TV Series

Interview with a Sontaran... or two!

SONTAR-HA! Ahead of War of the Sontarans, Sontaran High Command Jonathan Watson and Dan Starkey revealed more about their upcoming appearance in Doctor Who: Flux.

War of the Sontarans premieres on the 7th November 2021. Find out where you can watch here

Joining the cry of SONTAR-HA!, Jonathan Watson joins the series as a new Sontaran leader! He told us more below...

Jonathan Watson

How would you describe your character? Can you tell us a bit about him? Do you have any similarities?

He’s a warrior...with a mischievous sense of humour. He loves combat and confrontation, and is very much a student of war. Apart from being roughly the same height, we share no similarities!

How familiar were you with Doctor Who before filming, and in particular, the Sontarans? We have heard your son has helped you prepare?

I watched the programme growing up, but missed out on the Sontarans when they were introduced. My son - who is a big Doctor Who fan - explained their importance to me.

How was the audition process? Have you ever played anything similar to this kind of a character before?

The audition process was pretty straightforward. Andy Pryor got in touch with my agent and sent the sides over for me to tape. I got offered the job a couple of days later. It was my first time auditioning for the part of an alien!

How long did you spend getting ready each morning on set?

The process to apply the prosthetics took roughly three and a four hours. If I was on set for 8.00am, I was getting up around 3.30 in the morning.

Have many of your friends and family recognised you from seeing the imagery that has been released?

Not very many people know of my involvement, as I had to keep it under wraps. However, my wife didn’t recognise me from the stills...maybe a good thing.

What kind of preparation did you do to get the voice right? How long in advance did you start preparing?

Not much. As soon as I read the script I knew how I wanted him to sound. I started learning the lines pretty quickly, just to get them under my belt - the first block of filming involved quite a bit.

Do you have any particular stand-out memories from filming?

Loads. My favourite was when the director - Jamie Stone - told me that he thought I was going to be asked back to film additional episodes, as “they had put my spaceship in storage.” Always a good sign!

How would you compare the experience of Doctor Who to your other work, like Two Doors Down? Will your fans/followers be surprised?

It was a great experience. Like Two Doors Down, I was working with a fantastic cast and crew. When you drop in to briefly be part of an established show, you have to hit the ground running, and - led by Jodie - I was immediately made to feel part of the Doctor Who family. I think people who follow my career might not be too surprised, as I tend to get involved in projects that are pretty diverse. I just hope they enjoy the programme and my take on the Sontarans.

And Dan Starkey, who also has played the Sontaran Strax previously in Doctor Who, reveals more...

Dan Starkey

How did you feel returning to Doctor Who for series 13? How was your experience on set this time around, given the world was in a very different place?

It’s always a joy to be invited back to Doctor Who, especially after the sheer delight of 2020. Being back in Cardiff on set with a great cast and crew felt like an incredible privilege after being cooped up in my flat for six months.

All the COVID protocols that enable us to work safely took some getting used to, but in that we’re no different from the rest of the world. Multiple tests and social distancing were the norm, and my particular mask meant that people avoided me anyway, as I looked suitably terrifying! My peak 2020 experience had to be going for a COVID test in full Sontaran prosthetics and the on-set medic trying to find my actual nostril inside the mask to put the swab into. Sheer poetry.

What is it, in your opinion, that makes the Sontarans such a classic Doctor Who monster?

The Sontarans are a great concept and a fantastic design: they’re single-minded, merciless warriors like the Daleks and Cybermen, but it’s their brute force and muscularity too that marks them out. They embody all the awful qualities of the classic school bully on a galactic scale. The fact they’ve got mobile faces and beady eyes within a great domed head makes their malevolence more pointed, I think. “Squat, menacing and horribly powerful!”

How long did you spend getting ready each morning on set, can you tell us a bit about how you prepare to get into character? Did you do anything differently?

It takes three hours plus to be put into the prosthetics, with costume on top of that, so it’s an early start. I was relatively lucky this time around with only a couple of 4.30am starts, but it’s always a long day. Playing parts in full prosthetics requires all your energy, just to deal with the practicalities of wearing the costume all day, so I make sure I know the lines back to front, and have clear ideas to offer the director when we come to block and film the scene. They’ve usually got their own ideas too, so it’s a wonderful collision of energies!

Do you have any particular stand-out memories from filming?

Battling the elements on a rain-lashed hillside near Merthyr the first time I stepped on set in my new Sontaran ensemble. I nearly slipped over in a mudslide, churned up by the quad-bikes, but due to a sudden burst of uncharacteristic physical co-ordination, I managed to stay upright, and didn’t stain my lovely new Sontaran uniform. Ninja skills!

How would you compare the experience of filming Doctor Who to your other work?

It’s a show that can go anywhere and do anything, and you’ve got to measure up to the outlandish and epic scale of the events around you. Specifically with Doctor Who, you’ve got that juxtaposition of the cosmic and the mundane, the alien invasion happening outside your local corner shop, that makes it so special.

What can viewers look forward to in episode two, and more broadly, what do you think makes series 13 so exciting?

The Crimean War! With Sontarans! On horses! What’s not to like? (I was jealous of Jonny (Watson) getting on ride a horse: Strax used to have a horse and carriage back in the day, but it’s not quite the same.)

I’ve only seen parts of this series - the bits I’m in! - but it’s got a breadth that spans all across time and space, and it looks epic. I’m looking forward to seeing how all its crazy strands tie up! Rest assured, the Sontarans aren’t the only ones with their eyes on the prize...

War of the Sontarans premieres on the 7th November 2021. Find out where you can watch here

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