The Egyprian style mask of the Osiran villain Sutekh from Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars

Sutekh – actor Gabriel Woolf reflects on his Doctor Who villain’s return

Posted Filed under

The actor first played Sutekh in the 1975 Tom Baker classic ‘Pyramids of Mars’. 

Now, Gabriel Woolf has returned to bring Sutekh’s “gift of death to all humanity” and the BBC put some questions to him…

How does it feel reviving Sutekh after nearly 50 years?

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.

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!

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.

Tales of The TARDIS

Tales of the TARDIS: Pyramids of Mars

If you weren’t around in the mid-seventies, and haven’t caught up, there’s a chance for UK viewers this week. In a special edition of Tales of the TARDIS, the Doctor and Ruby will visit the Memory TARDIS and relive that first Sutekh encounter.

Tales of the TARDIS: Pyramids of Mars lands on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer on Thursday 20th June from 8pm. Starring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, the story appears as a feature-length edition with updated special effects.

Sutekh’s Audio Adventures

While ‘Empire of Death’ sees Sutekh set loose on Earth, it’s not his first return in extended media. The villain has made appearances in Doctor Who audio drama tales from Big Finish productions. On both occasions, Gabriel Woolf has returned to lend his unique voice to the character.

The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: ‘The Triumph of Sutekh’

2015’s ‘The Triumph of Sutekh’ is a four-part boxset which sees the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Bernice Summerfield tussle with the villain in various places across history.

The Fourth Doctor Adventures: ‘Kill the Doctor!’ & ‘The Age of Sutekh’

In 2018, Sutekh was the big villain at the culmination of Tom Baker’s seventh audio series.

With a dose of social media satire, the two-part adventure takes place on the planet Drummond in the far future. ‘Kill the Doctor!’ and ‘The Age of Sutekh’ also star Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9.

Both encounters are currently available with a discount as part of Big Finish’s New Series Offers.