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Nardole and Hydroflax

24 Nov
© BBC / Simon Ridgway

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

Matt Lucas will be appearing in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, it has been revealed today.

The comedian will join Peter Capaldi as The Doctor and Alex Kingston as River Song in the extended episode, which is traditionally broadcast on Christmas Day in the UK and US, and then around the world in the days following.

Also along for the ride is Man Down star Greg Davis as the delightfully named King Hydroflax.

Lucas will be playing a character known as Nardole – and that’s all we know so far!

The pair are the latest comedy legends to make appearances in the show, which has recently played host to Paul KayeRebecca Front and Rhys Shearsmith during the current ninth (or thirty-fifth) series, which continues on Saturday evenings.

This is not Matt’s first foray into Doctor Who – as well as the countless references to the show in seminal sketch show Little Britain – Matt also appeared in the 2001 audio drama The One Doctor. For a full run-down of TVO’s past excursions into the Whoniverse (20 regulars and counting!), check out this post from September. We’ll bring you more news on the Christmas Special when we get it.

Hunderby Xmas Special – Details

23 Nov
© Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic

Back in February we revealed that Hunderby, the award-winning dark comedy by and starring Julia Davis, had been commissioned for a  Christmas 2-parter. We can now confirm more details about the festive special, including transmission dates!

The first hour-long instalment will air at 10pm on 10th December on Sky Atlantic, with part two hitting our telly box screens 1 week later on 17th December.

We’re delighted to report that Rufus Jones will be reprising his role as Dr Foggerty, and Reece Shearsmith features as the local vicar.

In the first episode local vicar John announces that homosexual men in the area are being identified and hanged (rather worryingly for the pastor), while Foggarty’s estranged wife Hester plots to interfere in his new relationship. In the second episode, Dorothy and Hester join forces to capture the men of their dreams.

If you’re one of the sorrowful few who still doesn’t have access to to Sky Atlantic, here are a few clips from the awesome first series to keep you going…


More Smiley On Screen

15 Nov

Michael Smiley‘s been a busy chap, with a fair few of the projects that he’s recently been involved in receiving coverage this week:

Earlier this year we told you about his role in Orthodox, an independent film about an Orthodox Jewish boy, Benjamin, bullied for his faith, and who turns to boxing as a means of self defence. This week the film received its UK premiere at the Phoenix cinema in London, which included a cast Q&A. For more photos from the event and to find out where else the film is showing, follow Orthodox’s Facebook page or twitter feed.

© Zeitgeist

© Zeitgeist

This week were also told that Mr Smiley would be reprising his role of computer whiz Benny Silver in the new series of Luther. Rumour has it that BBC America will screen Luther series 4 as a three-hour special on Thursday the 17th of December, but as yet there’s no information about how the series will be screened for British audiences.

If you like your entertainment to be a bit out there and arty, try to catch the critically-aclaimed movie, The Lobster while it’s still on general release. Michael’s also in that – and here he is talking about it at the premiere:

And finally, don’t forget that he’s also in Belly of The Bulldog, a film by Nick Gillespie about a dramatic horror film about a group of mercenaries and their prisoners, also featuring Tom Meeten. Michael plays a character by the name of Capper and Tom plays Evans in the film. Belly of the Bulldog had its premiere at Frightfest in October – to great reviews, and hopefully more of us will get to see it on the big screen next year. However, we have found it available to download for free from a variety of sites, so have a scout around if you’re interested. For more information, follow the film’s twitter feed.


Crackanory Returns

5 Nov

The long awaited third series of Crackanory is just over a month away, and the full list of this year’s readers have been revealed.

Crackanory - Series 3 - Picture Shows: Richard Ayoade, Sarah Millican, Jimmy Carr, Catherine Tate, Simon Bird, Carrie Fisher, Greg Davies, Christopher Lloyd, Tamsin Greig, Paul Whitehouse, Moragana Robinson and Robbie Coltrane

© Tiger Aspect / UK TV

For the uninitiated, the show features big name guests reading twisted tales – intercut with live action and animated segments which quite often star a bevy of TVO regulars, many of whom are also on the writing staff!

As we revealed back in July, new stories have been written by the likes of Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, whilst guest readers announced at the time were Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd, The Inbetweeners Simon Bird, plus comedy legends Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg.

Now we can confirm that they will be joined by Richard AyoadeMorgana Robinson, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Paul Whitehouse, Catherine Tate, Robbie Coltrane and Carrie Fisher (currently appearing in Catastrophe, and a little thing called Star Wars).

There’s currently no word of who will be appearing in the story segments, but across the first two series we saw the likes of James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix, whilst past episodes have been directed by Gareth Tunley and scored by Waen Shepherd, so we’re expecting to see some familiar faces once more.

Series three begins Monday 7th December at 10pm on Dave and in an unusual move, will air across that week at the same time until Saturday.

As ever, the yearning for a home media release of the whole series continues, but you can see a selection of promo images from the new series below.

BBC Store now open!

5 Nov


The BBC has unveiled the long awaited BBC Store: a new digital service that makes it easy for audiences to buy, enjoy and keep their favourite BBC programmes. And the best news of all is that it’s officially open right now!

A large collection of titles across genres are available at launch, featuring recently broadcast shows, television favourites and best of all – lost gems from the BBC archive.



BBC Store will work in tandem with the company’s longstanding iPlayer service – with a new My Programmes area allowing full playback.

iPlayer itself will continue to offer the same range of programmes to watch live, catch up on and download for up to 30 days for free, while the Store collection will continue to build each day. In fact, many BBC programmes will be made available to buy on BBC Store the day after transmission including, for the first time, serial dramas such as EastEnders and Holby City.

