On the second of June this year (2015), Geek Syndicate were invited down to South Wales to attend a press morning on location of the filming of this year’s Doctor Who. The second round table I attended was with the delightful Ingrid Oliver who returns to Doctor Who for the third time to play fan favourite UNIT scientist, Osgood.
Naturally, the discussion began with the obvious elephant in the room – how could Osgood be back after the events of last year’s finale? Is Osgood herself or a Zygon? Of course, the actress was unable to answer!
Well – The Doctor asks me that question as well several times and I don’t tell him the answer to that either. I’m going to do my first “No Comment”. I knew that’s the question I’d get asked. Basically, I’m not going to say anything.
Fair enough. And if I’m completely honest, I’m glad nothing was let slip on this point! Ingrid herself was as surprised (and delighted) at her return as the audience seems to be:
Especially because I’d read an interview with Steven [Moffat] where he said “no, no. Osgood, she’s dead. She’s not coming back.” I was like: “oh, god!” because secretly, I had hoped that I might return. Then he said that and I was like :“damn it!” … There was a good while where I was “oh, that’s a shame. It’s lovely while it lasted but that’s over now.” But then I got a phone call. And I’m back!
Osgood (first name currently unknown – and I deeply regret not asking about that!) has become part of a new UNIT family in the show and the character has struck a chord with the audience. What does the actress herself make of this?
It’s absolutely bizarre and brilliant. I got sent a YouTube clip by one of my friends which was a little kid, who was watching the bit where Osgood got killed and he got really upset and was like “NOOOO! NOOOOOOO!” He was really angry for quite a while. I was laughing because I thought it was really, really extraordinary. Because in the grand scheme of things, I wasn’t in it for that long, actually, in the fiftieth and so it was lovely that people cared. It was really sweet. So I was thrilled. It was lovely.
My thoughts turned to the convention and cosplay scene – has Ingrid seen many people dressed as Osgood?
Again, I got sent an extraordinary picture from Gallifrey One. I was supposed to go but I couldn’t and I just got sent this picture of about twenty Osgoods. It was absolutely bizarre. One of them was like a sixty year old man. Cosplaying Osgood. But that’s brilliant. Clearly mass appeal. Sixty year old men want to be a girl scientist.
It’s a good outfit. I think if I was cosplaying, I’d do that. Because a lab coat is very forgiving. So I would definitely do that.
Although I personally like Osgood in the “returning ally” role within the show, talk turned next to the possibility of the scientist joining the TARDIS team as a new companion. Would the character take to the life in the space lanes in Oliver’s opinion?
Would she? … Yeah! I’m sure she would. She worships the man, I’m sure she’d follow him anywhere.
Given how It could be said that Osgood was a reflection of a “Doctor Who fan” within the series, I wondered if there was anything that the actress was as passionate about as Osgood was about the Doctor:
Well, when I was younger, New Kids on the Block. I don’t think that I have things that … ooh … I get intermittent fandoms. I watch box sets of something and get obsessed with that, then move onto the next thing. I’m quite fickle like that. But … um … Oh god, I really want to be able to answer that properly. But I can’t think of anything. I don’t have any posters on my wall any more.
I feel sad about that. I feel really sad about that! Though I did go to a New Kids on the Block concert recently, about a year ago so they still clearly have the appeal. I’m not obsessive like that. I definitely used to be as a teenage girl, but not anymore.
What about Doctor Who itself? Was the actress a fan before she became a part of it?
I grew up watching towards the end of “Classic Who”. I started watching it again when it relaunched and I was a big fan. We had a sketch show – myself and my comedy partner – and we referenced the fact that I went up for the part of the Doctor and David Tennant got it and I was really angry. I burned my house down and I had a thing about David Tennant getting my part.
And then I met David Tennant on Day of the Doctor, and that was really embarrassing.
It was pointed out that Ingrid had, in her short time worked with four Doctors – no mean feat for a character with only two appearances by this point. How did Ingrid find them?
I genuinely don’t think that will ever be topped. I want to talk about Peter because he’s amazing. But the fiftieth anniversary was insane and I was very aware of how lucky I was as I was doing it.
