ByAlex Hodgson, writer at
Writer of things, doer of stuff. Superhero fan and karateka - follow me on twitter @AlexJHodgson
Alex Hodgson

It's quite surprising the amount of actors who have gone from to superhero films and TV. Even if we just look at , there have been a fair few actors who have moved on to superhero media — some in the , whereas others occupy the — whether small cameos or leading roles. Seriously, there's more than you might think.

1. Christopher Eccleston ('Thor: The Dark World')

It's only fair that I start with the man responsible for the TARDIS when Doctor Who made its long-awaited return to our screens. In 2005, nine years after Paul McGann's only outing as the Time Lord, we were reintroduced to the latest regeneration of The Doctor: Christopher Eccleston. Though mocked for his Northern accent (seriously, what's wrong with that?!), he breathed a new life into the show and brought his own ideas to the character.

Eccleston's Doctor was a tortured soul who was dealing with the consequences of the Time War; he struggled with survivor's guilt and was more closed-off than previous incarnations of the character. He felt that The Doctor would live for the moment and not worry about his past due to the pain that lies there. He left the TARDIS after one series, but he will forever be remembered as the man who brought The Doctor back.

His role in Thor: The Dark World was, unfortunately, not as memorable as his tenure as the Time Lord. He was cast as Malekith the Accursed, and had the unenviable task of following Loki as the main antagonist of a Thor film. His mission was to use the Aether, which we have since discovered to be an Infinity Stone, to plunge the universe into eternal darkness and destroy all of the Nine Realms.

Malekith was a cruel and ruthless leader who was not afraid to kill his own men; he even cursed his second-in-command, Algrim. But, as with many of Marvel's villains, he did not have the impact that was desired, perhaps due to the fact that Loki was still a presence in the film.

2. David Tennant ('Jessica Jones')

Christopher Eccleston isn't the only man to have played The Doctor and move into the MCU. His successor, , did exactly the same. Eccleston's Doctor was hugely popular with audiences, but the actor had decided that he only wanted to do one series. Following on from him would be no easy task, but David Tennant passed the test, and then some!

Many fans rank Tennant's version of The Doctor among the very best and were devastated when he passed the torch to Matt Smith. His Doctor was a much more energetic man than his predecessor, and he was arguably the most human of all of the Doctors. One of the key stories throughout his time in the TARDIS was his relationship with Rose Tyler — this began in his previous form, but it was this regeneration that really connected with her. Initially, she was distrustful of him because he had changed his face; she was no longer sure if he was the same man. But he proved that though he had a different face, he was still The Doctor inside by defeating the Sycorax on Christmas Day.

Tennant moved on to play the mysterious Kilgrave in . His character was the main antagonist of the series and had the ability to control the actions of anyone he chooses; this included Jessica Jones prior to the series' events. Perhaps due to the fact that he appeared in one of the Marvel Netflix shows, Kilgrave is arguably THE best villain in the MCU so far. Tennant gives a chilling performance as a man who is clearly unhinged which is shown by his treatment of his parents. After they experimented on his as a child, at the same time unwillingly giving him his powers, he took revenge on them by forcing them to do whatever he desired. This ultimately led to their deaths as he ordered them both to kill themselves.

3. Sir Ian McKellen ('X-Men')

Sir Ian McKellen is famous for playing the X-Men's archenemy — and sometimes ally — in the long-running mutant franchise. (Oh yeah, and he's famous for playing that wizard guy too.) Michael Fassbender makes a pretty great Erik Lehnsherr as well, but McKellen originated the role and made it iconic. The gravitas he brought to the role was the perfect foil to Patrick Stewart's Professor X, and he was equally as adept at showing Magneto's softer side.

A role you may not recognize him from, however, is the voice of the Great Intelligence in the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special:

Fun fact: according to the TARDIS Wikia, McKellen was "considered for the role of the Eighth Doctor" back in the '90s.

