'Doctor Who' writer Mark Gatiss has added his voice to that of show runner Steven Moffat in saying the next Time Lord could definitely be a woman, with the caveat “only when the right person comes along”.
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Mark, who also pens ‘Sherlock’ with Moffat and has been writing for 'Doctor Who' since its return in 2005, tells HuffPostUK: “Black doctor, lady, gay? Absolutely - but I have zero time for anything like that which has a box to tick next to it. If someone is telling you the next Doctor HAS to be a woman, something’s gone wrong.
“I can think of dozens of people right now who would be brilliant Doctors once Peter (Capaldi)’s decided he’s had enough, who are Asian, are women, are black, you just have to choose the right one, but not because we have to, that would be a knee jerk, reductive and depressing.
“I have forever been in favor of the Doctor being a woman, and anyone who tells you it can’t be done is obviously out of their minds, because Doctor Who’s central idea is of a transcendental telephone box that goes anywhere in space and time, with a character with two hearts who can change form… but it can’t be a woman? I see.”
Mark’s lifelong affection for the TV show he now pens means he understands all too well the demands of keeping the fans happy, however, from the perspective of the writing room, he now understands how important it is not to listen to them too closely, if he’s to stay creative.
“If you start listening to the really passionate fans, you’ll kill it, because they’ll want something specific, and you can’t give it,” is how he puts it.
“It’s not about pissing people off or alienating them, it’s just saying this is how we’re doing it.”
He also points out that anyone seeking to impose their own desires on the show, now in its 52nd year, soon falls foul of their own logic.
“The joy of the format is that it is so incredibly elastic, that anybody who says you can’t do that is immediately reductive and depressing, they become the sort of people the doctor wouldn’t like to hang out with. If someone very dictatorial says you can’t do that, then you must absolutely do it.”
'Doctor Who' remains one of the BBC’s most beloved offerings, and Mark has his own theories on why a children’s TV show conjured up in the basement of Television Centre has struck such a tireless chord with both them and their parents across the world.
“There’s the fact that the Doctor himself is different, and a champion of difference, otherness, some incarnations more than others. He would be confronted by a hideous creature and say, how do you do? - which, I believe, is a way of approaching the universe or world.
“He’s a champion of the underdog and the unloved, but he’s not a square-jawed hero, he doesn’t have a gun, he has a screwdriver and a magic box that takes him anywhere in space and time. And somewhere in all of that is the secret formula, but you can’t look at it too closely. “
We talk about the light and shade in the show, the hints at horror which Mark proves, with encyclopaedic flair has been in the show since its inception. “It was amazingly transgressive stuff happening at Saturday tea time in 1963,” he reflects now. “But I don’t believe in wrapping children in cotton woolThey love a good scare, and if it’s in the context of sitting on a sofa with people they love telling them it’s ok, then that’s great.”
He uses an upcoming episode – about which he’ll tell me nothing else – to prove his point. “I thought, I’ll write this as if for anyone, like a horror film, and then I’ll pull it back, and then it came to making it, and we haven’t pulled it back.”
And the other stuff, the kisses, the tears, the sentiments that some purists think have overbled into the show in recent years? Mark defends that too.
“Anybody who’s a real purist knows that nonsense because it’s been like that since the beginning,” he says, referring to an early episode when William Hartnell’s doctor encountered the Aztecs, and accidentally became engaged to an elderly lady. “He flees back to the Tardis, she’s given him a brooch and he comes out and puts it in his pocket, it’s so beautiful.
“It’s been more explicit, with Billie Piper’s character being in love with David Tennant’s Doctor, but it’s always been there, and it’s a really big part of the show,” says Mark.
“As well as the big scary moments, it’s the stuff you remember, when the Doctor dies, or when a companion leaves.
“When Jo Grant leaves Jon Pertwee’s Doctor,” he beams. “I’ve never recovered from that.”
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