When Michelle Gomez stormed onto the set of “Doctor Who” this year as an unhinged Time Lady, she was a huge hit, even though her true identity as classic villain The Master was only unmasked at the end of the penultimate episode. Although it seemed like she died in the finale, Steven Moffat has warned us that we may not have seen the last of her – and if anyone can come back, it’s the woman who controls death…
Described by ‘Doctor Who’ showrunner Steven Moffat as “brilliant, Scottish, and a tiny bit satanic”, Gomez claims that with her looks “I was always going to play witches and bitches”. Certainly her resumé is littered with the mad, bad and dangerous to know, and from outright slapstick to quiet desperation, she’s assembled a show reel full of some of the most volatile performances on television.
Here’s a quick round-up of Michelle’s must-see roles, as well as a look at what she’s got coming up.
The definitive Michelle Gomez performance: Psychotic, destructive and sexually aggressive, hospital staff liaison officer Sue White has a lot in common with Missy. In fact, she makes the rogue Time Lady look positively tame in comparison. Riding around the hospital on a camel, speaking in crow and dressing up as a ham, it’s the least subtle performance in one of the BBC’s most surreal sitcoms. Sue White is so bonkers that when Gomez presented an award at prestigious awards ceremony the BAFTAS by singing a song about penguins, it seemed completely normal. Just don’t touch her squirrel.
Best moment: Taking advantage of the object of her affections being in a coma by marrying him and stealing his semen. Eventually she gives birth to a lion.
Watch it on: Hulu
“The Book Group”
A motley crew of readers assembling in a Glasgow flat once a week might not sound like the most exciting premise for a TV show, but Annie Griffin’s tightly-written ensemble comedy is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. As Janice McCann, Michelle’s first foray into comedy (after an early career spent playing serious theatre roles) is a portrait of frustrated ambition trapped in an unhappy marriage. Brittle, neurotic, unhappy and frequently unlikeable, she gives a master class — or should that be Mistress-class? — in uncomfortable humor.
Best moment: Any time that chilly veneer of middle class politeness cracks, and we see the insecure woman underneath.
Watch it on: Hulu
Falling strictly into the ‘witch’ category, her terrifying deputy head teacher Isobel Pickwell — a woman who “hasn’t wept since 1990,” when her idol Margaret Thatcher was ousted from power — is for once a comedy role that’s largely free of slapstick, although she does have some cracking one-liners. Abbey Grove High School is host to teachers even more juvenile than their students, with the exception of the icy Pickwell, who is bent on molding impressionable young minds in her intimidating image. She’s penpals with a man known only as “The Beast of Bergendorff,” doesn’t believe in climate change and takes her class on school trips to the abattoir. Even Missy might give her a wide berth.
Best moment: Faking her own death, blaming a fellow teacher and then extorting a thousand pounds out of him so she can emigrate to Argentina.
Watch it on: Sadly, it isn’t available to watch in the US at the moment.
“Heather’s American Medicine”
Although she’s as Glaswegian as a pub brawl after a Rangers match, these days Gomez makes her home in New York, along with husband Jack Davenport. Although she’s made a name for herself in theatre, starring alongside folks like Jake Gyllenhall, she’s still a relative unknown on television. Enter Wildseed Studios and their one-woman webseries that cures “the creeping cancer of liberal guilt.”
If you thought the Mary Poppins-like Missy was a nightmare nanny, then you haven’t met Heather, an “agony aunt” — emphasis on agony — dedicated to bringing traditional Scottish values to an America in moral decline. In gloriously bad taste and offensive to pretty much everyone, the series lays a good foundation for a career in the US – after all, she can’t say she didn’t warn you.
Best moment: The faintly terrified expressions of passers-by in the background as Heather dispenses her personal brand of tough love.
Watch it on: YouTube
“The Taming of The Shrew”
Only two scenes of this 2008 production are available online, but they show an entirely different side of Gomez. Making her RSC debut as Katherine, the headstrong heroine who meets her match in Petruchio, she goes from spirited single woman to beaten down wife in one of her best performances to date. Take a look at these two scenes and get a glimpse of Gomez at her dramatic best.
Watch it on: The RSC website
If you thought you’d have to wait until Missy emerges to wreak more havoc on the Doctor, fear no more — Gomez has just signed on with fellow British import Rob Brydon to guest star in HBO’s upcoming show The Brink. It’s a dark comedy about a geopolitical crisis and she’s set to play Vanessa, one half of “an intelligent, tight-knit, eccentric couple.” Hopefully this time she’ll be helping to stop Armageddon, rather than bring it about.
Best moment: We’ll have to wait and see.
Watch it on: HBO (in 2015)