Having aired more than 150 episodes since the show was revived, “Doctor Who” has seen quite a few big names fill up its cast list. Some of these have been new actors looking to break into the industry, while others have been established stars. Included in that list are people so successful that they’ve been nominated – or possibly even won – an Academy Award. Of course, you may not remember all their appearances, given how long ago some of them made their “Doctor Who” debut.
It was 2006 when Andrew Garfield filmed his scenes for the third season of the show. When his episodes eventually aired the following year, he was still a relative newbie to the industry. Luckily, his role as Frank in the two-parter “Daleks in Manhattan”/”Evolution of the Daleks” changed all that. He received praise for his appearance, and a few years later was cast in movies like “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
His Academy Award nomination only came a few years ago when he was up for Best Actor for his part in “Hacksaw Ridge.” He faced fierce competition from the likes of Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington, and he ultimately lost out to Casey Affleck.
Pauline Collins’ role in “Doctor Who” came a year before Garfield’s when she starred as Queen Victoria in the episode “Tooth and Claw.” Playing one of Britain’s most famous monarchs must have been an honor for the actress, especially given the praise she received. Critical consensus on the episode itself was slightly mixed, but her performance was still something worth celebrating.
Collins had been acting for over four years when the part came along, with her Academy Award nomination arriving during her third decade in the industry. She was up for Best Actress for her leading role in “Shirley Valentine,” but it was Jessica Tandy who went home victorious.
Compared to some of the other stars on this list, it’s probably a bit harder to forget Carey Mulligan’s time in “Doctor Who.” After all, not only did her episode revolve all around her, but it was one of the scariest pieces of TV the show has ever produced. Then again, “Blink ” did air several years before the actress became a big star. Even though the episode received critical acclaim for its terrifying villains and endless tension, Mulligan was still a relative newbie at the time.
It was only a few years after “Blink” aired that Carey was nominated for an Academy Award. Her breakout movie role in “An Education” saw her face up against big names like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Mulligan’s year – it was Sandra Bullock’s.
Before there was “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “Rogue One,” there was “Doctor Who.” Back when Felicity Jones was still relatively early into her acting career, she appeared on an episode of the show’s fourth season. The actress portrayed Robina Redmond – or rather, a thief impersonating her – in the Agatha Christie-focused “The Unicorn and the Wasp.” Felicity played the character well, although it was tough to steal the spotlight when competing with a giant insect.
Nearly a decade after this role, Jones was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Her role as Stephen Hawking’s wife received high praise, although not enough to help her claim the win over Julianne Moore.
By the time season five came around, “Doctor Who” was one of the biggest shows on TV. At least, it was in the UK anyway. The program’s immense popularity meant it could attract bigger names, including Sophie Okonedo. The actress appeared twice in the show that season – both times as Liz Ten – in the episodes “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens.” Reaction to her role was fairly positive, with Okonedo praised for her acting. What else would you expect from an Academy Award nominee, though?
Her nomination came in the mid-’00s when she was selected for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Hotel Rwanda. The movie was up for three awards that night, but none of its efforts were successful, with Cate Blanchett beating out Sophie in her category.
Richard E. Grant
Richard E. Grant was no stranger to acting, nor to “Doctor Who,” when he appeared as The Great Intelligence in season seven. He’d been in the industry since the ‘80s, during which time he appeared in a charity special of the show. Some years later, he was asked to return for the episodes “The Snowmen,” “The Bells of Saint John,” and “The Name of the Doctor.” Initially portraying the villainous character Dr. Simeon, he soon became the face of the enemy that’s been around since the ‘60s.
Despite his many years in the industry, it was only in 2019 that Grant had his first chance to win an Academy Award. Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t successful, losing out on the Best Supporting Actor gong for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” to Mahershala Ali.
Britain was no stranger to Olivia Colman when she appeared in Matt Smith’s “Doctor Who” debut “The Eleventh Hour.” Roles in programs like “Peep Show” and “Green Wing,” as well as movies like “Hot Fuzz,” meant she was already something of a national treasure. The rest of the world might not have been as familiar with her, but that changed eventually. Her appearance as Prisoner Zero definitely helped with that, although it was starring in several major movies that really made a difference.
Much like Grant, it was only in 2019 that Colman received her first Academy Award nomination. However, unlike him, she actually walked home a winner that night. She beat out competition from Glenn Close and Lady Gaga to win Best Actress for “The Favourite,” an achievement she’ll probably never forget.
These actors all made an impression when they starred in “Doctor Who,” and rightly so. However, after so many years on TV, we can’t be blamed if we don’t always remember the roles they played.