As an introductory offer to celebrate the launch of this new service and to get collections started, anyone registering with BBC Store will be eligible for a 25% discount on their first purchase. Audiences can buy programmes using a UK registered credit or debit card, and gift cards will be available to buy on the high street and in supermarkets in the coming weeks.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

But what you really want to know is what TVO related goodies will be available from launch. Confirmed so far are the following classics and recent favourites:

  • The Detectorists – written, directed by & starring Mackenzie Crook and featuring Simon Farnaby
  • Doctor Who – The biggest sci-fi show in the land, with a cavalcade of TVO guest stars over the years. It’s various spin-off series will also be made available.
  • The Fast Show – Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s seminal sketch show phenomenon featuring Simon Day, Mark Williams, Arabella Weir, John Thomson and Caroline Aherne alongside Felix Dexter, Colin MacFarlane, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way
  • Horrible Histories – Education has never been so much fun, as the wickedly entertaining show featuring Simon FarnabyAlice LoweKaty Wix and many more makes a welcome reappearance.
  • Human Remains – The little seen anthology series featuring Julia Davis and Rob Brydon as a string of darkly comic creations.
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You // I’m Alan Partridge – Steve Coogan‘s masterful creation in three dynamite series of cringeworthy faux pas in the name of CHAT.
  • The League of Gentlemen – The show that launched the careers of Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton, and pioneered a darker and cinematic side to alternative comedy on television.
  • The Thick of It – The now infamous political comedy from Armando Iannucci starring Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison alongside Alex MacQueenRebecca FrontJustin Edwards and many more.


Plus a few other legendary shows with looser TVO connections:

  • Absolutely Fabulous – The recent specials featured Lucy Montgomery
  • Blackadder – Which featured an early appearance by Geoffrey McGivern in Series Three
  • Gavin and Stacey – Featuring a recurring role for Julia Davis
  • Live at the Apollo – Featuring several TVO guests over the years
  • The Office – Look out for Matt Holness in several episodes!
  • Sherlock – Featuring appearances by Alice Lowe and Tony Way
  • The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer – Arguably the finest sketch show of the 90s – and look out for a young Matt Lucas!

There’s also promise of a Steve Coogan collection (which may include the Paul Calf Video Diaries, Coogan’s Run and various other assorted classics).

And that’s just the start of it. We’ll give you a full run-down of everything that’s in the store as soon as we can. Until then – we suggest you head on over to BBC Store right now, and start digging!

Iannucci Interviews Coogan

25 Oct

A few weeks ago we told you about an event which was being run by The Guardian to mark the publication of Steve Cogan’s memoir Easily Distracted. The event featured Steve in conversation with long-time collaborator and fellow comedy legend, Armando Iannucci.

Tickets were notoriously difficult to come by, so we’re delighted to report that the full interview from the event on 15th October has been posted youtube for everyone to enjoy. Hurrah!

You can watch the pair discussing their comedy careers and their approach to working together below:

Out On Mondaaaaaaaah!

17 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of The Velvet Onion, you’ll know that we’ve been getting more than a bit excited about Aaaaaaaah!, the comedy horror from Steve Oram, which stars a bevy of TVO faces. And now we can get excited again – because from Monday everyone will get the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The film is available to pre-order from iTunes here for £9.99, and from Monday 19th you’ll be able to find it on a variety of other VOD platforms from FrightFest Presents, including Virgin Movies, Blinkbox, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox Video, Wuaki, Talk Talk and Volta. Thoroughly recommended!

In the meantime, why not occupy yourself with this podcast interview with Steve about the film:

If you’re a fan of Aaaaaaaah! and you haven’t wandered down these parts for a while, why not read our interview with Steve himself and our review of the film. And keep an eye out for our profile about one of the film’s stars too, which will be coming your way very soon…!

Return to Successville

14 Oct

BBC Three’s smash hit comedy series Murder in Successville is to return for a second series.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

The show, which first aired earlier this year, features Tom Davis as rough, gruff, intellectual doorknob DI Sleet, presiding over a town filled with potentially murderous celebrities – all played by comedy talents.

The first series featured Cariad Lloyd as Darcey Bussell, Justin Beiber, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Miley Cyrus;  Colin Hoult as Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow; Tom Meeten as Richard Hammond; Dan Skinner as Bob Geldof; Tony Way as Harry Styles and Harry Peacock as Niall Horan.

Also along for the ride were series co-writer Nico Tartarowicz as put upon fellow officer Sid, and a whole host of familiar faces – including Frances Barber, Ricky Grover, Jenny Bede, Luke Kempner, Chris Martin Hill, Nick Mohammed, Jason Lewis and a scene stealing Liam Hourican.

With music by Waen Shepherd, no less, acting as the cherry on top, it’s easy to see how we’ve got this far down the article without explaining the show’s ‘set-up’: each week a real celebrity plays rookie partner to DI Sleet, as they investigate a murder that one of three suspects is responsible for. It’s up to the guest to decide who to take down.

Rookies in series one included Dermot O’Leary, Louis Smith and Greg James – the latter of whom ended up making his own sitcom pilot, Dead Air, off the back of the fun he had on the show. And the fun, it seems, has been shared by viewers – with the show proving a hit on original transmission and a recent repeat run.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Now TVO can confirm that a second series – once again featuring Tom Davis, Tom Stourton, Colin Hoult and Cariad Lloyd (with more names to be confirmed) – will shoot in January. James De Frond (The Morgana Show) returns to the director’s chair, and we’ll bring you more news on Murder in Successville‘s return in the new year. Let’s go solve a crime!

