The TARDIS is capable of traveling anywhere and any-when. Those who have traveled with the Doctor have found themselves in many times and places they could never have expected. Many of the actors in Doctor Who have appears in other genre shows that are worthy of mention, but rather than give individual episodic reviews, we can look at those series on a whole.
A strong starting point for our journey is the land of Westeros, found in the extraordinarily popular series Game of Thrones. How is it linked to our good Doctor, you ask?
David Bradley (Walder Frey in GoT) played Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, William Hartnell in An Adventure in Time and Space and now the 1st Doctor himself in the upcoming Twice upon a Time. As if that’s not enough, Maisie Williams played Me/Ashildr throughout Peter Capaldi’s 9th season. Not enough? Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos in GoT) is the captain of the submarine in Matt Smith’s episode Cold War. Harry Lloyd (Family of Blood), Dianna Rigg (The Crimson Horror), Mark Gatiss (The Lazarus Experiment, Twice upon a Time), Faye Marsay (Last Christmas), Julian Glover (The Crusades, City of Death), Robert Pugh (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood), Donald Sumpter (Hell Bent)… and that’s not even a comprehensive list!
But is Game of Thrones a game worthy of the TARDIS crew? Is Westeros a place to spend time exploring?
In a word: absolutely. Game of Thrones plays a long game, taking 7 seasons (so far) to tell with an 8th coming to wrap up the story. It is, however, not for the faint of heart. It’s a brutal land, filled with magic, dragons and lots of adult themes. Subterfuge, murder and mayhem are the order of the day as the kingdoms struggle to rule the land and sit on The Iron Throne. It is not for the young, so some Doctor Who fans might need to wait a couple of years to be admitted. For those fans, fear not, the show benefits from binge viewing; many of the characters you’ll meet will vanish for entire seasons. When they turn up again, it’s often necessary to review episode synopses to see who they were. A back to back run of the series will reduce the need for consulting those appendices. Watching while it was broadcast meant waiting from season to season and sadly, memory fades!
Thematically, Game of Thrones is entirely different from Doctor Who. One would be labeled Fantasy with its magic, sword play, and dragons; the other Science fiction with traveling through time and space. Doctor Who jumps from place to place and time to time in such a way that continuity is lost to a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey excuse for ultimately having too many writers. Because of its nature, it can get away with that. Game of Thrones, by contrast, has to have a strongly defined, cohesive world. What happens in one episode must affect others. And the nature of the Game is one of vying for power in a world at war. Doctor Who is about an explorer who helps out wherever he goes, in lands that never even heard about the place he came from a week before!
With Game of Thrones having just finished its penultimate season, there’s a feeling of “trimming the fat”, bringing viewers to the necessary point to launch the final season after many seasons of world-building. It’s a roller coaster show, putting characters on believable arcs, changing them over time, and proving no one is one-dimensional. Some episodes are slow, but like a fine wine, it has to be allowed time to breathe to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Some go full speed ahead and knock the viewer over. And no one is safe from the blade…
In some ways, that’s what the two shows have in common. In Game of Thrones, death is coming for everyone; anyone can be written off. In Doctor Who, companions come and go, some die and some are lost. The Doctor himself can die and regenerate. There’s no guarantee how someone will go in either show! And I can’t help but wonder how the Doctor would cope in the land of Westeros! (That might be a subject for speculation at a later time!)
With the final season over a year away, we have ample time to go back and watch Game of Thrones again. It’s the only show that is making us wait longer than Doctor Who for its return! If track record holds true, there will be a stunning resolution to this amazing series. What we need is a bit of hope for the good guys, and there’s a sound that brings hope wherever it goes. Perhaps it’s time for a certain wheezing, groaning sound to be heard throughout Westeros… ML
As with The Tomorrow People, Blake’s 7, Sapphire & Steel and Red Dwarf during the years of the classic Dr. Who, Game Of Thrones reminded us that the modern Dr. Who wasn’t the only show to captivate fans of British TV adventures. Like Dr. Who, Game Of Thrones made the past look very exciting and extraordinary, as opposed to the vision of the futuristic past that Star Wars had made so rewarding.
The Lord Of The Rings and Xena: Warrior Princess had already proved that giving ancient history a flare of fantasy-themed elements, within mythological realism, could enrich the main characters and make our heroes, villains and even the creatures more identifiable. It was the original Clash Of The Titans that I think sparked my fandom in that regard, even if the original wasn’t the best that it could have been.
Both Dr. Who and Game Of Thrones sharing stars like David Bradley, Maisie Williams, Diana Rigg, Julian Glover and Owen Teale affirms how equally attractive both shows are to British talent. That also affirms how well British actors must know each other.
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Mark Gatiss has made a good name for himself between Dr. Who, Game Of Thrones and Sherlock, along with the voice of Gold for Sapphire & Steel (Big Finish). As Tycho he had good chemistry with Lena Headey as Cersei.
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Having first seen Lena Headey in Gossip, then sometime after that in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and 300, and most recently in Fighting With My Family, her distinguished role as Cersei gives me the best respect for her as an actress and will be hard to match.
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