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Top 10 Pond-Era Celebrity Performances

Guest contributor K-Ci Williams counts down the top ten guest star performances.

The Ponds departed in The Angels Take Manhattan, and now it’s time to reminisce about their stories on Doctor Who and celebrate the guest performances of those who have made their stories memorable.

Since Who returned in 2005, it has been the job of Andy Pryor to cast a variety of famous celebrities in different roles. Yes, we have Mr Pryor to thank for gracing us with Karen Gillan’s fiery Scottish acting, and Matt Smith’s Doctor-ish talents. Pryor has just as many ideas as Moffat, and usually, he casts actors that perfectly suit their role. But as we close the metaphorical door on the Ponds, I have decided to recollect my thoughts on the Top 10 Pond-era Celebrity Performances, as a thank-you to the brilliant Andy Pryor.

10. Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin Oswald

In Asylum of the Daleks we meet Oswin Oswald, who is intriguingly portrayed by Jenna-Louise Coleman, who has starred in Emmerdale and Waterloo Road. First of all, I believe that Jenna stands out because we have prior knowledge that she will be the Doctor’s new companion in 2012′s Christmas Special. This has created a ruffle in the Whoniverse forums, with many of us wondering if Oswin will have any relevance to the new companion. For now, let us turn to Jenna’s portrayal of Oswin. My friends have only one word to describe her: sexy. I believe this represents her portrayal exactly. Jenna’s delivery of the line “rescue me Chin Boy and show me the stars” really seals the deal, because she plays her character with such sassiness, and excitement. In the case of Jenna, I really can’t wait until Christmas, because I want more of Jenna’s expression and “sexyness!”

9. Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra

A Good Man Goes to War gave us  Madame Vastra, portrayed by Neve McIntosh, who has previously played Silurian sisters Alaya/Restac, and starred in Single Father and Murder City. Firstly, I think that Neve performs Vastra with such expression and sassiness, much like Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin. With a face covered in Silurian prosthetics, Neve has to work harder to express emotions and feelings to the audience. And thankfully, she does just that. Neve’s sword work is commendable and so is her tone of speech in which she says she knows how the Doctor can blush. This is a classic moment of comedy for me, and Neve’s delivery of a variety of lines is what makes her portrayal memorable. As for her future appearances, I cannot wait until we see her again in the Christmas special, because I love the idea of a Victorian-period with a Silurian living in it.

8. Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart

The Power of Three introduced Kate Stewart, the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and portrayed by Jemma Redgrave, who starred in Waking the Dead. Without a doubt, this is one of the most brilliantly performed characters in Series 7: Part 1. Jemma’s on-screen chemistry with Matt Smith makes the Doctor’s relationship with Kate very special, and his remark about being kissed by a Lethbridge-Stewart is truly comforting. After last year’s series finale announcing the death of the Brigadier, Jemma’s portrayal continues the legacy of that great man. Although I think Kate’s introductory story was written poorly, and featured many plotholes, it is her acting that makes the story a great prelude to The Angels Take Manhattan. I truly loved her character, and I can only hope that Moffat will make the executive decision to bring her back.

7. Nina Toussaint-White as Mels

In Let’s Kill Hitler, we meet Mels, the childhood friend of Amy and Rory, and the pre-incarnation of River Song. She is portrayed by Nina Toussaint-White, who has appeared in EastEnders and Holby City. Ultimately, Mels was the woman who would become River Song, as seen in the Mels/River regeneration scene. Nina’s acting in this epsiode was fantastic, with her first entrance a moment of sassiness, and her final moment full of golden regeneration energy. After reviewing the main story arc for River Song, I believe that we couldn’t have asked for a better portrayal of River’s pre-incarnation. Through Nina’s acting, I found parallels between Mels and River. I hope that somehow, Nina (Mels) can return alongside Sydney Wade (Melody) and Alex Kingston (River), like the Doctor’s five incarnations being transported to Gallifrey.

6. Frances Barber as Madame Kovarian

Throughout the sixth series, we learn about Madame Kovarian, portrayed by Frances Barber, who has appeared in Beautiful People and Casualty. Since I figured out who she was and what she’d done to I hated her. Kovarian I mean. But to form such a strong opinion of the character so early in her appearance means that Frances’ acting is very strong, and I am totally honest when I say that she deserves this spot on my list. Usually I have many reasons for why I love a character’s portrayal, but when I watch Frances as Kovarian, I feel as though it comes naturally for Frances. That is the prime reason. Kovarian is so full of life, yet dark inside. Moffat created her, but Frances has developed the strength of the character. Maybe Kovarian will return in the future? If this was the case, I’d be happy to welcome her back, but would enjoy River killing her for good measure.

