The two Doctor Who stars lift the lid on the Christmas Special and the end of an era...
This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special will be the final swansong for the twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, and showrunner Steven Moffat, before Jodie Whittaker takes on the iconic role in the final moments of the episode.
Yet Steven and Peter aren’t the only people who’ll be saying goodbye in ‘Twice Upon A Time’, which features David Bradley as the first Doctor. Mark Gatiss, who has written for and starred in the show for many years, and Pearl Mackie, who played Bill Potts in the last series, will also be saying farewell.
Here Pearl Mackie and Mark Gatiss talk about their emotional farewell in the Doctor Who Christmas special..
WOTV: How do you guys feel to be back for the Christmas Special?
Pearl Mackie: “I’m pretty excited. They gave me a call and said do you want to come back? Yeah I mean it’s… there’s a little bit of a mystery surrounding it but it’s nice, Bill’s back in full Bill mode. You see a bit of the whole Bill and The Doctor rapport again, which is very fun.”
WOTV: Who are you playing?
Mark Gatiss: “I’m playing The Captain. I’m a First World War Captain, I think I’m allowed to say that. And Doctor Who is in it – two of them. It’s been fantastic. I finished yesterday and there wasn’t a dry seat in the house. It’s amazing really. Steven asked me several months ago if I would keep June and July free because he wanted me to be there for his swansong and I obviously melted, so here I am, so it’s an amazing farewell gift of a part, it’s a lovely lovely story, a very lovely Christmas story and we’ve had a great time.”
WOTV: You cast David Bradley for An Adventure in Space and Time, is it satisfying to see him return to the role of the first Doctor?
Mark: “As Tom Baker would say we’ve come full circle! It’s amazing that it’s all come back round.”
WOTV: Have you had scenes with David?
Pearl: Yeah. “It’s been brilliant. What Steven’s done is brilliant. It’s so clever and it’s a wonderful Doctor Who story and it’s a wonderful Christmas story. I think it’s going to be so joyous for everyone to watch and it’s really funny as well, which is great. You need that on Christmas Day after a few glasses of wine don’t you?”
WOTV: How excited are you to be in a Christmas Day TV Special?
Pearl: “Oh God it’s amazing! I’ve watched the Christmas special with my family for years and it’s lovely… we watched it last year and obviously I’d already been announced and everyone’s like ‘this is exciting’, so I think watching your own face on the TV with your family, I think it’s going to be so wonderful. My nephew who’s five hasn’t watched any of Doctor Who before and last year he was a bit too young to get it but he’s watched some of this series and he’s like ‘Auntie Pearl, how did you get in there?’ How did I get into the telly? So I think this year he might be old enough to understand that that’s me and that I’m here but even if he doesn’t it’s still great.”
WOTV: What did you make of the way you were received by the audience?
Pearl: “It’s been amazing. I don’t think it could have gone better if I’d planned it really. It’s phenomenal. I really like Bill and I really responded well to her so I’m just overwhelmingly pleased that other people have as well. It’s fantastic, it’s been a very joyously received series and I’m really pleased to have been part of it.”
WOTV: Have you had the feedback to the finale and Bill’s fate?
Pearl: I’ve been working mostly but I watched it with some family and friends and there’s social media wherever you go, but yeah it’s been very epic outpourings of grief and love and appreciation which is pretty phenomenal.
WOTV: Looking towards your last association with the show, do you feel satisfied?
Mark: “Yeah, it’s been an amazing journey, I know it’s a cliché to say that. It’s been years now. We were just talking last night about when it all kicked off again in 2003, I was going to Ireland on holiday and we were getting the ferry from Holyhead. We had hours to kill and we drove past this village called Llangollen and it said World’s Largest Doctor Who Exhibition and I said stop the car! This is 2003 and I’d never heard of this thing and it turned out to be the last day it was open and I traipsed around and it was so shabby and sad, but Bessie was there the Doctor’s car and I had my picture taken and at the end I thought that’s it now, that must be it. Then two months later the show came back and it’s been brilliant.”
WOTV: Did you manage to do all the things you’d hoped to do with your association? The stories? the roles?
Mark: “I mean there’s always more. But there always used to be a cliché about writers being ‘Who’d Out’, as a teenager I used to think ‘this will never happen’! But of course it’s true. Certainly everyone benefits from a bit of a rest. I’m very excited about what the future may hold, not that we know anything!”
WOTV: Do you get more pleasure out of writing or acting in the show?
Mark: “Well, I don’t know. This is my third time. I’m the new Philip Madoc. It’s always a great pleasure to come in and act in something where you don’t have to worry about the attendant parts of it but it’s been a privilege to write so much for it and also to be in it. There was a point I remember having a very early meeting with Russell about my first script and I sort of said I’ve got to be in it as well! You have to play the long game.”
WOTV: Pearl what was your response to reading the final episode of the last series?
Pearl: “For me it was quite exciting. It’s always nice to have crazy challenges as an actress. It’s exciting to have some epic stuff and some really emotionally charged scenes and I definitely got those. So yeah it was great. I just wanted to get in the cyberman costume but I was too small! It was a real shame”.
WOTV: Were there sides to Bill and her life that you’d have liked to have explored?
Pearl: “Well, I mean, yeah. I guess it’s the same with any character really, you can never explore enough of any character. But yeah I think one of the things about Bill is that she’s very real, she’s very human and with any person there’s always more to explore, it’s not like ‘oh okay that’s it, I’m done.’ So yeah there’s definitely room for more exploration.”
Mark: “My personal take on it all and one of the reasons Pearl has been so brilliant and gone down so well is that generally the companion needs to be this sort of ordinary person in the TARDIS to ask those questions. Actually over the years even though there have been lots of different types of companion, they tend to become quite quickly the person who asks the questions, not in a stupid way. But mostly you just want someone straightforwardly to say; ‘What the hell is going on?’ and especially every time the show reboots itself the audience is asking those questions. Steven and I were out in Morocco writing Sherlock when he was formulating Bill and I said can she say where’s the toilet? Because I’ve always wondered why nobody has asked that question! And now we know.”
Pearl: “She never actually went! She’s still waiting…”
WOTV: How’s your life changed?
Pearl: “Well in the ways you’d imagine it to change. Nobody really used to recognise me on the street and people do quite regularly now which is nice and also means I have to wear more make up! But it’s nice, people seem to be very responsive and very excited by Bill, which is wonderful. Nobody has been throwing tomatoes at me or anything like that!”
The Doctor Who Christmas Special, Twice Upon A Time, will air on Christmas Day on BBC1 at 5.30pm.