4. Andrew Garfield ('The Amazing Spider-Man')

While David Tennant was The Doctor, Daleks took over New York during the great depression. They were experimenting on humans and created pig-human hybrids that walked the sewers of Manhattan and ultimately strived to create a Dalek-human hybrid. One of The Doctor's companions in this episode is the young Tennessean, Frank, played by Andrew Garfield. Thanks to Frank, The Doctor is able to defeat the newly created Dalek-human hybrid, but of course, this wasn't the last time that Mr. Garfield found himself defending New York.

Yes, after appearing in Doctor Who, Garfield won the role of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. Though he has since been replaced in the role for the web-slinger's MCU outings, Garfield certainly made his mark. The Amazing Spider-Man films were met with a mixed reception from fans, but Garfield's portrayal of Peter Parker was universally praised, with many feeling he added the humor that Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker lacked. He was an excellent Spider-Man and was a big supporter of reacquiring the rights to the character — it's thanks to his films' perceived failure that Sony agreed the deal to bring Spidey to the MCU.

5. Karen Gillan ('Guardians Of The Galaxy')

Karen Gillan certainly made quite the impression as Matt Smith's first companion, Amy Pond. When she was announced in the role, Gillan was a relative unknown and had actually appeared already in an earlier episode of Doctor Who. But Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor very quickly became a formidable team that audiences loved.

The Doctor first meets the young Amelia when he crashes in her back garden shortly after regenerating. After trying fish fingers and custard, she showed The Doctor the crack in her wall which had troubled her. While investigating this, he discovered that the Atraxi prisoner, Prisoner Zero, had escaped and was currently hiding in Amelia's house. Unfortunately for Amelia, the TARDIS cloister bell sounded and The Doctor had to travel through time to prevent the engines from being destroyed. He promised to return and made good on his promise...eventually.

Twelve years later, The Doctor returned. From then on they became fast friends and, partly thanks to Gillan's portrayal, Amy became a fan-favorite companion. Even the addition of her husband, Rory (more on him later), could not part the time travellers.


Gillan moved into the MCU in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy as Nebula, one of Thanos's adopted daughters. She shocked the Comic-Con audience when she revealed that she had shaved her head for the role by removing the wig she had been disguising her baldness with. Nebula served as Ronan, The Accuser's right hand, during the film and did battle with the Guardians a number of times. She begins to doubt her master's wishes and reluctantly battles her adopted sister, Gamora. However, she eventually concludes that both the Guardians and Ronan are crazy and attempts suicide. Instead she manages to land on a passing ship and commandeer it.

Gillan will return in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

6. Arthur Darvill ('Legends Of Tomorrow')

Rory's default emotion was befuddlement
Rory's default emotion was befuddlement

In his role as Rory Williams, Darvill also assisted Matt Smith's Doctor on his adventures through time and space. Rory is introduced as Amy's fiancé — and at the end of their first series in the TARDIS, the couple get married. Their marriage does not prevent them from travelling with The Doctor, however, and they even manage to become The Doctor's in-laws (it's complicated!).

Rory served as mild comic relief, particularly when it came to his penchant for dying — he died a total of SIX times, though thanks to a load of timey-wimey things, he always came back to life.

Darvill returned as the time-travelling adventurer, Rip Hunter, in DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Despite his experiences in the TARDIS, it seemed that he had learned nothing of the rules of time travel — this was in spite of the fact he always told his team that certain rules must be obeyed when it came to altering the past. He led the Legends in a battle against the immortal villain, Vandal Savage. Savage had killed Rip's wife and child after taking control of the world and Rip sought to rectify this. He assembled a team of heroes (and a couple of villains) from within the Arrowverse and set off on an adventure through time.

After defeating Savage at the cost of the Time Masters, Rip chose to use his team to take on the role of defenders of the timeline. This was until the season two opener in which he sacrificed himself to prevent New York being destroyed by an atomic bomb (yep, he seemingly died, again!).

