Break out the bunting, it’s the Queen’s 90th birthday (yes, again). And while, on Gallifrey, Her Majesty would barely be out of the nursery (by our calculation, she’s around 2010 years younger than the Doctor), it’s an impressive score for an Earthling – particularly when you consider how many times the planet has nearly been destroyed by aliens on her watch.
Thankfully, a certain more friendly extra-terrestrial has always been on hand to do his bit for Queen and country. So join us for a time-travelling game of thrones as we discover some of the Doctor’s closest encounters with the English monarchy. (Very close encounters, in one case, but we’ll come to that.)
She may be Britain’s longest-serving monarch, but the Queen nearly had the shortest reign in history when alien criminal the Wire tried to stage an Earth invasion during her 1953 coronation. The creature’s MO was to suck the life force from people watching the event on television, leaving them mindless, helpless husks – years before Simon Cowell had the same idea with The X Factor. Luckily, the Tenth Doctor managed to foil the fiend’s plans by trapping it on a Betamax videotape (ask your parents). (The Idiot’s Lantern, 2006)
A quarter of a century later, the Fifth Doctor crashed the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations at a posh public school, where his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart had retired from military service to teach maths. This tossed something of a hand grenade into the so-called UNIT Dating Controversy – the ongoing debate about whether Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor had taken place in the 1970s or the 1980s. (The internet has several million words to say on this subject, should you find yourself at a very loose end.) The Doctor actually met two Brigadiers during this story, though they only had one moustache between them. (Mawdryn Undead, 1983)
Five years after that, the Doctor celebrated his own silver jubilee with 25th anniversary story Silver Nemesis. To mark the occasion, producer John Nathan-Turner had hoped to persuade the Queen’s youngest son, Edward, to make a cameo appearance, for which he would have received the princely sum of £50. When HRH declined, they had to make do with a ‘lookalike’ of the Queen herself, who the Seventh Doctor and Ace have a near run-in with in the grounds of Winsdor Castle. Actress Mary Reynolds was given a handbag and a pack of Corgis for the role, presumably to compensate for the fact she’s a dead ringer for someone who looks nothing like the Queen. (Silver Nemesis, 1988)
Over the last 10 years or so, the Queen’s Christmas Day message of peace and goodwill to the Commonwealth has been somewhat overshadowed by loads of scary monsters choosing that date to try to blow up or take over the planet.
In 2006, the Sycorax threatened to make billions of people jump to their deaths using blood control – including the Queen and the Royal Family, who were teetering on the edge of Buckingham Palace roof. (The Christmas Invasion, 2005.) Two years later, that same palace was almost destroyed by a space-faring replica of the Titanic. The Doctor used a special security code to contact Buck House and order its evacuation but, in true Blitz-style, the Queen insisted on staying put, heading up to the roof in her dressing gown and curlers to give the Doctor a cheery wave as he averted disaster at the eleventh hour. (Voyage of the Damned, 2007.) In an alternative timeline, however, the Doctor wasn’t around to save the day, and the Queen and all her family died when the Titanic plunged into the Palace in a nuclear fireball that turned the whole of southern England into an irradiated wasteland. Anyway, Happy Christmas! (Turn Left, 2008)
At Easter 2009, the Doctor parked his TARDIS in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, insisting Her Majesty was totally cool with that. (Planet of the Dead, 2009). They were obviously pretty matey by this point, as 29th century queen Elizabeth X (known to her friends as Liz 10 – motto: “Basically, I rule”) recalled the Doctor having “tea and scones with Liz 2” back in the day. (The Beast Below, 2010)
The Third Doctor claimed to have attended Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. He was a bit of a namedropper, to be honest. (The Curse of Peladon, 1972)
In 1879, the Tenth Doctor and Rose teamed up with Victoria to defeat a werewolf (okay, a Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform, but let’s not split fur) at the Torchwood Estate in Scotland. As a reward for their assistance, Her Majesty knighted them both, before banishing the Doctor from the British Empire, branding him an Enemy of the State and setting up the Torchwood Institute to hunt down other alien troublemakers. Talk about blowing hot and cold.
