Interview: Dan Starkey on Strax Future, Spin-off

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Last month, Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull caught up with Dan Starkey (A Good Man Goes to War, The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror and The Name of the Doctor) to discuss his role as the Sontaran, Commander Strax. Here’s what he had to say.

dan-starkey-strax

What experience have you drawn from playing Doctor Who’s first recurring Sontaran: Commander Strax?

It’s been great to create the role of Strax; it’s nice that he’s not just a Sontaran, as we’ve met many Sontarans before over the course of the series, but he’s a very specific and unusual Sontaran.

You are frequently in character off-screen (you recently participated in a child-oriented Q&A session), is that one of the perks of being Strax?

It was great doing a live version of Strax. Obviously when you’re on television, you don’t see your audience, but it was great fun to meet so many younger fans, as they really tell you what they think! I’m sure that even Strax was taken aback by their candor in some instances. Very forthright, these miniature humans…

The Paternoster Gang have all been top choices to host their own spin-off show. Would you be game to do it?

Certainly, I’d love to do a Paternoster gang spin-off show. That said, I’m sure that in the odd episode Strax could develop a perception filter so perhaps Neve and I didn’t have to spend so quite much time in make-up…

What does Strax’s future look like?

Strax has a glorious future of domestic servitude and violence ahead of him! The Name of the Doctor allows us to see him being quite violent, including his dark side, as well as other exciting revelations…

The recent finale [The Name of the Doctor] was Strax’s fourth appearance, and looking back, what has been your favourite to shoot so far?

The Christmas episode [The Snowmen] was great fun to shoot, especially the memory worm scene with Matt. We could barely keep a straight face during the read-through, but we held it together on set. Another thing that added to the surreality of the whole exercise was the fact that it was absolutely roasting on set in the middle of July when the Victorian snow scene was conjured around us! Quite a mismatch between the environment on-screen and off.

Strax is often used as comic relief in his episodes. Would you like to see more serious moments?

Although Strax is often a comical character in the program you can’t play comedy knowing that its comedy. Strax isn’t in on the joke, and he takes everything extremely seriously, apart from once or twice when he tries to make a joke and, as you can, see it doesn’t come naturally to him at all! There is some more serious stuff in The Name of the Doctor, such as the moment he reverts back to his “true” Sontaran state, and where he heals Jenny, but he’s saved the day on several occasions now so he’s not doing too badly. I did love bashing through a glass door, though! One virtue of the Strax costume is that I’m so heavily padded, I can go for it with the stunts a bit more easily; I can barely feel a thing…

You’ve played multiple Sontarans on the show now. Would you like to play another character entirely? Perhaps as a human or villain?

Certainly I would love to be in the program with my own face, or a version of it at least. I’d love to be a villain like the Meddling Monk, or something. My own TARDIS would be cool!

Are there any rib-tickling behind-the-scenes tales you could tell us about?

The great thing about wearing Strax’s prosthetics is that even the most mundane of activities can suddenly become hilarious due to their sheer incongruity. If you just whistle a tune, or walk into a door by accident, which happens a lot, it becomes very funny by virtue of the fact that Strax is doing it. It’s all ripe for comic subversion! Actually, if you’d ever seen me trying to eat my lunch in my Strax costume, perched in front of a mirror so I don’t end up dropping it all over my rubber chin or eating bits of the mask by mistake, I imagine you could find that quite amusing. I don’t, but I can see how other people might.

Finally, to verify the authenticity of this interview, might I ask if you are under the influence of Miss Jenny’s sherbet-fancies? 

No, actually I’ve moved on to her Mint Imperials by now and they have a much more calming effect I’ve found.

So what we’ve gathered from that is that Strax will be returning, Dan wants to be the Meddlesome Monk (last spotted in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’), Mint Imperials are pacifying and he would love to do a Paternoster Gang spin-off.

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