Doctor Who has had a few brushes with stars before they hit the stratospheres of Hollywood — there’s appearances of everyone from Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan to, yes, Academy-award-winning delight Olivia Colman. Now, thanks to the power of hindsight, former showrunner Steven Moffat wishes he’d done a bit more with Coleman in particular.
Colman made a tiny appearance in Moffat’s very first episode as showrunner on Who, Matt Smith’s first full episode, “The Eleventh Hour”. She plays one of several human forms inhabited by the alien monster of the week, a shape-shifting space eel called Prisoner Zero.
It’s only for a few scenes, and at one point she gets horrifying CG alien monster teeth, because it’s Doctor Who and that’s just how things shake out sometimes.
But look at her now! Broadchurch star, soon-to-be-Queen-of-England on The Crown (sadly not in real life, that’s not how the monarchy works), and of course, the talk of Hollywood for both her dazzling performance in The Favourite, and her ceaselessly endearing acceptance speech from the Oscars after she took the Best Actress award for it last month. That’s a long way from threatening the Doctor and Amy Pond with creepy teeth!
But hindsight is a wonderful thing, as Moffat recently pondered in an interview with the Radio Times, wishing that he’d managed to get Colman for a more involved role on the show before she truly catapulted to TV and movie stardom:
Well in my first series, [Eleventh Doctor] Matt Smith’s first one, there was Olivia Colman. Olivia Colman, just a heartbeat before she was stratospheric. I think, ‘Oh we wasted that, didn’t we!’ Bloody hell.
Who knows — after all, Colman was playing a shapeshifting alien who’d taken on a random woman’s form. She could return in some other capacity to menace Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, and of course has connections with current showrunner Chris Chibnall thanks to Broadchurch. Maybe a return to Who could be in the cards someday for a something a bit meatier than her first go-round?
She’s probably a bit busier now though. Just a bit.