There’s a certain sense of déjà vu to the online reaction to the news that Matt Lucas’s Nardole is returning to Doctor Who in what appears to be a recurring role (see here). He’s a light entertainment star/comedy actor who first appeared in a Doctor Who Christmas special and who is coming back for more. Echoes of Catherine Tate/Donna, anyone? And now, like back when Tate was announced, the reactions from some fans have been… hostile. “Dear Lord nooooo…!” is a comment we’ve seen a fair few times today.
But let’s give him a chance! We all came to love Donna. And she’s not the only instance of a predominantly light entertainment star in Doctor Who making an unexpectedly strong impact. Sure, there have been plenty of cringeworthy comedian guest stars too (Hale & Pace, Rufus Hound, Ken Dodd) but here are 1o who turned in genuinely impressive performances:
1 Frank Skinner
Perkins in “Mummy on the Orient Express” (2014)
Better known for: Room 101, Fantasy Football
The football-crazy, laconic Brummie played a mysterious engineer on the spacefaring version of the famous Orient Express. And wonderfully droll he was too, holding his own against the surly Twelfth Doctor. There was even a hint that he might be more than a mere engineer… perhaps a Time Lord himself? By the end of the episode the Doctor was inviting him aboard the TARDIS but sadly he declined.