7. John Barrowman ('Arrow')

John Barrowman played quite an important role in the first couple of series' of NuWho playing Captain Jack Harkness. He was a companion of both the Ninth and Tenth Doctor, who was a Time Agent from the 51st Century and was accidentally given the gift of immortality due to his adventures with The Doctor. He was killed by a Dalek and quickly revived by Rose Tyler, who had absorbed the power of the TARDIS by looking into its heart. After this, The Doctor considered Jack a contradiction, as he was now a fixed point in time, and he stranded him in the year 200,100.

Jack was able to return himself to the past and meet up with The Doctor again, and he even formed his own alien fighting team in Torchwood. After once again helping The Doctor save the universe, Jack left to find his own adventures.

Barrowman plays a key part in the Arrowverse in his role as Malcolm Merlyn, The Dark Archer. He was the main antagonist in Arrow Season 1 and has played a key role ever since. He has both helped and hindered Team Arrow in his time on the show and he even took over the role of Ra's Al Ghul in Season 4. He has often been a thorn in the side of the Arrowverse heroes and was this season announced as a series regular across all of the shows. He will even be involved in the Arrowverse Legion of Doom in Legends of Tomorrow.

8. Jenna Coleman ('Captain America: The First Avenger')

Jenna Coleman played Matt Smith's second companion, Clara Oswald — though really, she played seven or eight different roles. Her character was the ongoing mystery of Series 7 as she had appeared in a number of different roles throughout The Doctor's timeline. The Doctor affectionately referred to her as his "impossible girl" and this was because she entered his time stream in order to undo the harm that the Great Intelligence had done to the timeline.

After this mystery was resolved she later went on to have many more adventures with The Doctor, and she helped him transition after his regeneration into the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

Jenna had a very brief appearance in the MCU in Captain America: The First Avenger, playing the role of Connie. She is one of the ladies that Bucky and Steve meet up with at the Stark Expo during the early stages of the film.

9. Toby Jones ('Captain America: The First Avenger')

Jones appeared in the Eleventh Doctor episode "Amy's Choice," playing the role of the Dream Lord. This character was a manifestation of the darker elements of The Doctor's character that was brought on by some psychic pollen that was stuck in the TARDIS's time rotor. He trapped The Doctor and his companions in an idyllic dreamworld and told them that the TARDIS was hurtling towards it's destruction in a cold star. He appeared throughout the episode to taunt The Doctor and make him question what was real until The Doctor realised that neither world was real. The time travellers were actually asleep inside the TARDIS — but their experiences within the dream were real.

There's every chance the Dream Lord could return, as his status was somewhat ambiguous at the end of the episode; though he was seemingly defeated, he is a part of The Doctor.

Jones appeared in the MCU as Arnim Zola, a HYDRA scientist who was the Red Skull's right hand in Captain America: The First Avenger. He was the true brains behind HYDRA, utilizing the Tesseract to create weapons, and played a key role in HYDRA's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. After the Red Skull's defeat, Zola was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and offered the chance to work for them — which he accepted, all the while secretly planting seeds that would later rebuild HYDRA.

He appeared in Agent Carter in a cameo as he recruited Johann Fennhoff to the cause and was even involved in Bucky Barnes's transition into the Winter Soldier. Even long after his death, Zola lived on after downloading his consciousness onto a computer in a World War II bunker. It was thanks to him that S.H.I.E.L.D. fell during Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

But That's Not All!

Those are just a few examples of actors who have transitioned into superhero roles after working on Doctor Who. There are many others: Alex Kingston, Felicity Jones and Tony Curran are just some of them. It's not that surprising when you consider Doctor Who has existed for over 50 years, but whereas Doctor Who is a British institution, it's fair to say that superheroes are one of America's great hallmarks. It's quite interesting to look at just how many actors have appeared in both!

Who's your favorite Doctor? Let me know in the comments!


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