It’s one of the biggest shows on British TV but even The Doctor needs a royal helping hand ever now and again. Doctor Who has been whirling on to our TV screens for over fifty years and in that time the travelling Time Lord, in all his incarnations, has had plenty of encounters with regal figures – and not all of them confined to the small screen.
In 2013 alone, there were three encounters with the Royal Family. The first came in June when the Queen opened the BBC’s new Broadcasting House in central London and met current Doctor Who star, Jenna Coleman, who just happened to bring a TARDIS with her. A few weeks later, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the main set of the show in Cardiff with Prince Charles stepping up to the mic, literally, and trying out a Dalek impersonation. And on the programme’s fiftieth anniversary, in November 2013, the Countess of Wessex hosted a birthday party for the Doctor at Buckingham Palace.
But past royals have played an even bigger role in the show with fictional versions of several monarchs taking lead parts in Doctor Who adventures. Here are six kings and queens who have had close encounters of the TV kind with the world’s most famous time traveller.
1. Queen Victoria
Victoria was the first royal to play a major part in Doctor Who after its reboot in 2005. The queen, played by Pauline Collins, takes a starring role in an adventure from 2006 called ‘Tooth and Claw’. The tenth doctor, David Tennant, travels in time to 1879 by mistake and ends up meeting Queen Victoria and going with her to the Torchwood Estate which – unbeknown to them – has been taken over by sinister monks. The Doctor saves Victoria from death by werewolf but in the end she banishes him from her empire forever.
2. Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I has been a regular on the rebooted series. In 2007 she made a striking appearance at the end of an adventure called ‘The Shakespeare Code’ which was set in 1599. Elizabeth, played by Angela Pleasance, recognizes the doctor as her ‘sworn enemy’ and he ends up running from her soldiers and making his escape.
Gloriana was a bit happier to see the Time Lord when she took a starring role in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, the fiftieth anniversary special broadcast in 2013. The adventure featured several incarnations of the Doctor with the David Tennant version meeting the queen in 1562. He suspects her of being an alien in disguise and, to check, proposes to her. Things get complicated when an alien version of Elizabeth does appear only to be dispatched by the real queen who, after meeting several other versions of the Doctor, marries the first one she encountered.
3. King John
Another English monarch was taken over by the Doctor’s enemies in ‘The King’s Demons’, an adventure from 1983. The fifth doctor, played by Peter Davison, ends up at the court of King John in 1215 only to discover that the monarch is actually a robot in disguise. It’s all part of a plot by the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master, to stop the Magna Carta being signed. Actor Gerald Flood played John as well as the robot, Kamelion, that pretended to be the king.
4. King Richard I
John’s brother, Richard I, had already made an appearance in Doctor Who when he featured in one of the historical adventures that played a bigger part in the first few series of the show. This particular story was shown in 1965 and involved the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell. It was called ‘The Crusade’ and sees the Time Lord and his companions materialise in 1190 where they rescue Richard I during the Third Crusade and then become embroiled in the events that ensue. The king was played by Julian Glover.
5. King Charles II
The Merry Monarch bowled into Doctor Who in 2011 in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ which starred version number eleven, Matt Smith. It’s a brief encounter which hints that the king, played by Paul Critoph, has met the Doctor before. Charles finds the Doctor hiding beneath the skirts of a court lady who is painting his portrait. There’s a brief stint in the Tower of London for the Time Lord but his escape, as always, is quick and ingenious.
6. King Henry VIII
The Doctor may have married his daughter but Henry VIII had already said ‘I do’ to one of the Time Lord’s companions. In an adventure called ‘The Power of Three’ (first broadcast in 2012) Amy Pond accidentally weds Henry even though she is already married to another of the eleventh Doctor’s sidekicks, Rory Williams.
It was yet another royal encounter for the Time Lord and as he takes on a new form, and heads into his second half century on our TV screens, there will no doubt be many more to come.