It is also believed that the werewolf gave Victoria a nasty nip, leading the Doctor to speculate that all future members of the Royal Family might, in fact, have werewolf DNA – including our current birthday girl. Rose thought this was would explain a lot about Princess Anne. (Tooth and Claw, 2006)
As a postscript, in 1883, the Seventh Doctor helped foil an assassination attempt on “the Crowned Saxe-Coburg” by an alien who wanted to restore order to the British Empire. (Ghost Light, 1989)
The Merry Monarch was anything but happy when he discovered a naked Eleventh Doctor – without so much as a fez to cover his modesty – hiding beneath the skirts of a saucy aristocrat called Matilda. But it was all perfectly innocent: turns out she’d just been painting the Time Lord in the nude. This never happened in William Hartnell’s day. (The Impossible Astronaut, 2011)
Okay, this is where things get really interesting, as the Doctor takes the idea of being an ardent royalist to a frankly treasonable level. In 1562, the Tenth Doctor proposed to Elizabeth I in the mistaken belief she was actually a Zygon. (He didn’t want to marry a Zygon – though who are we to judge if he did? – it was just a ruse to get her to reveal her true identity.) But it turned out she really was good Queen Bess, and the Zygon was actually her horse. True story. Nevertheless, a promise is a promise, so the Doctor went through with the marriage ceremony – shortly before scarpering back into time and space without so much as a glance at Ye Johne Lewise Gift List. (The Day of the Doctor, 2013)
Clearly miffed at having been left in the lurch, by the time Elizabeth next encountered the Doctor, after a performance of Love’s Labour’s Won at the Globe Theatre in London in 1599, she declared him her ‘sworn enemy’ and ordered her guards to chop his head off. That’s what we call a messy separation. (The Shakespeare Code, 2007)
At some point, though, it seems the Doctor and his royal bride must have consummated the marriage. “So much for the Virgin Queen, you bad, bad boy” smirked Liz 10 in The Beast Below – and the Doctor himself admitted that her nickname might now be out of date. (The End of Time, 1989) That definitely never happened in William Hartnell’s day.
The Third Doctor, in another of his namedropping sessions, also claimed to have been kept prisoner by Elizabeth in the Tower of London, along with Sir Walter Raleigh, who kept banging on and on about having discovered the potato. (The Mind of Evil, 1971)
“Divorced, beheaded, died / divorced, beheaded, survived / sent back in time by the Weeping Angels.” Every school child knows Henry VIII had six wives – but what about the seventh? Step forward Mrs Amy Pond, who somehow got herself hitched to old Coppernose in a distracted moment – and on her wedding anniversary to Rory, too. (The Power of Three, 2012) Rory’s contribution to Tudor society, meanwhile, was accidentally leaving his mobile phone charger in Henry’s en-suite. Oops. (A Town Called Mercy, 2012)
The First Doctor also recalled a row with Henry, in which the King had thrown a parson’s nose at him. (That’s part of a chicken, for the confused vegetarians among you.) But it was all a clever ploy to get himself taken to the Tower, where he’d left the TARDIS, the cunning old goat. (The Sensorites, 1964)
While the real thing was in London, the Master used his shape-shifting robot Kamelion to impersonate Bad King John in order to stop him signing Magna Carta. When the Fifth Doctor pointed out this was “small time villainy by your standards”, the Master insisted it was all part of a totally brilliant plan to undermine the key civilisations of the universe, one at a time. Yeah, let us know how you get on with that. (The King’s Demons, 1983)
The First Doctor encountered Richard the Lionheart at the height of his Holy War with the Saracen ruler Saladin. Written by the show’s first story editor, David Whitaker, The Crusade is essentially a Shakespearean history play sneaked in under the Doctor Who banner, with some passages in actual, English teacher-pleasing iambic pentameter. Richard was played by RSC veteran Julian Glover, who would go on to be a memorable adversary for both James Bond and Indiana Jones, and is still causing trouble today as Game of Thrones’ Maester Pycelle. (The Crusade, 1965)