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Doctor Who has been able to introduce characters from distant pasts, possible futures, and even parallel worlds. The show had no shortage of great characters in its original run, and the 2005 revival has only added to the vast library of folks who have encountered the Doctor in his time travel adventures. One character who has appeared in both the original run and the revival is the Time Lord Rassilon. Timothy Dalton played Rassilon is his first appearance on the Who revival, and it turns out that the director of the Season 9 finale wanted him to reprise the role, which unfortunately did not happen.
Director Rachel Talalay was tasked with bringing Rassilon back to Doctor Who in Season 9. She reports now that Timothy Dalton was approached to return to the show but was not available, as reported by CultBox. Dalton had played Rassilon back in the final special of David Tennant's run as the Tenth Doctor. At the time, Rassilon very nearly unleashed a horde of malevolent aliens on the galaxy when he tried to escape the Time Lock that the Doctor had placed on Gallifrey, and it took a last-minute save from the Master to defeat Rassilon.
Timothy Dalton was actually something of a surprise when he first showed up as Rassilon. He was great at bringing both menace and gravitas in the role, but Dalton is best known for playing James Bond for two Bond films in the 80s. He just wasn't who might be expected to show up as an evil Time Lord in Doctor Who. It's a shame that he couldn't return for the "Hell Bent" season finale. A reappearance would have been a great callback to an earlier era of the revival. He was likely too busy with his part on Penny Dreadful to make it back for another go on Who.
The lack of availability from Timothy Dalton meant that the role of Rassilon for "Hell Bent" went to Donald Sumpter, who Game of Thrones fans would have recognized as the man behind the late lamented Maester Luwin. Interestingly, "Hell Bent" was actually Sumpter's fourth appearance in the Doctor Who universe. He showed up twice during the original run of the series, then popped up in Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Donald Sumpter was a fitting replacement for the great Timothy Dalton as Rassilon, and the show didn't even require too much of a suspension of belief that Rassilon suddenly looked very different than in his first appearance. Rassilon just happened to have regenerated into a body different from the one who vexed Ten. There was even already precedent for different faces of Rassilon. The character was played by Richard Mathews when Rassilon made his Doctor Who debut back in 1983.
Doctor Who is unfortunately on hiatus at the moment, so we can't hope to see any more of Rassilon -- past, present, or future -- any time soon. Big changes are on the way for the series behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. We'll have to wait and see if Timothy Dalton or Donald Sumpter will be back as Rassilon once more. Check out our summer TV premiere schedule to see what you can watch in the meantime.