On Sunday popular British actor Neil Stuke comes to face with the Judoon. But why will he look so familiar to viewers?
Kent born Doctor Who guest star Neil Stuke has one of those faces. In fact it’s fair to say those watching Fugitive of the Judoon will be divided between those who already know his name, and those who can’t quite place what they saw him in. It bear witness to just what a consistent and charismatic presence Stuke has been on our screens. Because while one might remember a particular major part, another will have seen him in dozens of supporting roles. But it’s almost guaranteed that both will speak of just how good he is.
Stuke has played a wide variety of characters over the years. But a sign of his talent is that he’s particularly known for finding various shades of a particular archetype. Often he plays the smooth, arrogant, exquisitely suited alpha male. Yet how he turns them into figures of darkness and pathos, or of farce and humour, underscores his gift for both drama and comedy. After all, the main difference between Silk’s fearsome Billy Lamb and Reggie Perrin’s Chris Jackson is about 30 IQ points. Yet he always expertly criss-crosses the line between comedically grotesque monsters and actual monsters and makes each character an entirely distinct creation. Whether that’s as the genuinely evil boss in the intense stage play Bull, or as the lecherous marketing manager Max in sitcom Monday Monday.
Twenty years after his break out hit Game On, Stuke has also developed a fine line in professional, difficult to impress, police officers
To some though, he’ll be best remember as the star of late 90s BBC comedy Game On. Bullying, vindictive and egomaniacal, Stuke’s Matthew was the centre the show was built around. In a variation on a theme, though, Matthew is far from finding success, deserved or otherwise. He’s a loser who, deep down, suspects the truth about himself even as he belittles and abuses his poor flatmates. That he’s trapped in a purgatory of his own devising by his agoraphobia and PTSD following his parents’ violent deaths even creates some sympathy for him.
But with seventy-five screen credits to his name, Stuke has established a much broader range of characters too. Conscientious, yet skeptical, police detectives are a particular theme, such as recurring role as Chief Inspector Cooke in Silent Witness. Notably, one such series, Paranoid, followed a murder hunt involving an entire team of Doctor Who alumni such as both Robert Glenister and Anjli Mohindra from last week’s Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror. And he reunited with another Paranoid co-star, Suranne Jones, for the most talked about show of 2015, Doctor Foster; in which he attended the most tweeted about dinner party in history as his character Chris learned of Foster’s husband’s (Bertie Caval) affair with his teenage daughter (future Killing Eve star Jodie Comer).
But what should we expect from Stuke’s character of Lee Clayton in Fugitive of the Judoon? Well, this is a Judoon episode. So probably a performance more in line with acting across from a giant rubber space rhino. But promotional materials also describe Lee as an “intense” man, in contrast to his easy-going wife Ruth (Jo Martin). Which seems like exactly the sort of balancing act Stuke has perfected over the course of his career.
Doctor Who continues at 7.10pm this Sunday on with Fugitive of the Judoon
Ko Sho Blo! Trigger-happy space police the Judoon are targeting 21st-century Gloucester. The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham race back to Earth in order to prevent them doing too much damage to the cathedral city. But who are they looking for, and what did they do to incur the wrath of the Judoon?
Starring Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan). Fugitive of the Judoon guest stars Neil Stuke (Lee), Jo Martin (Ruth) and Ritu Arya (Gat) with Nicholas Birggs as the Voice of the Judoon. Written by Vinay Patel (Demons of the Punjab) and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone (Spyfall Part One).