Doctor Who: What the Doctors did next

Matt Smith moves on to American Psycho but what did the other Doctors get up to after Who?

When considering taking the role of the Doctor, Peter Davison asked around other actors and received the following advice from Patrick Troughton, “Do it for three years and then get out”. The actor who played the second Doctor would seem to be a man worth listening to, as after the series he returned to a distinguished career of character acting unaffected by his fame, happy to let the likes of Pertwee and Baker get all the media attention they liked. In fact, Troughton was terrified of being limited by people’s perception of the role. He was alleged to have considered playing it in “blackface” before Sydney Newman came up with idea of the “cosmic hobo” and needed to have his arm twisted to return to the role in later years. Still, his career after the doctor was mainly in TV and a few significant roles in genre films like The Omen and on a few occasions for the Hammer studio. He played prime ministers, turned up as a guest star in popular shows like The Persuaders, Dr Finlay’s Casebook and even alongside Davison in All Creatures Great and Small. He kept very busy indeed.

With William Hartnell, it was of course very different. Much older than his successor and frailer, he was pushed as much as jumped out of the role and the arteriosclerosis meant that learning lines would never be easier again. In fact, his wife wanted him to withdraw from returning to the role in The Three Doctors, and, bar three small parts in fare like Softly, Softly, his acting career ended when he regenerated. Jon Pertwee was less bothered about typecasting and enjoyed the flamboyance of the role and the opportunities it offered for him later. On leaving the show, he tried his hand at being a game show host with Whodunnit for a couple of seasons. Then he moved on to the extremely popular Worzel Gummidge, playing the title role through 20 years of its initial UK run and attempts to resurrect the series in New Zealand. Like Troughton, work had always found him before the Doctor and perhaps fewer film roles came to him afterwards. Pertwee enjoyed the opportunities to revisit the Doctor, although he did, during the show’s hiatus, suggest that the only way for it to return was with new producers and much more money. He did much voice over work and continued to favour entertaining over worthier roles until his death in 1996.

Now, of course, we all know that Tom Baker never really stopped being the Doctor. He very much was the anti-Troughtman in terms of becoming wholly associated with the role and he did endure a lay year after giving up the role before getting cast as Sherlock Holmes (?) in a Beeb mini-series. His acting career has been largely as a guest star since then, taking on Lives and Loves of a She Devil, regular spots on the Randall and Hopkirk reboot and Monarch of the Glen, and a whole new life as a voice-over artist culminating in his narration of Little Britain. Davison is probably the Doctor who has done most since hanging up his celery stick. Guest starring in the likes of Magnum PI, Marple and Jonathan Creek, the fifth Doctor has scored hits with the marvellous A Very Peculiar Practice, At Home With The Braithwaites, The Last Detective and, most recently, Law and Order UK. Rare cinema outings in such fare as Michael Winner’s terrible Parting Shots have not had the same prominence, but Davison has continued to be one of the most recognisable faces on the small screen.

After popping up as a guest star in the show, and shooting the fifth Doctor, Colin Baker endured a tawdry time as the next incarnation of the Time-Lord. One hiatus and a forced regeneration later, Baker escaped the spotlight and concentrated on the theatre, don’t you know, and the burgeoning video industry of Who-like dramas made by BBV. His subsequent career has seen him popping his head in at Hollyoaks, Hustle and Kingdom, and making a Belgian film about The Three Musketeers with likes of Emmanuelle Béart and Tchéky Karyo. He has also developed a side-line as a columnist, and a collection of his writings can be purchased here. Sylvester McCoy’s career followed a similar trajectory to Baker’s until very recently when he was almost cast as Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings before being cast in the current Jackson trilogy of The Hobbit. Before then, guest roles on TV like Casualty, Doctors, and Rab C Nesbitt have been punctuated by supporting work in offbeat and family films like Leapin’ Leprechauns and its sequel. He, of course also cropped up in the TV movie made to reboot Doctor Who coming a cropper in a hail of bullets.

Paul McGann was a much admired actor when he had his 90 minutes of TV fame as the seventh Doctor, completing the likes of Withnail and I, Alien 3, The Monocled Mutineer and having several supporting roles in Hollywood film before he took on the role. Post-Who, he has made less frequent outings on the bigger screen in largely British films but kept very busy overall with much work on the telly – Ripper Street, Luther, New Tricks, Waking the Dead, Poirot and Hornblower amongst many. As we reach the newer Doctors their post Who careers obviously become shorter. Like McGann, Christopher Ecclestone was a renowned TV and film actor, and leaving The Doctor behind has done his career little harm as well. Most recently we’ve seen him as the baddie in Thor: The Dark World and in ITV’s Lucan, but he has been in high profile TV, Heroes, Accused and the excellent The Shadow Line, as well as offering consistent support and his line in villains to franchises such as GI Joe.

We’ll finish with David Tennant, and as you all know he hasn’t retired from acting or from being the nation’s favourite leading man. Look at the biggest TV dramas of this year – Broadchurch, The Escape Artist, Day of The Doctor, even The Politician’s Husband – all dripping with DT. Currently impressing critics as Richard II in another well received Shakespearean venture, only America’s failure to get him has been a disappointment and that will soon be put right with their adaptation of Broadchurch, starring, you guessed it, DT. That unsuccessful pilot Rex Is Not Your Lawyer and his role in Fright Night will be forgotten and they will love him, just you wait and see.Well Matt is now leaving the role and making a statement by playing Patrick Bateman, Huey Lewis loving serial killer, in a musical version of American Psycho currently. He has filmed his role for Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster, made comments about being interested in directing himself and clearly enjoys a high level of recognition on these shores as well as in the States. Matt, we wish you well, as much as this ageing writer loved Tom Baker’s Doctor, he also loved yours – may the road rise with you…

John White

Updated: Dec 27, 2013

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