Eldon Live At Fylm School

10 Oct

© Unknown

Kevin Eldon will be one of the acts at Simon Munnery’s Fylm School on 2nd November.

Following a sell-out monthly residency at Soho Theatre and successful stints in Canada, Australia and the Edinburgh Festival, Munnery is opening up Fylm school for a special one-off at Rich Mix in East London.

Described as “clever, imaginative and thrilling” by Metro and “a playful, artful take on stand-up — the lovechild of goofy, gauche comedy and programmes like Blue Peter and Art Attack” by Londonist, the clip below will give you a (vague!) idea what it’s about:

Looks EXACTLY like our cup of tea – and hopefully yours! Eldon will be joined on the bill by James Acaster, and the Musical Comedy Awards winner David Elms.

The show starts at 8pm and tickets cost £12 (£9 concs) + £1 booking fee – available to book here.


8 Oct

This week saw the launch of new BBC Three sitcom Together – with a smattering of TVO faces tucked in there for good measure.

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

The show is written by and stars Johnny Sweet (Babylon), and follows two young people in the early, fragile stages of a new relationship, played by Sweet and Cara Theobold (Downton Abbey).

Along for the ride are Alex MacQueen and Katy Wix as Tom’s father Ashley and friend Maeve respectively. Episode One, which is available on iPlayer now, also featured brief appearances by Tom Davis and comedy legend Geoffrey McGivern.

Further episodes will be shown every Tuesday evening at 10:30pm on BBC Three, and available via iPlayer. We’ll bring you more on Together soon, so stay peeled. You can see clips from the first two episodes, and the series trailer, below.

Easily Distracted now available from all…

7 Oct
© Century

© Penguin Books

…Sorry, what were we saying, again?

Ah yes – Easily Distracted, the long awaited autobiography from Steve Coogan is available to buy now.

Telling Steve’s story from his early days in Manchester, the book navigates through his impressive career across Spitting ImageOn The HourThe Day TodayCoogan’s Run and beyond, through to the present day and his Oscar-nominated turn in Philomena.

Once a regular fixture in the UK tabloids, Steve is also one of the founders of the seminal Baby Cow Productions, which has been responsible for the likes of The Mighty Boosh, Gavin and Stacy and Hunderby to name but a few.

Now at last, Coogan lifts the lid on the real Steve Coogan, writing with his distinctive humour and an unexpected candour about a noisy childhood surrounded by foster kids, his attention-seeking teenage years and his emergence as a household name with the birth of Alan Partridge.

It’s essential reading for any comedy lover, and the good news is there are a number of ways for you to indulge. The book is available in Hardback and oversized paperback formats in all good book stores, as well as via Kindle and iTunes. There’s also an audio version on cd and download, narrated by the man himself. For most of these at your fingertips, we recommend you hop on over to Amazon now.

In the meantime you can see a video made by Dave Lambert in which Coogan meets Coogan, below.

Friends Star Joins Julia Davis Show

5 Oct
© Guardian /Alan Yorick

© Guardian /Alan Yorick

Friends actor David Schwimmer will co-star in Julia Davis‘ new sitcom Morning Has Broken.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the series follows the story of Gail Sinclair (Davis), the star of daily television programme Good Morning… with Gail Sinclair. After eight years of high ratings and awards ‘The Queen of Daytime’ starts to lose viewers and tensions build within the production team, leading to Gail’s breakdown.

Schwimmer has been cast as an American producer who is brought in by channel executives to refresh and boost viewing figures for the ailing show.

© Dan Clark

© Dan Clark

We’re particularly excited about the project, because it’s directed by another friend of TVO, Dan Clark. The series is also co-written (and co-stars) Nick Mohammed (Murder in Successville, How Not to Live your Life, amongst others). Julia has said that she is, “looking forward to experimenting with friends whose work I love”.

David Schwimmer has said of his involvement in the show: “I’ve been a massive fan of Julia’s for years, and I’m thrilled to be able to finally work with her and Nick on this fantastic comedy.”

Rachel Springett, Commissioning Editor for Comedy at Channel 4 added: “Julia is undoubtedly one of our most talented comedic writers and actresses and it’s a testament to the quality of her writing that she can attract such a big star. We are thrilled to have David Schwimmer star alongside Julia in this exciting new series for the channel.”

Given how willing Matt Le Blanc has been to poke fun at his Friends’ character Joey in Episodes, we’re looking forwards to see what Julia has in store for good old Ross.


Madchester Pern

2 Oct

As we wait rather impatiently for the third series of Brian Pern, the team behind it have released a mini-episode online.

In it, Simon Day returns as Brian Pern – former frontman of prog-numpties Thotch turned activist and world-music inventor. In this installment, we find out about Brian’s divergence into the Manchester indie-music scene in the early 1990s, and his work with pioneering producer Luke Dunmore – played by the eternally wonderful Christopher Eccleston.

Once again written by Day with director Rhys Thomas, and featuring mad-fer-it cameos from Tony WayLucy Montgomery and Steve Burge, this is more vintage Pern, and will tide us over until the new series rather nicely.

It also gives us another excuse to share the sublime 2012 spoof The Second Second Coming, directed by Al Campbell (Newswipe, Man Down) and written by Nico Tartarowicz, and featuring a whole host of familiar faces.

