25 fascinating facts about modern Doctor Who

From Billie Piper and Matt Smith's steamy screen liaison to David Tennant's mind-bending Doctor Who family tree, top New Who trivia from Paul Kirkley's book Space Helmet For a Cow (Volume II)

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In the second volume of Space Helmet for a Cow (out now), regular RadioTimes.com contributor Paul Kirkley continues his irreverent history of Doctor Who with the years 1990-2013 – tracing the story from the start of the show’s ‘wilderness years’ to its triumphant 50th anniversary celebrations.

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Here, the author picks 25 of his favourite strange, surprising – or just plain silly – facts from the book. 


1. Excessive Force

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In 2013, David Tennant won an Emmy for his role in the iconic sci-fi franchise… Star Wars. But don’t tell fans in Norwich: a few months before he scooped the gong or voicing a droid in The Clone Wars TV series, a fracas between members of rival Star Wars and Doctor Who clubs at the University of East Anglia got so out of hand that the police had to be called.

“After a lengthy investigation, talking to witnesses and reviewing CCTV footage, it was confirmed there was no assault,” said a police spokesman – presumably while trying not to laugh. “The two rival groups were spoken to and advised to keep out of each other’s way.”

Clearly West Ham and Millwall have nothing on these East Anglian sci-fi firms…


2. Willy, won’t he?

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John Barrowman had a reputation on the Doctor Who and Torchwood sets for revealing… um, Little John, whenever the fancy took him. But he made an exception for the late, great Elisabeth Sladen. “No way am I going to whop it out for Sarah Jane Smith,” insisted Barrowman, gallantly. “It’d be like whipping it out for the Virgin Mary!”

And they say chivalry is dead.


3. Casting ouch!

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Actors confidently claimed by the tabloid press to have secured roles in Doctor Who over the past decade include Sir Ben Kingsley as Davros, Chris Evans (the ginger one) as Satan and Britney Spears who, according to the Daily Star, had been cast as “an entire race of lusty, sex-mad alien clones who all look identical to the twice-wed beauty”. Or maybe that was just a dream the reporter had had the previous night?

Meanwhile, Easy Rider star and counterculture icon Dennis Hopper really did enter into negotiations about appearing in a Doctor Who Christmas special. The role in question eventually went to Clive Swift – and you have to love any show that can create a part equally suitable for gas-huffing, obscenity-screaming Frank Booth from Blue Velvet and Richard Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances.


4. Cry me a river

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Before being cast as Clara Oswald, Jenna Coleman had auditioned to play Mels – aka the young River Song – in 2011’s Let’s Kill Hitler. Her grandma, a massive Doctor Who fan, was devastated when she didn’t get the part.


5. Call of fruity

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There’s no need for fans to pen their own timey-wimey Rose Tyler-Eleventh Doctor slash fiction – Billie Piper and Matt Smith already got up close and very personal in a 2007 episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl. (Ooh look, we found it on the internet. What are the odds of that?)