Starburst: Did you watch Doctor Who as a child?
Annette Badland: William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton were my first Doctors. So I go way back to the beginning. I did the usual thing of hiding behind the sofa. It was very particular then as it is now. It’s evolved over the years, but it was very specific and very different from what we were watching on television. Even though I may not remember specific stories, I do remember the fear and feelings it generated.
Did you ever think you would be a part of the Doctor Whoniverse?
Not at all. I never anticipated any of this, because as an actor you just look at the parts you’re offered and either accept or reject them. But I knew by it being Russell that it was going to be gold.
How did the opportunity come about to work on Doctor Who?
Russell wrote Boom Town especially for me. They filmed the first few episodes in the first regeneration of Doctor Who in the summer, and then around Christmas time the script arrived and there it was… Boom Town. It was such a glorious gift.
How do you react when you’re cast as a Slitheen and then read the character description?
You laugh! And embrace it in all its glorious parts! I guess, if Margaret had just been a farting alien, then perhaps it might have been embarrassing. But the character really ran the gambit. You know, people still won’t get in the lift with me! But, I do enjoy terrifying small boys in supermarkets by just touching my forehead and watching them squirm a little bit.
In the later episode, there was a great humility to Margaret. Did you have any input into the role developement with Russell T. Davies?
I think it was a combination of the two of us. The rejection and humility was in the script, but I suppose I imbued it with an underbelly that someone else may not have given it, especially in the long scene in the restaurant. Margaret was written as the first character to challenge this Doctor . But I guess that’s why Russell asked me to do it, because he probably knew I would put that under there, rather than just taking it on the surface.
After having such a vast career in stage, film and television, how does it feel to be known by a whole generation as an alien, rather than some of your other iconic roles?
Great to be known for something! And this is international and I love and embrace the parts I do. And yes, it is hard sometimes when some people remember you for things you didn’t particularly treasure. But I loved Boom Town and I was very honoured to be given that.
Are there any parts that you have auditioned for in the fantasy genre that you didn’t get?
No, not that I can think of.
Not even Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter? Because I always thought it was going to be you when I was reading the books...
Oh, I am so tired of people mentioning her! Well, they made a big mistake didn’t they?! And I know Imelda too was very good… But it should have been me! So many people say that to me. They didn’t even see me. But there you go.
Tell us about Wizards Vs Aliens, your current project, which is also written by Russell T. Davies. Are there any similarities to Doctor Who?
It’s extraordinary. Often actors look down on children’s series, but I think they’re often the most imaginative, interesting and committed pieces of work. I know with Wizards, it’s genocide and big moral issues sitting under these stories that we’re exploring. I think if you’re giving that to children, you’re giving them life guidance that only good writing can give.