Scotland’s Jonathan Watson pulls on the iconic pudding bowl helmet of the most vicious soldier in the universe! But the new Sontaran leader has been a key figure in the evolution of Scottish comedy for thirty years…
It’s all change among the glorious forces of Sontar, as they continue their eternal war against the Rutan horde. After thirteen years, they’ve gotten a major redesign, with new armour, new prosthetics… and a new actor under them all. Old favourite Dan Starkey will certainly still pop up this Sunday as Svild. But it’s Jonathan Watson that will be centre stage as both Skaak and Ritskaw in new Doctor Who episode War of the Sontarans. But if we peel this particular potato head, what do we learn about the actor beneath?
The first thing Watson’s casting immediately brings to mind is the idea that some of the pre-publicity for Flux might have been a little deceptive on the Sontaran front. Chris Chibnall and his team have emphasized that Flux will focus on their viciousness and brutality. However, the casting of Jonathan Watson, with his comic credentials, suggests that the satirical aspects of the warrior race continue. Indeed, we’re already seen during their cameo appearance in Halloween Apocalypse Skaak’s cruel, but visible, sense of humour.
Watson is a mainstay of British sketch shows, from Naked Video to Only an Excuse
Glaswegian Jonathan Watson has been a mainstay of Scottish television and radio comedy since the 1980s. He was a member of the troupe behind classic radio sketch comedy Naked Video. When it transferred to television he stayed in place as part of the core team of writers and performers. Naked Video introduced the world to several iconic characters. Among them ‘the Baldy Man’ (endlessly attempting in vain to turn his single strand of hair into a combover), Rab C Nesbitt, and Helen Federer’s Drunk Sloan. The show was a massive success at the time. As Watson himself would later recall “It went out across the UK and we were on at the same time as Blackadder and used to bury it in the ratings.”
Gregor Fisher’s Baldy Man and Rab C Nesbitt would both receive their own TV series spin-offs. Rab in particular became a comedy touchstone for a generation. His delivery of rants in a thick Glaswegian dialect did double duty, comedy wise. For Scottish viewers able to understand his words clearly, it added a whole layer of jokes. For many English ones, Rab was farcically inexplicable. Watson himself played a long list of supporting characters, and one-off sketch creations on Naked Video. This continued with Rab C. Nesbitt, where he was often various officious foils for Rab’s rage.
More sketch show shenanigans include epic tradition Only an Excuse, now its twenty-seventh year. The annual sketch show, on New Year’s Eve, pokes fun at the year’s events. And most years have seen Watson leading the festivities from the front most years.
These days Watson is best known for suburban comedy Two Doors Down
But Watson is far more than just the prince of Scottish sketch shows. He’s also a fine comic actor. After all, one of his earliest roles was as Jonathan, alongside a similarly fresh faced future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, in beloved 80s comedy Local Hero.
Three decades later he was again playing small town Scottish politics in Bob Servant Independent. This time he was Frank, the much put upon assistant to Bob (Brian Cox), the local, controversy-prone, businessman making a play for Parliament at a by-election. Bob Servant was back the following year for a sequel series. This time Bob seemed determined to make even the planning of Frank’s wedding all about him. In Fried, he was the regional manager of the Seriously Fried Chicken chain, appearing in most episodes as he kept the staff of the under-performing outlet where the series was set hanging on to the edge of their P45s.
These days he’s probably best known for Two Doors Down, the BBC Scotland comedy about a street of eccentric neighbours. Originally a one off movie, Watson’s Colin, alongside Doon Mackichan as his wife Cathy, and the rest of the residents are about to enter their fifth series. Watson’s also regularly on hand when another show want to inject a bit of Scottish class to proceedings. He was MacBuff in Shakespearean sitcom Upstart Crow, for instance, blaming every Englishman he meets personally for William Wallace’s death. And he was recently on This Time, with Alan Partridge as a guest talking about Scottish youth unemployment and who, predictably, has some communication problems with Alan…
Jonathan Watson’s Skaak is a Sontaran “with a mischievous sense of humour”
Doctor Who won’t be Watson’s first brush with genre drama, however. 2014’s Let Us Prey saw him as a multiple murderer hoping to escape infernal justice, with the demonic Liam Cunningham on his heels. And before that he was again with Peter Capaldi in an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Solid Geomtry. Watson the worried friend to Capaldi’s Victorian scientist exploring the door to another dimension. And on stage, recent theatre work has included Rob Drummond’s critically acclaimed Quiz Show at The Traverse, Edinburgh. John Byrne’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters for The Tron, Glasgow, The National Theatre of Scotland’s hugely successful production of Yer Granny, and most recently Birmingham Rep’s co-production with The Traverse of Douglas Maxwell’s The Whip Hand.
Watson describes his new character of Sontaran commander Skaak as “a warrior…with a mischievous sense of humour … who loves combat and confrontation.” Sounds like a worthy successor to the Sontaran legacy…
Doctor Who: Flux continues this Sunday at 6.10pm on BBC One, and on BBC America in the US, with Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans
The Doctor has an unexpected encounter with one of her deadliest enemies when the Sontarans become a new faction in the Crimean War. As the British army goes into pitched battle with the warlike aliens, the Doctor and her companions seek the help of renowned nurse Mary Seacole (Sara Powell), while an ancient temple hides mysterious secrets.