Did you know Alan Cumming was almost cast as the Doctor in Doctor Who?

The actor who plays King James I in The Witchfinders has some massive links with the show – despite never appearing on Doctor Who previously

BBC, TL

From Victoria I to Elizabeth I and Tenth, a string of British monarchs have materialised into Doctor Who adventures. And in the latest episode of series 11, The Witchfinders, the show is set to cross paths with another royal: King James I.

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After landing in a 17th century Lancashire gripped by witch paranoia, The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz run into the Scottish ruler, a role played by none other than Alan Cumming.

And he’s no ordinary guest star. As ardent fans will know, Cumming is an actor with plenty of connections to Doctor Who – despite never actually appearing on the show before.

In fact, the Spy Kids and X-Men actor was once offered to play The Eighth Doctor, but he turned down the role due to one requirement of the job: living in Cardiff.

Previously speaking about when he was approached by then-showrunner Russell T Davies, Cumming recalled: “I said, ‘Sure, I still have a flat in London, it’d be perfect.’ Then he said, ‘It’s eight months of the year in Cardiff…’ And I said, ‘What?’ And I think that might have been what blew it.”

Cumming has also revealed he was later approached by Mark Gatiss to play the Time Lord, but again turned down the offer after learning he’d still have to live in Cardiff for eight months of the year – “I’d do anything for Doctor Who, but I won’t do that,” he said.

However, many might not know that Cumming has an even stronger connection with Who, appearing in one of its spin-offs while the show was on hiatus.

In fact, he starred alongside four former Doctors (Colin Baker, Peter Davidson, John Pertwee and Sylvester McCoy) and Nicola Bryant (who played companion Peri) in 1993 straight-to-VHS fan-made special The Airzone Solution.

Although not actually a licensed Doctor Who film, it was very Who in cast and story, with Cumming playing a spy at Airzone, an evil corporation experimenting on innocent people to create a new species of human.

“The Airzone Solution is a sort of Doctor Who homage, and indeed features four actors who played Doctor Who in the cast,” Cumming explains on his website. “I liked being a baddy.”

Sure, some of the film was completely unlike Who – the sex scene between Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant springs to mind – but The Airzone Solution was how many parts of the fandom marked the show’s 30th birthday, preferring it over the BBC’s celebratory skit: a much-criticised Eastenders crossover presented by Noel Edmonds.

However, Airzone isn’t the last of Cumming’s Who connections. According to the producer of The Airzone Solution, Bill Baggs, Cumming was actually due to play The Doctor in a short spin-off special for the show’s 40th anniversary in 2003. However, the project was cut short before filming started for a very special reason.

“Before they announced they were reviving Who, Alan Cumming and I were actually going to do a special drama, an anniversary special for BBC South with Alan Cumming as The Doctor,” Baggs told RadioTimes.com.

“But we ended up getting a call from a Who producer telling us we had to stop because the show was coming back.”

Alan Cumming and Nicola Bryant in The Airzone Solution
Alan Cumming and Nicola Bryant in The Airzone Solution

So there you are, turns out the actor has decades of links to Doctor Who. In fact, you might even say his guest appearance has been – wait for it – a long time Cumming.

…We’ll show ourselves out.

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Doctor Who is on Sundays, BBC1


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