There was one point when the three Doctors burst out of a painting. It was John Hurt and David Tennant and Matt Smith and they do that sort of macho stride towards camera and there was a wind machine and I just started almost laughing, because I was like “oh my god, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” and I almost didn’t know what to do with that visual information. So I completely ruined the take because I forgot I was supposed to be acting!
So that was completely overwhelming. It was amazing, watching them together. There was a scene, I think near the end, where Matt and David have to co-ordinate and they just sort of choreographed what they were going to do and it was very surreal.
Then Peter is insanely brilliant. He is. Genuinely. I’ve learned a lot through watching him. In the shadows. I lurk. Yeah – he’s amazing.
That was so gushing … I’m in character!
The conversation returned to the present and Osgood’s role in the forthcoming series. Is she in the companion role for this story?
I get to spend a lot of time with the Doctor, which is nice. So that’s good. It’s funny because it’s that thing of – having watched a lot of Doctor Who – and sort of knowing … so when you’re filming and he’s standing there you sort of know automatically to slot in behind and slightly to the right because that’s the sort of classic positioning. It’s funny. Scenes with him, I slot behind – slightly to the right. You just sort of know that’s the natural order of things.
Perhaps the defining feature of Osgood’s character (other than her smarts) is the fact that she always wears an outfit reflecting one or more of the Doctor’s incarnations. Does the actress herself have any input into this?
Well, it’s always in the script. Steven knows what he wants. I was saying if I came back again would we have to go through all the Doctors? And then thinking about Colin Baker’s outfit and going “what would that be like?”
To have a go at all of them at some point. It would get more difficult as we went back towards the very beginning. Cos they’re sort of… Black and white stuff. But no, Steven chooses. It’s in the script.
The story in which Osgood returns features the Zygons – last seen in The Day of the Doctor. It must be an odd experience, acting against men in big rubber costumes:
There was the worry of “hmm. How scary can they actually be?” as a guy in a suit. By the way – [Zygon actor Aiden Cook is] the nicest man you will ever meet. He’s so sweet and softly spoken. Then he becomes this ferocious [being]. They get trained in the physicality so they’re genuinely brilliant and terrifying.
So the scene this morning I was kind of all right and then he started making scary noises and I was genuinely quite terrified. You don’t have to do too much imagining. It’s all there.
And what of her nemesis in Death in Heaven, Michelle Gomez?
I was terrified of her! She’s so good. But even at the read through, we were all like “[whoah!]”. She was so good and I was absolutely genuinely terrified because I didn’t know what she was going to do next and it’s the eyes. She’s got these incredible eyes. Yeah – [the death scene] was a really scary scene to shoot.
On every one’s mind was the possibility of an Osgood action figure. Had the actress approved her likeness or been scanned for sculpting? What about other Osgood-based merchandise?
Since day one, I’ve had the three sixty photograph thing but as far as I’m aware, I have no figure yet. I’ve not seen anything.
I definitely know that I got a Top Trumps card which was one of my career defining highlights. But it’s also one of the worst cards that you can get. The values are so poor. Brains were quite high. I think my Brains were higher than some of the Doctors! But I think “Terror Value” was zero. So I was like the Old Kent Road of the Top Trumps world.
I think there might be a 50th Anniversary Monopoly set. My brother saw one in Waterstones and I think I might be on that. I think I am literally the Old Kent Road in that!
For those wondering, I checked and, Osgood is indeed one of “the browns” – but in the Regeneration edition rather than the 50th anniversary one. Her space has higher value than her boss Kate Stewarts’ one!
So what does the future hold for Ingrid Oliver?
Well. I’m doing a comedy thing. And then I’m going to the States for a couple of months just for a holiday. Because before this, I was doing a play for four or five months and I’ve never done a play before and it’s quite hard work. So I’m going on holiday to the sunshine. Then I’ll be back and who knows?
I would like to thank Ingrid Oliver for her time with me and the members of the press and also to the team at the BBC who made my visit possible.
Osgood returns in Doctor Who in the seventh and eighth episodes of the 2015 series – starting this Saturday, 31 October 2015.
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