‘I got to have an affair with Kylie!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part one

<span>Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

Simon Callow (played Charles Dickens, 2005-2011)

I was one of the very few children who had no time for Doctor Who. I saw the very first episode and said in scornful falsetto, “Science fiction? Ugh!” So when I appeared as Chas Dickens, I was a Doctor Who virgin. But I remember I was moved to tears, as was Christopher Eccleston, by our exchange at the end: “You seem to know a lot about the future,” says Dickens to the Doctor. “May I ask you a question?” “Go ahead.” “Will my books be read?” “Yes.” “How long for?” “For ever.” Exquisite.

Euros Lyn (director of episodes featuring the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, 2005-2010)

The End of the World was the second episode of Christopher Eccleston’s tenure, set on a space station observing the final day on Earth as the sun swells and consumes the planet. Billie Piper’s Rose freaks out about her first trip through time, so the Doctor switches the sim card in her phone to one that allows her to call the past. We cut from Rose gazing at our dying planet to her mum in her tower block flat, emptying the washing machine. “Are you hungover?” her mum says. This is what thrills me about Doctor Who: epic existential sci-fi spliced with everyday human emotion.

Sophie Aldred (played Ace, companion to the Seventh Doctor, 1987-1989)

A particularly striking memory for me is where I was hauled out of this tank of water and it poured all over the studio floor, with Sylvester McCoy shouting at the top of his voice to get me out. Another water-related memory is standing on a rocky outcrop in Lulworth Cove with Sylvester by my side, and the stunt coordinator saying: “Just wait for that wave to come over, then dive in.” I was terrified, but also really excited about doing this bananas stunt. You would never get one of your leading actors to do that now!

Stephen Gallagher (writer of episodes featuring the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, 1981-1983)

Mine would be on the top floor of Lewis’s department store on Market Street, Manchester, in 1965. I was one of the Hartnell-era audience, then along came the movie [Dr Who and the Daleks]. Big screen! Colour! Peter Cushing! One of the sets was recreated in the store. You made your way through a maze into the Dalek control room where you had to pass between two live movie Daleks. My mother had to tow me out by the arm, yelling as I went. In my defence, I was nine.

Anneke Wills (played Polly, companion to the First and Second Doctors, 1966-67)

It’s early October 1966, the doors of Saint Helen’s church hall swing open, and Patrick Troughton comes in. He’s wearing a red cardigan and a woven Greek bag over his shoulder, his Manchester Guardian sticking out. He has a hopeful grin on his face. We are all on our feet cheering! This magic moment never to be forgotten. If it hadn’t been for Patrick Troughton, we wouldn’t be talking about Doctor Who today.

Related: Russell T Davies on secrets, sex and falling for Doctor Who: ‘Something clicked in my head: I love you’

Nikki Wilson (series producer, 2008-2022)

Having produced Doctor Who for more than a decade, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a single highlight from so many crazy, stressful and joyous memories. But if I had to pick one, it would be being crammed into a real aeroplane watching the crew rehearsal for the scene at the end of Spyfall when the brilliant Sacha Dhawan reveals that the convivial “O” is in fact the Master. Sacha’s performance was so electric that he earned a spontaneous round of applause! That moment always gave me a thrill.

Simon Nye (writer of Amy’s Choice, 2010)

The double episode The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit hit new levels of fear, poetry and storytelling, and the banter was as classy as ever. Who would have known that the most haunting monsters ever are the modest Ood, who have faces that look like a bunch of intestines stuffed into an old hard-boiled egg? And the scariest sight in the universe is a man with writing on his face?

John Leeson (played K9, robot dog companion to the Doctor, 1977-2008)

We were filming The Stones of Blood at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. I was hidden in a BBC van with a lip mic, my K9 voice audible in the open air. The director ordered a break, and Tom Baker parked himself on a bank with the K9 module plonked beside him. He called out to me: “Have you got your Times crossword?” The answer was: “Affirmative,” and we began to do clues together. What I couldn’t see were the public onlookers for whom any disbelief was suspended that K9 and his master were real, and actually at one!

Jimmy Vee (played various aliens, including the Moxx of Balhoon, the Graske and Bannakaffalatta, 2005-2014)

My favourite experience on Doctor Who was playing Bannakaffalatta, who got to have an affair with Kylie Minogue on board the Titanic! It was a pleasure to be that character as Russell T Davies actually wrote the part for me to play. Out of all the characters I’ve played in the show, that would have to be the best one.

Ruth Madeley (plays Shirley Anne Bingham in the 60th anniversary specials, 2023)

I always loved David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s dynamic. They are so incredible together and they always bring so much to every scene – humour, emotion, excitement. When I found out I was joining them for the 60th anniversary, it was a dream come true. I feel so lucky.

Kai Owen (played Rhys Williams in Torchwood, 2006-2011)

To be part of the Whoniverse is a real joy! My time as Rhys on Torchwood is one of the happiest times of my career – to work with Russell T Davies, it doesn’t get better than that. The Torchwood hub and the Tardis were in the same studio, separated by a black cloth. I remember walking on the Tardis and running my lines, it was such an exciting time. The best part is the fans, the loyalty, support and love that they have for Doctor Who is unparalleled. The universal love for this show always blows my mind!

Tom Kingsley (director of one of the 60th anniversary specials, 2023)

In each episode the Doctor has to solve a problem with nothing more than their wits and a screwdriver. I love how the show itself has the same resourcefulness, with only a modest BBC budget. Some of the most joyful inventiveness is in Blink, in which the Weeping Angels first appear. You never see them moving and the Doctor barely features, but Steven Moffat spins an exhilaratingly confusing and desperately bleak story. It’s a kind of magic to create something so rich from just a handful of ingredients … although it helps that one of those ingredients is Carey Mulligan!