Rassilon. The name might not mean much to the general public, but seasoned Doctor Who fans will shudder at it as he’s one of the Doctor’s most dangerous foes. Rassilon is the founder of the Time Lord society that the Doctor hails from and is credited with many innovations, most notably TARDIS technology. Unfortunately, though, he’s also a power-mad dictator, which has put him in opposition to the Doctor and their companions on multiple occasions.
Memorably played by a scenery-chewing Timothy Dalton in the 2009-2010 story “The End of Time,” we last saw him in 2015’s Twelfth Doctor story “Hell Bent” (where he was played by Donald Sumpter). Since then, he’s been absent from our screens, though there are some big clues that the character will make a reappearance in the show soon.
Rassilon is already confirmed to return in upcoming Big Finish audio drama “Time War 4,” due in early 2021. There, he’ll be played by Hannibal, Castlevania and The Hobbit star Richard Armitage, who’s said:
“Rassilon is one of those defining spines of this lore. I’ve watched enough sci-fi to know that there has to be an omnipotent being that has a self-aggrandising mental state which puts him above everybody else, like a malevolent, maniacal dictator.”
“I grew up with Doctor Who. The Daleks and the Cybermen were definitely my ‘hiding behind the sofa’ baddies. But I loved being frightened. Tom Baker was my Doctor. He had that voice. In a way, what I have tried to do with Rassilon is a little bit Tom Baker-esque.”
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Thing is, Armitage is such an impressive bit of casting that it seems very possible that he’ll be playing the role in live-action, too. In the wake of season 12’s finale, we should expect to see Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor getting to grips with elements of Time Lord society and who better to play the antagonist in that story than Rassilon? Not to mention that anyone who’s seen his villainous yet conflicted performance in season 3 of Hannibal will know that Armitage would do a great job.
The only downside is that with COVID-19 restrictions having delayed season 13, we could have quite a wait until this happens. Fortunately, though, this year’s holiday special “Revolution of the Daleks” is still on track, so we’ll at least have some new Doctor Who in 2020.