Many of the qualities actors need in order to make the Doctor such an enigmatic hero are the same qualities that make for great villains. There’s that flinty intelligence, the ability to seethe behind the eyes, a certain arrogance, and of course, all the best movie villains are British, and so, for all intents and purposes, is the Doctor.
As a perfect illustration of this point you only have to look over the trailer for the Second Doctor epic “The Enemy of the World,” in which Patrick Troughton plays the evil Salamander—the Doctor’s doppelganger—by parting his hair and putting on an accent.
So, as more details of David Tennant‘s dastardly part in Jessica Jones become available, here’s a brief roundup of Doctor Who alumni who’ve gone on to do very bad things indeed (or started out doing bad things before the Doctor came calling):
A literally Marvelous performance, not just from Christopher, but the makeup and special effects department of Thor: The Dark World, in which he plays Malekith the Accursed, ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. Although if you want true evil, track down his performance as Dan Jago, a modernized and supercharged Iago in the 2001 British TV movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.
He’s played a Russell Brand-style rock star magician in Fright Night, an aristocratic rotter in St. Trinians 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, a deranged stalker in Secret Smile, and a haughty young rascal in The Bill, but it’s his lip-licking turn as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that tends to linger longest in the mind. Not just a cold-hearted wretch, but slatheringly bonkers with it.
Any British actor with a decent theatrical intonation will at some point be offered the role of bad guy in a movie, and John Hurt has one of the finest voices British theater has ever produced. In an early comic crossover, John played the fascist dictator Adam Sutler in the movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. He is by no means the only rotter in the Hurt resume, he did play the Roman emporer Caligula in I, Claudius after all, and his turn as Marquis Montrose in Rob Roy was every bit as chilling.
It’s not just the Doctor either; Karen appears to have taken the big leg-up offered by her time as Amy Pond as a cue to play as many different types of roles as she can sign up to. She’s done horror, she’s done comedy, she’s played romantic heroines and kooky best friends. And as if sending a message to casting agents all over the world, she shaved her hair off to play the cold assassin Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Although Matt has yet to demonstrate his full cold steel in a Marvel franchise, he did take a turn on stage in American Psycho, and he played a small part in the movie In Bruges, in which he plays a young, and utterly ruthless gangland boss Harry Waters (as played with full Voldemort intensity by Ralph Fiennes). Sadly the part was cut from the final movie. But there was also his turn in the recent Terminator: Genisys, in which he turns up as… well that would be telling.
Of all the recent Doctors, it’s Peter Capaldi whose performance as the errant Time Lord is closest to his various roles as far nastier characters indeed. The Twelfth Doctor is a stern, judgmental and bossy individual who requires a human translator and etiquette advisor in order to be likable. For his part as Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers, Peter uses out the same forbidding vocal inflections, but it’s just the Cardinal doesn’t care if people like him or not. He’s too powerful for that:
And this would be no kind of roundup whatsoever if we did not make at least a passing reference to the full swearing awfulness of Peter’s most grotesque creation, Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It; a man whose temper is worse than a squadron of hungover Daleks and whose ability to scheme and plot (and throw tantrums) is the envy of Davros himself:
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