As for Pern, he’ll back on BBC Four in the Autumn.


29 Sep

© Rook Films

The good folk at Rook Films have released a limited screen print run of the Aaaaaaaah! movie poster.

There are only 100 copies of the five-layer print made to celebrate Steve Oram‘s directorial debut. In case you’ve missed it, the film stars Oram alongside a cavalcade of TVO regulars: Noel FieldingJulian BarrattTom MeetenWaen ShepherdTony WayAlice LoweShelley LongworthWaen ShepherdSean Reynard and John Hopkins.

Also along for the ride are the brilliant Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and the legendary Toyah Willcox.

We’ve sung the film’s praises, and a lot of you have fallen in love with it already. Now thwack a bit of it on your wall for good measure, while you still can!

Peer at Prentis

29 Sep

The BBC have released a series of images of Paul Kaye as the ghostly Prentis in this weekend’s forthcoming two-part Doctor Who adventure.

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

Keen-eyed viewers will have spotted an alien figure who looked a little like Kaye across the series trailers, but with only fleeting glimpses and heavy make-up, it was hard to know for certain that’s who we were looking at. And sadly, the show’s understandable need for secrecy meant we could say very little about the role.

Now we can confirm he plays a seemingly undead apparition of a Tivolian, known only as Prentis, who is on the rampage through a corporation base underwater alongside Fast Show legend Colin McFarlane.

And we can’t say much more than that really, because spoilers. But the episode, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse also features Four Lions star Arsher Ali, and Being Human‘s Steven Robertson. You can see an introduction to the episode featuring stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, and executive producer Steven Moffat below.

The first part of the story, Under the Lake airs at 8:25pm on Saturday evening over on BBC One, and is shown across the world in the hours to follow. The second part of the story, which is actually the first part due to wibblywobblytimeywimey, airs the following weekend and will feature the combined vocal talents of comedy legend Peter Serafinowicz and Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor as The Fisher King. Don’t miss it!

Later in this series, Rebecca Front and Reece Shearsmith will both be making appearances, joining the long line of TVO connected actors who’ve starred in Doctor Who or its spin-offs. See the full run down over yonder now.

Jekyll comes out of Hyde-ing in new trailer

24 Sep

A new trailer for ITV’s new fantasy drama Jekyll and Hyde has been released this week.

The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted Tony Way amongst the top notch cast assembled for the show, which is being overseen and written by former Fast Show star Charlie Higson.

Tony will appear in all seven episodes as the seemingly villanous henchman Silas, alongside Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons) as the titular split-persona battling ghouls, zombies, werewolves and vampires across the run.

Also along for the ride are a string of Doctor Who veterans including Richard E Grant (Withnail and I), Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street), Donald Sumpter (Game of Thrones) and Ace Bhatti (Eastenders), and there are also cameo appearances expected from Higson’s regular collaborators Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer.

The show is due on air from 25th October on ITV1.

Hear the Herring with Aisling Bea

22 Sep
© Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

© Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

Aisling Bea is one of the confirmed guests on the next run of Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast.

The long running series is now legendary in the annals of internet comedy, and features the delightful Mr Herring chatting with some of the biggest names in comedy.

Each edition is released on iTunes and via our friends at British Comedy Guide, as well as later on YouTube.

This season, Richard is joined by two guests appear on each recording, which is captured live in front of a real audience at the titular theatre.

Currently confirmed guests for the next run, which starts on 27th September, include Diane Morgan (aka Philomena Cunk), Stuart Goldsmith, Lee Mack, John Robins, Robert Popper, John Finnemore, Grayson Perry, Jack Whitehall, David Mitchell and on 22nd November, Aisling Bea.

Tickets are available now, right up until recordings in November 2016, and these sell pretty quickly once guests have been announced, so get in now while you can.

You can see recordings of previous podcasts featuring TVO regulars Steve CooganRebecca FrontLou SandersSharon Horgan and Jessica Hynes below.

Two Thousand Acres of Sky: Remastered & Released

20 Sep

2000 acres of sky
Two Thousand Acres of Sky has been re-mastered and all three series can be bought in one DVD set.

The popular BBC drama ran from 2001-2003 and starred Michelle Collins (EastEnders, Coronation Street) and Paul Kaye.

The series revolves around Abby Wallace (Michelle Collins), a single mother living on a housing estate in London with her two young children.

When the education authority threatens to close the tiny Scottish island of Ronansay’s primary school unless more pupils enrol to keep it open, they advertise for a couple with children to come and run the Bed and Breakfast – Abby sees this as the chance of a lifetime.

The only problem is that she has no husband so she enlists the help of her best friend Kenny (Paul Kaye) to pretend they are married so they can all move to the island.

The set is available from Amazon and all other DVD retailers.

A Who’s Who of when TVO Meets Doctor Who

19 Sep

This weekend sees the launch of the latest series of Doctor Who – the ninth since it’s return in 2005, and the thirty-fifth overall since 1963.

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

Led once more by Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, with Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and the sublime Michelle Gomez (Psychobitches) as Missy, this series of twelve episodes will see the time traveller battle Daleks, Zygons and a whole new batch of foes across a series primarily made up of two-part stories, though series head-honcho Steven Moffat has warned that the concept of a two-part story this year is under some degree of flux.

As we’ve reported previously, this series continues the increasing and much welcome association with TVO’s regular roster, as Paul KayeRebecca Front and Reece Shearsmith join the guest cast across the run.

