Doctor Who saved the cult character he played in Jodie Whittaker’s historic debut episode as the first female Time Lord – and Doctor Who also came at just the right time for actor Jonny Dixon.

Life as an actor can be an emotional – and financial – rollercoaster and it takes belief and confidence to ride out the ups and downs.

Jonny, 33, teaches drama at a stage school in Shepley and is now also the driving force behind a new film production and events space in Golcar.

Jonny was a child actor and landed the role as school bully Matthew ‘Mooey’ Humphries in Grange Hill and every summer from the age of 11 through to 16 he’d be off filming another series.

After Grange Hill Jonny joined another TV institution, Coronation Street, playing Darryl Morton, a neighbour of the Platts, for three years until 2009.

After those two big early successes, Jonny found acting jobs harder to come by, perhaps hampered by the Corrie stereotype which limited his opportunities.

He secured appearances in Casualty and Doctors, had a role in a couple of pilots and also did an advert for the Winter Olympics.

But it was his guest lead role as Karl Wright in Skelmanthorpe actor Jodie’s debut as the Doctor that put him firmly back in the spotlight.

“Doctor Who seems to come along at just the time I seem to need it,” said Jonny. “Acting can be a precarious business.”

Jonny teaches drama and acting for screen at the Rebel School of Theatre Arts in Shepley and media studies and film at CAPA College in Wakefield. He also travels up and down the country passing on his skills.

He’s been a drama teacher for 12 years now and literally ten of thousands of children and thousands of adults will have passed through his sessions.

While Grange Hill and Coronation Street are massive in TV terms, Doctor Who is on another level – and Jonny got the call for Jodie’s first episode which aired in 2018.

Though Jonny admitted to never having watched Doctor Who, he had some friends who were Whovians – the name given to diehard fans – and they quickly brought him up to speed.

Jodie’s first episode – ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ – was set in Sheffield and featured a character called Karl Wright.

Hapless Karl was a scared-of-heights crane operator unlucky enough to be riding the exact same train Jodie’s newly-regenerated Doctor crashed into.

It turned out Karl would be hunted down back to his dad’s building yard by tooth-stealing (don’t ask!) alien Tzim-Sha. There was a dramatic scene at the top of massive cranes where Doctor Who saved Karl and, of course, saved the day.

In a sudden rush of bravery Karl kicked Tzim-Sha off the crane as he teleported away – and earned himself a rebuke from the Doctor!

Jonny Dixon in The Treehouse at Golcar

“This was one of the most special jobs of my career,” said Jonny. “It came at just the right time.

“I was struggling a bit and it had been a while since I’d had a job and my head was a bit of a shed.

“I went to Ireland to do some teaching and I didn’t know what I was going to do next. Did I want to do this anymore? Facing rejection for two or three years isn’t nice.”

Jonny had auditioned for the part of Karl – a coveted guest lead role – five weeks before but hadn’t heard anything. He’d assumed it was another rejection.

Against that backdrop Jonny had a call from his agent. Would he like the role in Doctor Who?

“It was the best news ever,” said Jonny.

Life went a bit crazy from there and Jonny soon found himself taking part in the biggest budget Doctor Who production ever.

Producer Chris Chibnall teamed up with Jodie Whittaker again after the success of their TV drama Broadchurch and there was massive excitement for the launch of the 13th Doctor, and the first woman to take on the role.

“It was full-on film production,” said Jonny. “There were to be no green screens and it would be real buildings and real cranes and we would do our own stunts.

“I remember the read-through with Jodie and Chris Chibnall. It was a surreal moment.

“Karl was a great character and we filmed for about two-and-a-half weeks in Cardiff. We started with the ending at the top of 40ft high cranes. It was winter and it was cold!

“The production team had stunt doubles for both Jodie and me and they asked us if we wanted to do our own stunts. Jodie said: ‘If you do it, I will do it!’ So we did it.

“We both got to jump off 40ft cranes. I’d done a bungee jump before so I jumped off a crane – with a harness tied to me, of course. And we had to do it four or five times. It was just a great experience.”

Jonny had to keep it secret, however. He repeatedly had to bite his tongue whenever his Rebel students got excited about Doctor Who “going to my school” or “living down my street.”

When the episode finally aired it was a huge ratings hit and Karl was loved by the Whovians.

Fast-forward in time to New Year’s Day 2022 and the Doctor Who special ‘Eve of the Daleks’ aired on BBC1.

And – surprise, surprise – Karl the crane operator from Sheffield made a cameo appearance.

To be honest, you’d have to be a Whovian to have recognised him after the intervening three years.

There he was at the end, enjoying a free fireworks display (in Manchester), filming it on his phone. With no-one else around he was chuffed to bits the fireworks were just for him.

“It was just a small moment but they thought the fans would like it,” said Jonny.

And they did. Jonny doesn’t do social media but his wife Verity was inundated as her phone burst into life. Karl was back!

Just before the pandemic Jonny and his pals took over the derelict top floor of a building at Heath House Mill in Golcar and used lockdown to do the renovations themselves.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about The Treehouse

They spent two years turning it into The Treehouse, a film production and events space for Jonny’s company Isaac Who, and Jonny was painting when he took a call from his agent.

“It had been a quiet year because of lockdown and my agent said Chris Chibnall had been on the phone.

“They liked the rapport that the character Karl had created and there was talk of bringing him back,” said Jonny.

“It was a dalek episode and it was just a nice little nod back to Jodie’s first episode.”

Jonny got the part but it was so small he thought he’d be in and out and might be the only person on set.

Instead he was welcomed back by some friendly faces in the crew and Jodie kicked open her trailer door to greet him. Comedian John Bishop was there too, in his role as the Doctor’s latest companion.

“It was the warmest welcome and just a lovely return,” said Jonny. “Doctor Who just seems to pop in at a time I seem to need it.”

Jodie, of course, will leave Doctor Who later this year. There will be another special in spring before her final episode in the autumn.

“Jodie has been a brilliant Doctor,” said Jonny. “She brings a comedic yet grounded tone and she is fun to watch. She nailed it and she’s constantly engaged and a pleasure to work with.”

Jonny reckons Jodie and David Tennant have been the best Doctors followed closely by Christopher Ecclestone but who (pardon the pun) will be next?

“I’d love to see a really young Doctor,” said Jonny. “Or maybe you could have five Doctors in five different episodes and really play with the formula. That’s what’s great about Doctor Who, it’s so creative.”

It goes without saying that Jonny would love to play Doctor Who – a “dream role” as he describes it – but it seems he’s in demand as Karl.

Whovians have speculated about whether Karl will complete the circle and appear in Jodie’s final episode.

“I’d be totally up for doing it but what their plans are I don’t know,” said Jonny. “My fate is in the hands of the producers and writers.”

He couldn’t tell us if he knew, of course, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

For now Jonny is concentrating on growing The Treehouse which, like the Tardis, is bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

Maybe the Doctor will step back into his life for a third time, just when he needs it. Who knows? Only time will tell…

The Treehouse can be found at Heath House Mill, Golcar, HD7 4JW. It’s down the cobbled lane behind the Golcar Lily. For more go to