Anjli Mohindra returns to the Doctor Who universe in time for Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror. But what’s she been up since the days of The Sarah Jane Adventures?
There can be few Doctor Who guest stars this year as familiar to fans as Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’s Anjli Mohindra. After all, she’s already a well established member of the Doctor Who family. Joining The Sarah Jane Adventures in Series Two as Rani Chandra, she spent four years saving the Earth from an attic in Ealing. She even had the opportunity to have adventures beside two Doctors in the forms of David Tennant and Matt Smith. And after The Sarah Jane Adventures had met its sad and premature end, Rani jumping aboard to become a full on companion was a recurring demand of fans on social media.
Now Mohindra is finally appearing in the parent show, and meeting the Thirteenth Doctor. But nobody would have expected just how. As the scorpion like Queen Skithra, she’ll be buried under prosthetics. Plus she’s more likely to kill the Doctor than help her. But many fans may still be wondering – what has Mohindra been up to in the years between Rani and Skithra?
Mohindra has appeared in a number of high profile police dramas. Each time climbing both the police ranks, and the billing
The answer is that Mohindra has proven to have made the difficult jump to playing adult characters with style. She’s steadily built up an enviable career of parts in some of the biggest hits of recent years. Immediately after the end of Sarah Jane Adventures, she spent a while in the stomping ground of many young actors. She took guest roles in Doctors, Casualty and in critically acclaimed drama The Missing. From there she’s taken larger and larger roles in ever more significant dramas. Appropriately, it was Russell T Davies who helped showcase her skills as an adult actor in Cucumber, in which she took the supporting but significant role of Veronica. (Blogtor Who is still a little bitter at Veronica blaming Henry for Lance’s death with such venom. After all, it was her that pushed Lance into dating James despite all the red flags.)
Since then, her roles have broken into two broad strands. The first has seen her in a succession of police dramas, steadily climbing both the ranks and the cast list. In 2016’s Paranoid she was PC Megan Waters supporting the team headed up her Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror co-star Robert Glenister and Torchwood’s Indira Varma. By 2018 she had been promoted in the form of DC Josie Chancellor, secondary lead in Dark Heart. And in 2019’s Wild Bill, she climbed all the way to Assistant Commissioner as ACC Lydia Price, dealing with the fallout of the hands on approach of her new boss (Rob Lowe) to crime fighting.
Several of Mohindra’s projects have depicted the complexity of the British Asian experience, from The Boy in the Topknot to Bodyguard
Meanwhile, the Nottingham born daughter of Hindu-Punjabi parents, Mohindra has also seized opportunities to showcase the British Asian experience. Despite the name, BBC Three’s My Jihad was a gentle romantic comedy series in which Mohindra’s single mother Fahmida slowly let down her defences and found love again, helped and hindered in equal measure by her best friend Yasmin (Mandeep Dillhon – currently Yaz’s sister Sonya on Doctor Who). And she was Bindi, sister to current Master Sacha Dahwan’s eponymous Boy in the Topknot in Sathnam Sanghera’s acclaimed memoir of the growing up in a Sikh-Punjabi family.
Yet she also made international headlines when she starred in a sketch on the BBC comedy show Revolting. That sketch, The Real Housewives of ISIS, ridiculed British teenagers who had travelled to Syria to marry ISIS fighters. Mohindra starred as Zaynab, a social media obsessed, and six time widowed, ISIS bride who faces an awkward situation when one of her rivals arrives as a party wearing the same suicide vest. Some condemned it for satirizing a subject thought too serious to laugh about. But in others it was praised as a strong rebuttal of the recruitment techniques being used. On a more serious variation on the theme, she took a major supporting role in the massive 2018 hit Bodyguard. As Nadia Ali, she drew huge praise from critics for her layered portrayal of a would-be suicide bomber persuaded to abandon her attack by Richard Madden’s David Budd.
The Dead Room saw her face the supernatural in the traditional Ghost Story for Christmas
You may also have seen Mohindra in the 2018 Ghost Story for Christmas from Mark Gatiss, The Dead Room. A virtual two-hander, she plays Tara, the young, confident radio producer Tara of The Dead Room. But dark forces gather as she deals with her pompous and dismissive star Aubrey (Simon Callow). And finally, we can’t not mention her guest spot on America’s most brilliantly insane show – DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The show was originally about the last of the Time Masters (former Rory actor Arthur Darvill), who wiped out his own people to save the universe but now travels the vortex in the living time-ship he stole. Still it has evolved a lot by the season four episode in which Mohindra guest starred as a shape-changer heading up punk bad The Smell in London, 1977.
So there’s clearly been much more to Anjli Mohindra’s career than Rani and The Sarah Jane Adventures. And Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror will allow her to add the full blooded villainy of a Doctor Who monster to her list of accomplishments. But it seems certain it will be another stop along the way in a career defined by constant work. And, named as one of the BAFTA Elevate group for this year, equally by an ever increasing profile. In fact, her next project has just been announced today. In Vigil, the new BBC crime drama from the producers of Bodyguard, she’ll star alongside Suranne Jones (The Doctor’s Wife). Featuring a web of suspicion following a murder aboard a Trident submarine, it’s already shaping up to be the high profile hit show of 2020. And it demonstrates again that Anjli Mohindra is a major talent to watch.
Doctor Who continues at 7.10pm this Sunday on with Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror
The time: the earliest years of the 20th century. The place: New York City. Inventor Nikola Tesla is at war with his rival Thomas Edison. However, there’s an even greater threat in their midst… Doctor Who continues next Sunday 19th January with ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ on BBC One and BBC America. Written by Nina Metivier. Directed by Nida Manzoor. Guest starring Anjli Mohindra, Goran Visnijc, Robert Glenister, and Haley McGee.