Turns out that despite having watched Doctor Who my whole life, I’ve rarely gone hunting for Classic Who actors in TV shows or movies – I’m much more likely to have done that with the modern gang, in our post-IMDB reality. I did however spend most of my childhood being hit over the head by appearances of Doctor Who actors in unexpected places.
I am more likely to have deliberately sought out shows featuring Press Gang actors (yes Hotel Babylon I’m looking at you for hiring Dexter Fletcher) – though there are several actors appearing in Press Gang who I definitely saw in Doctor Who first, including Principal Winter and Duggan from City of Death. Oh, and Chrissie, AKA Winifred Bambera.
I think my lack of actively hunting classic actors is because it wasn’t exactly an easy thing to do back in the height of my classic Who fandom – I was much more likely to casually stumble across them. And by the time the Internet was available for the likes of me, I was already pretty well established in my ‘casual stumbling’ technique. (also let’s face it, a lot of the actors playing companions didn’t actually turn up in many other shows, at least in substantial roles)
And, you know, remembering odd connections between actors from British TV is kind of my superpower. I have often baffled people with my unfailing ability to remember exactly which Carry On Film featured that particular actor, or which long-forgotten BBC drama featured that actor now guest-starring on Absolutely Fabulous. Following them deliberately would be a bit of a cheat, wouldn’t it?
Having said that…
Shows/films I watched because of a Doctor Who connection:
Peter Davison stuff in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond: Sink or Swim, A Very Peculiar Practice, Campion, Meet the Braithwaites, The Last Detective.
Gavin and Stacey because of James Corden (now one of my favourite shows). I also went on to listen to James Corden’s autobiography (he reads it himself) and to watch The History Boys movie after being fascinated by his telling of how the play evolved – and also a bit because I knew that a bunch of his co-stars from The History Boys played the lads in G&S. The History Boys also includes the fannish joy of a young “Waris Hussein,” and Midshipman Frame, just saying, while Stacey of Gavin & Stacey went on to be Queen Elizabeth I and a Zygon!
Stella because of Ruth Jones who I discovered in Gavin & Stacey (twice removed from DW! But I want her writing for the show). Together with Torchwood, these 3 shows have fueled my obsession with TV shows set in Wales. Also, PC Andy is in season 3 of Stella as a douchey lawyer!! Most importantly, the amazing Catrin Stewart is in it, playing a devastatingly authentic teen girl at the same time as playing Madame Vastra’s rather more sophisticated maid/wife Jenny.
Two Pints of Lager & a Packet of Crisps, Hysteria, etc as part of my Sheridan Smith completionist phase. (Returned to watching Jonathan Creek largely for her, too)
Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Casanova & Bob and Rose as part of my RTD completionist phase (& in the case of The Second Coming & Casanova, it was in order to suss out the new Doctor before he started properly).
Broadchurch for David Tennant, Arthur Darvill and Olivia Coleman
The Hour for Peter Capaldi. (SO WORTH IT) Also featuring Anna Chancellor wearing the wardrobe she should use when she is inevitably cast as the Doctor in the future. Ditto Romola Garai. I was also a bit excited to get to see Lisa Greenwood in it, because she plays new Sixth Doctor companion Flip.
(I actually watched The Thick of It for Capaldi too, but long before he was cast as the Doctor.)
John Simm is another actor like that – one I watched a bunch of stuff for, long before he made himself Doctor Who relevant.
The digital download of David Tennant & Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing is probably my all time favourite thing I watched because of Doctor Who. I also plan at some stage to watch the later seasons of the US version of The Office only for Catherine Tate.
Oh, and the lovely Robert Shearman – I read pretty much anything he writes, thanks to discovering him via Doctor Who. Other Doctor Who writers whose work I actively seek out elsewhere include Paul Cornell, Paul Magrs, Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum.
I recently went on a tear of Jenny Colgan’s recent novels (having only ever read her first previously) because of the Verity interview and her recent Doctor Who work!
