Anthony Head: how Doctor Who’s revival was influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Merlin and Dominion star explains why he thinks Joss Whedon changed the sci-fi genre for good

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If you thought Doctor Who’s revival began in 2005, think again. According to sci-fi stalwart Anthony Head, the seeds for its return were sown when fantasy series Buffy the Vampire Slayer began in 1997.

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“Russell T Davies said that he used Buffy as a model for when he was rebranding Doctor Who,” Head tells RadioTimes.com, “because [Buffy creator] Joss Whedon was the first person to actually say you can have genuine comedy and life-changing events happening on the turn of a dime.

“You could laugh in one moment and be terrified the next moment, and the two emotions actually complement each other.”

He adds: “Joss was also very keen to make sure that every event had a repercussion. Nothing happened without it having a follow through. He changed the face of sci-fi TV as a genre, I think, completely.”

Head, who played Buffy’s mentor Giles in Whedon’s critically-acclaimed series, has quite a history in Doctor Who himself. The actor was in the running to play the Eight Doctor in the nineties (as was current Doctor Peter Capaldi – they both lost out to Paul McGann), has appeared in several radio plays and played villainous Krillitane Mr Finch (above) in 2006’s School Reunion, for which he recently topped a RadioTimes.com poll for best Doctor Who guest star.

“I want to say again thanks to everyone who voted for me. I’m very flattered,” he tells us. “I almost didn’t know about doing the part initially. I always like to keep people guessing, like to sort of keep pushing what people think I do. It was a schoolteacher, it was a headmaster and I thought ‘ooh, is that a bit close to Buffy?’

“Then I read it and it was such a great character. I’d love to see Mr Finch come back in some incarnation.”

For now, Head is sticking to his sci-fi roots in the second series of Dominion on Syfy (trailer above), which sees him play devious politician David Whele in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a war between angels and humanity.

“It’s got this banner of sci-fi, and there’s this angelic stuff going on, yes, the supernatural element, but there’s also the political shenanigans that my character gets up to,” he explains.

“I love playing Whele. You can’t help but slightly root for him; even though you really don’t like him, there’s a part of some antagonists that you can’t wait to see how’re they’re going to wriggle out of…it’s fun!”

“That’s what does attract me to sci-fi. It’s not just supernatural and airy fairy, it actually allows you to tell some great stories in a landscape that’s not ours – that’s alien to us.”

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Watch Dominion season two on Wednesdays at 9pm from 15th July on Syfy