Celebrated actor Julie Graham returned to the Doctor Who family last week as Ravio, one of the last survivors of the Cyber-war. Ahead of The Timeless Children Blogtor Who looks at just why she’s such a well known face
Sometimes Doctor Who gives an initial leg-up to new, talented performers. And oftentimes it manages to nab an actor right before their jump to stardom. But there are times when it recruits actors with careers so enduring, and so littered with high points, that they’re nearly impossible for a Blogtor Who Profile to adequately sum up. One such actor is Julie Graham, introduced as the Cyber-war survivor Ravio in Ascension of the Cybermen. Ahead of her return appearance in The Timeless Children this Sunday, Blogtor Who looks at the highlights.
Born in Irvine, like many of her Scottish contemporaries Graham earned her first credit with an appearance in Scottish crime series Taggart. Coincidentally, the tale of corpses in reservoirs and duffel bags of cash also featured Alan Cumming as her lover. It kicked off a thirty-five years and counting career. One in which she moved with unusual speed from small parts (‘Casino waitress’ in Nuns on the Run) to main cast roles in a steady stream of ensemble series. She did her time on Casualty as student nurse Alison McGrellis in one early role, for instance.
In the late 90s and early 00s Graham moved from sidekick roles to centre stage
And then spent two seasons as the plucky sidekick to Michael Elphick’s Harry. Along with fellow future star Tom Hollander, she assisted the ethically challenged tabloid hack. The twist on the detective format saw the trio incidentally solving crimes or saving lives in pursuit of exploitative headlines. This was followed by four seasons of At Home with the Braithwaites, starring Peter Davison. As Megan, the Braithwaites’ manipulative neighbour Megan she was one of the show’s main antagonists. Over the course of the series she seduces eldest Braithwaite daughter Virginia (Sarah Smart, The Almost People), before meeting a shocking end.
This was immediately followed by three seasons of William and Mary, the gently comedic love story of an undertaker (Martin Clunes, Snakedance) and a midwife (Graham) as they attempt to blend their two dysfunctional families. After William and Mary ended Julie Graham began to step away from romantic interests. Instead her CV began to peppered with formidable women and heroes, and increasingly as leads in her own shows.
In Bonekickers and Survivors the actor reinvented herself as a woman of action
One of these, as Dr. Gillian Magwilde, is perhaps remembered for all the wrong reasons. Magwilde was the central character in Bonekickers, one of the various 00s attempts to create the same family adventure spark that made Russell T Davies’ revival of Doctor Who work so well. On paper, Bonekickers should have been great. After all, from the minds of Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah, fresh from the success of Life on Mars. It also had a superb cast in Graham, Hugh Bonneville (Curse of the Black Spot), and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish Jones). But the attempts to strike a tone midway between Indiana Jones and Time Team wound up with the worst of all worlds, vastly improbable but strangely dull.
Another lead role came next, anchoring the action of Survivors, the remake of Dalek creator Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic drama. When a new strain of flu virus sweeps the world, it wipes out the majority of the human race. And the series follows Graham’s Abby Grant as she becomes the leader of a small community of survivors. Across two seasons she bears the burden of doing whatever it takes to keep herself and her friends alive in a dangerous world, while trying not to sacrifice her soul in the process. And all while trying to find her missing son Peter, whom she insists must be alive despite the odds.
A guest appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures cast Graham as a dark mirror to Sarah Jane herself
Next up was a recurring presence in The Bill in 2010. As the Metropolitan Police Commander responsible for Sun Hill she was both supporter and antagnoist as the plot demanded. And then her first appearance in the Doctor Who universe in two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures. When Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) begins to suffer from dementia type symptoms she looks for someone to carry the flame, and fellow adventurer Ruby White (Graham) seems to be the only choice. But White is actually the one responsible for Sarah Jane’s illness and is manipulating events to her own evil ends. It’s a role that required Graham to not only match the magnificent Sladen as a charming, inventive. Doctor Who companion type but to switch immediately to full on Doctor Who villainy.
In recent years Graham has been embedded in the public consciousness for three high profile roles – Sheron Dawson, Jean McBrian and Rhona Kelly. Overlapping with each other, between them they show the range that has marked Graham’s career. In popular bawdy Brits abroad sitcom Benidorm, Sheron was the series’ new heart when she joined in Series Eight. And it highlighted Graham’s romcom credentials established early in her career. Twenty-five years married, Sheron spent the next three seasons loving and bickering her husband, trying to keep her kids out of trouble under the Spanish sun, and embarrassed by her mother.
Ongoing roles in Shetland and The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco mean Graham’s streak of resourceful, capable women will continue for some time yet
The Bletchley Circle, and it’s sequel The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, meanwhile, reinforced Graham’s ability to play determined, intelligent leaders. Her Jean McBrian is the defacto leader of the circle of former WWII codebreakers. Women who use their skills in first 1950s London, and then San Francisco, to hunt spies, criminals, and serial killers. Combining lush period visuals, nerve shredding detective thrills, and a poignant reflection of the underappreciated role of women in the 50s.
Shetland’s Rhona Kelly, meanwhile, is equally passionate and loyal, but thoroughly more modern. Rather she’s a no-nonsense, high ranking professional in her role as Procurator Fiscal of Shetland. Though not one of the main team in the scenic Scot Noir crime series, as their immediate boss for four seasons she’s been regularly called upon to defend them or reign them in as they fought to get to the bottom of the latest killing.
Shetland has already been commissioned by the BBC for a further two seasons filming in 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, the second season of The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco will air later this year. So it’s clear that after The Timeless Children are revealed and Ravio’s time on Doctor Who comes to an end, Julie Graham is going to be kept busy and in the public eye for some time to come.
Doctor Who Series 12 concludes at the earlier time of 6.50pm next Sunday with The Timeless Children
In the epic and emotional series finale, the Cybermen are on the march. As the last remaining humans are ruthlessly hunted down, Graham, Ryan and Yaz face a terrifying fight to survive. Civilisations fall. Others rise anew. Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, battles are fought, and for the Doctor — trapped and alone — nothing will ever be the same again.
Series 12 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan), with Chris Chibnall as Showrunner and Matt Strevens Executive Producing. Ascension of the Cybermen guest stars Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Julie Graham (Ravio), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen). It’s written by Chris Chibnall, and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone (Spyfall Part One, Praxeus, Ascension of the Cybermen)