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Culture: Hugh Grant in Doctor Who: Could have been the Doctor...
Wednesday, 21 February 2007 Written by Alexander G. Rubio
Hugh Grant
Very English actor Hugh Grant has revealed that not only is he in talks to appear in the revived "Doctor Who" series, preferably as a bad guy, but that he could have been a contender for the title of Doctor himself.

The BBC sci-fi/comedy/drama "Doctor Who", which airs on the SciFi Channel in the US, is about a mysterious time-travelling adventurer known simply as The Doctor (David Tennant), who along with his companion, which until recently was Rose Tyler (played to perfection by Billie Piper), traverse the time-space continuum in a craft called the TARDIS, craftily disguised as a mid-20th century London police telephone box. Together they risk death and danger, battling aliens and monsters, going on the third season, which is also the 30th season, with The Doctor being the tenth in line so far. Confused much?

Well, you see, "Doctor Who" first made an appearance as far back as 1963. He was then a crotchety old man, played by William Hartnell, and the whole time travel thingamajig was simply thought up as a clever shtick to trick youngsters into watching some educational programing on science and history. The educational bit fell by the wayside right quick. And then the actor did as well...

The 10 Doctors. From the top left:William
Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee,
Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston, Peter
Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul
McGann and the present, David Tennant
Hartnell, as you might notice in the picture on the right, was hardly in his prime. And in 1966 he was simply too frail and ill to keep playing The Doctor. That was the end of that then. Not quite. Someone came up with a clever plan.

What if this old geezer wasn't some mad scientist inventor, but in fact an alien from another planet. And what if this race of technologically advanced aliens didn't kick the bucket in the same way you or I would? What if, and here we may trace the influence of 60s liberal drug culture, instead of dying, they simply reincarnate on the spot, as a brand new, fully grown, different looking version of themselves? And could you pass the doobie?

And so the first Doctor died, only to be reborn as a flute playing lunatic with a tape recorder fetish, and went on to new adventures across time and space and places that could only have been dreamt up after one too many stamps of acid.

David Tennant as The tenth Doctor,
and Billie Piper as his trusty and
eminently lickable sidekick Rose
The actual show was a trip too. There were effects so special you could run them in the Special Olympics, walls that wobbled if you looked at them hard, alien pepperpots with toilet plungers for appendages and more knobs, levers and flashing lights pulled out of an old Morris than you could swing a cat at. It was all thoroughly charming, silly and entertaining, and now and then even moving.

But by the late 80s, and the 26th season, the steam had just run out of the TARDIS. The stories had gone from camp to kitsch and had become silly, in the bad sense of the word. "Doctor Who" was canceled. But, as had happened with the American show "Star Trek", the legions of fans, some of whom had grown up watching the show, kept the faith and flame alive, organising conventions, publishing zines and generally making a nuisance of themselves at the BBC switchboard.

An attempt was made to resurrect the character in 1996, when Paul McGann was launched as the eight Doctor. But his tenure in the TARDIS lasted only one stand alone movie, aside from some later adventures in audio plays.

But then, a couple of years ago, writer/producer Russell T. Davies was approached by the BBC and asked to give it a go, and he did, and it was good.

"I think the BBC had their eye on it as a very good property that could be resurrected," Davies said in an interview. "And the drama department, as well as the controller of BBC1, wanted to work with me, which sounds very arrogant, but it's the truth. They'd been asking me to write all sorts of things; every year, they'd phone up and say, 'Do you want to adapt A Tale of Two Cities? or 'Do you want to write another series about gay men?' [Davies was best known for his series Queer as Folk.] Or something like that, and every year I quite confidently (and cheekily) sat there and said, 'No, I just want to do Doctor Who!'"

The first season of the revived series featured character actor Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor, followed by Tennant as the tenth and present a year later.

But now Hugh Grant has told Contact Music that was in fact approached to play the doctor, but that he turned down the role, dismissing it as a dud in the making, a decision he deeply regrets today.
The NOTTING HILL star, 46, now regrets not spotting the programme's potential earlier, and is hoping to make a guest appearance in the next BBC series. He says, "I was offered the role of the Doctor a few years back and was highly flattered. The danger with those things is that it's only when you see it on screen that you think, 'Damn, that was good, why did I say no?' But then, knowing me, I'd probably make a mess of it."

But he's partially making up for it, and might appear in the next season (along with no less a thesp than Sir Derek Jacobi). "I'm in talks about a one-off role. I'd prefer to be a baddie - they're always much more fun to play!" "Doctor Who" returns this spring on Auntie Beeb, and later this year on SciFi Channel.

For those of us who prefer the slightly darker end of the spectrum, there's also the darker spin-off, "Torchwood", starring Captain Jack, the dashing rouge who swings both ways and can hide a firearm up his posterior, last seen in season one of "Doctor Who", played by John Barrowman (who has managed to stir up a bit of a ruckus lately). Season Two of "Torchwood" is set to premier in early 2008.

On the more family friendly end of the scale, the BBC recently aired a 60-minute special based on former Who companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith , by many regarded as the greatest companion of the Doctor's since the show's debut in 1963, played by Elisabeth Sladen, as a prelude to a full series of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" in ten 30-minute episodes later in this year.