Love his work or not, you can’t deny that Mark Gatiss has left an impression on both fans and on Doctor Who itself. He’s written books, audio stories and episodes for Doctor Who and has been a ‘fanboy’ for a long time. He’s taken praise and negative opinions for his contributions but remains a staple of New Who, since it returned in 2005.
Gatiss recently spoke to the Radio Times and shared his thoughts on fans who complain about continuity and also talked about his upcoming episode titled ‘Empress of Mars’ and what it was going to be, originally. Gatiss explains how he went from a sequel to his series 9 episode “Sleep No More” to a new story idea about the Ice Warriors. Gatiss told Radio Times “I had this idea [that] I’d like to do the double in a kind of Yeti way, to have two stories about the same monster,” He goes on. “Although it was still in space, [Sleep No More] was originally going to be on a trading floor; it was a stocks and shares thing, with these executives who were trying to stay awake in order to be more productive.”
He later mentions “I thought there was something in that, and actually maybe I could do a modern day one, set in the City,” he said. “Where they’d invented the same process but actually thousands of years earlier, and it had the same effect.”
Depending on your opinion of the episode, the sequel sadly never happened because Gatiss explained that once learning that Capaldi and Moffat were both leaving he wanted to make the most of his time with Doctor Who and chose to try something different as his future with the show is uncertain. It’s been rumoured that Chris Chibnall is toying with the idea of doing a writer’s room and it seems unlikely that a writer such as Gatiss would lock into being a team writer but regardless, his coming back would depend entirely upon Chibnall.
Then there are the fans. Gatiss, in a separate article, talks to Radio Times about fans who gripe about continuity. “The people who complain if something contradicts The Wheel in Space are always going to watch the show in order to complain about it. You only have to worry about the people who didn’t know that the show existed before 2010. Or even 2016, effectively. It’s ancient history – 6 months is ancient history in television terms.”
He’s very much, probably, correct. The show does, and should, hold up on its own on a weekly basis. Despite fans always finding a flaws and continuity errors through the last half century, and more, it’s always been a part of the show to contradict itself. “Why is it immutable that the Doctor has 13 lives, and yet it’s not immutable that CLEARLY the Doctor and Morbius are having a mental battle that shows previous Doctors?” Gatiss asked. “That’s just not…people just go ‘That didn’t happen.’ The Doctor is half-human. That’s canonical. ‘No it isn’t.’”
Perhaps it’s the timey wimey nature of the show and how hardcore of a fan you want/need to be in order to make every single story, line of dialogue and word, matter and count so that it’s all valid. That opens up more when you add novels, comics and audio drams as well. But wisely Gatiss points out, “It’s all one big happy thing, surely. Should be. And you shouldn’t fret about stuff like that. That’s why we sit around tables in pubs arguing about things, and people always have! Is that it’s quite fun. And you’ll always find a way.”
Overall it seems that Gatiss has a good understanding of what fans want and who Whovians are (if you even accept the term, Whovian) and what the show needs to thrive in the modern age. Despite the kind of fan you may find yourself being, we all enjoy the show on some level and there’s no dispute that Gatiss is a fan and is one of the few and the fortunate to have has his own role in the legacy of the Whoniverse .
Saturday is going to be an episode worth watching and here’s hoping there’s more Mark Gatiss Doctor Who stories in one media form or another.