DOCTOR WHO Just Made Another Doctor Canon

Doctor Who at one time had a seemingly very concrete canon and continuity. That has gone out the window, essentially for the last 10 years. The 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” introduced a Doctor, the War Doctor, from the middle of the Doctor’s life that the audience never knew about. Since then, radical departures and additions to lore have been commonplace. The Fugitive Doctor, plus a series of other pre-First Doctor incarnations, debuted a few years ago. Now, once and current showrunner Russell T Davies has ostensibly made another once-non-canonical Doctor canon.

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) look confused in Regency garb in Doctor Who episode Rogue.
Spoiler Alert

In “Rogue,” the sixth episode of the first Disney+ season, we see a familiar beat. The current Doctor, in an effort to prove he’s a Time Lord rather than the shapeshifting villain, projects a rotating circle of former selves around him. We see all the ones you’d expect, plus the Fugitive Doctor. But you might say “wait a minute, is that Richard E. Grant? From Loki? Was he ever a Doctor?” Yes. And no.

Richard E. Grant among the many faces of Doctor Who, making another Doctor canon.

In 2003, prior to RTD and company rebooting the series with Christopher Eccleston in the lead role, BBCi, or the BBC’s internet arm, commissioned a six-part story from writer Paul Cornell as a Flash animation story for the Doctor Who website. This story, “Scream of the Shalka,” cast long-ballyhooed Richard E. Grant to play a vampirish-looking Doctor opposite Sophie Okonedo as companion Alison Cheney and Derek Jacobi as the Master. David Tennant also had a small role. Grant also played one of the Doctors in the 1999 Comic Relief special “Curse of Fatal Death,” written by Steven Moffat.

The animated Shalka Doctor, as played by Richard E. Grant, in the 2003 Doctor Who animated serial, Scream of the Shalka.

Due to the live-action series announcement, “Scream of the Shalka” almost didn’t come out at all but eventually aired in late 2003. Ultimately the series wasn’t part of the continuity, despite that being the idea at the time. Obviously Tennant went on to play the Doctor after Eccleston. Okonedo would play Liz 10 in “The Beast Below,” Jacobi would indeed play the Master in “Utopia,” and even Grant himself would play the Series 7 recurring villain, the Great Intelligence.

Seeing Grant in the wheel of Doctors is a fun nod to this animated anomaly. RTD himself said not favorable things about Grant’s portrayal in the role, but that was 20 years ago. Things change. Whether we ever see Grant full-bodied on screen certainly remains to be seen, but I guess we can expect a Peter Cushing picture at some point soon too?

Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. He hosts the weekly pop culture deep-dive podcast Laser Focus. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.

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