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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)

The Gatiss Experiment

Mark Gatiss as Lazarus

After writing for the first two seasons of the new Doctor Who, Mark Gatiss has now moved on-screen as a mad professor…

For the last two years, Mark Gatiss, the League of Gentlemen star (if he still needs that label now he’s becoming ubiquitous, with recent roles in The Wind in the Willows and the forthcoming Jekyll and Sense and Sensibility), has been behind the typewriter on Doctor Who, scripting The Unquiet Dead for Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor and The Idiot’s Lantern for David Tennant, while also providing the voiceovers for Season Two of Doctor Who Confidential. But this year he’s in front of the camera, as the rejuvenated Professor Lazarus in The Lazarus Experiment. So what’s next? Directing or make-up? Gatiss laughs in response,

“Well, for Worst Journey in the World, which I’ve just done for Channel 4, I produced, and I am very interested in production as well, so maybe a bit more of that, but I’ve got a lot of things to do, I’ll leave make-up and costumes to everyone else.” He laughs off the suggestion that the League’s sellotaped noses might free up more money for CGI, and takes in good humour The Observer’s captioning of a photo of Daleks in Manhattan star Ryan Carnes in full Pigman make-up as ‘Mark Gatiss’. “I did notice that, yes,” Gatiss chuckles. “As long as I don’t look like a pig I’m all right!”

Moving from the keyboard to the limelight wasn’t as simple as just asking if he could take a turn onscreen this year round. “Well, I wish it were that easy,” he comments, explaining that writing for Who is just on hold. “I’m hopefully doing one for the next season. The one I’m working on, there was the possibility of it being for this year, but I basically said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to have the time,’ so they were very nice about it obviously, and I just kept this thing trundling along.

“Then absolutely out of the blue I got a call asking me to do a part and I was thrilled. I’m sure they were aware of how much I’d wanted to be in the programme all these years. I tried not to be too blatant about it, but it was a complete surprise. I was so thrilled with the script as well because it’s a wonderful, proper chunky Doctor Who baddie, and three different stages of him.”

Asked if he had to hold himself back from making suggestions on set, Gatiss comments, “Not at all, no, I love the script. I think it’s a very Pertwee script. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but it felt like a very, very neat fit for me, to be in a very Pertwee, Earth-bound story.” Referring to the director, Richard Clarke, he comments, “Richard was fantastically encouraging, and it was just fantastic to work with David properly because although we’ve known each other a couple of years, we haven’t done much together really, and to have proper Doctor/baddie face-offs in the cathedral and stuff like that... It was the sort of stuff you really shouldn’t have got paid for doing, it was just fun.”

by Anthony Brown

Read the full interview and much, much more on Doctor Who in
TV Zone Special #76

Photo © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone Special #76
Doctor Who 2007
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