The 2006 Round Table: Guest Who?

In the fourth part of our round table discussion on Doctor Who 2006, we leave the regular elements of the series to one side and consider the use of guest stars.

Guest stars have been employed in Doctor Who since the 1960s, and the tactic works to entice fans of the actor or actress in question into watching. Of course, you might be familiar with the name of the actor or actress in question…

“I was surprised that actors the calibre of Andoh Adjoa and her cohorts agreed to be buried under lots of fur and foam as the Sisters of Plenitude in ‘New Earth’,” says Nigel Parry, “I think the standard of acting was exceptional this year, just as it was last year really. I was dreading some – like Trisha Goddard and Babs Windsor, but these were genuinely amusing diversions rather that irritations!”

Gareth Kavanagh is largely in agreement. “Some were perfection itself – especially Tony Head’s wonderfully urbane, Delgado-ish turn in School Reunion and Maureen Lipman’s note perfect Wire, Pauline Collins was solid as Queen Victoria whilst the majority – especially all the (“‘look its ‘im/’er from”) Eastenders turns – did more or less, exactly what you expected and were good for chalking up the column inches.”

Classic Who guest casting seems to cause Simon Mills with something of a fear factor… “Aaaaaaaggghhhhh! I just keep dreading the return of novelty casting like Ken Dodd, Hale and Pace, Richard Briers, et al – by the way, I like Richard Briers and he is a superb actor, but I think he really hammed it up when cast in the classic series.” Oh. Does this mean and introduction into the conversation of the words “Lloyd Pack” and “Roger”? Anthony Dry…

“Damp squibs this series consisted of Roger Lloyd Pack and Andrew Hayden-Smith, the latter in particular grates; I mean he tried hard but he just can’t act, sorry he just isn’t believable.” Actor Barnaby Jones sadly wasn’t enamoured with poor Andrew either. “How unconvincing was he?! As wooden as a plank and about as interesting to watch. His expression never got beyond ‘constipated’ with his furrowed brows and intense stares. He just seemed out of place and miscast.”

Oh dear. Hayden Smith – was he really that bad? Gareth thinks so too… “The only steaming pile of am-dram poo being that CBBC fella who played Jake – the oh-so believable hairdresser with a Kalashnikov…”

Back to Barnaby… “I don’t like criticising actors, as they sometimes are only as good as the directions they are given, but in this case I feel justified as an experienced director such as Graeme Harper in the last two-parter still got no more character out of him than had been on show previously. Admittedly, it’s a one-dimensional part (a sort of John McClane Junior) but he never nailed it once.”

What does Brian Terranova think – do the guest actors make any difference? “Being American I don’t always know the guest actor, so their inclusion in the episodes don’t normally mean too much to me. That said I do have my opinions as to who was right for the role, and in this case Peter Kay was a bad choice for the Absorbaloff. Add to that I didn’t enjoy most of the cast in Love & Monsters. Not that they were bad actors by any means, they just did not work for me. I have always said that the Actors are only as good as the scripts, and in this case you get what you paid for.”

Ah. Two words that will forever divide Doctor Who fandom – Love & Monsters does seem to get a lot of attention for different reasons. I wonder could this be wholly down to the fantasy casting of Britain’s most popular comedian (based on ticket and DVD sales, at least) Peter Kay? Simon Mills: “Peter Kay, while a competent actor, really stood out as just being a bit silly. Still, at the end of the day, I suppose it is supposed to be a family show with the emphasis on the kids. In that respect it works a treat with all the fart jokes, silly monsters, body humour etc and my daughter loves it.”

So, let’s get back to the positives. Back to Nigel… “I actually thought Roger Lloyd Pack was wonderful as Lumic – a hammy mega-villain, although I’d have liked his conversion to be a little more explicit. He was simply dragged off-camera – we could have at least had some blood curdling screams!”

“The only other name I knew was Sophia Miles,” dreams Brian, “And I can honestly say that I was heartbroken when she didn’t become a companion. As for any other well-knowns that I didn’t know they must be good as I couldn’t complain about anyone else really.” Gareth is in agreement, noting her performance as “Sublime…” Shut your mouth man, you’ll catch flies!

Nigel again, is enthusing about guest casting: “Sophie Miles was perfect as Madame Pompadore, Pauline Collins was good as Queen Victoria, Anthony S Head was under-used as (School Reunion’s) Headmaster, and Elisabeth Sladen was better than she has ever been in the same story.”

Our other non-UK person, Daniel Bohm, perks up at the mention of Anthony Head. “I really enjoyed Anthony Head. I did know him only from “Buffy” and as far as I can remember he was great in his role. I didn’t really know any of the other guest actors but they all did a good performance.”

Whatabout the other great return of Series 2? “Gabriel Woolf was terrifying, although I agree with his sentiments that making Satan laugh theatrically at the end of The Impossible Planet was something of a mistake,” suggests Nigel, while Anthony Dry was well chuffed with the voice of Sutekh, “Masterstrokes this series came from Gabriel Woolf as Satan. However I don’t think there’s anything overly stand-outish about any of these characters, they don’t stick like the old villains, and I think maybe because of lack of development and screen time.

Actually I quite liked Lumic’s henchman Mr Crane, Colin Spaull again woefully misused.”

Well we’re running out of time for this subject – so one last question. Who do we expect for guest casting in Series 3 – Gareth Kavanagh?

“Gotta be worth betting on any of the following; Anthony Cotton (as Shakespeare’s camp as Christmas theatre manager), French and Saunders (as bitchy rival magazine editors in New Earth), Johnny Vegas (as an evil soul-snatching bedsit landlord), Joanna Lumley (as Florence Nightingale) and Nigel Havers (as some other suave villain all the fans will swear IS the Master right up until the end credits roll).”

And that concludes the penultimate part of the 2006 Round Table. Next time we’ll be focussing on the main element of Doctor Who, the show’s star (no, not the TARDIS!) – David Tennant!

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