After thirty-seven years on the air, Doctor Who is still one of the most popular TV franchises in history. Is it any wonder that the show has attracted all types of actors over the years? It seems everyone in Britain wants a chance to play a role in the long running sci-fi series. Whether it’s A-list actors, up-and-coming stars, or recognizable character actors, many of the best British stars and personalities have been given the opportunity to be a part of this iconic show.
From Classic Who right up to the newest season, here are some of the best guest stars you might have forgotten appeared in episodes of the cult series. You’d have to be the biggest Doctor Who fan to know all the entries on this list, so there might be a few that surprise you. Here are 20 Stars You Didn’t Know Guest Starred On Doctor Who.
20. James Corden
Everyone knows James Corden from his newest gig hosting the talk show The Late Late Show With James Corden, but the British funny-man is also an actor and a singer. Over the years he’s starred in the British comedy series Gavin And Stacey, the musical Into The Woods with Meryl Streep, The Lady In The Van with Maggie Smith, and the upcoming Dreamworks Animation Trolls, with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
But in between all that work he also had a guest role on 2 episodes of Doctor Who “The Lodger” and “Closing Time”. Corden starred alongside Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor as Craig Owens, a human whose home is invaded by the Doctor. While living with Craig, the Doctor attempts to fit in as a normal human and becomes friends with Craig. After he helps the Doctor defeat the monster-of-the-week, he returns once more the next season, this time with a baby in tow.
19. Timothy Dalton
Two of Britain’s biggest franchises, Doctor Who and James Bond, come face to face in the two-part send-off to the Tenth Doctor in “The End Of Time”. Fittingly, both franchises have had multiple actors playing the main role. Timothy Dalton played the fourth incarnation of the famous martini drinking 007 agent in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence To Kill (1989). He’s also spent a half-century playing a wealth of famous roles on the stage and screen.
During his long career, he also did a brief guest spot on the sci-fi series, playing the evil Time Lord Rassilon. Rassilon, who first appeared in Classic Who played by another actor, is the primary antagonist for the Tenth Doctor’s last Christmas special. The renowned actor was the perfect choice for the last villain Tennant’s Doctor has to face before his bittersweet final send-off. Dalton also narrates the first episode of the two-part special.
18. John Cleese
There aren’t many bigger names in British comedy than the hilarious John Cleese. Forever remembered for being in Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, he also once made a cameo appearance in a 1979 episode of Classic Who, “City Of Death”. Cleese made a cameo as an art critic alongside Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. His character and another art critic admire the TARDIS as it is parked in the middle of an art gallery. When the police box then dematerializes, the two critics believe this is all part of the show and praise the piece as “Exquisite, absolutely exquisite!”
The story goes that one of the shows writers learned that Cleese was working at the BBC the day the art gallery scene was to be filmed. The writer convinced Cleese to be part of the show, he agreed on the condition that no publicity be done regarding his cameo. He even wanted to be credited under a fake name but the show didn’t go for that.
17. Kylie Minogue
You might recognize this actress from the Australian soap show Neighbours… Or you know, the giant chart-topping, multi-decade, internationally recognized singing career she’s had. Yeah, she’s probably more famous for that.
The prolific Princess of Pop has done some acting over the years, including a guest spot in the 2007 Christmas episode, “Voyage Of The Damned”. Starring alongside David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, Minogue played a waitress named Astrid Peth on a luxury space liner called Titanic. The Doctor, having just lost his previous companion Martha, takes Astrid along on his adventure to save the Titanic from repeating history and sinking. This time, instead of crashing into an iceberg, it will crash into planet Earth.
Executive Producer and Writer Russell T. Davies wrote the part of Astrid specifically for Kylie, after she expressed interest in appearing on the show. Interestingly enough, Minogue was actually referenced in an earlier episode, “The Idiot’s Lantern”, when the Doctor quotes one of her songs.
16. Andrew Garfield
Before he was climbing the walls in a spider suit or suing Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield was dealing with Daleks and Time Lords in the two-part episode “Daleks In Manhattan” and “Evolution Of The Daleks”. Garfield is now highly recognizable thanks to his critically acclaimed turn as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, and his big blockbuster breakout as your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, in The Amazing Spider-Man.
But this wasn’t always the case when he guest starred in a 2007 episode of Doctor Who. Starring alongside Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, Andrew played Frank, a side character who was a worker at a Depression-era tent city in New York. While he does have a few key scenes, the part is pretty small and isn’t even the main guest star of the episode.
If you aren’t a big fan of Garfield, you could even miss him altogether if you aren’t paying attention. It’s a far cry from the leading man we know today in Hollywood. Funnily enough Andrew also has another connection to Who, in that he’s friends with the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. The two did a play in their early days and became friends.
