“Lots of planets have a north”
Don’t let the received pronunciation accents fool you: the Doctor has been a scouser more than once. And it’s not just John Bishop who hails from the city among the show’s 59 years of companions. We picked out eight connections between Liverpool and Doctor Who because, as the Ninth Doctor observes, The North is a universal concept.
Tom Baker aka The Fourth Doctor
He may not sound it but Tom Baker is as Liverpool as Doctor Who gets (some say his Fourth Doctor is as Doctor Who as Doctor Who gets, the clip below is celebrated as a high point in the show’s history). Tom’s memoir, Who On Earth Is Tom Baker, paints the post-war city as a place of poverty, solidarity and contradictions. Whether he’s inhaling incense in Catholic Churches, marvelling at the names of scouse pubs (The Legs of Mann, now an extension of the Liverpool Empire, gets a name check) or reminiscing about life on Scotland Road, Tom is intrinsically scouse: Eccentric, iconic, indomitable.
Paul McGann aka The Eighth Doctor
Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor is perhaps more recognisably a creature of Liverpool - despite his Edwardian style there’s no disguising his accent. His on-screen performance - stretching from 1996’s TV movie to The Night of the Doctor in 2013 (which sees the Eighth Doctor regenerate into the War Doctor, 17 years after McGann first appeared in the role) - is more frequently heard on audio than seen on television, leading to McGann dubbing himself the ‘George Lazenby’ of Doctor Who. Paul is good friends with David Morissey and the latter convinced him to return to the stage in Liverpool (he did so in 2017’s Gabriel, at the Playhouse).
Elisabeth Sladen aka Sarah-Jane Smith
Often seen as the ultimate classic series companion, Sarah-Jane may not have been a scouser but the actress that played her certainly was. Lis Sladen was born in Liverpool in 1948 and attended Moss Pits in Wavertree and Aigburth Vale High School For Girls, later becoming an assistant stage manager at the Liverpool Playhouse. Sarah was a companion to the Third, Fourth, and Tenth Doctors, while encountering four others on screen (and even more in other media), straddling the classic and new series. Her appearances spanned 37 years, both in Doctor Who and spin-off The Sarah-Jane Adventures. An underpass that runs under Aigburth Road bears her face in celebration of the Liverpool actress.
Maureen O’Brien aka Vicki Pallister
She may only have appeared in nine stories back in the mid-sixties, but Liverpool’s Maureen O’Brien made a big impact as the First Doctor’s companion, Vicki. Rescued from the still-unsettling Koquillion, she went on to battle Daleks, encounter the Mon (the first time another Timelord was seen alongside the Doctor in the show) and journey back in time to ancient Troy, where she left the TARDIS and eventually passed into legend as Cressida. Maureen went on to become a renowned Shakespearean actor, appearing in Henry IV, Part One at the Everyman in 1964. Lately she has returned to the role of Vicki through Big Finish’s audio adventures, six decades after she first appeared in Doctor Who.
David Morrisey aka the ‘Next’ Doctor aka Jackson Lake
Born in Kensington, David Morrisey was part of Liverpool's Everyman Youth Theatre, with Paul McGann's brothers Mark and Stephen. Time travel forward a few decades and he starred as Jackson Lake in the regeneration-teasing The Next Doctor, as a man who believed himself to be The Doctor. Sworn to secrecy, David could not even admit to his family that he wasn’t about to take over from David Tennant amid tabloid speculation he had already been given the role of the Eleventh Doctor. David is a patron of the Unity Theatre, supporter of Liverpool Football Club and returned to tread the boards in the city in 2011 when he starred in Macbeth at the Everyman.
John Bishop aka Dan Lewis
Whether running an insurgency against Sontarans in Liverpool, exploring the Williamson Tunnels and meeting the ‘Mole’ of Edge Hill himself, or being abducted from the city by furry frenemy Karvanista on Halloween, John Bishop’s Dan Lewis is perhaps the most obvious connection between Liverpool and Doctor Who in the show’s history. Both are scousers and both support Liverpool Football Club, though it’s not known if John Bishop has ever been sent back into his own time stream to save him from a creature that worships the eternal embodiment of Time.
Chris Chibnall - current show runner
Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner is coming to an end but the Formby-born writer has left an indelible mark on Doctor Who (and the moment has been prepared for - Russell T Davies is back at the show's helm). From casting not one but two women as The Doctor (Jo Martin as a far-past version of The Doctor is also the first non-white actor to play the role) to hinting at an unrequited same-sex relationship between the Thirteenth Doctor and a companion, the Liverpool-born showrunner has expanded the shows conceptual universe - and also brought the show to Liverpool in the city in the thirteenth season, Flux.
Doctor Who’s most recent full season might have travelled widely across time and space but Liverpool was an intrinsic part of the epic storyline. Whether showing Liverpool’s docks as the settling point for a Sontaran army, revealing the Williamson Tunnels as the nexus point for a multi-dimensional rift or showing Dan as a de facto freelance tour guide at the Museum of Liverpool, bigging up the city’s heritage to passing tourists, Flux played as Chris Chibnall’s love letter to Liverpool. Even Lark Lane features, though it’s not clear whether the Doctor ventured into The Albert.
Jon Pertwee’s final performance as The Doctor
A little-known but much-loved Easter Egg in the show’s history takes the form of an advert for Vodafone in which The Third Doctor is spotted entering what could be a TARDIS on Pilgrim Street – a garage door emblazoned with the words DOCTOR ON CALL. The words were visible for years after the advert was filmed, in 1996, making for an affectionate pilgrimage for Doctor Who fans in Liverpool. Pertwee’s last performance in the role sees him entering the mysterious garage before adventuring into infinity.
All Doctor Who images © BBC