The late, great Christopher Lee had not just a long life but an impressive career. He appeared in countless films including Dracula, portrayed one of the best Bond villains (thus becoming arguably the best thing about The Man With The Golden Gun), as well as taking starring roles in both Lord Of The Rings and the Star Wars prequels. So you might be forgiven for thinking that there wasn't something he hadn't appeared in...
Except that there was. Off the top of my head, there's at least three major franchises that Lee managed to never appear in: Star Trek, Harry Potter and Doctor Who. The latter two are especially surprising given that both are British based and made strong use of Britain's pool of acting talent (indeed numerous actors have appeared in both). Even Lee's great friend and fellow Hammer icon Peter Cushing appeared in the two 1960s Dalek films as the human scientist “Dr. Who” who apparently built the TARDIS in his back garden. So how is it that Lee himself never appeared in the show?
It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. The one confirmed time that Lee was approached to appear in the series was during the Wilderness Years by Big Finish Productions. Long time listeners to the eighth Doctor's audio adventures may recall that in the second run of McGann audios in 2002 a mysterious character popped up in a number of stories, heard either narrating or appearing in snatches of conversation with the Doctor, beginning with Seasons Of Fear (penned by Paul Cornell and his wife Caroline Symcox). After a couple of appearances, the character was revealed in Neverland to be none other than Rassilon. Rassilon would go on to appear in the fortieth anniversary story Zagreus as well as The Next Life. Big Finish's then producer Gary Russell initially had Lee in mind for the role and the company even got as far as contacting his agent, as Russell revealed in the 2003 book Doctor Who: The New Audio Adventures – The Inside Story:
“But his agent laughed at me. Apparently there was no way he'd do anything as silly as Doctor Who. We'd actually written Rassilon with Christopher Lee in mind, so I was quite disappointed. I thought 'Of course, he's a fantastic actor, but he's done so crap in his time.' To be told he wouldn't even consider doing Doctor Who – well, I thought that was quite a strange reaction.”The role of Rassilon would eventually be taken in the Big Finish audios by Don Warrington, an actor who himself has admitted to being no big fan of the series, though he subsequently appeared as the President of an alternate universe British Republic in the New Series episode Rise Of The Cybermen in 2006. Rassilon would return to TV in 2009/10 in David Tennant's exit story The End Of Time, played by Welsh thespian and former James Bond Timothy Dalton.
But what about Lee? His dislike of the show would appear to go back to the 1960s. It's been reported that he advised his good friend Peter Cushing against appearing in the two Dalek films and might have given him some gentle ribbing for choosing to do so. It's almost surprising Lee's dislike of the series given his appearances in other science fiction, fantasy and horror properties, as well as his friendships not just with Cushing but also with second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton. All of which though goes to explain why the man who played perhaps the second most iconic take on Count Dracula managed to never appear in the UK's long running and most iconic science fiction series.
Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.