When it comes to David Bowie and Doctor Who, there’s a whole load of crossover. There are episodes of the series named after Bowie songs; costumes that were inspired by Bowie’s stage outfits; and even a story about Bowie’s backing band, The Spiders From Mars, stumbling onto the set of Doctor Who after filming Top Of The Pops only to be taken as members of the spacesuit-clad cast. It’s strange, then, that Bowie never actually appeared on the show. Although, if show composer Murray Gold is to be believed, Ziggy Stardust did nearly step inside the TARDIS.
Peter Capaldi’s version of the Doctor was greatly inspired by Bowie. Speaking to NME, the actor revealed that, while putting together a scrapbook of ideas for his portrayal of the immortal timelord, he decided that he would try and mimic Bowie’s “no frills, no scraf, no messing” look in the Thin White Duke era. Around the time of that interview, Capaldi also said that he wanted Bowie to appear as a guest star in the new series – something any child of the 1970s would have given their right hand to have seen.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. In 2013, Doctor Who composer Murray Gold told Den of Geek of his chance encounter with Bowie at an ice cream stall: “I said, ‘I write music for Doctor Who,’ and he said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘They want me to do it.’ I don’t know what it means, to this day, but that’s what he said. I don’t know in what capacity, as an actor or as a musician.”
I can’t blame the folks at Doctor Who for wanting Bowie on board. Both he and the show were products of that visionary obsession with the future that characterised the 1960s. Bowie’s ultramodern alien aesthetics were just as enchanting as anything on the tea-time sci-fi show for children marvelling over the possibility of holidaying on the moon. It’s little wonder, then, that he was nearly cast as one of the most iconic villains of the 1980s run of Doctor Who.
Apparently, Bowie was director Graeme Harper’s first choice for the role of Sharaz Jek, a leather-masked genius with insidious and maniacal tendencies. Harper’s thinking was that whoever he cast in the role would need to have a distinctive voice and way of moving to compensate for their face being hidden. Being both sonorous and a lithe mover, Bowie felt like the obvious choice. Alas, the musician was midway through his Serious Moonlight Tour so turned down the role. The offers kept on coming year after year, but Bowie never once accepted, much to the dismay of his young fans.