NOW! most viewed Who episode ever (over 15 million)... well, save Day of the Doctor.

calliarcale
calliarcale

@Seekles Yes.  I think a lot of people forget that this is a job to them.  A small role on Doctor Who is great because it means they can mark off that little "to-do" item on their bucket list without a major commitment that can seriously impact their career plans.  I can think of lots of actors I'd love to see on the show, but I'll take whatever I get.  ;-)

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

@conallmc2013 Dinosaurs on a spaceship has it's faults, but a bad episode? No. It was very enjoyable whereas A town called Mercy was just so deathly dull.

DW_girl
DW_girl

@craig33 I love that episode too, and I adore the character of Elton for the reasons you've described. I love that quote at the end- gets me every time!

conallmc2013
conallmc2013

@RobertLythgoe @conallmc2013  i agree on a town called mercy but what constitutes dinosaurs on a spaceship a good episode... just flinging in historical things which should have no correlation and are only there to try and impress the viewer. The fact he rides a triceratops is shameful 

craig33
craig33

It seems like its just you and I that appreciates Love and Monsters. The rest are just plain wrong.

TheDreamer
TheDreamer

@conallmc2013 @RobertLythgoe  I know a couple of 5 year olds who loved dinosaurs on a spaceship... and an 8 year old, a 9 year old, a 3 year old and a 14 year old as well... Nephews and nieces all... It's one of the 5 yo twins' favourite episodes in fact.



Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

I'm right there with you.

I don't think other people think about it so can't appreciate it.

craig33
craig33

We're in the minority it seems. However, I'm glad it gets a little recognition even if it's just a few of us.

DW_girl
DW_girl

Tell me about it. Also love fear her as well but everyone hates that episode too.

DW_girl
DW_girl

Tell me about it. Also love fear her too, but everyone hates that episode as well.