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Gabriel Woolf on Doctor Who Return: “The Fans Kept Sutekh Alive… and I’m Over the Moon”

Ahead of tonight’s episode of Tales of the TARDIS, the BBC has released an interview with Gabriel Woolf, voice of Sutekh in both the 1975 serial, Pyramids of Mars, and in the Series 14 two-part finale, The Legend of Ruby Sunday/ Empire of Death.

Sutekh returned in last week’s episode of Doctor Who, and is set to bring terror to 21st Century Earth in this weekend’s Empire of Death. Fans were delighted to see the terrifying god again, and we weren’t the only ones…

How does it feel reviving Sutekh after nearly 50 years?

Woolf: It felt sort of inevitable in a way. I’d never lost Sutekh because of the fans. They’ve kept him alive, organised conventions all over the place, so it feels kind of natural.

How does it feel knowing a whole new audience will discover the classic story of Pyramids of Mars when it is revisited in Tales of the TARDIS this week?

It’s excellent; they will have the complete backstory of Sutekh so they will know how it all began. Tom [Baker] and I play off each other and it was dramatic, it was a bit like a play. I hope it gives a tremendous added dimension to the excitement for the finale – the fact it’s spread out over cinemas and across the world is wonderful.

What was your reaction when you were asked to come back to the Whoniverse?

I was over the moon, delighted and thrilled. It was wonderful. The fans have always said ‘Oh you must come back!’, and I always said back ‘It’s not up to me!’ – and now it’s happened. Extraordinary.

Did you ever think you would return to the Whoniverse?

No! It’s been 48 years since we did it so I thought it was pretty unlikely. It was a big surprise but a good one!

Do you think anything is different about this version of Sutekh to the one we met in 1975?

Well, visually certainly, and I thought there has been some development of the character – but we do have the same classic lines here and there so he is recognisable, and he is destroying the same universe.

You’ve played another role in Doctor Who: can you explain this more?

Yes, the Beast. That was in The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit with David Tennant – I never met him or many of the people, I do things in a little box on my own!

What is the process when recording voiceovers? Do you imagine the finished result when recording?

You are always working in a vacuum with the character in your head and using your voice. It was only when I had a special viewing a couple of weeks ago that I could see what my voice was matching to – it was a big relief for me to see how well it worked together.

How do you hope fans will react when they see the big reveal of Sutekh’s return?

I would hope they’d be very excited and pleased, and that they’ll give themselves a pat on the back as it’s all down to them that this has happened.

Do you have a favourite Doctor Who villain, other than the ones you’ve played?

I enjoy the Daleks more than anything else, but then the Master is good… they’re all classic ones!

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, where or when would you go to?

I don’t think I’d want to go to the origins of the universe and see how it began or anything like that, I’m not a scientist [Laughs]. I love the Victorian age for literature: most of my life has been spent in Victorian literature and poetry – but I’m mostly remembered for Doctor Who which is funny; it was two weekends in 1975!

Tales of the TARDIS airs at 8pm tonight (Thursday 20th June 2024) on BBC Four, then will be available on BBC iPlayer.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Gabriel Woolf on Doctor Who Return: “The Fans Kept Sutekh Alive… and I’m Over the Moon”

by Philip Bates time to read: 3 min
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