Episodes of Doctor Who that deal with a key historical figure, when executed well, are often some of the highlights of any given series, with ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, ‘The Unquiet Dead’, ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ and ‘Day of the Moon’ typifying this point.
Here we consider which memorable historical figures remain for the show to explore…
#5: Plato (424 BC – 348 BC)
This ancient Greek philosopher was a key progenitor of western culture and values, but is also notable for being the first individual to note the existence of the island of Atlantis in recorded history, in dialogues written in 360 BC. The mystery of Atlantis would be a fascinating issue to explore in an episode of Doctor Who, and Plato certainly wouldn’t be a boring travel companion on such an adventure.
There are also all sorts of legends associated with this individual, like him being drawn to philosophy as an infant because of a bizarre event involving bees, which could easily be explained within the Doctor Who fiction. But who would play the philosopher in such a story? All sorts of actors could put their own unique stamp on the character, but we’d personally like to see Alan Rickman in the role, an actor with the presence and gravitas necessary to portray such an intelligent character.
#4: Cleopatra VII (69 BC-30 BC)
The last Egyptian pharaoh has already had a passing mention in ‘The Pandorica Opens’, making a dedicated story involving Cleopatra all the more tantalising. Her relationship with the Roman politician Mark Anthony after the assassination of Julius Caesar would certainly be an interesting basis for a potential Who story. The female pharaoh is also shrouded in mystery, with the site of her burial remaining unknown to this day; a fact that we’re sure could be exploited by the show’s writers.
Above all, ancient Egypt would be a fascinating setting for a Doctor Who story, and one that hasn’t yet been used since the show’s revival in 2005. On the topic of potential actresses that could fill Cleopatra’s sandals, former Bond girl Eva Green’s menacing performance as Morgan in the Starz show Camelot, as well as her chemistry with Matt Smith in the 2010 film Womb, would make her an ideal choice for the role.
#3: Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
Though the early twentieth century is probably the most overused historical setting in Doctor Who, the banter between the Doctor and a physicist as talented as Einstein would be utterly fantastic, provided that the character of Einstein is cast well. Andy Serkis has already portrayed Einstein in BBC Two’s 2008 film Einstein and Eddington alongside a certain David Tennant to great critical acclaim, and would be a great addition to the show’s repertoire of guest stars.
A story involving Einstein could perhaps explore the moral implications of allowing Einstein to develop the atomic bomb with the Americans, knowing the outcome that such an eventuality would lead to, a dilemma that has already been successfully explored in the excellent 2008 ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ episode. Considering all of these factors, an episode involving Einstein would certainly be an intriguing prospect.
#2: Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)
Probably the most notable British historical icon that hasn’t yet been explored in Doctor Who, a story involving Darwin has been a long time coming. An adventure with Darwin on the Galápagos Islands would be an ideal setting for such a story. Perhaps combating an alien threat with the Doctor could even be the catalyst for Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Darwin’s meek and self-deprecating personality would be perfectly captured by an actor like James McAvoy, but Paul Bettany’s portrayal of Darwin in the 2009 film Creation was also excellent and highly emotive, making either actor a great choice for the role.
#1: Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)
Ever since the conclusion of the 2007 episode ‘The Shakespeare Code’, where it was insinuated that a future version of the Doctor had been involved in some sort of mysterious altercation with the Virgin queen, fans have been desperate to find out what exactly went on between the Doctor and Queen Elizabeth. With so little screen time in ‘The Shakespeare Code’, it’s difficult to gauge just how good Angela Pleasence’s interpretation of Elizabeth I was, but a story involving a younger Elizabeth could well involve Cate Blanchett, who played the role to worldwide acclaim in Shekhar Kapur’s two biopics.
Considering Steven Moffat’s panache for timey-wimey storytelling, and the fact that a romantic relationship with Elizabeth I was hinted at in ‘The Beast Below’, a story that finally explained the true nature of the relationship between the doctor and Good Queen Bess could be exceptional. If the rumours are true, we might be having our wish granted in the 50th anniversary special.
Which historical figures would you like to see in Doctor Who? Let us know below…