Actors and actresses with a screen presence have many advantages over voice-over artists. A voice artist must put all of their emotion and energy into the words and delivery. It’s a tough job and not everyone can do it well – even veteran actors of stage and screen often struggle where relatively unknown names can thrive.
Nicholas “Every Dalek Ever” Briggs has been haunting us with his metal machines and voice modulators since 2005, and he is perhaps the most well known voice artist on the show. Some pretty big name Hollywood stars have been heard and not seen in the series, from Sir Ian McKellen to John Sessions and beyond.
Briggs famously kept Doctor Who alive with his Big Finish productions, and if you really want to hear some top notch voice artists, that is where you will find them. But there are some notable performances within the television show itself that I would like to focus on here.
No, not that Brian Cox – the other one. The actor one. Cox was also cast as Sydney Newman in the 50th anniversary docudrama An Adventure In Time and Space but he’s better known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was the first actor to portray Hannibal Lecter on film back in 1986.
In Doctor Who he voiced the the Ood Elder in the Tenth Doctor’s final story, The End of Time. Though he was not on set for the occasion, he gave the voice in studio. Interestingly, the Ood Elder was the only Ood to not be voice by Silas Carson (who, incidentally, has been voicing for Star Wars).
Cox’s performance is brief, but gives this particular Ood some gravitas and a real presence. The fact that he has such a different tone to the others sets him apart and with a few short lines, Brian Cox manages to give us a small glimpse into something of Ood society.
Michael Sheen (House)
Sheen is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Tony Blair in the 2003 television film The Deal, reprising the role in The Queen (2006) and once again in The Special Relationship (2010). He had the monumental task in Doctor Who of playing an entire planet in The Doctor’s Wife.
He managed to pull off a voice that was at once pleasant, and yet vaguely menacing. House was a living organism that fed off TARDISes, that tricked Time Lords into his pocket dimension and consumed them. With no face and or limbs, House was essentially a giant mind, one that attempted to ensnare the Doctor’s TARDIS as his new ‘body’. Michael Sheen had to get across the desperation, the deception and the villainy of this character, delivering them in a way that suggested he was really throwing himself into the role.
Alexander Armstrong (Mr Smith)
Alexander Armstrong is best known for his comedy double act with Ben Miller. Armstrong also has some considerable musical talent which he is never afraid to show off – he’s the leader of a band which performs a range of jazz and rock classics.
He was introduced to the world of Doctor Who in The Sarah Jane Adventures, where he gives voice to the extraterrestrial super computer Mr. Smith. He got to lend his voice in Doctor Who proper in Tenth Doctor’s 2008 finale The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End (he later appeared on screen as Reg Arwell in the 2011 Christmas Special The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe).
Throughout The Sara Jane Adventures, Mr. Smith is a somewhat stoic, unemotional device, delivering information and explanations. Yet there is a certain personality to him – he is a little self congratulatory and aggrandising, insisting on a bombastic fanfare whenever he appears. There were plans for Armstrong to appear in person in a later episode (Meet Mr. Smith), however, with the death of Elizabeth Sladen, this never came to pass.
John Sessions (Gus)
Comedian John Sessions has some serious acting chops with a host of stage roles, as well as frequent appearances on shows such as QI and Who’s Line is it Anyway under his belt. He has previously lent his voice to the Big Finish audio adventures alongside the Sixth Doctor, notably playing Mozart in 2007’s My Own Private Wolfgang. But last year, at long last, he got into the TV series, giving voice to the mysterious computer system, Gus.
This computer had been trying to get the Doctor on the Orient Express – the space edition – for some time and the Twelfth Doctor finally gave in and went to have a look at it. Sessions presented a character at once mischievous, intelligent, and somewhat dark of purpose. Very much like the Doctor himself within the series.
John Guilor (The First Doctor)
William Hartnell, it may not surprise you, is dead. He has been for quite a while, too. So when the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor called for a cameo from the First Doctor, it was the talented John Guilor who gave us the line “Calling the War Council of Gallifrey, this is the Doctor!”.
This is far from the first time Guilor has given his Hartnell impersonation. He has been in and out of fan pieces for many years now but he was later hired to help in the DVD reconstruction of the 1964 serial Planet of Giants. He is also known for giving a stunningly accurate Tom Baker impression, too.
Russell T Davis (Radio Announcer)
The man who brought Doctor Who back (with the help of Julie Gardner) in 2005 actually ended up in an episode of Torchwood. He’s not credited on IMDB or anything but it’s mentioned in some contemporary interviews that in Episode 9 of Miracle Day, the Welsh radio announcer is none other than Russell T Davies himself.
Can we expect to see Steven Moffat making a similar cameo some day? Who knows. Maybe he’ll play himself – wouldn’t put it past him.