Doctor Who has a new guest star on each week. Some are famous like Maisie Williams, and others less so. Here are our favorite guest stars from the reboot era.
We know it was just last night, and maybe some will say it’s too soon to rank Maisie Williams among our favorite guest stars, but we really loved her. She brought her trademark Arya Stark spunk to the part and it really suited the episode well.
The Doctor has encountered many guests over the years, some of them more than once. Some appear so often, like Captain Jack Harkness, River Song, and Madame Vastra, that we consider them to be actual, quasi-companions rather than guest stars who are just popping by for a given episode. But today, we really want to pay homage to the non-companion guest stars.
Historical episodes can be tough. As the name implies, we are dealing with real-life people from history. If the portrayal doesn’t ring true, the episode tanks. There’s a whole lot that can go wrong on an epic scale, especially if the historical figure is a well-loved one. On the other hand, if it all goes right, it can be heartbreaking in a really good way. One of the most memorable historical portrayals was that of Vincent Van Gogh played by actor Tony Curran in the episode “Vincent and the Doctor.”
After fighting an alien that only Vincent can see, the Doctor and Amy take him forward in time to see that he is regarded as a highly skilled and notable painter of his time. His work is considered groundbreaking. Alas, this is not enough to fight the demons of mental illness, which is ineffectually treated in Vincent Van Gogh’s time. Van Gogh commits suicide, even though the Doctor and Amy have shown him that he is well-loved by millions.
It can be hard to stand out on Doctor Who, especially when you have a Doctor who is as wildly popular as David Tennant was. David Tennant bowed out of his stint as the Doctor in a series of one-off specials. One of them was entitled “The Waters of Mars,” and Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke held her own on screen with Tennant and then some.
Not many people stand up to the Doctor in an effective way. Don’t get us wrong, at least once an episode someone ends up confronting the Doctor and asking him either where he gets off doing what he’s doing, or asking him who he thinks he is. The fact is, this process of telling the Doctor off is so routine, we tend to glaze over when it happens. Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke is the exception to this. Brooke, who was something of a space era hero to the Doctor, lets him know in no uncertain terms that he was playing god, and that no one should have that power. She pays the ultimate price to put history back to right, knowing she’s never going to see her family again. Her actions are the wake-up call the Doctor needed.
Another memorable guest star is Georgia Moffett, who played the Doctor’s unintended daughter, Jenny. Fans have been dying for a follow up with this character since she entered the Doctor Who canon back in 2010. We can’t even count the number of fanfiction stories where the Doctor’s daughter reappears and saves the day.
There are also two, real-life fun facts to go along with Georgia Moffett’s appearance. Moffett is the daughter of fifth Doctor Peter Davison, and after the episode she and David Tennant continued their relationship off screen. They are currently married and have several children.
Our final favorite guest star is Penelope Wilton, who you can currently see on Downton Abbey as Isobel Crawley. On Doctor Who she stood out in the very first season in a show about farting aliens. She played none other than Harriett Jones, yes, we know who she is!
Wilton’s part could easily have been annoying, but she played it with such sincerity that we all found her endearing, and the joke of “We know who you are” never got old. She’s also the only repeat guest star on the list who we wouldn’t consider to be a companion. We all shed a tear when Harriet united the Doctor’s dearest friends, and sacrificed herself to fight off the Dalek invasion.