Favourite Doctor Who actor sightings:
William Hartnell in Carry On Sergeant
Patrick Troughton in The Viking Queen (still wearing that damned coat)
Jon Pertwee in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum & The Avengers: “From Venus With Love” but most especially as the voice of Spotty in Superted. Okay, and Worzel Gummidge, which I watched interchangeably with Doctor Who during my childhood.
Tom Baker in Black Adder II: Potato & as Puddleglum in The Silver Chair
Peter Davison as the skeezy teacher in Miranda, and the Meat in Hitchhikers Guide (plus Tristan in All Creatures, of course!)
Colin Baker in the first ever episode of Jonathan Creek (produced by our Verity!)
Sylvester McCoy in the Hobbit – I wouldn’t have bothered with the movie at all otherwise!
Paul McGann in Hornblower & Jonathan Creek: The Judas Tree (WITH SHERIDAN SMITH! Can’t tell you how squeeful this made me)
Christopher Eccleston in Thor II – okay this one wasn’t a surprise but I wasn’t watching it because of him!
David Tennant as Charles Darwin in The Pirates – love that not only I but also my 9 year old recognised his voice without realising he was supposed to be in it.
Matt Smith in the Ruby in the Smoke – though that was a weird one because I’d already watched it (for Billie Piper) and didn’t remember him at ALL. Seems bizarre he made so little impression.
Again this was long before he was the Doctor, but my favourite Capaldi appearances are as the hot film producer in season 1 of the Vicar of Dibley, and as Sid’s Angry Scottish Dad in Skins.
Anneke Wills in an Avengers episode – the one with the dogs?
Maureen O’Brien in She’ll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas
Katy Manning in Don’t Just Lie There, Say Something (also featuring Joanna Lumley)
Roger Delgado in the first St Trinians movie
Elisabeth Sladen in Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em
Lalla Ward in BBC Shakespeare’s Hamlet as Ophelia
Tony Selby in The Good Life
Nicola Bryant in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol & The Biz
Kate O’Mara as Patsy’s sister in AbFab
Billie Piper in the BBC modernised Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
John Barrowman in Arrow – though I agree with Lynne, my favourite non Jack Harkness appearance of his is the scene with Kevin Kline in DeLovely where he’s a young musical actor trying to learn how to sing “Night and Day”
Brian Blessed in anything ever, but especially Blake’s 7, Flash Gordon and other, non-bearded roles.
The Merlin Connection
Merlin was a hotbed of Doctor Who crossover actor appearances, including but not restricted to: Eve Myles, Anthony Stewart Head, Colin Morgan (with unexpected cool hair in Midnight), Angel Coulby (OK she only had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in The Girl in the Fireplace), Richard Wilson, Tom Hopper (Jeff with the laptop), and more.
Basically, Merlin is the Blake’s 7 of the twenty-first century. Though we could argue the same for the Harry Potter movies, of course…
I will watch anything and everything with a McGann brother in it.
Ditto Sean Pertwee.
Who was also responsible for me reading every single Ellis Peters novel in my teen years, thanks to luring me into the Brother Cadfael TV series. Thanks, Sean Pertwee!
Actors I was already ridiculously fannish about who happen to have later turned up in Doctor Who:
Jean Marsh (for Upstairs, Downstairs)
Pauline Collins (for Upstairs Downstairs)
Diana Rigg (for The Avengers and later, Mrs Bradley Mysteries)
Rupert Graves (for A Room With A View and The Forsyte Saga)
Rachael Stirling (for Tipping the Velvet & being Diana Rigg’s daughter)
Sophia Myles (for Big Women)
Tamzin Outhwaite (Red Cap, Hotel Babylon)
Celia Imrie (for everything she’s ever been in and being amazing)
Ian McKellen (ditto)
Oh, and when I heard about the casting of Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink, while others were going ‘hmm what has he been in’ I was all “He’s Fingers in Gavin and Stacey! He was the one who wanted to be an actor in The History Boys! He’s been on the West End and Broadway!”
So yes, my trivia-like memory for actors is still going strong. Hey, what else was I going to use those brain cells for?