Doctor Hugh? That Time Hugh Grant Starred In A Doctor Who Parody

With the Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker set to vacate the TARDIS following her final two special episodes to premiere later this year, speculation regarding who will take over the coveted role has reached critical mass. The U.K. tabloids referenced an "insider" this weekend, declaring that showrunner Russel T. Davies was looking to cast Hugh Grant as Britain's favorite alien. Grant himself has dismissed the claim as nothing more than a rumor, disappointing plenty and sparking continued conspiracy theories amongst many. Whittaker served as the series' first canonical female Doctor, but a charity special for 1999's Red Nose Day saw the good Doctor played by not only a woman, but also ... Hugh Grant.

Sometime in late 1998, writer Steven Moffat was approached by the producers behind Comic Relief charity to write a humorous sketch spoof of "Doctor Who" to play across Comic Relief's 1999 telethon in several parts on BBC One. The sketch would become "The Curse of Fatal Death," featuring Rowan Atkinson ("Mr. Bean," "Rat Race"), Richard E. Grant ("Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker") Jim Broadbent ("Iris," "Longford"), Hugh Grant ("Paddington 2," "Love Actually") and Dame Joanna Lumley ("Absolutely Fabulous," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") as different regenerations as the Doctor. If the name Steven Moffat looks familiar, that's because the longtime fan of the series would eventually become the lead writer and executive producer of "Doctor Who" for the show from season 5 through season 10, shepherding the eras starring Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death

In a very weird way, Moffat's story elements and casting decisions in "Doctor Who: The Cure of the Fatal Death" allows the parody special to almost serve as a bridge between the original and revival versions of the series. The special marked the first televised "Doctor Who" script by Steven Moffat, the first post-production work of The Mill, and the final voiceover performance from Roy Skelton, the longest-running voice of the Doctor's archenemies, the Daleks. The special was executive produced by Richard Curtis, who would go on to write the season 5 episode "Vincent and the Doctor," largely considered to be one of the best episodes in the entire revival series. In another weird act of happenstance, Richard E. Grant, who plays the "Tenth" Doctor, would go on to voice an alternate version of the Ninth Doctor in an animated webcast serial "Scream of the Shalka," and play the main antagonist of the revival's seventh season, the Great Intelligence.

What was intended to be nothing more than a charity sketch has now become a beloved part of "Doctor Who" lore, with Moffat sprinkling references in the sketch to future canonical episodes. Perhaps most beautifully, the promise "never cruel or cowardly" mantra taken on by all regenerations of The Doctor was first described by Emma (Julia Sawalha) who played the fictional companion in Moffat's sketch. So while it's highly unlikely that we'll see Hugh Grant as the real Doctor anytime soon, at least we'll always have his small run as "The Handsome Doctor."