Like most of the world, we’ve little to no idea of exactly what parts the trio are playing, which is of course, rather fun for a change. And so, to celebrate the show’s return, we’ve decided to look back at the various points at which the realm of The Velvet Onion, and the adventures of that runaway Time Lord have crossed over. We thought about doing it in a wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey fashion, but decided good old fashioned chronology was more helpful then. So going way back, come with us now on a journey through time and space – literally.

Alex Kirk



It’s no small secret to know that a large number of TVO regulars are longterm, hardcore Doctor Who fans. The first to fly the flag, way back when was Alex Kirk – star of Mount Pleasant and The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains to name but two.

In fact, two of the earliest roles on Kirk’s resume are in fan-produced video productions made during those dark days when the show was taken off the air for a long rest. BBV Productions were one of several small companies providing an outlet for fans to make their own vaguely Who related productions, mostly avoiding any legal wranglings by recasting stars of the show in new roles.

So for 1994’s The Zero Imperative, written by a young fellow called Mark Gatiss, the producers managed to secure the right to use the character of Dr Liz Shaw and brought back the late, great Caroline John to return to the role, but then cast the likes of Jon Pertwee, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Sophie Aldred and Louise Jameson in new roles.

Alex Kirk’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role was as an Orderly, but he returned in 1996’s Unnatural Selection as Colonel Ackroyd, opposite John, Jameson, Gatiss and Geoffrey Beavers. Both films are very, VERY lo-fi, but are now available on dvd so you can make up your own minds…

Reece Shearsmith

Left: © BBV | Centre & Right: © BBC

Left: © BBV | Centre & Right: © BBC

Like his League of Gentlemen co-hort Mark Gatiss, it’s no secret that Reece Shearsmith is a huge Doctor Who fan, so when Gatiss became involved in BBV Productions in the mid 90s, so did Shearsmith. And when Gatiss wrote further adventures for Liz Shaw in 1995 and 1996, Shearsmith was cast as troubled student Andrew Powell, who found himself at the mercy of Peter Davison’s sinister Gavin Purcell before succumbing to the evil Greatorex himself.

Both The Devils of Winterboune and The Ghosts of Winterbourne are, like the two earlier films featuring Alex Kirk, available on dvd now. So to, is 1997’s Auton spin-off from BBV, in which Shearsmith played Dr Daniel Matthews. But that wasn’t the end of his association with Doctor Who.

Fast forward to 2013, and Gatiss has written the sublime docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time about the early days of the show’s production, and the failing health of its original star, William Hartnell – brilliantly portrayed by David Bradley. Reece made a cameo at the end of the film as his replacement, Patrick Troughton, and while there’s not much of a physical likeness, Shearsmith hit the ball out of the park pretty well.

So much so, that the production team haven’t forgotten him – he’s making an appearance in Series Nine opposite Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, stating: “I am absolutely thrilled to be filming Doctor Who. It has been so exciting to be part of a very singular episode – which, I can say with authority will be unlike any previous episode of Doctor Who.” We can’t wait.

Kevin Eldon

Left: © Unknown | Right: © BBC

Left: © Unknown | Right: © BBC

In 2001, with The Doctor’s return to television looking more and more uncertain, the BBC’s fledging website teams hatched upon the idea of making new episodes for internet consumption. This would eventually lead to the creation of a new, Ninth Doctor, played by Richard E Grant, and the highly underrated animation Scream of the Shalka, but first, a few baby steps had to be made.

The first of these was a five part story featuring the apparent death of The Doctor, here played by Sylvester McCoy. Ignoring the 1996 TV Movie and eveyrthing Big Finish were doing on audio, Death Comes to Time was designed as a potential grand finale to the series, and both Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Courtney returned as Ace and the Brigadier for good measure.

There was also a new companion – an android named Antimony – voiced by Kevin Eldon. Antimony was unaware of his robotic genesis, and wasn’t around for long enough to find out, either. The story was a curious experiment, also featuring the voices of Stephen Fry, Antony Stewart Head, John Sessions and Jon Culshaw, but these days, it’s mostly swept under the rug as a step too far in the wrong direction.

Matt Lucas

Left: © Big Finish | Right: © BBC

Left: © Big Finish | Right: © BBC

It’s no small secret that Matt Lucas is a big Doctor Who fan. Together with his former comedy partner David Walliams (who himself appeared in 2011’s The God Complex), he jam-packed seminal sketch show Little Britain with references to the show, including characters named after original series stars Matthew Waterhouse and Michael Craze, and of course, Tom Baker’s cheeky narration.

Which perhaps makes it odd that Lucas’ sole brush with actual, proper Doctor Who to date came back in 2001, when he guested opposite Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor in the Big Finish audio, The One Doctor. In this story, the Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) are seemingly being impersonated by Christopher Biggins’ Banto Zane and Clare Buckfield’s Sally-Ann.

It’s all rather silly stuff, but intentionally so, and Lucas’ turn as the sinister alien cylinder is an absolute gem. One to hunt down if you can. And somebody get Matt into the show proper asap.

Jessica Hynes



These days she’s best known as tech-savvy PR buffoon Siobhan Sharpe in W1A, but back in 2002, Jessica Stevenson, as she was then known was one half of the writing team behind the magnificent Spaced, which had recently wrapped up its second and final series on Channel 4. The other half was another young comic actor known by Simon Pegg, and together, they guest-starred in the Eighth Doctor audio Invaders from Mars.

