Dan Starkey Interview | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Dan Starkey Interview

TV Critic Lucy McCann interviewed Dan Starkey at the MCM Birmingham Comic Con, where the Doctor Who actor talked about Strax, Sontarans and special effects

Your character, Strax, is such a comical character, what’s that like?

The thing is, although it’s sort of funny, you still play the reality of it. Strax doesn’t think he’s funny, he’s just a complete fish out of water. So, when I got the script, I go "Oh, that’s a really interesting character." But then you work out how to land each line perfectly, the fact that he is disgusted by humanity, but at the same time he’s weirdly polite. He’s actually trying to be as good as possible, he’s like [impersonating Strax] "I look forward to meeting you on the field of battle, where I shall crush the life from your useless human form." You know, it’s a threat but he’s also showing due diligence, and not finding it weird. It’s normal to him, but it’s everyone else’s problem. It’s alien.

You’ve also been a part of a Christmas Special, is that any different to filming a normal episode?

Schedule wise, it’s slightly different, it’s a few more weeks. A typical episode of Doctor Who is probably about 3 weeks, not much more, maybe 3 and a bit. But, yeah, other than that, it’s a similar process. Getting the script, working out what to do with it.

Working with so many prosthetics, do you think that helped or hindered getting into character?

Just having a new face in front of the mirror is very strange
It’s a completely physical shift in gears. So, I get up very early for it, about half 4 in the morning, then you’re in the chair at 5. And then, well I got used to it eventually, it’s a thing having this giant Rolo of rubber stuck over your head. It took about three people to prise that apart and then push it over your head, because it’s quite tight. Once it’s on there, I can’t hear very well.  Then they glue a much finer mask over the top, on my face and then they blend it in. After that point, once they’ve stuck it to my face, then I can more or less doze. And then I wake up, and in the mirror, there’s Strax. It resets my hearing as well, it’s really muffled, it all sort of makes sense. And then, at the end of the day, conversely, I’m taking it all off. When they take the head off again, I can hear again. If I’ve been in costume for about 15 hours, or something, all of a sudden, I can hear properly again. It’s like your ears are unblocked. So ll those things, because it’s such a physical thing, it helps you to get into character. Just having a new face in front of the mirror is very strange. And I did get used to it, it’s the weird thing. First of all, the first day on set, I was trying to smile at everyone, just being nice and saying stuff like "Hello, I’m Dan", but of course, with that face, it’s a bit of a grimace. So, you work out how the mask moves when you do certain things with your face. When you pull a weird face, the mask smiles a bit. So, it’s learning how to choreograph the mask, and how to act normally, So technically its quite a challenge.


If you had the choice to portray the character by CGI, instead of physical effects, would you?

Well, I could do, but it wouldn’t be as much fun though. I’ve never done motion caption before. It’s another option now, I suppose.

Your character is very much a fish out of water, as you said earlier, compared to the rest of his kind, who are militaristic. He seems peace-loving in comparison. If he were to go back to the Sontarans, how would he blend in?

Although he doesn’t admit it, he likes being with Jenny and Vastra
I think that story would be the follow on. Unreconstructed Sontarans, they would say "What are you doing hanging around with these aliens, Strax?" He would probably go back with "Nothing, nothing. I was going to kill them all, I was." There’s a story to be had there. I’d like to think that, although he doesn’t admit it, he likes being with Jenny and Vastra. But, I think he would side with his friends. I don’t know I think it would be close to the wire.

He’s obviously fits in with Jenny and Vastra, but do you think he is deep down a Sontaran at heart?

Well, he’s acutely uncomfortable. Despite battling all the aliens, he’s still an exile. Sontrans are very much team players, and the fact that he can’t be with the Sontarans, is a very lonely existence for him. So the fact he’s actually a part of a household and part of a team… He likes that along with being a nurse. He wouldn’t admit it, but he does like it.


24th December 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Warped Factor, BBC and BBC