Sarah Smart: 'It was nice to let loose on Dr Who'

Sarah Smart: 'It was nice to let loose on Dr Who'
Sarah Smart: 'It was nice to let loose on Dr Who' (Image credit: BBC)

The Doctor has battled clones before, but none quite as formidable as the vengeful doppelgangers he encounters in Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, The Rebel Flesh. The thrilling episode, the first of a two-part story which concludes on Saturday 29 May, is set in the 22nd century on a remote island where a former monastery is being used as an ‘acid-mining’ factory by a team of contractors. The miners – including Jennifer (played by Sarah Smart), Buzzer (Life on Mars’ and Ashes at Ashes star Marshall Lancaster) and their boss Cleaves (Raquel Cassidy) - have each been cloned using a vat of mysterious matter known as the Flesh and their doppelgangers, called gangers, are tasked with undertaking the most dangerous work. All is well until the Doctor, Amy and Rory - forced to land on the island after a solar tsunami strikes - arrive and something strange begins to happen to the gangers. TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with Sarah Smart to find out more... What can you tell us about the premise of this two-parter? “Well, I play one of several factory workers at an acid mining factory on a little island which is quite eerie and dark. Then you find out we actually have doppelgangers of ourselves known as gangers that do the mining so that we don’t get hurt by the acid.” How would you describe your character, Jennifer Lucas? “She is really sweet and hard-working. She wants to have a giggle, but she is conscientious and gets on with her job. She hasn’t got much of a family life so she doesn’t need to get back as quickly as the others to a family and home.” How does the Doctor become involved? “There is a big solar storm and that is when the Doctor appears. It is really strange for the miners to meet people outside of the factory and they don’t know how he got there, but he seems to know that something is going to happen and he says that there are going to be more solar storms.” The gangers undergo a change, don’t they? “As humans we just think that they are tools for us, but there is more to that than meets the eye because we don’t realise that they take on our memories and our feelings so they feel themselves to be quite human. When this tsunami happens they get power and start to take a bit more control and there is a conflict.” We understand that Jennifer develops a connection with Rory? “She shows him around and they have a little bond and I think he fancies her a little bit and Amy gets a bit jealous. Jennifer befriends him because she realises that he is a bit less capable than the Doctor, so she uses his friendship to do some naughty deeds. Arthur Darvill, who plays Rory, is such a laugh and we are both from Birmingham so we just got on straight away and had a really good time.” How scary is the two-parter? “Really scary, particularly the second episode, which is left on a big cliffhanger. It is also really eerie because of the locations, because we filmed in five different castles to make it feel all dusty and dark and damp.” What do the gangers look like? “They are quite jellified at one stage. We said that we looked like lychees or jelly babies, and it was really good fun, but when you watch it, it is creepy, we scared ourselves. There were lots of prosthetics and we were in make-up for about four to six hours to get it all on. The transformation was just fantastic.” What was it like to film the clone scenes? “At some points you see two of us at once, so that was exciting because I got to film a bit with myself. It was complicated to work out, though. We’d say, ‘Now, are we human or are we flesh beings?’ You really can’t tell the difference at some points.” Are you ready to embrace the whole Doctor Who fan phenomenon? “Well, you understand that it is a really famous show and that there are people that are really into science fiction and into Doctor Who, but I didn’t realise how much until we started filming. We were hiding under umbrellas and we couldn’t even show what we were wearing just in case there were people around who were taking photos and giving away the secrets.” Do you want an action figure now? “There was a little bit of talk that there could be action figures of us on the horizon and that would be a dream come true. I would love to play with myself in a little form. Is that narcissistic? Probably!” Have you found the whole experience different from anything you have done before? “Absolutely – completely different. It’s like going back to childhood. It is like playing a game with really big toys because all the props are so detailed. You really feel like you are in that world and living in the future when you are working on Doctor Who.” What is next for you? “We are doing another Wallander at the end of the year so I’m returning to Sweden for that. That will be completely different, I am going to have go back to being a very responsible police detective in that, no messing about in castles. It’s all very serious, but it has done so well. I am also doing a one-off drama for ITV called Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me in which I play a woman who looks after kids with learning difficulties. There is a lot of responsibility there, too, so it was just nice to let loose on Doctor Who and just have a ball and be a kid.”

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.