In this story, Jessica played Soviet Spy Glory Bee, whilst Pegg was crime boss Don Chaney, who caused her downfall. But that wasn’t the end of the pair’s association with Doctor Who. Pegg turned up in 2005 episode The Long Game (which TVO’s editor recently recorded a podcast commentary for alongside CBBC’s Chris Johnson), whilst Jess – who had begun using her married name professionally, made her first appearance in the main show itself a few years later.

2007’s Human Nature The Family of Blood two-parter saw David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor use a chameleon arc to hide himself away as a schoolteacher in the early 20th century. Hynes played the school’s matron, Joan Redfern, with whom the ‘man’ the Doctor became fell in love. Whilst the defeat of robot scarecrows and the titular Family led to the erasure of John Smith, The Doctor never forgot Joan, and before he regenerated in 2010’s The End of Time, he visited her great-granddaughter, Verity Newman, to ask if she found happiness. To his delight, Verity (again played by Hynes) confirmed she did.

Michael Smiley



It seems someone at Big Finish was a Spaced fan back in the early naughties (let’s face it – who wasn’t?), as Michael Smiley made his Doctor Who debut opposite Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa in 2003’s Creatures of Beauty.

With a planetary ecological disaster underway, creating an incurable, disfiguring, genetic disease to contend with, Nyssa and The Doctor are in deep trouble on the planet Veln. A cosmetic surgeon on the planet, Forleon, gets caught up in the Doctor’s misadventures, which is where Smiley’s brief role comes in: he plays Forleon’s security agent Seedleson.

A much bigger role was waiting eleven years later, when Smiley’s regular collaborator Ben Wheatley cast him as Morgan Blue in 2014’s Into the Dalek episode in the ninth series since the show returned to television. Blue was a Colonel in the Combined Galactic Resistance, used to battling Daleks but not quite prepared for the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his sarcasm. He also became one of a small handful of people to ever take on the Daleks and win. Nice one.

Tracy Ann Oberman



It’s June 2006, and all eyes not transfixed by the footie are on David Tennant’s still new Tenth Doctor, as he prepares to bid goodbye to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Their separation comes in the form of a cracking two-part story, Army of GhostsDoomsday, in which the mysterious Torchwood – operating out of Canary Wharf – open the void between dimensions, and accidentally let in an army of Cybermen, plus four Daleks for good measure.

It’s all a bit too much for Yvonne Hartman, Torchwood’s head honcho, played by Big Train and Toast of London star Tracy Ann ObermanFinding herself at the mercy of the Cybermen, she’s appalled to discover they have none, and walks to her fate certain she did her bit for Queen and country. That’s not the end for Yvonne, who later manages to help save the day in spite – or perhaps because of – her Cyber-conversion. And as you heard earlier this week, Oberman is returning to the role of Yvonne Hartman for Big Finish’s new Torchwood series, with One Rule being released this December.

Beyond Yvonne, Tracy appeared in a 2007 special edition of The Weakest Link, and her love of audio drama later led to two appearances opposite Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor as Supervisor Temperance Finch, head of Deimos Moonbase in the 23rd century. Both released in 2010, Deimos and The Resurrection of Mars saw Finch square up against the Ice Warriors. Nice.

Harry Peacock



“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”

It’s not often you get to utter a phrase in Doctor Who that becomes something of a catchphrase, but Harry Peacock of Toast of London and Star Stories fame, got to have one of his lines appear on t-shirts and lunchboxes all over the place.

You see, Peacock played “Proper Dave” in the seminal two-part story Silence in the Library Forest of the Dead in the revived series’ fourth run, opposite David Tennant as The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. The story famously introduced Alex Kingston as River Song, and also featured Steve Pemberton, Colin Salmon and Talulah Riley.

Sadly, Proper Dave’s days were numbered, as he became one of several victims of the deadly Vashta Nerada: a microscope race of piranha like organisms who latch onto your shadow until they can devour you in a moment. Nasty stuff, but his consciousness survived when The Doctor and River Song managed to save everyone believed dead inside the computer system, to live out an eternal afterlife together.

Katherine Parkinson

Left: © Unknown| Right: © Big Finish

Left: © Unknown| Right: © Big Finish

Best known to millions around the world as Jen from The IT Crowd and soon to be wowing audiences in The Kennedys – it’s quite surprising that Katherine Parkinson has yet to show up in televised Doctor Who, especially after her blistering performance in Sherlock a couple of years ago.

However, over at Big Finish productions, Parkinson played a one-story companion to Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor in 2008’s The Death Collectors. Danika Meanwhile was an engineer who prevented the Doctor from dying in an air lock, as he battled a virulent disease that killed millions, and an ancient race of salvagers who collect and preserve the dead.

Lucy Montgomery

Left: © BBC| Right: © PBJ

Left: © BBC| Right: © PBJ

It feels like a lifetime ago, but there was a time when the world was fearful of the large hadron collider at CERN, Switzerland. To celebrate its big switch-on, BBC Radio celebrated Big Bang Day, and this included Lost Souls: a Torchwood audio play set between the second and third series of the Doctor Who spin-off.

Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) were rejoined by former TARDIS-traveller Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) for the story, as the team investigated the disappearance of scientists from the institute. Tittybangbang and Brian Pern star Lucy Montgomery was amongst the guest cast, playing the fictional head of the project, Professor Katrina Johnson.

Johnson got to help Captain Jack reverse the polarity, and save the day, though through a bit of wibbly-wobbly, Montgomery also turned up as a Flight Attendant earlier in the story for good measure.