15. David Morrissey
Despite the convincing southern American accent he used while playing the villainous Governor on The Walking Dead, David Morrissey is actually a Brit. And like so many British actors before him, he once scored a guest role on Doctor Who.
Before he was dealing with zombies and handing out beheadings, Morrissey had to deal with the equally frightening Cybermen during the fourth Christmas special of the revived series “The Next Doctor”. In the episode Morrissey plays a man who believes himself to be the Doctor, having absorbed some of the Time Lord’s memories. The Doctor originally believes him to be a future regeneration of himself before discovering the truth. He’s tipped off to this fact when he realises the New Doctor’s TARDIS is actually a hot air balloon (Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style). The two Doctors then fight off the Cybermen and regain the fake Doctor’s memories, discovering he is a man named Jackson Lake, and that he has a son he must save from the Cybermen.
14. Colin Morgan
In the season 4 episode “Midnight”, the Doctor finds himself stuck on a broken down shuttle on the planet Midnight with a bunch of tourists. While trapped, the Doctor must unite the tourists together to make it through an alien attack that takes possession of one of the passengers. One of these tourists, a teenage boy named Jethro Cane, is played by a face that might be familiar to fantasy fans. That face belongs to Colin Morgan, who is famous for playing the title character on BBC’s Merlin. The show ran for five seasons and garnered a dedicated cult following during that time.
Morgan has since appeared in the TV shows Humans and The Fall with Gillian Anderson and had a role in this year’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War. But to Doctor Who fans he’ll always be that annoying teenager, forever immortalized in the episode’s most quoted scene. Morgan’s character, while hanging over the back of a chair, jokes dramatically that “We’re broken down… IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!“. It’s one of the more memorable lines of dialogue from the show, made more memorable by Morgan’s perfect delivery.
13. The Cast Of Harry Potter
You know that joke, that every actor working in England has been in the Harry Potter films? Well this next entry doesn’t do much to dissuade that notion, since Doctor Who seems to use a whole bunch of the very same actors for their roles too. Of course, we know that David Tennant has starred in both franchises, but did you know Albus Dumbledore himself made an appearance in Doctor Who? Michael Gambon appeared in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas special “A Christmas Carol”. The legendary British actor plays a miserable scrooge-like character that the Doctor must help.
Imelda Staunton, who plays the reviled Professor Umbridge, gave her voice to the 10th episode of season 6, “The Girl Who Waited”. Warwick Davis, who played both Professor Flitwick and the goblin Griphook, played a chess champion called Porridge in season 7. Recurring character Lady Cassandra is voiced by actress Zoe Wanamaker, who played Quidditch coach Madam Hooch. Mark Williams, AKA Arthur Weasley, played another doting father, this time to the Doctor’s companion Rory Williams. Perpetually grumpy caretaker Filch even appeared in one episode, when actor John Bradley guest starred as the villain in “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” in season 7.
12. Michael Sheen
You’d be forgiven for missing this famous face while watching Doctor Who, since his face never actually appeared. Instead British actor Michael Sheen lent his voice to the sci-fi series. Sheen voiced the villain-of-the-week House, an asteroid sized malevolent entity, during the season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wife”. House was consuming the energy of other TARDISes before setting its sights on the Doctor’s police box. The sadistic entity also kept human servants around for its own entertainment. This isn’t the first voice work the actor has done, he is well known for voicing the White Rabbit in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.
You might also recognize the star from any one of his roles over the years, like Aro in the Twilight Series, David Frost in Frost/Nixon, Tony Blair in The Queen, or his award nominated lead role in Showtime’s Masters of Sex. He’s also in the upcoming sci-fi movie Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
11. The Cast Of Little Britain
Little Britain, the cult sketch comedy series that ran from 2000-2003, launched the careers of its two stars, Matt Lucas and David Walliams. You might also know Walliams from his role as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent or Lucas from his scene stealing turn in Bridesmaids and Alice in Wonderland. But did you know they also both had guest roles in Doctor Who? Albeit at different times.
Walliams appeared in the 11th episode of season 6, “The God Complex”. He wore prosthetics to play Gibbis, a cowardly mole-like alien. He was a fan of the show and agreed to appear after receiving an email inviting him to guest star. Matt Smith called the experience working with Walliams hilarious stating “he looked like a giant mole, so it was hard to take him seriously“.
Lucas appeared in the Twelfth Doctor’s Christmas special, “The Husband Of River Song”. He played a servant on a future human colony, who has his head decapitated and put on another person’s body. It all works out okay in the end though, as it almost always does, and he somehow survives this process. This is sci-fi we’re talking about, after all.
