The Doctor Who writer tells us about his latest episode and discusses the future of the show...
Sherlock star and Dr Who writer, Mark Gatiss reveals the inspiration behind his recent episode of Dr Who and tells us who he wants to replace Peter Capaldi in the TARDIS…
What made you decide to mix Victorian soldiers with Ice Warriors on Mars?
‘I had a bit of an epiphany when I realised that what makes me happiest is writing things that I’d like to watch on a Bank Holiday. Victorian soldiers on Mars came to me as something I could happily watch then. It was in the engine room of my brain because I love adventures by the likes of Jules Verne, and HG Wells, and this is like one of those – it’s a very British sci-fi concept but also a very Doctor Who one!’
What is it about the Ice Warriors that fascinates you?
‘I’ve always loved them. It’s a funny thing, because it’s about early impressions. John Pertwee was my favourite Doctor and the Curse of Peladon – an adventure where the Ice Warriors appeared – is one of my favourite tales. I remember them being green and scary when I was a child and that made a huge impression on me. They’re big and lumbering, they’re slow and green and hissy. I think they’re gorgeous and I was really interested in exploring a bit more of their backstory. I put them on Mars as well, which is something I can’t believe we’ve never done before.’
How have you found writing for the new character Bill for the first time?
‘Wonderful. I’m loving this season and as usual I try not to know anything I don’t have to know because I just like to watch every episode as it goes out. It’s been a terrific reboot to the show by including Bill. I’ve said to a couple of friends, whose kids have just about come of age, that it’s the perfect place to start as they’ll see everything through the new companion’s eyes.’
She’s the first openly gay Doctor Who character, have you been pleased with the reception she’s received?
‘It’s been wonderful. I was laughing about this the other day because it occurred to me that she’s the most Daily Mail-bating character possible. She’s literally a black lesbian, that’s the sort of thing they used to make jokes about in the 1980s. But it’s great because it’s not a big issue and nor should it be. It’s just wonderfully inclusive and that’s one of the main themes about the world of the doctor. Inclusivity runs through Dr Who like the letters through Blackpool rock.’
It’s a big year for Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi leaving isn’t it?
‘Yes – its also very sad because Peter is brilliant and in his groove. He looks the part, and is having a really good run of episodes. It’s sad that he’s leaving but that’s what the series depends on. It’s the end of an era, but the great thing is there’s a new era about to start. A new Doctor, new cast and team behind it, new everything. It’s very exciting.’
Who would you like to see become the new Doctor?
‘I would love it to be a woman, I think that would be marvellous. Not through any pressure of political correctness. I just think it’s time. The show is not the new kid on the block any more. It’s been back for 12 years and I think it would be really thrilling. Lots of fans would be upset but there would be new fans who wouldn’t be. The old fans who complain wouldn’t stop watching it, I can guarantee that!’
How many times a day are you asked who the new Doctor will be?
‘My dad is trying to get info out of me, because he wants to put a bet on with his syndicate of old men in the pub. I have absolutely no clue, not a clue!’
Dr Who is on Saturdays, BBC1. You can watch Mark’s recent Ice Warrior episode, Empress of Mars, on BBC iPlayer