David Bowie’s ‘Doctor Who’ connections: It’s the freakiest show

We haven’t made one but we imagine the Venn diagram of Doctor Who fans and David Bowie enthusiasts would cross over considerably.

Bowie’s unique brand of music (which of course has sci-fi leanings) certainly has some shared characteristics with the inimitable Doctor Who – both are intelligent, inventive bodies of work that against all the odds managed to make the mainstream, constantly evolving over many decades.

Not to mention the fact that Bowie’s other-worldly appearance made him a dream Doctor for many fans. Come on, that man just was a Time Lord.

Here are some connections between that ever-changing alien and The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of those descriptions is which…


Bowie Base One

Doctor Who The Waters of Mars

When the Tenth Doctor found a human base on the Red Planet in ‘The Waters of Mars’, writers Russell T Davies and Phil Ford couldn’t resist naming it Bowie Base One – a reference to David Bowie’s song ‘Life on Mars.’

Of course, in this episode the Doctor answers the song’s question. Yes, there is life on Mars. And it is not friendly.

(Bowie’s song ‘Starman’ is also played by one of Rose Tyler’s neighbours on the Powell Estate in Russell T Davies’ 2005 episode ‘Aliens of London’.)


John Jones

Doctor who John Jones

If David Bowie can’t be the Doctor then what’s the next best thing?

Yes, the Eleventh Doctor comic series from Titan made David Bowie into a companion – or rather created a thinly-veiled version of him. John Jones (based on Bowie’s birth name of David Jones) was an alien with chameleonic powers who became a pop sensation on Earth in the 1960s. Ringing any bells?


Peter Capaldi’s outfit


As well as his music, David Bowie will also have a lasting legacy for his avant-garde fashion sense. Given that the Doctor is likewise known as a man to make bold statements with his clothes, it makes sense for at least one of the Doctor’s incarnations to have been inspired by the star.

Capaldi is said to have based his ‘no frills, no scarf, no messing’ outfit on Bowie’s look during his Thin White Duke era.

A source told NME in 2014: “[Peter] explained he drew inspiration for his Doctor Who look from his ‘scrapbook of ideas’. He thought Bowie was the perfect look.”


Doctor Who and The Spiders from Mars

Doctor Who Planet of the Daleks

After performing ‘The Jean Genie’ on Top of the Pops, Bowie and his band The Spiders From Mars were backstage at the BBC and bumped into some actors from Doctor Who story ‘Planet of the Daleks’ that was filming at the time.

Due to their space-age costumes, they thought the band were part of the cast too!


Sharaz Jek

Sharaz Jek Doctor Who The Caves of Androzani

And this is the big one.

(Takes a deep breath.)

David Bowie was almost on Doctor Who!

Director Graeme Harper’s first choice for the role of disfigured genius Sharaz Jek in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ was none other than Bowie, as he thought that a character who spent the whole time under a mask would have to have a distinctive voice and a balletic way of moving. Bowie might have taken the role too, but the filming dates clashed with the dates of his Serious Moonlight tour.

In the end the part went to Christopher Gable who, it has to be said, did a fantastic job and helped the character become one of the best villains of ’80s Who. However, the idea of Bowie appearing the show is such a tantalising one it’s heart-breaking that it never happened.


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> Read more of Christian’s musings on TV, films and books over on his blog.

Which other David Bowie references in Doctor Who have we missed? Let us know below…

  • Only a month late.

    • Paul Peros

      What’s the window for articles about dead celebrities?

    • CultBox

      It’s not an obituary, it’s just a feature about David Bowie and Doctor Who, how’s it late?

      • Fair enough, it seemed to me like it may be since it’s still recent(ish) news. Missed the point on it, that’s my error.

    • Gregg Barnes

      Shut up. Cant see that you are very clever, so dont be an ass and negatively comment on something someone else did.

      • “Shut up. Can’t see that you are very clever, so don’t be an ass and negatively comment on something someone else did.”
        Don’t you see that you’re breaking your own rules by saying that? Grow up and learn some manners. Learn to recognise when someone misses the point of something and don’t go insulting them for it, especially when two others have already done so.

        • Gregg Barnes

          Oh, look, you used my own words against me! Clever, arent you!

          • All you’ve done is hand out unnecessary unwarranted insults to me for no apparent reason. The evidence certainly does suggest that I’m more clever than you are – and a nicer person too.

  • Charlieboy

    You also missed a huge fact that Bowie filmed a demo scene as the Doctor for a film company how owned the rights for a movie, but didn’t want the rights to run out. Its in the Nth Doctor book!

    • Is that available to watch anywhere? Sounds interesting!

  • David Boyer

    He also shared a birthday with the first Doctor, William Hartnell (and Elvis and Stephen Hawking).

  • wow….. a few were a bit of a stretch.