10. David Harewood
Another Brit who has been hiding behind an American accent is David Harewood. The actor has made quite a name for himself on American TV. While he’s perfected the American accent, the actor is actually from across the pond. And like any self respecting British actor, he found himself on the long running sci-fi series. He played billionaire Joshua Naismith, who enlists the help of the Master to help fix an Immortality Gate that he’s come into his possession. Being evil, the Master obviously betrays Naismith and uses the Gate for his own nefarious purposes.
Aside from Doctor Who, you might know Harewood from the multi-award winning drama Homeland, where he played CIA Counter Terrorism Director David Estes alongside Claire Danes. Or you might also know him from his other popular show, Supergirl, where he plays the alien J’onn J’onzz, who is masquerading as the human head of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations Hank Henshaw.
9. Carey Mulligan
We might all remember the infamous Weeping Angels episode “Blink” from season 3, but do you remember the famous face that appeared in it? You’d be forgiven for not knowing, since Carey Mulligan’s fame came after her appearance on the show. She starred as the main character for the episode, Sally Sparrow, taking over the main storyline while The Doctor and Martha are trapped in the past. Considered one of the best episodes on the show’s revival, a lot of the story rests on Mulligan’s shoulders, but the actress was more than up to the task, delivering a memorable performance.
She’s gone on to give more memorable performances in Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, Never Let Me Go with Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, Drive with Ryan Gosling, Suffragette with Meryl Streep, and Shame with Michael Fassbender. But by far her biggest roles were her breakout performance in An Education, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. She’s come a long way from chasing killer angel statues.
8. Mark Sheppard
Many people might recognize this actor from his popular role on CW’s Supernatural playing the much-loved demon Crowley. Or perhaps as the cockney crime boss Badger on the cult classic Firefly. Or as a recurring character James Sterling on Leverage. Or, maybe, from White Collar, Chuck, Warehouse 13, Burn Notice, Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files, Star Trek: Voyager, JAG, The Practice, Las Vegas, Monk, CSI, 24, Medium, Charmed, Without A Trace, NCIS, or Dollhouse.
Or you might just know him as “Hey it’s that guy, the one who’s in everything”. Sheppard has had a steady stream of guest and recurring character work in the US. But, despite being British, he had never been in a British TV production until he appeared in Doctor Who two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day Of The Moon”.
He played Canton Everett Delaware III, an ex-FBI agent who works with the Doctor when he is in America. The two characters become fast friends and the Doctor invites the older version of Canton to his (fake) funeral. Sheppard’s real life father, William Morgan Sheppard who is also an actor, played the older Canton.
7. Jonny Lee Miller
This is an appearance that even the most avid fans would probably miss. Well before he was famous, in fact over a decade before his breakout role in Trainspotting, Jonny Lee Miller played a background character in a Classic Who episode. Miller was 9 years old when he appeared in the 1982 episode “Kinda” starring Peter Davidson’s Fifth Doctor. It was the very first thing he ever acted in, playing an uncredited role as one of the children of the Kinda, the native population on a jungle planet that the Doctor visits.
Back then Miller was only a background extra, but since then he’s gone on to bigger and better things, including the starring role on hit show Elementary, playing a modern Sherlock Holmes. Next he’ll be starring in the upcoming sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, reprising his role as Sick Boy. He’s also starred in the show Eli Stone and guest starred in Dexter.
6. Bill Nighy
When ranking lovable English actors, Bill Nighy would have to be up near the top of the list. He won hearts playing ageing rocker Billy Mack in Christmas classic Love Actually and has starred in countless other great films. The likes of which include Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and About Time. It only makes sense that he would guest star in one of the most beloved episodes of the revival series “Vincent and the Doctor”.
The episode, which was written by Love Actually and About Time screenwriter and director Richard Curtis, features an uncredited cameo from Nighy as a Van Gogh expert. He features in one of the best scenes of the episode, where the Doctor and Amy Pond bring Van Gogh to the future to see what becomes of his art. Van Gogh, who is poor and ridiculed in his time, is overcome with emotion at seeing how famous his work has become. Nighy’s character, unaware he is speaking to the real Van Gogh, gives a moving speech about the painter, who he calls “one of the greatest men who ever lived“. Van Gogh cries and kisses Nighy on both cheeks, overcome with joy. It’s a beautiful moment in a career that has had so many.
5. Felicity Jones
Much like our #9 pick Carey Mulligan, Felicity Jones might not have stuck out on first viewing, but since then she has become significantly more recognizable. Jones has been pretty popular these last few years. She garnered an Oscar nomination, playing Jane Hawking in 2014’s The Theory Of Everything. She’s also got a movie coming out at the end of this year that you’ve probably never heard of – a little independent movie by the name of Star Wars: Rogue One. In which she is the lead character. But before she hooked the role of a lifetime, she had encountered another being from outer space – The Doctor.
