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article imageDoctor Who: Brian Blessed regrets turning down lead role

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 5, 2014 in Entertainment
Brian Blessed has revealed he turned down the opportunity to play the Doctor in the BBC’s long-running science-fiction drama series; but says he would jump at the opportunity now.
As reported by the Guardian, Blessed was speaking to the Radio Times, and revealed he was once offered the part of the Doctor early on in his acting career — in the mid-sixties — which would suggest that he was approached with a view to replacing William Hartnell, the actor who portrayed the First Doctor from 1963 to 1966.
“After I was in Z Cars, the head of BBC serials took me aside and said, ‘We’re thinking of having a young Doctor Who and we’d like to cast you,’” Blessed told Radio Times. “But it clashed with other things.”
In the event, when Hartnell stepped down in 1966, he was replaced by Patrick Troughton (The Omen) and the rest, they say, is history. Troughton went on to portray the Second Doctor from 1966 to 1969, returning to the role on three occasions — in 1973, 1983 and 1985, for, respectively, The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors. In 1984, he played a Doctor-like character, Cole Hawlins, in the BBC’s fondly remembered television adaptation of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights.
In 2013, Reece Shearsmith recreated the role of Troughton’s Doctor for Adventures in Space and Time, Mark Gatiss’s acclaimed Doctor Who biopic, which told the story of the early years of the 51-year-old series and starred David Bailey as William Hartnell and his Doctor Who alter ego.
One of Blessed’s earliest roles — and the one many people still remember him for — was that of PC “Fancy” Smith in the BBC’s 1960s police drama series, Z Cars. Since then his television and film roles have been numerous, including playing Prince Vultan in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie and Boss Nass in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). More recently, he has been known for his role of the Necross King in Russell T Davies’s magical science-fiction drama series, Wizards vs Aliens.
Blessed did appear in the series in 1986, playing King Yrcanos to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor in the “Mindwarp” segment of the season-long serial, The Trial of a Time Lord. Interestingly, Blessed’s name was in fact bandied around in the 1980s as a possible Doctor Who and the actor has long been a fan-favourite for the part.
Of the chance to play the Doctor these days, the 77-year-old would have no hesitation in accepting: “I’d jump at it,” said in the interview.
Having first been broadcast on television in 1963, Doctor Who celebrated it’s 50th anniversary last year with a number of specially produced dramas and documentaries, including The Day of the Doctor, which was broadcast in 92 countries simultaneously on the show’s exact birthday: Saturday, November 23.
Thirteen actors have so far portrayed the Doctor on TV during that time, including Peter Capaldi, who recently took over the role from Matt Smith. Capaldi’s first full season begins later this month — Saturday, August 23 — although a number of cinema premieres in different countries will be screened in the weeks before then.
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