Katy Wix



Torchwood‘s third series – the five part Children of Earth saga – was pretty harrowing, as every child across the world fell under the possession of the mysterious aliens known only as the 456, who were in fact in big cahoots with the British government.

It’s also infamous for killing off the regular character Ianto Jones (Gareth David Lloyd), who then rather oddly received his own ‘shrine’ at the real-life location for Torchwood Three’s entrance in Cardiff Bay (despite two other series regulars having already been killed off in equally brutal fashion). Said shrine is still there to this day, confusing tourists who have long since forgotten about Ianto.

Before the character was bumped off, we met his sister, Rhiannon Davies, played by Fried star Katy Wix. Rhiannon lived on a council estate with her husband Jonny and their two children, David and Mica – and when Ianto asked for her help following an attack on Torchwood, she proved her loyalty to her brother. After his death, Rhiannon was caught up in the government’s attempts to take ‘lesser’ children to appease the needs of the 456, and helped Gwen and Rhys make a frentic dash for safety, before Captain Jack could save the day at a terrible cost.

Appearing in all five episodes, this technically makes Katy the only TVO regular to also be a ‘series regular’ in a Doctor Who related production to date. And her connection with the Whoniverse was re-established earlier this year, when she joined Tom Baker and Louise Jameson in Big Finish audio play Suburban Hell.  Her character, Belinda, was hosting supper for four, only for The Doctor and Leela to arrive and wind everyone up in an alien plot to put people on the menu. Lots of fun, this one!

Alex MacQueen

© Big Finish

© Big Finish

To many, Alex MacQueen is best known for being regularly shouted at by the Doctor himself, when Peter Capaldi played Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. His first brush with the Whoniverse, however, came in early 2010, when Big Finish were finally bringing to life a series of stories written for the classic series, but never filmed for various reasons.

MacQueen played the mysterious Gabriel in Paradise 5, welcoming the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) to the titular leisure space station and turned out to be an agent of the Elohim. Alex clearly made an impression on the team, as returned to Big Finish in 2012’s UNIT: Dominion series opposite the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), as “The Other Doctor” – who turns out to be {SPOILER ALERT} none other than The Master himself.

Since then, MacQueen’s interpretation of the role has returned in Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) audio box-sets Dark Eyes 2 (2014), Dark Eyes 3 (2014), and Dark Eyes 4 (2015). We’ve probably not heard the last from him either, and we’d love to see a team-up with Michelle Gomez… The Two Masters, anyone?

James Bachman

© Big Finish

© Big Finish

In 2010, James Bachman – TVO regular and veteran of That Mitchell and Webb LookBBC Nought and The Mighty Boosh to name but a few – very nearly became a bonafide companion.

Bachman played Hugh Bainbridge: one of four potential new companions for the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) in the Big Finish audio production, Situation Vacant. Described as “an amiable public school type who, though perhaps not the brightest tool in the box, is happy to rush where Time Lords fear to tread”, Brainbridge lost the job to Tamsin Drew, played by The Catherine Tate Show‘s Niky Wardley. Oh, to think what might have been.

Kayvan Novak

Left: © BBC| Right: © Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

Left: © BBC| Right: © Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

The SunTrap and Four Lions star is a master of disguise, with his enormous vocal talents first brought to the fore in the now legendary Phonejacker. So it’s perhaps no surprise that his debut in Doctor Who was as this list’s first – and to date only – bona-fide companion: yes, we’re talking about Handles, the decapitated Cyberman head who accompanied the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in his TARDIS travels and long-standing war on Trenzalore in 2013’s The Time of The Doctor.

Handles stayed by the Doctor’s side for over 300 years, eventually succumbing to circuitry corrosion. Never before has an audience felt such sadness over a metal head, but fear not – he is on display at Cardiff’s Doctor Who Experience which everyone should get to see at least once, twice, and many more times for good measure.

Gemma Whelan

Left: © Christine Hayter| Right: © Big Finish

Left: © Christine Hayter| Right: © Big Finish

Best known for her role as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, it’s fair to say that comedian and actress Gemma Whelan is a woman of many talents, including a highly flexible set of vocal chords. So much so, in fact, that her first brush with the Whoniverse came with the 2013 Seventh Doctor audio story Persuasion.

In this story, the Doctor is looking to loot a very specific secret from a Nazi base during WW2, and Whelan is called upon to voice three different characters: the servant Casta, annoyed computer Sylph, and the alien race Khlecht.

Shortly afterwards, Gemma appeared in two audio plays in the Big Finish spin-off series Counter Measures, which focuses on three supporting characters from the 1988 classic Remembrance of the Daleks. Her character, Emma Waverly, was the result of a eugenics experiment in 20th century England, attempting to create super-soldiers in case of German invasion, and appeared in the stories Manhunt and Sins of the Fathers.

Rhys Thomas

Left: © BBC| Right: © Pete Dadds

Left: © BBC| Right: © Pete Dadds

Now here’s an interesting one. He’s a veteran of The Fast Show and these days is the man behind Brian Pern and some incredible Queen documentaries, but Rhys Thomas is also a big Doctor Who fan, and made a very brief appearance in Peter Davison’s sublime 50th anniversary special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

Or rather, he didn’t make an appearance as such, but his voice could be heard, as a rather hapless DJ proclaiming his favourite Doctor to be Peter Cushing – much to Davison’s chagrin. The whole half hour is a joyous romp through the annals of Doctor Who history, with more cameos than you can shake a big stick labelled ‘CAMEO’ at, so do check it out if you haven’t already.