Jones guest starred in the 7th episode of season 4 “The Unicorn And The Wasp”. In this episode, the Doctor and Donna Noble visit 1926 and team up with crime fiction author Agatha Christie to solve a murder mystery. There’s also a giant shape-shifting alien wasp involved.
Jones played Robina Redmond, a 1920s socialite, who is staying as a guest in the same house as the Doctor and Donna. That is until the Doctor exposes her as master thief Ada Mullins, AKA The Unicorn, who has been robbing jewels from country houses.
4. Simon Pegg And Nick Frost
English comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have regularly collaborated throughout the years on the hilarious Three Flavours Cornetto. The two have even both guest starred on the sci-fi series, just at different times.
Pegg, who is also famous for the Mission Impossible and Star Trek franchises, appeared in the 7th episode of season 1 “The Long Game”. He plays the villain, The Editor, who is helping enslave the rest of humanity through the news broadcast. He captures The Doctor and Rose and tries to access The Doctor’s brain, before being blown up in the big finale. Pegg had grown up watching the show, stating “Doctor Who was a big part of my childhood so it was a great honour to be in it“. He was also delighted to play a bad guy.
Nick Frost guest starred 7 seasons later in the Christmas episode “Last Christmas”, with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. The funny-man plays Saint Nick himself in the episode. The Doctor and Clara Oswald, with the help of Frost’s Santa Claus, race to save a North Pole science base from alien creatures. Frost, like Pegg, was a huge fan of the show and was thrilled to be a part of it.
3. Sir Ian McKellen
After acting for more than 50 years, Sir Ian McKellen is probably one of the most recognizable British actors working today. He’s most famous for playing the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films. But you might have missed his appearance in Doctor Who‘s Christmas episode “The Snowmen”, because we never get to see his famous visage. Instead McKellen used his distinctive tone to voice the Great Intelligence, a disembodied intelligence capable of possessing bodies.
Really could anyone other than Gandalf voice such a powerful and ominous creature? His distinctive timbre is the perfect fit for the villain.
Starring alongside McKellen’s voice, as the human he possesses, is another recognisable actor, Richard E Grant. Grant starred in cult classic movie Withnail and I and more recently in season six of Game of Thrones. Though even with his impressive resume, he’s still overshadowed by the incredible McKellen, even if only his voice appears.
2. The Cast Of Game Of Thrones
The recurring joke in the mid-2000s was that every British actor was trying to get in on the Harry Potter franchise, but now days it seems like another property is snapping up the cream of the British crop. Game of Thrones has had so many recognizable faces, it’s no wonder that many of them have shown up on the long running sci-fi series.
Last year Maisie Williams, famous for playing Arya Stark, guest starred as Ashildr in a four episode arc during season 9. She became immortal at the end of her first episode, and met up with the Doctor at different points in time. Dame Diana Rigg, who plays the feisty Olenna Tyrell, guest starred in the 11th episode of season 7, “The Crimson Horror”, as the villainous Mrs Gillyflower. Iain Glen, AKA Jorah Mormont, played Father Octavian, a soldier in the religious and military organization The Church, in season 5.
Liam Cunningham and Tobias Menzies, who play Davos Seaworth and Edmure Tully, appeared in the same episode playing Soviet soldiers on a submarine. Interestingly, Cunningham auditioned for the role of the Eighth Doctor, but lost out to Paul McGann.
Harry Lloyd, who played Viserys, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who played Jojen Reed, both starred in two episodes, “Human Nature” and “The Family Of Blood”. Julian Glover, who plays Grand Maester Pycelle, has also had several roles in Classic Who episodes.
1. Peter Capaldi
He might currently be playing the Twelfth incarnation of the Doctor but the Scottish actor was also in the series before, this time playing a smaller guest role. In episode 2 of season 4, “The Fires Of Pompeii”, Peter Capaldi plays a Roman sculptor named Caecilius in ancient Pompeii. The Doctor, Donna, Caecilius, and his family try to prevent an alien invasion from destroying the city. After growing attached to the family, The Doctor and Donna use the TARDIS to save them from eruption of Mount Vesuvius, even though that is a fixed point in time. It’s worth noting that future companion Karen Gillan, who played Amy Pond, is also in this episode playing a different character.
The show addresses the fact that the new Doctor looks like Caecilius during season 9, stating that he took on this likeness to remind himself to always try to save someone, no matter how impossible the task might seem. Though that doesn’t explain why Capaldi also appeared in an episode of the spin-off show Torchwood, as yet another character. This time he played John Frobisher, a civil servant working for the Home Office. Perhaps a distant ancestor?