Doctor Who guest star breaks World Record held by Coronation Street actor

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) looks into the camera dressed in an orange spacesuit in Doctor Who.
Jodie Whittaker's final Doctor Who special featured a record-breaking cameo appearance from a former star. (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

A Doctor Who guest star has recently broken a Guinness World Record for the longest gap between TV appearances — the record was held by Coronation Street star Philip Lowrie.

Veteran Whovians or anyone who is a fan of the classic series before the modern reboot might remember Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell), one of the First Doctor's companions. Ian was a science teacher who joined William Hartnell's incarnation of the Time Lord as part of the sci-fi show's original cast. 

Aged 97, Russell returned to make a cameo appearance (to the delight of many fans!) alongside several other former companions in the most recent Doctor Who special, The Power of the Doctor, which aired on October 23, 2022.

With his modern Doctor Who cameo, Guinness World Records (opens in new tab) have confirmed that Russell has set a new record for the longest gap between TV appearances, 57 years and 120 days since he was last seen in Doctor Who.

William Russell as Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor

Ian (William Russell) as he appeared in The Power of the Doctor. (Image credit: BBC)

William Russell participated in the show's pilot and was part of the cast when the series first came to air in 1963 and went on to appear in the bulk of the show's first two seasons. In total, Russell appeared in 77 episodes before making his departure at the end of the 1965 serial, "The Chase".

After his departure from the show, he continued to participate in the Whoniverse and has appeared in a range of expanded universe media including on DVD commentary tracks, Big Finish audio dramas and an appearance in the 50th-anniversary docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time. However, his record-breaking Power of the Doctor cameo was the first time he returned to the role on television.

The record was previously held by an actor from another long-running British TV series. In 2011, Coronation Street star Philip Lowrie (who played Dennis Tanner in the show) was presented with the certificate for the longest gap between television appearances. He made his return to the British soap in May 2011, 43 years after he previously left the show in 1968.

Doctor Who will return to our screens in 2023 with the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials, with David Tennant returning to play the Time Lord as the 14th Doctor opposite his former companion, Donna Noble (once again played by Catherine Tate). 

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.