Ben Wheatley

Left: © Charlie Gray| Right: © BBC

Left: © Charlie Gray| Right: © BBC

One of the most innovative directors working today, bagging Ben Wheatley for Series Eight of Doctor Who last year was a serious coup for the production team. Hot off the back of his success with A Field in England, and about to make the soon to be released High Rise, Wheatley signed up to make the opening two episodes of Peter Capaldi’s reign as the Twelfth Doctor.

The results were the extended series opener Deep Breath, and the regular length Into the Dalek, both receiving rave reviews, and demonstrating that, when the mood takes him, even Ben ‘Kill List‘ Wheatley can do family friendly drama at its best.

Tony Way



It wouldn’t quite be a Ben Wheatley production if he wasn’t killing off one of his mates, now, would it? Getting the chop for the third time following Down Terrace and Sightseers was Tony Way – best known internationally for his roles in Edge of Tomorrow and Game of Thrones, but known to UK comedy lovers for his appearances in Mongrels, Tittybangbang, Muder in Successville, Spaced, The Fast Show, Black Books, House of Fools… I could go on?

It’s a short and sweet cameo from Tony in Series Eight’s opener Deep Breath, who plays hapless and sceptical Victorian gentleman Alf, who just can’t quite believe that the T.Rex in the Thames is actually real. And he has such good eyes…

Paul Kaye & Rebecca Front

Left: © Fenris Oswin| Right: © Charlie Forgham-Bailey

Left: © Fenris Oswin| Right: © Charlie Forgham-Bailey

Finally for the time being, are a couple of temporary mysteries to whet your appetite. Alongside Reece Shearsmith, both Paul Kaye and Rebecca Front are due to make guest appearances in Series Nine this year. All we currently know for certain is that Kaye appears in Episodes 3 & 4, as a Tivolian called Prentis.

Tivolians were first introduced in 2011’s The God Complex, and as this month’s Doctor Who Magazine puts it: “amusingly revel in being opressed.” The story – Under the Lake Before the Flood is written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, and all he’s saying about Kaye’s part at present is that he’s done “a great job” with it. Doesn’t he always? Meanwhile, if IMDB is to be believed, Front will be playing Lady Yates in The Zygon Invasion, one of two episodes dealing with the aftermath of the Zygon/Human peace treaty established in The Day of the Doctor.

Under the Lake / Before the Flood air October 3rd and 10th respectively, and we’ll bring you more news about them, plus the episodes featuring Front and Shearsmith in due course. Until then, here’s the trailer for Series Nine, and we hope you enjoy the ride!

Doctor Who returns Saturday 19th September on BBC One, BBC America and across the world.

COMPETITION: Win tickets to see Stewart Lee: A Room with a Stew

18 Sep

He’s one of the godfathers of alternative comedy, and has been entertaining audiences for over 20 years. Now Stewart Lee returns with a fresh residency at the Leicester Square Theatre – and TVO is offering you the chance to win a pair of tickets to see the show.

© BBC / Colin Hutton

© BBC / Colin Hutton

A Room with a Stew is a brand new live show with fresh material in preperation for Stewart’s next BBC2 series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Throughout this extensive season, the self-described ‘middle-aged comedian’ promises to explore new subjects, try-out brand new material and cut and add sections at will.

Urine, the Union Jack and the ghosts of dead comedians are just some of the subjects Stewart explores, and those attending the shows between 21st September and 6th December (or between 2nd and 8th January) get to see it all live months ahead of transmission.

We’re offering readers of the Velvet Onion the chance to win a pair of tickets to see the A Room with a Stew on a choice of selected dates. To enter, all you have to do is answer this simple question.

What was the name of the mid-90s comedy cabaret troupe which featured Stewart Lee, Julian Barratt and Kevin Eldon?

Send your answers to by 11:59pm on Tuesday 22nd September.

One winner will be picked at random, and contacted by our good friends at AKA to arrange tickets for a performance of their choosing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays between Monday 5th October and Thursday 5th November.  For more details, see the T&C below. Good luck!

If you don’t win, there’s still tickets available for a number of dates, so we suggest picking them up pronto!

This competition offers 1 pair of tickets for any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday performance of ‘Stewart Lee: A Room with a Stew’ at Leicester Square Theatre between Monday 5th October 2015 and Thursday 5th November 2015, subject to availability. The winning entry will be selected at random, from all who correctly answer the question: “What was the name of the mid-90s comedy cabaret troupe which featured Stewart Lee, Julian Barratt and Kevin Eldon?”  The winner will be contacted via the email address they use to enter. Details will not be shared with any additional third parties beyond The Velvet Onion, AKA and the guest-list for the venue.
Only entries made to will be accepted.  The Velvet Onion will not accept entries as comments to this post, replies to our Facebook/Twitter pages, comments to any other posts in error or emails to any other email address in our domain, nor any entries received after 11:59pm on Tuesday, 15th September. This competition is being run entirely by The Velvet Onion, with prizes organised by AKA and Leicester Square Theatre.  One entry per person. Any entrants found making multiple entries from the same IP address will be disqualified, and banned from entering further competitions run by The Velvet Onion. The judge’s decision is final. There is no monetary value to this competition, tickets are non-refundable and no cash alternative will be offered. The winner must choose their preferred performance to attend at least 1 week before the specified date, and dates/performances cannot be changed.  The winner will be responsible for their own travel and/or related expenses. The Velvet Onion reserves the right to withdraw this competition if any overriding issues arise.

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