Doctor Who’s Ingrid Oliver talks acting with Zygons: ‘It’s genuinely terrifying to be near them’

Caerwent military base in Wales is a strange place to hang out on a wet Tuesday afternoon. Once it was an explosives factory. Then it became a troop training centre. Today, it’s hosting something much more bizarre: a Zygon attack.

TV&Satellite Week went on location for the latest Doctor Who storyline, a double-header that kicks off on Saturday (BBC1) with The Zygon Invasion, featuring the return of the cone-headed monsters last seen in the 50th anniversary special.

While we cluster around the TV monitors in one room, a snarling, sucker-covered alien is tracking someone in the office next door. And that’s the other strange thing: the person being chased is Ingrid Oliver, aka UNIT scientist Osgood.

If you watched series eight, you’ll know Osgood was zapped to death by Missy in the finale – which was a shock, because her sweetly-nerdy cameos (she idolised the Doctors and wore a Tom Baker tribute scarf) had made her a hugely popular character. But it seems we’re not the only ones to be surprised by her unlikely return.

We thought you were dead!
Ingrid: “Yeah I thought so too. You always hope you’ll come back. And I was really upset when they killed her. It was quite a brutal ending and it was a shock when I read the script. But I didn’t know that I’d ever be back. In fact, I remember seeing an interview that Steven Moffat gave where he said Osgood was definitely dead – and I was like, ‘Oh gawd…!’”

Can you reveal how Osgood survived?
Ingrid: “Absolutely not! I don’t think I can. Can I? If I go into that then everything becomes clear… That’s officially classified information until the episode airs.”

What can we tell our readers?
Brian Minchin (producer): ”The story features a deadly battle between the Earth and renegade shape-shifting Zygons, with the Doctor and Clara caught in the crossfire. Some rogue Zygons are trying to destabilise the peace and start a war between Zygons and humans, so it’s a bit of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers story, where you wonder who is human and who is Zygon.

Can you tell who’s around you?
Brian: “The rogue Zygons are trying to make everyone suspicious of everyone else. And it gets even more complicated when the rogue Zygons start capturing people.”

Compared with the Daleks or Cybermen, the Zygons are a Who rarity, yet they remain one of the series’ most iconic creations…
Peter Capaldi: “They’re fantastic monsters, aren’t they? I remember their first-ever appearance in 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons.

“I worked with the man who designed them, Jim Acheson. I think he also designed the Mutants and Tom Baker’s original outfit. He did all these fabulous 18th century costumes for Glenn Close and John Malkovich on Dangerous Liaisons, which I had a little part in – but all I wanted to do was talk to him about the Zygons! He was slightly embarrassed, I think.”

It turns out the Zygons are an arresting presence in the flesh, too…
Ingrid: “Quite a big part of me was feeling scared in that scene we did this morning where I was hiding under the table. I couldn’t see it but I could hear it, and it was genuinely quite terrifying. They do this thing with their mouths, which is absolutely disgusting – a sort of snarl, with those jaggedy teeth and goo all over them.

“I remember on the 50th anniversary episode thinking, ‘Hmm, how scary can they be?’ And actually they really were. It’s funny, though, because the guy who plays that Zygon is actually the most softly-spoken man you’ve ever heard in your life!”

Have you enjoyed being inducted into the show’s mythology.
Ingrid: “Fans now throng to meet me when I’m on stage. For instance, I did a play recently and they kept asking if I was going to be back. I knew I was by that point, so that was very tricky – I find it hard to lie to people’s faces.”

Do you get swamped with Osgood tributes?
Ingrid: “I certainly do. One of the funniest things to come out of this is that I get sent Twitter pictures of people ‘cosplaying’ at Comic Con and things like that – there was one that was of a 60-year-old man dressed as Osgood. It was bizarre and brilliant.”

Now you’re back from the dead, do you hope the enigmatic character will return again?
Ingrid: “I genuinely don’t know if I’ll be back, but anything’s possible. To be brought back once was nice. But twice? I feel pretty lucky, I have to say.”

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