5. Mark Williams as Brian Williams

We first meet Brian Williams in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Brian is portrayed by Mark Williams, who has starred in Harry Potter and Being Human. With the Ponds’ companionship spanning for two series, I felt that their legacy needed a touch of family unity to complete it, much like the Tylers and Nobles. Thankfully, Andy Pryor cast Mark Williams as Rory’s father. Seeing such a familiar face in a different role was weird, but I must admit I enjoy Mark as a Williams rather than a Weasley. I will always rate Mark highly because he plays such an iconic character. His line saying that the Doctor had better bring the Ponds home safe showed me just how important Mark’s character was. And, strangely, my favourite Brian line, is the one about his “balls”. I wish Brian was introduced earlier in the Pond-era, because I want to see more of him. However, this is unlikely to happen now.

4. Katherine Jenkins as Abigail

In the 2010 festive special, A Christmas Carol, we are introduced to Abigail, portrayed by Katherine Jenkins who is widely known for her discography in the music industry, and was cast in the role of Abigail for her voice. I think that Katherine’s portrayal of Abigail is spectacular. Abigail was Jenkins’ first acting role, but you can’t tell from her performance. What makes Katherine’s portrayal so highly regarded on my list is her song,”Silence is All You Know”. What is special about this story is that Abigail’s song is central to the plot resolution, and Katherine’s beautiful voice seals this story. I think that Katherine is a very special performer from the Pond-era, and that she will always be remembered as the woman who sang in Doctor Who. I thoroughly enjoyed her portrayal of Abigail, and will remember her character forever.

3. Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh

We meet the one and only Vincent Van Gogh in Vincent and the Doctor. Portraying this character is seriously hard work, because you have the weight of his legacy burdened on your shoulders. Tony Curran, who has starred in Hawaii Five-0 and Primeval, is a perfect fit for the role of Vincent. He even resembles Van Gogh’s painting of himself. I just love Tony’s spirit expressed in Van Gogh, it makes the story a legend. The only problem I have about the story is that the Doctor takes him to see his paintings in the future. This mean that Vincent saw the paintings in the future, so paints them in his time, which are hanging there for him to see in the future. It’s too timey-wimey for my tired mind to pull apart. But Tony is the perfect living embodiment of Vincent, and his acting in this episode will be treasured forever. Also I like seeing characters (especially historical ones) in scenarios you wouldn’t think they’d be in, such as Van Gogh’s shouting and curses in The Pandorica Opens. Overall, I absolutely LOVE Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh.

2. Sir Michael Gambon as Kazran Sardick

Yes, Sir Michael Gambon comes in at number two for his role in A Christmas Carol.  I think anyone who’s anyone knows that he played Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter, succeeding the magnificent Richard Harris of course, and played the father of his Who character Kazran. What I love about Sir Michael’s portrayal of Kazran is that off comes the beard and the glasses, and on comes the cold, cruel Scrooge-like nature. Sir Michael is brilliant, and his ability to portray Kazran with such enthusiam and cruelty is what makes A Christmas Carol, well… A Christmas Carol. Without Sir Michael’s acting in this story, the spirit would not be complete. Overall, I am very proud to be a Whovian when a household name like Michael Gambon is placed in the rolling credits. Sir Michael is what made A Christmas Carol a Christmassy special, and a story to remember forever.

1. Suranne Jones as Idris

Of course Suranne Jones as Idris claims the top spot. Suranne has appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures, and in The Doctor’s Wife she plays the personified TARDIS. I think it goes without saying, Suranne played this role with such emotion,love, and brilliance. I absolutely loved the episode because of the Idris/Doctor relationship. It takes a lot of acting ability to take on such an iconic role, and I think it’s obvious that Suranne was perfect, for generations of Whovians loved the episode just like me. The story was brilliantly written by Neil Gaiman, but ultimately, Suranne Jones was as iconic as the character she was portraying. I treasure her story and portrayal more than the likes of Sophia Myles as Reinette, and more than every single person on this list, because she gave the modern Whoniverse a very memorable episode. Suranne Jones, you are brilliant, and it goes without saying, thank you!

And, there you have it. My reasons for why I rate these fantastic celebrities in the category of Top 10 Pond-era Celebrity Performances.

When I see or hear people rejoicing that a great celebrity has been cast in an important role, they automatically assume Moffat has made a great decision. But as Whovians, I think we need to show more appreciation to those behind-the-scenes who get less spotlight, such as Andy Pryor. Without him, we wouldn’t have household names like Sir Michael Gambon heading a story. Without him, we might not have had Karen and Arthur as the companions. But, with him, we have had Sir Michael Gambon, and we have had Karen and Arthur. So, as we say farewell to the Ponds, I think we should thank Andy Pryor for his work as Doctor Who’s Casting Director. Thank-you Andy Pryor!

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