Interview: Dan Starkey, Strax from Doctor Who
Dan Starkey currently plays the reconstructed Sontaran Strax on Doctor Who as part of the Paternoster Gang, which aids The Doctor in adventures that take place in Victorian London as well as far-flung places like Trenzalore and Demon’s Run. He sat down with us for a brief interview before he comes to Houston for Comicalooza this weekend.
Houston Press: You’ve played Sonatarans both on screen and for the Big Finish Audio plays. How do you approach that differently?
Dan Starkey: Well, on radio I’m playing the classic Sontarans that first debuted in 1974. Strax’s voice is much closer to my own. When I have to do the classic voice it’s much more rusty and posh (Here Starkey imitates the grating, sneering voice). It’s a fine voice but I have to admit it’s taxing. Usually I have to really hit the cough syrup after that.
Houston Press: Will you keep on doing the Big Finish plays, though?
Dan Starkey: Oh absolutely! I’m definitely part of their repertory company now. In fact I’ve got something very big coming up that I really can’t tell you about. Sorry. I can say that they are doing a story I co-wrote, “Terror of the Sonatarans”. I’ll be working with Sylvester [McCoy, the Seventh Doctor] on that one.
Houston Press: Strax is your most prominent Sonataran. Where would you like to see him go?
Dan Starkey: Right now he’s mostly the comic foil in the Paternoster Gang. I like that, but I think it might be fun to see him meet some of the un-reconstructed Soantarans. Maybe have them invade Victorian England and see where Strax chooses to stand. Would he transcend his promgrammers?
It’ll all come down to getting a good script, of course. They find such great things for me to do. Paragliding through a roof and crashing through a plate glass window…
Houston Press: Wait, that’s actually you doing the stunts?
Dan Starkey: Yes. I’m so padded up as Strax I don’t even really feel it when I do them. They give me some knee pads, but that’s about it. It’s great fun.
Houston Press: What do you prefer, being in the Sonataran battle armor or the butler get-up?
Dan Starkey: The butler suit is far more comfortable. The armor can be a bit of a squeeze. I imagine if I had to wear it for very long I would end up losing a lot of weight.
Houston Press: Any interest in being another type of monster or villain?
Dan Starkey: Sure, but I would take into consideration how much rubber suit was involved!
Houston Press: There’s been talk for years about a Paternoster Gang spin-off. How likely is that and is it something that you’d like to do?
Dan Starkey: I think Steven Moffat is a bit busy writing Doctor Who and Sherlock right now. Besides, it involves both me and Neve [McIntosh, Madame Vastra] being in pretty elaborate prosthetics. It makes for very long days. I think the odd one-off special would be fun to do, though.
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Houston Press: Were you already a fan of the show before you came on?
Dan Starkey: Oh God yes. I watched it all the time when I was a kid until it went off the air when I was 12. Even then I just kept on talking about it to the other kids who would listen. It’s truly wonderful to be a part of it now that it’s come back and to be able to hand it off to a new generation. That’s a really special sort of feeling.
Houston Press: Who was your favorite Doctor?
Dan Starkey: That is a big question and it changes by my mood. Plus there’s the fact that I have worked with a fair number of them between TV and radio. They all bring something unique and wonderful to the role and they all take the responsibility very seriously. That’s my diplomatic answer.
Houston Press: Did you research Sontarans when you were cast?
Dan Starkey: Before I auditioned for “The Sontaran Strategy” I actually went home to my mom and dad’s house and dug out my old VHS copy of “The Time Warrior”. I think it was actually a birthday present long ago. I watched it over and over to get a feel for them.
Houston Press: What do you prefer, being evil or being on The Doctor’s team?
Dan Starkey: I do have to say that there’s a peculiar joy in being a villain.
Houston Press: You’ve worked as Strax with both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. How was that different.
Dan Starkey: When I came on with Matt he’d already been doing the show for a while. He was very confident and very much The Doctor. With Peter in “Deep Breath” I got to watch and be a part of the transition. That was an honor and was amazing to see him step into the part. He knew he had very big shoes to fill, not just Matt’s but everything that it means to be Doctor Who. He is conscious of that weight at all times.
When I came back to be in “Last Christmas” it was amazing to see the change. Now he’s very much “Welcome to my show”. He’s there. Every inch, and it’s wonderful to have been a part of that.
Houston Press: Last question. What do you want to do when you come to Houston?
Dan Starkey: I would really like to see NASA.
Houston Press: (Laughing) Yeah, that's what all the Doctor Who people say!
Dan Starkey will be attending Comicpalooza as a guest at the George R. Brown Convention Center May 22 – 25.
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