These days Olivia Colman is the toast of Hollywood, winning plaudits and awards for her performance in Oscar-nominated film The Favourite and soon to take over the central role in hit Netflix series The Crown.
It’s all a long way from her fondly remembered guest role in a 2010 episode of Doctor Who – and looking back, then-series showrunner Steven Moffat admits he feels they “wasted” the now Oscar-nominated actor in such a small role.
“Well in my first series, [Eleventh Doctor] Matt Smith’s first one, there was Olivia Colman,” Moffat told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party. “Olivia Colman, just a heartbeat before she was stratospheric.”
In the episode (Matt Smith’s debut The Eleventh Hour), Colman played one of the hosts for the episode’s villain Prisoner Zero, a shapeshifting alien prisoner who used Colman’s form to taunt the Doctor (while also showing off some pretty terrifying teeth) at the end of the episode.
In hindsight, Moffat said, he wishes he’d used the actor more.
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“I think, ‘Oh we wasted that, didn’t we!’” Moffat said. “Bloody hell.”
Fellow Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss, meanwhile, had fond memories of a few other future stars he cast in 2013 episode Cold War, including two of Colman’s co-stars in the next series of The Crown (Josh O’Connor and Tobias Menzies) along with Grantchester’s James Norton.
“There are some funny ones aren’t there, like in Cold War, my story on a submarine,” he said.
“Peter, who’s killed in the opening titles, is Josh O’Connor from God’s Own Country: he’s a big star now. And James Norton is one of the sailors, and Tobias Menzies. It’s an amazing submarine of stars now!”
Nowadays, with new boss Chris Chibnall in charge, both men are watching Doctor Who from the sidelines after over a decade at its heart – so do they miss being part of the sci-fi series?
“I’m sort of used to watching Doctor Who I’ve got nothing to do with,” Moffat pointed out.
“That’s alright – I don’t mind that at all. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
“I do still have the impulse to do Doctor Who ideas. And I quite like the luxury of saying, ‘Well, that’s a good idea. I’ll just leave it in my head, it’s fine there.’”
“It’s lovely to know nothing at all,” added Gatiss.
“I used to come in occasionally and write an episode – but you end up finding out bits about the two before and the two after.
“So to know nothing at all has been really lovely, refreshing and fun.”
And who knows? If they watch closely, they may see even more stars of tomorrow wandering in to Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in 2020
This article was originally published on 1 February 2019