Every Christmas needs a Grinch and this year, in the Doctor Who Christmas special, that job goes to Man Down and Inbetweeners star Greg Davies, who plays the “deluded, nine foot cyborg” King Hydroflax.
“To be the villain is the dream gig,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “It depends if you count Mr Gilbert from The Inbetweeners, but it’s my first real villain. He’s quite a pantomime villain but he’s actually sort of a quite pathetic character too. Especially when you see what he actually looks like…”
What he means is that Davies spends most of the Christmas special as a detached head; a result of the maniacal dictator’s cyborg body having gone rogue and out-of-control.
“One of my favourite scenes is this speech where I tell the Doctor that I’m going to “BURN THE WORLD” in very dramatic, Armageddon-like terms. And then Douglas [Mackinnon], the director, pointed out that I’m just a head when I’m threatening this, which is even funnier. Then he put it that I’m just face down in a grill in the Tardis, so it’s the most pathetic threat of all time from a disembodied head, with his head in a grate, screaming, ‘I’m going to destroy you all!'”
How do you even begin to play that?
“You have to play it straight and think that your disembodied head can burn the world. In one scene Douglas kept saying, ‘I want you more angry, I want you to mean it!’ But the juxtaposition of my spittle-drenched fury and the fact that he’s just a head, I think is lovely. And it turns out he does have more power than a disembodied head would have you believe. He has a degree of control over his body that’s wandering around separately. So his threats are real, he can do some damage.
Of course, The Husbands of River Song sees Davies star alongside Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston, who are reprising their roles as the Doctor and River Song. How was it to work alongside Doctor Who royalty?
They’ve all been so charming. Peter especially. Having to be charming must have to be a full-time job. But he is remarkably patient, because he’s a proper actor. Whereas I’m, as you know, an oleaginous comedian. And Alex, similarly, is very lovely. There’s a real sense that everyone knows how lucky they are on the show. When you’ve got a giant robot clanking around and people are screaming and firing sonic trowels at it – there is a sense of joy right through. I can honestly say that. Everyone’s going, ‘look at what we’re doing for a living! Isn’t that great?’ That’s the dream, really, isn’t it?”
The Husbands of River Song airs on BBC1 on Christmas Day