Doctor Dwarf

Celebrating the twin anniversaries.

22 November, 2013

It probably hasn't escaped your notice that Red Dwarf isn't the only venerable British sci-fi institution celebrating a major anniversary this year. In 1988, when Dwarf was launching, Doctor Who had already clocked up twenty-five years - which means (by maths so simple even the Cat could work it out) that while we're celebrating a Silver Anniversary in 2013, Doctor Who has managed to hit 50 - or at least it will do tomorrow, November 23rd.

Seeing as the entire Internet is therefore talking about Who this week, we thought it was about time we chipped in with a look at some of the many common links between the two shows. Over the past twenty-five years, several actors have gone between Dwarf and Who in both directions - as have a few members of the production crew - so here's a list of some of our favourites…

Don Henderson

Playing the Rogue Simulant in Beyond a Joke was one of the last roles of this fine character actor - indeed, it was broadcast just a few short months before his death in June 1997 - but he'd already made his mark in science-fiction in previous decades, playing General Tagge in Star Wars, before making a memorable appearance as the villain Gavrok in the Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who story "Delta and the Bannermen".

Doctor Dwarf

Angela Bruce

The female Lister of Parallel Universe played an altogether more authoritative role in the final "classic" season of Doctor Who in 1989. In the story "Battlefield", Bruce was Brigadier Winifred Bambera, the new head of the Doctor's sometime-allies UNIT. Replacing the long-standing Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, it would have been a recurring role had the series not been cancelled - and so Bruce didn't get to play the character again until 2011, when an unproduced story featuring Bambera was instead recorded as an audio drama by Big Finish Productions.

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Simon Day & Yasmin Bannerman

A two-for-the-price-of-one, here - and no, as nice as it would have been, Yasmin did not appear in "Delta and the Bannermen". Both Simon (who was Randy Navarro in Holoship) and Yasmin (the first ground controller in Back in the Red - Part Three) appeared in the Christopher Eccleston story "The End of the World". Day had quite a small role, as the controller of the floating Platform One, while Bannerman played a more significant part in the story as Jabe, a "living tree" from the Forest of Cheem. The other thing the two actors have in common, however, is that at different points in the episode both their characters were burnt to a crisp by the sun. Ouch.

Doctor Dwarf

Doctor Dwarf

Jenna Russell

This one may be slightly surprising, as Jenna Russell isn't known in Red Dwarf as an actress: but is, of course, the vocalist for the song that has played at the end of every single episode of the show (er, except for Dimension Jump, Meltdown and Gunmen of the Apocalypse). In Doctor Who, however, she had a minor role in "The Parting of the Ways", as a television producer on Satellite Five who finds herself frantically trying to defend the station against Daleks. It doesn't go very well.

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Don Warrington

Already a sitcom legend thanks to his role in Rising Damp, Warrington had a memorable single-scene guest turn as Commander Binks in Holoship. He would later play an alternate world's President of Great Britain in the revived Who's second series episode "Rise of the Cybermen". Despite playing such a prestigious role, however, he fell victim to what appeared at this point to be a recurring curse of former Dwarf actors, being zapped to death by the metal monsters before the halfway point of the two-part story. Honestly, it's like they were doing it deliberately by this point.

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Mark Dexter

Our very own Howard Rimmer had, a few years prior to Trojan, had a smaller role in Who as a character that was known simply as "Dad", in the two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead". He was the father figure in a computer program, for complicated reasons which would take far too long to go into here - you should watch the episodes, they're very good - but the long and short of it is that he became yet another Red Dwarf actor (albeit this time a future one) who didn't make it to the end of a Doctor Who story, having been blinked out of existence by his simulated "daughter". We're starting to develop a complex about this, frankly.

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Brian Cox

The venerable star of such movies as Manhunter and X-Men 2 was something of a coup for Red Dwarf when tasked with playing the King in Stoke Me A Clipper. He's also one of those classic British actors who it's a surprise that they took so long to show up in Doctor Who - but he finally made it as a voice-over part, playing the Ood Elder in David Tennant's two-part finale "The End of Time" in 2009. And hurrah! He wasn't killed off! The curse was broken!

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Kerry Shale

The first actor to appear in both Doctor Who and Red Dwarf in the same year, the Canadian started 2011 as creepy orphanage director Doctor Renfrew in Who ep "Day of the Moon", and finished it in Fathers and Suns as both the Medi- and Denti-bots, and Taiwan Tony. Outside of these two shows, he's perhaps most well-known for being the US-local voice of Thomas The Tank Engine's Fat Controller (or Sir Topham Hatt, as he's known over there).

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Frances Barber

It's hard to say which of Barber's performances is the more chilling: as one of the forms of the titular genetic mutant ("Jenny who?") in Polymorph, or as the evil, conniving Madame Kovarian in Doctor Who's sixth series. Despite specialising in playing downright rotters, we're sure she's probably absolutely lovely in real life, though.

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Mark Williams

Battles have been fought in cult fandom over who can lay the truest claim to the brilliant Mark Williams. Harry Potter fans think they've got a pretty good case thanks to his role as Arthur Weasley, while Doctor Who has made a late surge thanks to some terrifically entertaining performances as Rory Williams' father Brian in the early part of series seven. But of course, we Red Dwarf fans know that he will always, irrevocably, be known as Lister's bezzie mate, Catering Officer Olaf Petersen.

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Mike Tucker and the Model Unit

As both Doctor Who and Red Dwarf were produced by the BBC in the late 1980s/early 1990s, effects work on both shows fell under the auspices of the in-house Visual Effects Department. This meant that models for both were designed and built by Mike Tucker (who also wrote assorted Doctor Who spinoff material), and in some cases ideas or pieces that had been intended or unused for one show eventually found their way over to the other. Plus, of course, there's the small matter of the team hiding a tiny model of the TARDIS in the Starbug landing bay - which went unseen in the shots that were initially used, but could later be glimpsed when footage was re-used in Demons & Angels...

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Howard Burden

Red Dwarf fans have known for decades what a brilliant costume designer Howard Burden is - Doctor Who fans, however, had to wait until 2012 to find out, when he took over that show as of the Christmas special "The Snowmen", redesigning the Eleventh Doctor's outfit in the process. Eagle-eyed Dwarfers, however, couldn't help but notice that in "Nightmare in Silver", a certain badge worn by companion Clara bore a striking similarity to the insignia of the Space Corps Super Infinity Fleet, as seen in Trojan...

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Find out more about Doctor Who at bbc.co.uk/doctorwho.

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