Q: I just noticed Olivia Colman in an episode of "Doctor Who," and I was surprised to see her there. Wasn't she too big at that point to be doing such a small TV part?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

It's just like "Doctor Who" to upend our conventional ideas of time and reality.

For starters, while that episode of "Doctor Who" may seem current (given that fans are still watching episodes from the 1960s), it actually aired 11 years ago. But maybe more importantly, there's no such thing as a "small part" on "Doctor Who."

That said, Olivia Colman hadn't really "broken" as an actor by this time -- this was three years before her leading role in the British mystery series "Broadchurch," and nine years before she was Queen Elizabeth on "The Crown."

Her biggest role prior to the "Doctor Who" guest spot was as a supporting player on the comedy series "Peep Show." While a big deal in her native U.K., it certainly wasn't enough to price her out of "Doctor Who," one of the biggest shows in British TV history.

Colman's three-minute role on "Doctor Who's" Season 5 premiere, "The Eleventh Hour," is equivalent to a much bigger part on a lesser series. Just ask Timothy Dalton ("Licence to Kill," 1989), Brian Cox ("Succession") or Diana Rigg ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service," 1969), all of whom were well-established stars before doing comparatively small parts on "Doctor Who."


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