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Best of British

He fought them on the beaches, he fought them in the hills… and he helped the Doctor fight the Daleks in space. Ian McNeice explains why Winston Churchill is a role he never wants to surrender.
Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill in a publicity shot from Victory of the Daleks (2010).

British icons shoved together” is how Steven Moffat described 2010’s Victory of the Daleks, in which Matt Smith’s Doctor and his mortal enemies encountered the man who led the nation through its darkest hour. “Churchill and the Daleks,” added the showrunner. “It just works.”

When it came to casting, the producers didn’t have to look far for their Churchill: actor Ian McNeice had just completed an acclaimed run as the legendary wartime leader in the National Theatre’s production of Howard Brenton’s Never So Good, starring Jeremy Irons as Harold Macmillan.

The play had marked Ian’s return to the stage after 17 years. A former regular at the Royal Shakespeare Company, he had spent much of the previous decade working in America, before taking up a regular role as genial restaurateur Bert Large in ITV’s hit comedy drama Doc Martin.

Churchill defies the Blitz in London during the war.

In preparation, Ian studied both Winston Churchill and some of the many actors who have portrayed him over the years. “I listened to a lot of tapes, to try to get the mannerisms. I was amused by the fact he was the only one who ever called Nazis Nazis,” he says, stressing the soft ‘z’.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.