With the news that Withnail and I actor Richard E Grant will be joining the cast of this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, I bet a lot of you went ‘oh that’s good’ but did you know Richard was the ninth Doctor, at least for a time. Scratching your head? Read on.
In the years following the one off TV movie with Paul McGann, Doctor Who was once again in wilderness given the proposed American series never materialized. With the 40th anniversary it was decided that Doctor Who would indeed return but in animated form.
Broadcast on the net over six weeks, it would see Richard E Grant take on the role of the Doctor and a planned series to follow. He even adorned the cover of Doctor Who magazine as the ninth Doctor.
His interpretation was very much reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes; a distant Doctor haunted by some tragic event, a Doctor that refused to have a companion because someone he cared about was dead because of him. His only companion was a robotic Master, the Time Lord’s mind downloaded into it and voiced by Sir Derek Jacobi who would later play a flesh and blood Master in the tenth Doctor story Utopia.
Written by Paul Cornell, who was behind several Doctor Who novels such as the Scream of the Shalka, the Doctor landed in a town that was living in fear of something that lived below the ground. Only plucky barmaid Alison Cheney played by Sophie Okonedo, who would later play Liz 10 in the second Matt Smith adventure the Beast Below and briefly in the Pandorica Opens, became his companion.
She was also the first black companion before Martha Jones years later and would have continued in the Tardis if it had gone to series. The serpentine Shalka were a gestalt alien that was about to take over the planet. The adventure was epic utilising UNIT and proved successful enough for a series to be planned.
However, the advent of Russell T Davies’ new revamped show with Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston saw this plan scrapped and Richard’s ninth Doctor was relegated to a one off curiosity. But that wasn’t the end of Richard’s Doctor Who connection. Steven Moffat wrote the Curse of the Fatal Death for Comic Relief where Rowan Atkinson played the Doctor only to regenerate into Joanna Lumley, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Richard all played various incarnations of the Doctor with Richard becoming the ‘Conceited Doctor’.
Jonathan Pryce played the Master and it also featured the Daleks. It was released on video but is now deleted.
So you see, you never know what Doctor Who people have in their pasts and when Richard appears at Christmas, what connection will he have to the new companion Clara played by Jenna Louise Coleman? Tick, tock. The countdown begins.