Doctor Who boss opens up about that surprising Richard E. Grant cameo that made an obscure Doctor canon

richard e. grant cameo in doctor who episode 6 rogue
(Image credit: BBC)

When Doctor Who viewers tuned into episode 6, 'Rogue', they were greeted with a wonderful surprise. And no, we aren't talking about Jonathan Groff's charming bounty hunter. Instead, we are referring to an obscure cameo.

As the Doctor discussed his long history, images of his past faces popped up, including all 15 canon Doctors, in addition to Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor and John Hurt’s War Doctor. Hidden amongst these though was the face of Richard E. Grant, who voiced the Doctor, known as the Shalka Doctor, in a 2003 animated web series titled Scream of the Shalka. It certainly shocked fans as this adventure had previously not been considered canon, but for showrunner Russell T Davies the appearance meant something more.

Speaking to SFX magazine in the new issue, which hits newsstands on July 10 and features Doctor Who on the cover, Davies opened up about the exciting cameo, revealing that it was partly included as a thank you to the animated show's writer, saying: "I wrote to [writer] Paul Cornell the night before, saying, 'Please watch tomorrow because there’s such a treat in store,' and he was so delighted. But it’s really nice when you can do things like that. That was a really nice moment between me and Paul, we’re old friends going back decades."

Russell continues: "It was lovely. A little bit of payment there because he created the Ninth Doctor with the Shalka and we completely replaced him with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. So, how nice all these years later, to take a little lean back and sort of say, the door’s open now, thanks to 'The Timeless Child', and you can come in and own your Doctor again. Really, it’s not just fun, it’s a nice thing to do."

Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa in Empire of Death

(Image credit: BBC)

Although Davies says the "door is open now," he won't be pushed on what exactly the appearance from Grant's Doctor means for the show. Instead, he suggests the opposite, emphasizing that it doesn't "presage anything" nor does it mean the Shalka Doctor will return. In fact, Davies highlights that it was a bit of fun adding: "We talked about that many times with [co-writers] Kate [Herron] and Briony [Redman]. Just fun, a joke. It's funny. It's that simple. I sat here in this office with them and they just thought 'an unknown Doctor' – that's what the script said because we had to work out who to get and how we could get him."

Thankfully, Grant was more than up for it, attending a photo shoot where they could take new images of him for the cameo. Davies says that the actor was very excited to take part despite it being a last-minute call: "He wasn’t paid the fee he would’ve been paid to be a Doctor, obviously. He was so up for it and went and did that, especially for us. Very last minute! Because we weren’t sure whether to do it or not, partly because we’re busy, and there was a lot of extra paperwork just to do that. But as we watched that parade of Doctors, we just sat and went, 'We’ve got to put an extra one in, we’ve got to.' That’s the fun of it."

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Doctor Who season 1 is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer in the UK and via Disney Plus worldwide. Read more in the latest issue of SFX magazine, which features Doctor Who on the cover and is available from Wednesday, July 10.  Check out what to look for on newsstands below.

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Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.