With only a couple of months to go until Doctor Who returns for Series 6, CultBox asked you to vote for your favourite historical figure to have appeared in the show since its return in 2005…
#1: With 55.7% of the votes, it’s Vincent van Gogh in ‘Vincent And The Doctor’
Joseph Rowan: “Richard Curtis’s ‘Vincent And The Doctor’ was one of the undisputed highlights in Series 5, mostly for its subtle and sensitive portrayal of van Gogh, who takes an unusually central role for a guest historical figure.
“The fact that only Vincent can see the alien-of-the-week is a brilliant metaphor for his obvious mental illness, and this same special insight is turned on Amy, subconsciously grieving for a boyfriend she doesn’t even remember she’s lost.
“Tony Curran’s remarkable physical similarity to the post-Impressionist painter (so much so that he can get away with holding up a picture of the man to his face) is a great help, while his sensibly undisguised Scottish accent leads to a great throwaway joke about the TARDIS translation circuits. But it’s the sheer range of emotions that he delivers as Vincent, from joyous highs to crushing despair, which make this a truly special guest appearance for both the Doctor and the audience.”
#2: With 13.2% of the votes, it’s William Shakespeare in ‘The Shakespeare Code’
Andrew Allen writes: “Nu-Who often works best when it’s effortlessly evoking the spirit of the classic series, and so it is with this episode from Series 3, in which the Doctor and Martha visit Elizabethan England, work out that witchcraft is actually alien technology (very Jon Pertwee, that) and hang out with a certain William Shakespeare.
“Quite often, when the Doctor name-drops some famous character from history, it doesn’t quite make sense – we can’t match up his personality (or any of his previous ones) with whoever he’s claiming as his best mate. That’s not the case here, as the show veers as close as it ever would to a bro-mance, with the Doctor and Dean Lennox Kelly’s Shakespeare indulging in a great deal of mutual admiration. The playwright even flirts with the Time Lord at one point (‘fifty seven academics just punched the air’, Tennant remarks in response).
“It’s evident throughout that the Doctor and Shakespeare simply have a great deal of admiration for each other, and it’s easy to imagine Tennant’s incarnation nipping back several times as the pair share a drink and swap stories.”
#3: With 12.3% of the votes, it’s Agatha Christie in ‘The Unicorn And The Wasp’
Amy Lofthouse writes: “Series 4’s Agatha Christie-centric episode allowed writer Gareth Roberts (‘The Shakespare Code’) to mix a good old fashioned murder-mystery with a healthy dose of sci-fi, as the Doctor and Donna team up with Agatha to solve the murder of an array of 1920s dinner guests, coupled with the appearance of a giant wasp.
“Cleverly written, with numerous subtle nods to Christie’s novels (and the popular board game Cluedo), ‘The Unicorn And The Wasp’ twines elements of Christie’s own life, such as her ten day disappearance, with the supernatural element that Doctor Who is famed for, with the Doctor attributing Christie’s amnesia to the dramatic demise of titular wasp.
“The dialogue between the time travellers and Fenella Woolgar’s Agatha is both moving and entertaining, as Donna reassures Agatha that she will never be forgotten. In the tradition of Doctor Who’s historical outings, the whole episode is a sign of great respect and admiration for its subject’s work and legacy.”
#4: With 11.9% of the votes, it’s Charles Dickens in ‘The Unquiet Dead’
David Lewis writes: “Mark Gatiss’s debut Doctor Who story sees the Ninth Doctor and Rose fight off the discorporate alien Gelth in 19th century Cardiff with the help of the revamped series’ first historical character: God bless us, everyone, it’s Charles Dickens.
“Dickens is portrayed in a manner befitting both the character and actor Simon Callow: he’s pompous and theatrical (“What the Shakespeare is going on?”), but ultimately courageous and resourceful – his bravery in returning to the house to save the Doctor and Rose from the Gelth is an undiminished act of heroism.
“Rose takes meeting Dickens in her stride, but the Doctor greets him in the manner of an overenthusiastic fan meeting their favourite pop star: “You’re brilliant you are – completely, one hundred percent brilliant!” Thankfully, this exuberance masks a genuine admiration, demonstrated best in the moving scene where he tells Rose that Dickens will die within a year. By the end of the episode, the respect between Time Lord and writer is mutual. It’s almost a shame that they have to part, as the Doctor, Rose and Charles Dickens make an excellent – if bizarre – team.”
#5: With 3.7% of the votes, it’s Winston Churchill in ‘Victory Of The Daleks’
Cliff Shephard writes: “While one of the best ideas found in Series 5’s oft-maligned ‘Victory Of The Daleks’ has to be the WWII Daleks (Professor Bracewell’s ‘Ironsides’ are so iconic that you facepalm yourself, pondering “why didn’t we see this before?”), the real genius of Mark Gatiss’s story is the inclusion of an equally recognisable real-life icon.
“Played with gusto by Ian McNeice, the episode’s portrayal of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill isn’t just a one-dimensional hammy impression and is all the more believable for it. McNeice’s Churchill is a strong unflappable commander, respected by staff and officers, and an inspiration to all who surround him.
“In a nice touch, Churchill and the Doctor have history – they’ve helped each other dozens of times, of course – and the cheeky chemistry between McNeice and Matt Smith makes you want to see every single one of those previous encounters.”
#6: With 3.2% of the votes, it’s Queen Victoria in ‘Tooth And Claw’
Andrew Allen writes: “Early on in Series 2, the Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria, who’s having to fend off an assassination attempt from an alien werewolf. Pretty much business as usual for the TARDIS crew, then.
“Yes, the gag where Rose attempts to get the Queen to say ‘we are not amused’ gets wearing almost immediately, but it does underline a vital point about Pauline Collins’ take on Victoria: she’s immobile, gimlet eyed, refusing to be buffeted by the maelstrom of fantastic events unfolding around her. She’s the Queen that the country needs and, as such, she puts her own needs before those of the Empire. It matters not that she owes the Doctor her life and that she probably (secretly) quite likes him: with him is an oncoming storm and he needs to be banished.
“It’s interesting to watch the Tenth Doctor in this episode: still wide-eyed and excited, he always remains in deference to the Queen. There are certain people that even Head Boy Tennant won’t dare to cheek, and at the end of it all, you get the impression that this powerful alien would rather like the Queen’s approval – which, in a way, he receives, in the form of a knighthood (Sir Doctor of TARDIS, no less).”